Last Monday saw us packing up and heading off once more although this time a little closer to home than our most recent trip which ended just three weeks before. This time, we were dashing off to the Yorkshire countryside to try out a spot of glamping at Jollydays.
The drive was not as long as the ones we’ve grown used to and, as we had a little time to spare before our 4pm check-in, we decided to stop of for a spot of lunch first. We left blue skies and sunshine in Kent but as our journey went on, the clouds filled the skies and became ever greyer before finally deciding to pour down with rain. Once the rains began there was no stopping them. It soon became apparent that despite keeping watch on the weather forecast for several days prior to our trip, no amount of willing would get rid of those clouds. We realised also that neither would tumultuous amounts of rain. Honestly, June, do you even know you’re supposed to be summer?
As it turned out, rain would be par for the course for our entire stay. If we were faced with intermittent showers it would have been bearable, making most plans still doable. As it turned out, the rain lashed down almost constantly as if mid-winter had returned with a vengeance and then some. No woodland walks, country picnics and nature spotting for us during our first family trip to Yorkshire then.
So… glamping… in a chilly mini monsoon. We can only hope that our accommodation was up to the task of keeping us warm and dry.
Jollydays began in 2008, the brainchild of Christian and Carolyn Van Outersterp, who turned their backs on the busyness of London life to set up home and in the idyllic North Yorkshire countryside. Having fallen in love with the area themselves, the Van Outersterps wanted to enable others to enjoy it too, but without leaving too large of an ecological footprint in their tracks. And so, it was within 200 acres set just 20 minutes away from the historic town of York that Jollydays Glamping was born.
At about 4.30pm we received a text message from Jim, who works on the site itself, to let us know that our accommodation was ready. Our family would be occupying two Woodland Tents, each sleeping up to 6 people within a double bed, two single beds and two sofa beds in the living room. Jollydays Glamping also offers several alternative options when it comes to accommodation:
Woodcutters Huts – these sleep up to 4. These are insulated huts that are a little larger than a traditional shepherd’s hut and contain 2 gas rings for cooking, a cool box and a small woodburning stove, but no shower or toilet facilities so you’ll have to use the communal block.
Superior Bell Tents – These sleep up to 4 in a King Size bed and a sofa bed. Again, a 2 ring hob and cool box is provided as is a small woodburning stove and you’ll have to use the communal shower and toilet blocks on site. You will also have the benefit of a covered outdoor area with BBQ.
Lodge Tents – The Lodge Tents sleep up to six people within a four poster bed, twin beds and a double sofa bed. Once again you’ll have the benefit of a woodburning stove, 2 gas rings and a cool box and the bonus is that you’ll also benefit from your own toilet and roll top bath with shower. Lodge tents also offer a veranda plus a covered area with BBQ.
As we neared the postcode’s location, our Sat Nav advised us that we had reached our destination. We hadn’t and continued to drive along, eventually spotting a sign hung upon another property’s fence informing us that Jollydays was 800m ahead. The sign was rather small and not very clear to spot even during the day. If you were looking for directions at dusk or in darkness you might very well be unlikely to see it.
We continued and eventually saw the turn-off which was signposted although again not very clearly. Small, brown and with a gold font, we felt that it would again be easy to miss unless you know what to look out for and know that it’s there. The signs need to be bigger, we agreed, as we turned into the site.
Jim met us as we arrived and led us to our two Woodland Tents. We were allowed to drive along the path to unload but once that was done, our minibus needed to be moved to the parking area by the entrance.
Mike referred to the tents themselves as appearing ‘quite Dad’s Army-ish’, which I thought was a fitting description. There is a minimum distance of 15 metres between each tent so privacy is not an issue at all. You certainly don’t feel as though you are part of an overcrowded site – which is all well and good for us to say considering we were the only visitors this week. The external appearance were anything but glam or luxurious. Eight years of being open to the elements within a natural woodland left them weather-worn and not at all impressive to the eye at first glance, but stepping inside was a different story, to our relief.
The shabby chic look has been embraced here and fits the design perfectly. The doors into the tent sit beneath a large veranda which provided a generous shelter under which the children could play a while after the long drive. The doors to the hut that I shared with the girls and Tim didn’t actually close completely at all, leaving a small gap even when you pulled it as tightly shut as you could. Yes, there are doors – no, there is no lock on them. I guess a regular tent would not have a lock on either, so like we would do had we been bedding down in a regular tent, we decided against leaving any valuables behind when we went out.
