Everything seems to pop up nowadays – restaurants, shops, bars, campsites. But a glamping campsite? I was not sure about that. However, I was willing to give it a try and set off for Pop-Up Somerset in the depths of rural Somerset.
Visions of compost toilets and bucket showers played in my mind as I drove down narrow country lanes, negotiating a herd of sheep being herded by a young man on a quad bike and a young lady out for an afternoon saunter on her pony. I was on my way to the Pop-up Somerset glamping campsite.
A pop-up campsite is a temporary campsite that is licensed to remain open for a maximum of 42 consecutive days. These campsites are featured on the website Pop-up Campsites but Pop-up Somerset is the only one that offers glamping.
I am no expert on camping but I have slept in tents before, while walking the Inca Trail and taking part in a conservation project in Kenya. Neither experience could be described as glamorous camping so I was curious to see how, what I would consider to be very basic accommodation, could be turned into a luxurious experience. When I arrived, I was warmly welcomed by the creators of the site, Jonny Townsend and Jay Varcoe. They were very keen to show me around the site they have created in a huge wildflower field, surrounded by a variety of mature trees, near South Cheriton in Somerset.
The Pop-up Somerset Campsite
This campsite caters for every level of camping from pitch-your-own tent to groups of family or friends in the very impressive glamping Tent House. The site is divided into two separate areas – groups in one and individuals, couples and families in the other. I was very impressed with the Tent House in the groups’ area. It has four separate bedrooms accessed from a large lounge-diner area. The stunning block prints hanging on the interior walls combined with the up-cycled, hand-painted furniture create a Colonial ambience. These unique hangings are the creation of Fay Hutchcroft, a well-known artist and Jay’s partner.
Jay himself is an experienced designer and creator of exclusive luxury tents which have featured in many a celebrity wedding as well as making a regular appearance at Glastonbury. Jonny is also a regular at Glastonbury and has been running pop-up hotels since 2011. Having discovered this great pedigree for glamping tents, I was looking forward to seeing my own accommodation, a Safari Suite.
You can imagine my delight when the first thing I spotted when stepping through the opening of my tent, were the en-suite facilities at the far end of a very large bedroom. Not only my own bathroom but one that featured an eco-friendly flushing toilet and a shower cubicle with a rain shower head. Everything else was a bonus – solid, carpeted floor, comfy sofa and armchairs, coffee table, hanging wardrobe. And the icing on the cake? Electric lighting and a socket to re-charge my batteries. The site’s excellent website details exactly what is included in each of the different tents.
Before I could leap into the large, comfortable double bed to re-charge my own batteries I was invited to a barbecue supper in the Circus Tent. This lovingly rejuvenated Polish circus tent is a place for guests to gather for drinks and dining. My Safari Suite did have its own kitchen tent plus crockery, cutlery and utensils so I could have cooked my own supper. But it is more fun to join a group and enjoy a barbecue in the open-sided tent. It was a lovely way to spend the evening – surrounded by the beautiful English countryside.
The theme of Pop-up Somerset is very much up-cycling when it comes to furniture, and re-cycling of waste and rubbish generated by the use of the site. Guests are given full details regarding the site’s recycling programme. Each pitch is provided with recycling bags, each designated for particular types of rubbish. The bags are then placed in specific bins as guests depart the camp site.
Days Out and Local Attractions around Pop-up Somerset
For many people, like myself, simply being in the countryside is a treat. I love to explore my immediate locality, to eat at the local pub, shop locally and try any particular specialities of the region. Cheese is a particular favourite of mine.
Feltham’s Farm, where award-winning cheeses are made, is close to the campsite. My visit to the farm included a tour of this small working farm before a tour of the modern cheese factory. Marcus, owner of the farm, with his partner, Penny, has created the three soft cheeses he produces himself. It was fascinating following the very labour-intensive process. I even had a go at one part of the process – rubbing beer into the rind of the maturing cheese. This makes the mature cheese very flavoursome. After my tour I sat on a bale of hay in a large barn and tasted La Fresca Margarita, a fresh young cheese, and the Renegade Monk, a strong, mature cheese. Accompanied by a delicious, sparking organic wine, it was a lovely end to my visit.
Just 11 miles from the campsite and worthy of a day out is Stourhead House and Gardens. The gardens surrounding the impressive Palladian house include formal flower beds and parkland surrounding a large lake. The path that encircles the lake passes by several interesting monuments that have been placed there by generations of the Hoare family, who owned the property until it was given to the National Trust in 1946. The walking is very easy and each monument has a tale to tell. The climb up to the Temple of Apollo is rewarded by wonderful panoramic views of the lake.
My first glamping experience was a great success. The quality of my accommodation exceeded all my expectations and I was able to enjoy two very different aspects of this area, a working farm and a country estate, preserved for posterity. An ideal staycation.