We were recently invited to visit a Featherdown Farm with our children ages 8, 11, 13 and 14 having once visited exactly 10 years ago (see the review here on the blog!) when the older three were teeny-tiny (and our youngest not even yet born!) A chance for some screen-free fun for teens and family connection time? What’s not to love?!
[Sponsored post: we were offered a Featherdown Farm visit in return for an honest review! I never write about companies or advertise any product that I do not 100% support and encourage others to try.]
At first I thought they might not be so enthusiastic now that they are mostly tweens and teens and wondered what the reaction would be when they discovered no electricity at all, let alone no charging points and wifi for their beloved mobile phones! They were indeed HORRIFIED at the idea at first and started to question my reasoning but we compromised by promising to bring battery packs for occasional phone charging and that we would no doubt have a lot of fun offline as a family regardless.
Thankfully, this proved to be more than true and they ended up RAVING about it, hardly remembering to charge their devices and mostly abandoning them in favour of family game time, outside adventuring and reading by candlelight instead. I strongly recommend following your gut and giving this a go with your tweens and teens too, no matter what the initial reaction might be!
We chose a gorgeous farm in Dorset, called East Shilvinghampton, which had the added bonus of alpacas, goats and ponies being right near the tent on site! It also had a pizza oven which guests were allowed to use to cook their own pizzas in, using the pizzas which were kindly made for us by Joby, one of the owners of the farm.
This proved hugely popular with the kids, feeding the fire with logs and turning the pizzas using a huge paddle! We ate al fresco as soon as each pizza was ready and it was such a lovely end to a really sunny day we’d spent outside in nature!
What is so fantastic about a Featherdown Farm holiday is that it really is NOT camping (as we knew it as kids!) It is very much GLAMPING and feels more like a rustic chalet in nature than anything at all resembling hard work or lack of luxury. For starters, it has a proper wooden floor, which, along with a kitchen sink with a tap, real beds with mattresses and duvets and even a hot shower in a cute little bathroom annexe on the side of the tent, made it feel so luxurious and easy to quickly adapt to!
Not to mention a full size table and chairs, a sofa and a gorgeous woodturning stove right in the centre which instantly heats the whole place and makes it the most cosy and idyllic place to just sit back and relax, as though in an old story from yester-year. Having no electricity, the space was lit only by candles and oil lamps in the evening, which again brought this lovely sense of nostalgia and enhanced that slower pace of life I (for one!) was so desperately craving for a few days.
At this Featherdown Farm you can even order meals to be made and delivered, ready to eat, to the door of the tent! We had a delicious lasagna and salad followed by THE most incredible fruit pavlova, courtesy of Joby and her daughter! What a fabulous additional service to add, we felt so spoiled and it made the whole experience just SO much more relaxing too. I would recommend cooking as little as you can, just to make it a truly restful break. Of course it is possible to also cook on the outside stove (brilliant in summer) and we did a great cooked breakfast on top of the wood burner one morning too!
No wifi meant, lo and behold, playing lots of games together and they rose to the occasion admirably when the sun came out. We brought some balls and rackets with us, as well as encouraging them just to go off on independent adventures to find animals and see what they could discover up the rambling lanes. The joy of tweens and teens is that you can do this with much more confidence and sit back to have a glass of wine and read a book while they do so. They get the space and independence they crave, we get some much-deserved peace. Win win!
Wheelbarrow races became a firm favourite, as did using Daddy’s finished beer bottles to create a DIY version of skittles and hoopla, using a ring shaped frisbee we had in the car! I loved their ingenuity and was also impressed to see just how much helping out they were willing to do, which also seemed to bring a sense of satisfaction and self- confidence when they saw how capable they were.
They washed the dishes (no dishwasher of course), collected logs, ferried items around in the wheelbarrow, learned how to start and maintain a fire and swept up the tent to keep it free from grass and mud. By the second day they were choosing to engage in these tasks themselves and Miss 11 positively thrived on the busyness, which gave me real food for thought about getting them more involved at home too!
Being near the Jurassic Coast we spend a part of a whole day fossil hunting, climbing rocks and sampling local ice creams and fudge (a necessity on any trip) and that fresh air and physical activity meant they were so tired by the evening as we had cosy times playing word games, reading by the fire and laughing about complete nonsense. No one locked away in their own room doom scrolling in isolation, everyone together and finding old fashioned ways to play, connect as a family. Which is absolutely everything I try to encourage through this blog, my Instagram feed and my PlayLab parenting membership club!
I found this adorable photo of the two eldest girls from when we first visited a Featherdown Farm 10 years ago, where they slept together in the same cupboard bed they chose to sleep in again on this visit, for old times sake! How lovely for them to have those memories and this time to be able to return with a real dog too, not just a cuddly toy!
Overall the experience was so positive and the tween and teens responded SO much better than we could have hoped with the stripped back screen time. Perhaps enforcing the break is one of the best ways to get a reset and that there is real value in taking a digital detox for getting that rest, connection and family time again. I think we will schedule in a return visit next year too and make it an annual trip. I love that there are so many more Featherdown Farm venues we could try and that each one offers a unique spin on the slow-living experience, something we often lack in this modern paced world!
If you’d like to visit a Featherdown Farm let me know! I would be happy to answer any more specific questions about how they run and the facilities that are available. Pop a comment below or email me via the contacts page above.