Birthday Glamping in January? Am I mad?
My birthday falls in early January, which has always meant however I choose to celebrate it has traditionally been an indoors activity. My long-suffering friends know every year I like to do something different, not just the usual ‘drinks at a pub’ birthday affair. I like to use my birthday as an excuse to guilt my friends into doing something I’ve always wanted to do. In the past we’ve done trampolining, 80s rock fancy dress, jelly wrestling… you get the idea.
Being the festival addict I am, I’d always dreamt of a festival-style birthday, despite the logistics of mine being in January. In 2015 I started searching for glamping destinations, trying to make my dream a reality. Most ‘glamping’ places I came across weren’t open year round, for the obvious reason that the accommodation options were mainly made of fabric which doesn’t survive well in the coldest, darkest, wettest months. I was almost giving up on my dream when I came across The Green Escape, a six acre woodland equipped with 7 shepherd’s huts, compost toilets, hot showers and a large communal building.
I emailed them asking if I was crazy to book a weekend in cold, damp January. The owner Suki got back to me quickly, reassuring me that they always have bookings for Christmas & New Year, and each of the shepherds huts have wood burners in so they are really cosy all year round. So 20 of my friends and I went to the woods for 2 nights of no-electricity birthday fun on the first weekend of January 2016. We enjoyed ourselves so much that as soon as I got home I emailed Suki and booked the 3 nights of the Easter weekend for the following year (2017), as one thing we realised was that two nights didn’t feel long enough the first time! I’ve just returned from our second visit to the Green Escape, so having refreshed my memory and explored further I thought I’d share some photos from our Easter woodland frolic!
The Woodland & the Shepherds Huts
The first thing we noticed as soon as we arrived was the incredible beauty of the bluebells! TGE is its own private woodland hidden away in Surrey, and due to the incredible weather the weekend before, the flowers had shot up all over the woodland floor giving us this gorgeous carpet of blue! The seven individual shepherds huts are dotted between the trees. They’re each very spacious, and sleep two, three or four in beds with actual mattresses, duvets and pillows. Both times I’ve visited I’ve slept so well! You just have to remember to put the fire on about half an hour before you’re going to bed and you’ll be snug as a bug!
The main communal space is called the Bales as it’s made sustainably from straw! It too has a large wood burning fire inside, a lovely long table for meals, a piano, comfy sofas and bean bags, a gas stove, and a kitchen fully stocked with all the crockery and cooking equipment you would need. There are battery powered lights in here and lovely candle chandeliers with candles provided. It’s a great place to mingle and play games if it’s a little too cold outside. We had a couple of poker tournaments, and played a pirate role play card game called Fluxx, which was hilarious.
As we visited TGE at Easter, we thought it only right to have an egg hunt! Organised by a couple of my friends, the woods were the perfect backdrop/obstacle course needed for a top notch chocolate scavenge! The outdoor space is great if you can think of some games to utilise it.
Just outside the Bales is the fire pit area and hammocks. We spent a lot of our time sitting around the fire with some wine, some acoustic guitar singalongs and good chatter. There are lots of solar lights and outdoor candles so you can enjoy this area through into the evenings, and Suki even provided us with a Swedish candle, which is a 2 year old large dry log which has had a cross shape sawed into it. You pour a little diesel on it to get it going and it burns a solid column of flame for a couple of hours.
One thing I’m asked about a lot is the facilities. Yes there is no electricity (we all used portable chargers for our phones and speakers) but there is gas-powered hot water for the two shower rooms. There is a fully-stocked outdoor kitchen and a barbecue area which we made good use of! And of course the question everyone wanted to ask… how are the toilets? Well, being a seasoned festival veteran, I’m used to dealing with nasty long drops. Thankfully, at The Green Escape, the toilet situation is perfectly pleasant! The woodland has two compost toilets, one of each side of the site. There’s no smell because of the composting, they provide lots of loo roll and candles, and with the mirrors and fairy lights in them too they look positively adorable!
Things to Do
Our plan for our weekend was mainly to enjoy the woodland, have a few drinks, and go for a walk or two. We ended up spending Saturday playing lots of silly games including an Easter egg hunt in the bluebells, slack lining and a few team sports. “Games Day” was great fun but showed our age by the amount of pulled muscles and bruises we acquired! To make it a little more fun we all had shots before the games and between rounds.
Nearby there is a local fishery, and Tilgate Activity Centre where I looked into options such as archery and kayaking. However, being in charge of such a large group meant it was difficult for me to pick something everyone would be keen on, so we decided to entertain ourselves. There are lots of options available though if you want something more action packed!
The Parrot Inn
On Easter Sunday we’d booked a table at The Parrot, which is about a 20 minute walk from The Green Escape. It’s a proper English country pub with low ceilings and exposed beams, a large outdoor area, and a great selection of real ales. They were really accommodating for a group our size, and we had a fantastic three course Sunday roast with all the trimmings in a great setting. I can personally recommend the roast beef, it was cooked to perfection.
Suki and her family were great at recommending local things to do and places to visit! And as I mentioned, if you wanted more action, the Surrey hills have lots to offer. We decided to keep it simple and entertain ourselves, which in such beautiful surroundings is easy to do! Everyone loved it so much we’ve decided to carry on the tradition and make it an annual thing, and have already booked for next year! The Green Escape is a fantastic getaway if you like the rurality of camping but with a few extra amenities and a nice warm bed. The woodland really does feel like your own little world for a weekend. The most difficult thing is organising enough people to fill it, as you pay for the place as a whole, you can’t just book one or two huts. So gather your friends and/or family!
For more information on gLAMPING in these beautiful Surrey woods; including prices, availability, and more photos, have a look at the The Green Escape’s website, and follow them on Instagram!
What are your favourite glamping locations? Leave me a comment!