Many years ago I had the idea that camping was the way to go to guarantee precious family time and bag a cheap summer school holiday break. And it was, of sorts. What I didn’t bargain on was gale force winds and rain resulting in one of the most scariest holiday experiences ever and put an end to my brief encounter to sleeping under canvas. But not one to be defeated, I thought I’d give it another go, only this time as a glamper, not a camper, staying in a safari tent at Crealy Meadows, just outside of Exeter in my home county of Devon.

I still craved the peace and tranquility which camping had to offer; no TV, reconnecting as a family and my kids getting as much fresh air and escapism from their iPads, iPhones and games consoles. Yet I didn’t fancy splashing out on all the camping paraphernalia needed for a tent holiday, just incase my second attempt became my final.

Glamping was the perfect answer.

And here’s how we got on;

Checking into Crealy Meadows

Driving up to the main Crealy entrance you carry past the theme park on to a large, well maintained reception area, first impressions were fantastic. As we checked in, I had my first taste on the 5 star staff service which seemed to be a common theme throughout the whole park, not just in Crealy Meadows but the theme park too. You get vehicular access to Crealy Meadows via a key coded gate, both to get in a out, security felt a high priority on the site.

glamping at Crealy Meadows

Accommodation

We were located in the African Experience section of the campsite, in a quiet and well placed cul d sac of safari tents. Life sized animal scattered the area giving a fun feel. There’s parking for 2 vehicles directly to the front which makes unloading a breeze and also gave you extra privacy from the tents and other guests, without being too obstructive. Each tent has a small, fenced decked area with rattan tables and chairs and french doors giving you access to the inside.
outdoor space & decking at Crealy Meadows Glamping
Inside you have a double futon, solid wood table and 6 chairs and a kitchen area. You’re greeted by the smell of the real wood furniture and the aroma of the wood burning stove, a real surprise as I braced myself for the waft of damp canvas!

There’s also a fully stocked kitchen complete with fridge, Belfast sink, kettle, washing up bowl, crockery and cutlery. All we needed was a tea towel, dish cloth and washing up liquid, This meant no late night shower block runs for teeth brushing and drinks, plus less packing. Bliss.

kitchen area glamping at Crealy Meadows

kitchen area glamping at Crealy Meado

We had 2 separate bedroom, each with a solid wood double bed and bunk beds. The kids room was huge and you could easily accommodate a travel cot. There was also a double cabin bed with doors either side making it full enclosed and separated the living room area from the bunk bed room, the space underneath was also a great spot for storing suitcases. The chest of drawers in the double bedroom was ample enough for all our clothes.

We had 2 separate bedroom, each with a solid wood double bed and bunk beds. The kids room was huge and you could easily accommodate a travel cot. There was also a double cabin bed with doors which made it full enclosed and which separated the living space from the bunk bed room, the space underneath was also a great spot for storing suitcases. The chest of drawers in the double bedroom was ample enough for all our clothes.
There a huge leather bean bag which was perfect for chilling on outside after a busy day. We were so lucky with the weather that we made the most of being outside by bbqing our evening meals. Don’t panic if the forecast isn’t great though, there’s heating in the main living area and one of the bedrooms. Although I doubt you’ll need it as the wood burning stove kicks out some heat and the tents are insulated so we didn’t feel the cold at all!

outdoor space & decking at Crealy Meadows

Facilities at Crealy Meadows

a very short walk from our tent, and still within our sight when sat on the deck, is a small enclosed play area which was perfect for the younger members (3 & 4 years) of our party. There’s also a larger one for the older kids and with plenty of space to the front and sides of our tent so they could play frisbee and set up a mini tennis area.


The shower blocks were amazing. With under floor heating, makes them toasty warm and each shower cubicle is cleverly designed so you can easily accommodate a parent and couple of children. You have 2 hooks, a bench and sectioned off shower area. There’s also a large communal mirrored area. Music is played though day and night too which was a really nice touch.

We had complimentary tickets to the adjoining Crealy Park which was also where the evening entertainment was held. The small onsite shop stocked all the basics and we managed to buy enough from here for our impromptu bbq. Meals are also available in the main park day and night, (although being a vegetarian, I didn’t find much choice for me) this meant we didn’t end up leaving the whole Crealy resort for our long weekend. (tip, if you need to pop out for food which you can’t buy in the shop, Greendale Farm shop is 10 minutes up the road and has a much greater choice.)

The older kids loved playing in the late indoor play area in the evening while the adults sat and watched the younger kids joining in with the disco and games. After 3 nights and 2 full on park days, sleep was never an issue, quite the opposite. With the tent being so dark, it was a 9.30am wake up the first morning!

So it’s safe to say I’m a total glamping convert, especially as it only took an hour to pack up the car and no stressful tent dissembling!

