Welcome to Yurtshire

The Yorkshire Times: Yurtshire

12 September 2013 by  

By Sean Dodson, Restaurant Critic

It’s just after 7am and the first rays of light are poking through the large canvas roof above. I am on holiday with my family, supine in a large and comfortable double bed. But strange for me — no morning person — I want to embrace the day.

We are staying in a yurt, a circular, tent-like structure, large enough to accommodate a double bed and a wood-burning stove, but without running water and electricity. While my partner and three-year-old sleep on, I leap out of bed to collect wood. There’s a stove to stoke, a grill to light and, a few meters away, a large wooden tub to heat.

The yurt is nested on the edge a wood, full of spruce and birch and enormous fir trees that provide both ample shade and fuel. The yurt, a kind of squat rotunda, is of the type used traditionally by nomads on the steppes of central Asia. Ours is located a little closer to home at Camp Hill, about halfway between Thirsk and Bedale, not quite the steppes of North Yorkshire, but a similarly flat expanse of land.

yurtshire-fireThe yurt is constructed from ash beams bent by steam into a lattice that round upon a solid wooden door. It is light and airy beneath the conical eaves, with the ceiling above head height. An adjacent al fresco shower is situated around the back, with a wooden tub a few steps beyond.

Our yurt, branded Yurtshire, is part of a complex, once the grounds of a stately home, which offers corporate away-days and a large clearing– here a teepee, there a safari tent — dedicated to the practice of glamping, which pitches the greatness of the outdoors with the luxury of a hotel.

I had been rather suspicious about glamping, to be honest. As a family we camp regularly, the make-do-and-muck-in mentality appeals to us. Staying in a Yurt, in a proper bed, with a wood stove, a decked terrace, china plates and a warm bath among the trees made me think of something too-easy-to-be-true.

But at 7am I had my epiphany. Alone in the woods, my arms full of wood, I felt a world away from the pub car park of the Dog and Gun, which we’d conventionally camped in the previous evening, and I felt there to be something terribly relaxing about collecting the wood, starting a fire, nurturing the kindling, stoking the flames and keeping the whole thing going. Soon I had three fires going: one to warm the yurt, another for the tub, a third to cook the breakfast.

We’d visited the nearby village of Kirklington to top up our supplies the evening before, purchasing a dozen eggs from the farm “shop”, actually an outhouse attached to the farmer’s cottage leaving the money in the honesty box. The eggs, fried splendidly on a pan on the barbeque, accompanied by dry-cured bacon we’d stored overnight in a cool box provided, and some nutty rolls toasted on the embers. The addition of black pudding, all crumbly and glossy, completed the feast.

The tub might have taken three whole hours to heat, but the hard work seemed to add to its sheer blissfulness and all three of us hopped in like a family of geese taking to water after a long flight. The smell of the smoke from the stove, the early autumn leaves sashaying to the ground, the light filtering through the branches conspired to render the complications of life nothing but a faraway thought.

Not that there wasn’t plenty to be getting on with. The important business of the adventure playground, with assault course affectations, lay on the other side of the wood, and once we’d tired of the rope swings and obstacle courses we took to our bikes for a gentle roll across the pastures and hedgerows that line the Vale of Mowbray, spending the afternoon rummaging around the bric-a-brac of busy Bedale.

So glamping isn’t camping. With its solid wooden door the yurt feels as fixed in the landscape as the trees. But the appreciation of open air, and a closeness to nature, are equally valid, even if you sleep a little further from the ground.

The sweetest endorsement of came from our daughter. Usually on city breaks or ordinary camping trips she ultimately asks about going home. On our way back to the train she enquired, all blue-eyed, about when we were returning to the “big tent”.

Yurts are available to rent all year around at the Camp Hill estate. Prices from £160 for two nights.

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