The tent’s double doors open up into the main living area and a woodburning stove greets you as it takes up its place in the centre. To one side were the two sofa beds, covered with thick, soft throws.
To the other was a dining table seating six at plastic chairs and covered with a wood effect vinyl tablecloth – all easily wipeable and kid-friendly, I was pleased to find. Rentals and holiday homes that provide cloth-seated dining chairs for young children really need to switch to something that’s easier to clean!
In the centre of the tent were two sheds, painted in grey and decorated with sackcloth bunting. Fairy lights draped across the two, providing the only light within the entire tent, which together with the candles (that I refused to light until the children went to bed because I had visions of one or another knocking them over and burning the entire tent down), created a peaceful, relaxing ambience. That the children were in bed at this point very likely also added to the peaceful, relaxing ambience because, believe me, the first couple of days there made me sympathise greatly with species that eat their offspring.
The two sheds had a reason for being there. One was a kitchen within which was a four ring hob, a sink and a larder fridge. A shelf holding a 6-person dinner set, 6 mugs, 6 glasses and a pot of basic cutlery and utensils hung on one wall. A bucket and mop, dustpan and brush and dustbin complete with spare bin bag was also provided. A smaller and medium sized pan were provided for use along with a small frying pan along with a gas kettle.
The second shed stood opposite, a passageway leading to the bedrooms created between the two as they stood facing one another. This one provided the bathroom area which contained a toilet, sink and roll-top bath. A mirror hung on the wall above the sink and shower curtains hung around the bath.
The shower hung over the centre of the bath but do make sure that the curtains surrounding it are tucked into the bath when you shower – something I did not do at first. This resulted in water running out and across the floor, completely soaking the legs of my pyjamas due to them dragging across the wet floor as I put them on, not noticing the puddles until it was too late. There are no taps to the bathtub either, requiring you to turn the lever up or down to switch the water on or off. The shower itself was wonderful – hot and powerful and just what you need when it’s a cold and rainy midwinter in the month of June.
Towards the back of the tent are the two ‘bedrooms’. Being a tent, the two rooms are created by using a screen to divide the rear section in half. Curtains made of sackcloth are then drawn across the entrances to provide a little more privacy.
The website states that the double bed is a four poster but, in the tent that the youngest four and I shared, it’s actually a bedstead. Mike did have a four poster in his tent though, so I guess it’s fair to say that you should be prepared that there might, or might not be, a four poster bed on arrival.
There were also two single beds in the second room along with a blanket box containing extra bedding for the two sofa beds in the living room. The beds within the bedroom were made up with crisp white bedding on 13 tog duvets and topped with a blanket. Even so, the nights were extremely chilly, resulting in me sleeping with my dressing gown on.
On arrival we had been provided a Welcome Pack containing a handful of tea-lights, a dishcloth, tea towel, washing-up sponge, scouring pad, matches and firelighters along with a safety booklet. A further Welcome Folder was set on the dining table and between the two, plenty of information on safety, emergency contact information and general details about Jollydays and the area were helpfully included.
A basket of wood and kindling was also provided and extra baskets of wood are available to purchase for £6.75 each. We had a little difficulty with the woodburning stove which didn’t seem to be throwing out much heat during the first night’s stay. A quick text to caretaker Jim resulted in him popping over within minutes to fiddle with the vents and throw in extra logs. Within half an hour the tent was hotting up nicely. What we learnt through this was: a) to fill the stove with more than the two logs we were throwing in and, b) to close the bottom vents and leave the top ones only slightly open. The unusual June chill meant that we ended up going through rather a lot of firewood which I did not expect us to do and ended up being quite costly.
Directly next to each of our tents, opposite the veranda, was a covered area beneath which the BBQ stood. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try this out either. But it was there…
By our second morning the rain had been falling heavily and without ceasing. I had gone to bed the night before marvelling at how watertight the tent had been but rose in the morning to a few small puddles that needed mopping over the dining table and chairs and in a couple of spots throughout the tent.
I had to concede that it was not unexpected and the damage could have been far, far worse. The weather had been quite harsh and unforgivable for more than two days and so, hanging my damp towel, I accepted that it was still better than being washed away in our sleeping bags while camping.
Facilities on site are limited. There are communal toilets and shower facilities as well as a utility room for extra supplies you might need. There is a very basic children’s play area – they can use the vast expanse of woodland area to create dens and hunt bugs and take a nature walk through instead – weather permitting, of course.
