We had left it a bit late to organise our holiday this year and I was struggling to find a holiday that I really wanted to book. By chance I stumbled on this review of a Feather Down holiday from a blog called Crafts on Sea. The idea of staying on a farm really appealed to me, I knew the kids would love it. Rolando is not the most natural camper but browsing through the lovely photos on the Feather Down website won him over. We decided to stay at Midgham Farm near the New Forest as it was a manageable drive from where we live. We’d also ever been to the New Forest and liked the idea of exploring a new part of the country.
Tents don’t get much better than this!
I really like traditional camping but I don’t find it that relaxing (well for the adults who are organising everything!). We have been glamping before which we really enjoyed and was a nice alternative to regular camping. Our time at Feather Down took glamping to a whole new level! I was completely blown away by how lovely our tent was. At times I forgot that we were under canvas. The wooden floor throughout the tent almost made it feel like we were staying in a little cottage. The main living was really spacious. There was an island area for preparing food with a sink and all of the cooking utensils plus a wood burning stove. Having a sink and running water really felt quite a luxury (no more endless trips to an outdoor tap to collect water.) There was also a big dining table where we could eat together and a sofa bench to relax on.
There were 3 sleeping areas. Rolando and I had our own room with a full size double bed. The boys had a small room with bunk beds. There was also a really cool cupboard bed that Sofia used. When we were arrived we were given fresh bed linen so no sweaty sleeping bags! You can pay extra to have your beds made up but we chose to do it ourselves.
The icing on the cake was having a small bathroom with a fully flushable toilet in our tent – no constant rushing the kids to the toilet block when they decide they are desperate for a wee!
There was an honesty shop in the main farm area which sold quite a good range of staple items like fresh bread, milk, eggs, meat, ice cream, biscuits, pasta, tinned items, jam, honey, marshmallows for toasting on the fire, candles and kindling. We just kept a list of what we’d bought and a running total. You need to settle your tab at the end of your stay, you just need to remember to have cash with you to do this. We also discovered a big Co-op in Fordingbridge which was a short drive away so we could pick up extra supplies quite easily.
One thing I don’t like so mush about regular camping is how much equipment you need to bring with you. It is a bit of a logistical challenge to get it all into our car. I loved how our Feather Down tent had all of the cooking equipment that we needed. I had brought a few bit and pieces just in case they weren’t provided but we only used the tin foil, matches, kitchen scissors and a washing up brush.
I wasn’t sure how we were going to keep our fresh food cold in the tent. We were relieved to see that we had been provided with a big wooden chest that acted as a fridge. You collected 2 frozen hot water bottles from the shop each day and used these to keep your food cold. We just needed to switch our hot water bottles once a day once the water had thawed.
The tent has a wood burning stove that you can use for cooking. Cooking is one area where we cheated on the authentic camping experience. It was going to take time to get a fire going whenever we wanted to cook and cooking this way is quite slow. I cheated and packed a gas powered camping hob. This meant we could cook much more quickly and didn’t have to spend time lighting and tending the fire. This worked out to be more practical for us. Our kids are not the most patient when they are hungry and I need a cup of coffee first thing in the morning!
We had a barbeque provided for our tent so one night we had a little evening BBQ. There was also a communal pizza oven which was lit twice a week. One evening we all had yummy oven baked pizzas.
Our Feather Down Experience
The thing I absolutely loved about our Feather Down holiday was the experience of being on a working farm. As soon as we arrived we saw chickens running around everywhere (at one point we were trying not to run them over). The kids were greeted by a friendly sheepdog that was very happy to play fetch with them.
On our first day we joined the farm tour which was a great way to see all the animals and to learn a bit more about farm life. The tour was led by Sammy the farmer who told us lots of interesting information. The kids got to see lots of the animals including some adorable baby ducks and some calves that were being bottle fed. There was quite a number of horses on the farm too. You can arrange to help groom the horses but we didn’t try this.
Each day we went to feed food scraps to the pigs and the pygmy goats. There was a bunny in a hutch that the children could stroke too. Every morning I took the kids to the chicken houses to search for fresh eggs for our breakfast. The chance to meet and interact with the animals made the visit so special for the kids. You could see that the kids were making memories that would last a lifetime.
Peace and freedom
You are able to drive your car up to your tent to load and unload your belongings. During the rest of the stay cars stayed in a parking area away from the tents. As there were no cars driving about I didn’t have to worry about the boys running about in the camping area. The kids were outside a lot of the time. Most evenings we ate on the picnic table that was outside of our tent just to make the most of the beautiful surroundings.
There were a lot of other families staying at Midgham Farm during our visit. Sofia had the chance to make friends with children from neighbouring tents. There were three little play areas around the site with trampolines and some simple play equipment. It was great to give Sofia the freedom to explore and hang out with her friends.
One of my favourite moments each day was collecting sticks from around the site and lighting a fire in the fire pit outside our tent. We sat together chatting and toasting marshmallows. It was such a nice way to end each day and really special family time. We let the kids stay up quite late but as they had been running around so much they fell asleep very quickly.
Once the kids were in bed Rolando and I settled into a routine of lighting lots of candles, getting the log fire burning and relaxing. It was really nice to have evenings that were not filled with catching up on work and watching lots of TV.
When we have been normal camping the kids wake up really early as the sun floods into the tent. An unexpected bonus of our tent was that it was made of thick dark coloured canvas that really blocked out the light. One day we all slept in until nearly 9.00 am. This never happens with our kids!
Lots of space in the woods
The tents at Midgham farm are dotted around in a wooded area. There were about 10 tents and 2 log cabins on the site. The tents were quite well spaced out and separated by trees so it didn’t feel busy or overlooked. The tents were a little shaded by the trees so could get a little dark inside. We discovered that it was easy to roll up some of the canvas sections on the front and side of the tent to let lots of natural light flood in. It was stunning to be sat at the table inside but with gorgeous views of nature all around.
The camping area was accessed via a path from the main farm. You needed to walk up a bit of a hill to get to our tent. For our age of children the walk wasn’t an issue. I think if you had very young children it might be worth asking for a tent that was closer to the main farm.
One afternoon we took a walk from the farm to the nearby River Avon. It probably took us about 20 minutes and we brought wellies as it got a bit muddy. The kids paddled their feet in the water and caught little fish with nets. We took a drive to the coast and had a gorgeous day at Avon Beach jumping in the sea and eating fish and chips and ice cream. We also came across a lovely place called Moor Valley Country park. There was a working miniature steam train that the kids loved, trails through the wood, some great play equipment and a nice cafe. After we had checked out from our campsite we took a trip to Monkey World which was another really fun day out.
Planning our next trip
I would really recommend a trip to Midgham Farm. This kind of holiday would appeal to people who want a simple and outdoorsy break, a chance to unplug from technology and have some family time together. Kids who love being outdoors, getting a bit muddy and exploring in nature will get a lot out of this kind of holiday. I think it would be especially good for people who have done traditional camping before but want to have a bit more of a luxury camping experience.
There were tears in the car as we drove away from Midgham Farm. We were all sad that our time there was coming to an end. I would love to return to this location again. I’m also really keen to check out one of the other Feather Down locations. I may have gone onto their website as soon as I got home!