What to bring

  • A potty if you’ve got small children for late night toilet runs.
  • small lamp for the bedrooms, they get very dark at night & the main light doesn’t feed through
  • a torch
  • tea towel
  • dish cloth
  • crocs or flip flops for quick toilet / shower block runs
  • hairdryer or 20p’s to use the shower block hair dryers
  • outdoor / camping light
  • disposable BBQ
  • duvets and pillows (and covers)
  • shopper bag for shower trips
  • cards and board games (you can hire them from the shop too)

glamping at Crealy Meadows

Disclaimer

We enjoyed a complementary stay in return for sharing our stay. 

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Sitting in prime location, a short walk from the car parks in the Princesshay area of Exeter you’ll find the relaxed dining experience of an evening at  Giraffe World Kitchen. I’ll admit straight away that wasn’t quite sure what to expect with a restaurant being described as a world kitchen but as a pescetarian (the only meat I eat is fish) who tries to stay on the healthy / clean eating side when it comes to food, I had an inclining it would be my cup of tea.

First Impressions

The evening atmosphere is very different from the busy vibrant mood which I’d witnessed during the day. Greeted by friendly, happy staff we were shown to our table, a booth style lit by funky subdued lighting and somewhat informal vibe. (Party dress and high heels not essential here unless hitting the town afterwards.)   I’m a stickler for how a restaurant lighting determines your mood, harsh bright lights are a real bugbear resulting in a not so relaxed evening, so first impressions were just perfect.

a review of the The Giraffe world kitchen restaurant

We were given our menus and offered table water,  with well-informed staff willing to help you through your choice. There’s plenty of choice and deciding was really difficult so I took all the advice the staff offered. It was great to be able to try some foods I’d never had before, that world kitchen status is no lie!

Giraffe on the menu?

Starting with salt and pepper squid with sweet chilli jam and fresh lime prawn, Prawn Saganaki – King prawns cooked in tasty garlic, chilli, white wine & tomato sauce with crumbled feta, served with toasted flatbread and Sweetcorn Fritter Tacos washed down with a very palatable Malbec red wine, we were ready to sample all The Giraffe had to offer. All getting th thumbs up, portion sizes were perfect and a special mention to the squid, I’m so going back for that someday soon.

a review of the The Giraffe world kitchen restaurant

Hoping on to mains we opted for Blackened Salmon served with brown rice & kidney beans, corn on the cob and mango salad, Sirloin Steak and Katsu Chicken; Breaded chicken and noodles in a mild peanut & coconut sauce, with bok choy,  broccoli and wok-fried vegetables. All hitting the spot and portion sizes perfect. Although we didn’t manage to clear plates as the desert menu looked waaaaaaaaaay too tempting, forward thinking meant we needed to leave room!

a review of the The Giraffe world kitchen restaurant

After much discussion and a recommendation from our final waiter, the very chatty Milan, it was on to a  Whoopie Cookie – Speculoos ice cream sandwiched between chocolate cookies with chocolate sauce, caramel popcorn and pretzels, Salted caramel ice cream sundae, layered with caramel popcorn and pretzel pieces and for me, a White Chocolate & Passion Fruit Cheesecake Drizzled with fresh passion fruit.

And yes, they all tasted as good as they sound.

In a Nutshell….

So to sum it up, if you’re looking for a relaxed dining experience with happy, friendly staff, a great variety  of food with a lean to the healthier side then I’d totally recommend an evening at Giraffe World Kitchen. Not bad prices too! I totally credit my lack of hangover the next day to the fresh food the night before. Well that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!

 

Disclaimer

I received a complimentary meal in return for my honest opinion. All words and photos are my own unless otherwise stated. 

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So there I was hurtling down the A35 on a dark & dingy November afternoon. I’d watched the TV shows, entrigued by the fact it was all being filmed a stones throw away from me, and today was the day I set foot in that very spot and sample the culinary delights, crafted by the team at River Cottage in Axminster.

Now you’d think that being one of the closest attendees I’d be punctual and know where I was going. Wrong. As always, my navigation skills failed me miserably (a serious weakness I need to address) One of the handful of Devon based bloggers who’d be invited along for this Christmas feast limped ashsmedly into the bumpy car park, where we’d be taken by tractor pulled trailer down to River Cottage head quarters.

Bloggers had travelled from all over to be treated to a brining demonstration by chef Andy, some networking time and then the piece de resistance; the feast.


But back to that brining demo. Even a lacto, I eat fish, vegetarian like myself came away with an urge to brine some pork for Christmas Day. A technique where you soak the meat for up to 24 days in a mixture of salt, muscsvado sugar, cider & herbs (boil the mixture up & leave to cool before adding the meat in a a reactive free pot.) Leave in a cool spot, then bake. It can be kept for days after brine soaking. Perfect for Christmas Day, Boxing Day & the remaining pre new year season.


While we broke off for some time to mingle with fellow bloggers and explore the grounds. (This was a great opportunity to talk the trade & put faces to blogs.) the guys got busy in the kitchen.



Then our Christmas feast began.

Canapés to start; Welsh rare bit made with a melt in your mouth gluten free toast. And goats cheese  topped with sliced beetroot.


Starters began with a celeriac ravioli with wild mushrooms.


