Early Saturday morning, a troupe of countryside-averse Londoners schlepped down to the rolling hills of Herefordshire for a wild and wonderful hen-do weekend.
We packed up our wellies and flip-flops (prepared for all eventualities), piled into cars, and headed off down the M4. No bicycles this weekend; it took three and a half hours to get there as it was.
Tipi Adventure is based right on the banks of the River Wye and offers a wonderful escape for jaded city-dwellers. Their large, grassy fields each contain four teepees, sleeping seven per tent, but best of all they do canoeing trips which meander down the Wye and finish right outside your home for the night.
Not long after arriving, clad in swimwear and the obligatory lifejackets, clutching a paddle each, we headed off up the road to – where else? – Asda. Just like Bear Grylls may not have said, “all good adventures begin at Asda”. We scrambled over a bank and there in all its glory (beneath a concrete bridge) was the River Wye.
Off we paddled. It was a beautiful day. Too beautiful, frankly. It was bloody hot. (We’re British – too hot, too cold, we’re never happy). But we were sunscreened to the max and had the whole afternoon ahead of us, not to mention two potential pub stop-offs and the promise of Pimm’s back at base.
Everything was going swimmingly until we came across some – for want of a better word – rapids. I mean, some may call them “eddies”, still others “barely discernible ripples” but to those people I say: you weren’t there, man. You weren’t there.
Everyone else powered on through but Lizzie, Marina and I in our three-person canoe came unstuck – or quite the opposite – on a beachy bit, turned backwards, went into a tree, and before we knew it the boat was upside-down and we were thrashing about in knee-high water. Oh it’s all fun and games until someone loses their bag of oranges (did you know they can float?) and you end up bobbing to the surface underneath an upturned boat. It was like something off the Discovery Channel. After Lizzie’s superhuman effort to right our unreliable craft, it got caught in the current again and took on water (all very dramatic) and in the end required five of us to drag the waterlogged boat (it weighed two tonnes! Or tons. I don’t really know the difference) to shore in order to empty it out. A highly recommended exercise for anyone after some sort of bonding experience. Maybe best avoided any time other than July.
In the end we bypassed the pub (avoiding the stag do further downstream who were apparently intent on seeing how much alcohol it was possible to consume without capsizing) and headed straight back to our field, where a most helpfully situated landing spot meant that we arrived immediately outside our teepees.
The fabulous bridesmaids had done a astonishing job of organising everything, down to arranging a Sainsbury’s delivery to camp base. We had all the necessary ingredients for a green Thai curry, cooked from scratch with a frying pan, barbecue, A Real Fire That We Made Ourselves and a little bit of ingenuity. Just to ram home the glam in glamping, we even had a grinder full of pink Himalayan mountain salt. Well, if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver . . . All in all, it was slightly more impressive than the aforementioned stag party who had turned up at base with vast quantities of beer, three kilos of pasta and very little else.
I didn’t cook. I was in charge of face-painting.
How does one dress when glamping in teepees? Why, in one’s finest hippy gear, of course.
More-or-less lovely weather meant the wellies were unnecessary but paisley prints and flowery headbands abounded, and we gallivanted around our field with unashamed 1970s abandon. We even fitted in the now-traditional rounders game whilst the washer-uppers slaved away (much appreciated, ladies). Thank god for our eyewateringly bright choice of dress and neon korfball which allowed us to continue long after the sun had dipped below the horizon.
I’ve never glamped before and wasn’t sure quite what to expect; Glastonbury has swayed my view of sleeping al fresco and I am loathe to spend too much time in a field without the promise of live music at the end of it. I have also grown rather attached to my ThermoRest. Here, instead, we had fireplaces in the centre of the teepee, around which slept seven people on relatively comfy futons. Fire in a tent? Yeah, apparently it’s not lethal, so long as you’ve got control of the smoke flaps which, you’ll be delighted to hear, I most definitely did. The organisers provide everything (bedding, pots and pans, firewood, first aid kit); all you need to do is pull out your futon of choice and snatch the best sleeping bag. Sleeping wasn’t too painful (at least, not for me; sorry, all those who had to listen to my snoring) and I’ll admit that for a city-dweller, there’s not a lot better than emerging from a tent into cool fresh air, greeted by the smell of bacon, and friends chattering away in the early-morning calm.
Steve – head honcho at Tipi Adventure – was a dream, even driving us into the nearby woods in his bus – an actual bus, although the bell didn’t work (yes of course we tried it) – and pointing us in the right direction for a hunger-boosting walk before lunch at a local village pub in Mordiford. At this point I experienced my most important discovery of the weekend: cheesy leeks. LEEKS COVERED WITH CHEESE. I didn’t know this was a thing. Now Sunday lunch will never be the same again.
And after that it was back to the tents, cars packed, final goodbyes said, and off we set for London; tanned, tired, and full of food and memories. And then we took the wrong turning up a B-road, couldn’t find the exit on a roundabout, and accidentally drove through Gloucester, but that’s another story. Good thing I wasn’t in charge of directions and don’t have to take the shame.
If you’re looking for a hen do with a difference, then I wholeheartedly recommend Tipi Adventure. It’s glamping without going overboard (no fluffy duvets or en-suite showers here), great fun, extremely well-organised, open to everyone, and a wonderful opportunity to spend time with friends without too many distractions. Really the only thing you have to worry about are unwanted visits from bored stag parties . . . but in that situation I recommend discussing pantry moths and Tupperware to dissuade repeat visits. It’s tried and tested. Just take my word for it.
(I was totally in charge of directions).