There is a tea room tent on site which provides hay bale seating and tea-making facilities, which you pay for by writing any purchases down into an honesty book but given that we had our own kettle and hob to boil it on and also that we were the only family on site anyway, we preferred heading back to one of our tents, stoking the fire and settling down with a cuppa there instead. There is also the communal camp fire area which guests are welcome to light up if Jim hasn’t done so already. Guests aren’t allowed to create their own campfires within the site so this main campfire is the place everyone will gather around together. There is a small shop on site which provides beer, wine, soft drinks and marshmallows for guests to purchase, but we didn’t notice any bread or milk basics on offer there. Whether they simply weren’t prominently placed or whether they aren’t generally provided, we’re not too certain.
We had a short enough break in the weather to allow us to take a quick walk through the woods which was a wonderful way to finally blow out the cobwebs. Whilst we had been keeping busy visiting local museums during the day, there is nothing quite like getting out in the fresh air. Having not had the opportunity to explore the beautiful countryside had left us feeling quite cheated, but you can’t control the weather and it was one of those unfortunate things. The site is in an undoubtedly stunning area and I love the look and feel of its natural environment. It really does seem as though nothing much has been disturbed and that the site has been created to work with nature, rather than against it.
Jollydays Glamping provided us with a better experience than we probably expected although, to be honest, I don’t have anything to compare it to as we have not been glamping before. It is not 5 star hotel luxury, it’s simply the convenience of not having to pitch a tent on arrival, the advantage of a proper bed and, if opting for the Woodland Tents, you’ll even have a fridge, four-ring hob, toilet, bath and kitchen and bathroom sinks. Don’t let your expectations take over – do keep in mind that you are still actually in a tent – albeit a larger one than you’re used to – and that it is in the middle of a natural environment. As a result, it can be subject to the elements and, if a deluge hits, there may be puddles. You will also find bugs and perhaps the odd creature or two running past your doorstep. That’s the beauty of glamping in the woods, so don’t be shocked if the odd beetle makes its way into your bedroom.
Whilst we were happy to make exceptions in this respect, one thing we found difficult to deal with, particularly as we rely on both for working whilst on the move and really can’t afford to be offline for days at a time, is the lack of wifi and electricity in the tents. There is no electricity for guests to use within the tents at all. Within the Woodland Tents such as those we stayed in there is electricity hooked up for the fridge, hot water and fairy lights, but glampers are politely requested to refrain from using the socket as plugging in own appliances ‘…may cause a power cut to the whole site.’ Now, if you have data roaming on your mobile the lack of wifi might not be such an issue but not being able to power up phones and laptops was a huge negative point for us. Even though a socket is provided in the tea tent, we felt that demand during popular seasons would probably be too high for all but a few guests to be able to successfully charge up. We went armed with several power packs and relied heavily on charging up whilst out and about in our minibus, but this is definitely something that we feel needs to be addressed. We’ve recently camped through the Balkans and even basic sites in Albania offered some kind of electrical hook-up. This is also something that can be done in an energy efficient and green way so not to offer it was, we felt, the only major issue and, for the prices charged, should be included without question. Larger, clearer signposts directing you to the site would also be an advantage.
All in all, lack of electricity and terrible weather aside, we enjoyed our stay at Jollydays Glamping. For the sheer convenience of having the basics to hand and to forgo the hassle of pitching two tents, it is a great place to stay. The location is stunning and, serenaded by nothing else but the sound of birdsong and to be surrounded by nature, it really is quite idyllic. We found it a great pity that we missed discovering the outdoor area here and were robbed of enjoying its simplicity thanks to the unseasonal weather we were met with. I can imagine that, should the days be fine and sunny, it would have been somewhere that the children would have adored exploring from morning till bedtime, needing nothing else but nature itself as their companion to keep them occupied. If only the weather could have been on our side, we could have explored far more of our surroundings both in the immediate sense and also within Yorkshire. We seem to have missed so much of it which is a great pity indeed. Jim was an immense help and continuously reassured us that he was only a call or a text away if we needed anything at all. Our experience with the woodburner proved that he is true to his word, and we think he is a great credit to Jollydays Glamping.
Overall, we did not feel that Jollydays was actually anything remotely luxurious but simply made camping more bearable for those who aren’t completely convinced at ‘roughing it’. Luxury it might not be, but a lovely family stay when you want to enjoy nature at its best without the hassle of camping we felt it certainly was.