Read why a short break in the Wye Valley turned out to be just what the Doctor ordered.
A while back I was lucky enough to give a talk on Instagram to some business owners who were all members of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley tourist board – and a lovely bunch they turned out to be too. I hadn’t really ever ventured that far beyond the usual trips to Go Ape or a cycle ride in the Forest of Dean so when I was invited on a two day midweek stay to Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans just outside of Ross on Wye I snapped up the opportunity. And if any of you have followed my recent crusade about Marks and Spencer’s Little Shop range you’ll know that the break couldn’t have come at a better time. I was beat!
My gorgeous friend Laura and her two daughters were free to accompany myself and the Cheltenham Bébé and the five of us set off not really knowing what to expect on an epic mid week girls trip.
Mad Dogs is a glamping site featuring four converted vintage caravans only five minutes away from the Ross on Wye junction of the M50. Run by the epic team of friends, Jo and Sacha, the vans are situated in a paddock with never ending views of the Wye Valley in the grounds of Jo’s stunning country home.
On arrival you park up and wheelbarrows are available to transport your kit to your van. We’d been allocated Monty – the only boy of the bunch, and Sybil and both vans were packed with vintage character and with Monty being slightly roomier Laura and her girls shacked up there leaving me and my tiny one the compact but beautiful Sybil.
All of the vans have sweet little private gardens with their own fire pits. Monty has a deck with a slightly elevated view of the never ending sunsets and and with the weather having been arranged to perfection this is where we spent a lot of time.
They are equipped with cosy duvets in eclectic vintage cotton and feather. Tea pots, tea cups – the lot. They don’t have running water but they do all have tea making equipment.
For ablutions and food preparation there is small but perfectly formed shower shack, a central fire pit and the Mess Tent with a long table for communal eating and board games should the weather not be so kind. This is where we came to devour a welcome cream tea, which, I am told is something all guests can expect. Even the fussiest of toddlers had nothing to fuss over.
Then, not to much later, we experienced ‘van service’ which is a bolt on the ladies can provide – particularly useful if you’re a large party and fancy a night of catering. Thai chicken curry for us grown ups and spag bol for the girls, who by this point had grubby forest urchin faces from hours of swinging and outside play and hoovered that food up before coming back for seconds and thirds! Then summer fruit pavlova… all ingredients fresh, local and packed full of flavour.
If you can bear to hear about even more food we were kindly gifted a hamper of delicious local ingredients. Sausages which we cooked on an open fire (which I lovingly started and maintained I hasten to add), eggs, coffee, local butter and cheese! We were really spoiled. All of these products are available for guests to buy at the on site honesty deli along with kindling and wood for the all important fire. Be sure to bring your own marshmallows!
One of the things I don’t love about camping is that you’re all up with the sparrows due to the noise and the incessant sun on the tent. If the children have a late bedtime this can mean everyone is overtired. I really noticed that this wasn’t the case at Mad Dogs – the positioning of the vans allowed for incredible evening sun and sunsets but cool shaded mornings and the only sound you could hear was the birds. This morning when I awoke at 8am (can you believe it) I was able to quietly watch my little girl deeply sleeping beside me and I’m really grateful for that very peaceful and restorative half an hour.
We had one full day to enjoy the local area and after a very lazy morning at Mad Dogs we hit the road for a walk at Puzzlewood with neither of us knowing what to expect. Puzzle Wood is a sort of enchanted forest – think fairies and moss covered wood twisting and turning leading you along a path of discovery. It’s been used as a set for some fairly major TV and film – Star Wars, Merlin, Dr Who and Atlantis to name but a few. We followed the children around as they explored the hidden bridges and deep ravines and enjoyed getting even grubbier than they had the night before. It’s a great day out with a picnic area and café on site but a word of warning is that they don’t allow buggies and wobbly toddlers might be best in a carrier as the ground is very uneven.
We’d hoped to visit nearby Beechenhurst too but after a quick lunch stop in Coleford and with lungs full of fresh air three little girls enjoyed a very long car snooze followed by wake up ice creams at Gelatis in Ross on Wye and a campfire supper.
It was a wonderful break and I’m wondering whether it would be a great venue for a group of friends to get together for L’Husband’s 40th next year….. it would also make a great vintage hen do spot. For those of you looking down the barrel of a long summer holiday with the children I notice that some of the vans are still free this year – particularly mid week – and that if you usually go camping as a family but worry you might not have the stamina to go as a single parent – this is a brilliant option. Text a girlfriend and get it booked.
Thanks #MyForestofDean for having is – we’ll be back!
This trip was provided to us free of charge in exchange for honest review.