It was Adrian’s birthday a few weeks ago, and as usual I planned a surprise getaway. He has always been a forest lover, so as soon as I found the website for Mallinson’s Crafty Camping in Holditch, I knew it was the perfect location. Unfortunately I was so excited at the prospect of this particular trip, and I booked it so far in advance; I completely failed to keep it secret. I made the booking in May and had spoiled the surprise by June (several months before his birthday)!
The magic started the moment that we began down the forest footpath in Holditch. Everything about the woodland paradise that is Crafty Camping has been considered and tailored for the guests’ needs. The path hides slate signage in the undergrowth, reminding visitors to ‘turn off your phone’ and ‘shhh, adults are snoozing’. We crept down the path, whispering to one another in glee.
At the end of the footpath you find the communal yurt, field kitchen and woodworking workshops, along with a slate peg board used to identify who is on and off site in case of fire. There is something about the process of physically moving your ‘room’ name in or out that makes you feel you’ve stepped into another world.
The site has an open check in process which makes your entrance yet more mysterious. We arrived on site, explored and moved into our accommodation without seeing (or hearing) another soul. The silence was only ever interrupted by the rustle of the wind in the trees and the local wildlife. The site is a child free space… and that is just perfect. Noise travels easily across the woodland yet we felt undisturbed for the duration of our trip.
Everything on site has been built by Guy and his team, and the workmanship is second to none. We stayed in the yurt called Coracle (a coracle being a small boat made from willow and hazel, covered with animal hide); it was nothing short of stunning. We chose that specific yurt as it seemed the most remote. Although honestly the site is maybe 8 acres and contains 8 ‘places to stay’, so everything is secluded and private.
You approach Coracle by following several hundred metres of winding raised boardwalk into the depths of the forest. At the very end of the path you discover the back of your yurt and curl around it to reveal a secluded front deck. We couldn’t see another camp from our secret hideaway. The raised walkway allows the nature beneath you to exist virtually untouched, so the forest floor stretches out beneath and all around. There is a small clearing above your personal camp site that allows glimpses of the beautifully clear, light pollution free sky. We saw the milky way every night.
The interior of the yurt is extraordinary. The dome is topped with a transparent skylight at the crown that spreads daylight to all areas of the interior. The roof is held in place by unique, narrow wooden poles, each chosen specifically so its form winds naturally alongside the next.
The main feature of the yurt is a king sized bed with a headboard made from a gigantic slice of tree. The bottom of the bed hosts an incredible sculpture made from bark-stripped tree boughs. It towers over the centre of the yurt, providing a constant reminder of the nature that you are now firmly a part of. The yurts have mains electricity and thoughtfully installed lighting, which enhances the dramatic shadows that the handmade form casts at night.
To one side of the fairy’esque yurt front door is a small wood burning stove that heats up the space in no time at all. We were toasty warm throughout our stay thanks to the decent supply of wood provided, and the timer controlled electric blankets. There are few things in life better than spending an evening around a campfire, before retiring to a preheated bed. The team switch on the blankets as part of the check-in process so they are warm in time for bed on your first night. They really have considered every last detail, and it makes staying with them a treat of magnificent proportions.
On the front deck, just outside the yurt door is your ‘throne room’ equipped with flushing toilet and hot running water. Slightly further down the boardwalk you find your private forest shower, complete with open roof (and door). Hot water takes a few minutes to come through but once it does it certainly doesn’t waiver.
We’re keen campers so we wanted to maximise our time in the woods and cook for ourselves on an open fire where possible. That was easily done with our supply of wood and a bag of locally sourced charcoal bought on site. We cooked dinner and toasted marshmallows over our firepit every night. The Field Kitchen had everything we needed in the way of equipment, and a wide variety of things we didn’t stay long enough to use (a pizza oven amongst others).
We did look around the rest of the site, including being lucky enough to explore The Woodsman’s Treehouse on changeover day; but we didn’t have a chance to use the sauna or other communal facilities. Our days were spent viewing houses in the local area trying to find the perfect thing for our big move. We may not have bought the house of our dreams yet, but we did fall in love with a spoon hand carved by Adam Hawker (one of the woodworking course instructors). Paying for the spoon (or anything else that you buy there) is just as magical as the accommodation. The site uses an honesty box payment system (which I think is the most beautiful concept anyway), but in a largely cashless society that now means the change is accompanied by a lone card machine. It was one of the few suggestions of today’s society in the timeless wilderness.
While you’re feeling peaceful and sylvan, I’d also recommend that you sign yourself up for a green woodworking course. The courses are certainly not compulsory for site guests, but the experience greatly enhanced our stay. I’m a big crafter, but this was my first attempt at anything in this realm. Working the soft green wood with the razor sharp tools was like spreading butter, and nothing like I’d expected. There is no need for sandpaper or noisy power tools, so the process is another way of losing yourself while connecting with the forest. Guy Mallinson’s tuition was excellent and we felt we were in excellent hands throughout. Maybe that’ll be another craft to add to my list when I finish my degree, leave the stress of London life behind and escape to the country!
We genuinely can’t fault a thing about our time at Mallinson’s Crafty Camping. The thoughtfulness and consideration is clear in everything on site, and every detail has been executed to the highest standard. All of the staff and guests we came across during our stay were friendly and welcoming. No doubt that somewhat depends on the guests that you’re sharing the woodland with, but I feel the target market ‘dreamer’ respects what the team are trying to do. Our fellow campers were from all over the world, and everyone respected the ethos of the weald.
We felt the trip was an adventure rather than a holiday, and it was worth every penny to have an experience so truly bespoke and heart warming. We will certainly never forget our time there, and we very much intend to stay again. The Woodman’s Treehouse is calling!