Mains was an intriguing rosti topped with poached egg, roasted carrot purée & sided by fried savoy cabbage (my braces completely failed me here as I struggled to chew said cabbage but from the mumors of delight I think it was a surprising hit.)  and braised beans.


Highlight of the evening however was the honeycomb creme brûlée with Apple purer and apple crisps. Oh.my.word! Never in my life have I tasted such a perfectly baked creme brûlée. This has been my signature dessert at Christmas for the last few years anc now the bar has been raised, the challenge is on to try and replicate the River Cottage recipe.


Testament to the theory behind organic, freshly prepared food, my visit to River Cottage has reminded me exactly why I switched to a clean living lifestyle this year. Nothing beats cooking from fresh and putting a little extra effort into sourcing your ingredients. This was just what I needed after being on a restricted diet while wearing braces, I’d completely fallen out of love with food as I sulked my way through my dental treatment.

Family, you have been warned! Mamas back in the kitchen & it’s going to be good!

Many thanks to the Foodies 100 team and River Cottage for organising the evening. 

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I’m a huge believer in alternative therapies, be it the powers of aromatherapy, massage or practicing mindfulness and positive thinking. It’s got me through many a stressful or negative time in my life and is being put to it’s full power right now as I’m navigating the rocky road of divorce. But one therapy in particular seems to make significant differences, reflexology.  More than simply a massage for your feet, anyone trained in this practice can tell so much from what’s going on with your mind and body.

reflexology retreat 4

My first experience was 3 years ago now. Stressed to the hilt with a full house renovation and struggling to conceive, I trotted off to a local lady out of desperation. 2 hours later, I floated out of her therapy room like a weight had been lifted and much more knowledgeable about things which were going on in my body which had been niggling me for months. It was amazing and 6 weeks later I found out I was expecting a baby. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s been something which I knew I should try again, given the stressful situations I’m finding myself in right now, so this morning I headed off to see if Sarah and The Reflexology Retreat near Exeter could work her magic on my achy shoulders, broken sleep and general sense of well-being.

The aim at The Retreat is to use the ancient healing art of reflexology to provide a rejuvenating and restorative holistic experience.  By analysing the reflex points on the feet you will receive a tailored treatment every time reflecting your current physical and emotional health.

Reflexology retreat 1

The Reflexology Retreat is set in the tranquil countryside on the outskirts of Exeter, the perfect position to embrace your therapy session. After a few general health question, you head over to the take your seat, reclining on fur blankets and wrapped in a heated blanket. The next hour or so I melted into a calm reflective state, thinking I could use the free time to plan my working week in my head, there was no resisting the urge to just forget everything. It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to completely clear my mind.

I’d love to explain exactly what Sarah did to initiate such a feeling of calm, but other than the occasional prod and tingles which shot through my body. The rest is a blur.

The feedback from my treatment was spot on and Sarah was able to advise on additional ways to help. Having been cured of migraines though a course of reflexology herself, she is passionate and very knowledgeable about the benefits.

Just as before, I felt like a weight had been lifted. Unaware how much tension I was carrying around, I felt lighter, my breathing slower, the familiar tightness in my chest which I’d had for so long, all gone. I’d been warned I may feel more emotional which was an understatement! Despite feeling calmer and I cried most of the way home each time a meaningful song came on the radio! Not a sad cry, I can’t really explain it, other than a release. And that calm feeling remained for the rest of the day. No more tears thankfully.

In brief it develops the bodies’ self-healing powers and maintains optimum health. This helps encourages the bodies’ neutral structure to achieve balance (known as homeostasis) in all its systems. Up to 70% of disorders can be related to stress and nerve tension.  Stress is manufactured in the body and not absorbed from outside. Long term exposure to high pressure lifestyles can result in fatigue and depression.

reflexology retreat 6

For anyone looking to manage their stress or anxiety levels, or experiencing minor niggles, a complementary therapy like reflexology is really worth a try. I’m going to try to make a conscious effort to look after my mental health more from now on. Like an annual service for the mind.

Disclaimer

I received a complementary reflexology session to share my experience 

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Sometimes, not all the time but sometimes, I’m not such a confident driver, I put my hands up. I was a late learner after many stop start attempts but not driving was never an option. I live in a village and didn’t want to rely on buses to go from A to B. So when my 30’s hit, with a little determination, a drive for independence,  I found myself a patient and understanding instructor and stepped into the drivers seat.
But that little bit of fear you get as a new driver still lingers; usually each time I have to join a slip road or drive along an unfamiliar road. I have decided it’s down to age, lack of experience and loosing two friends in a car accident. Once you’re aware of the dangers of the road, you treat each journey with respect and caution. I know where the accident hot spots are on my local roads which determines how I behave on that particular part the road every time.
It’s when I’m on new ground, though, that I really have to push myself, and I do on the premise that the more I push myself out of my comfort zone, the easier it becomes. But there are some journeys which really set my heart racing even as a passenger. I clearly remember assessing all the laws of gravity and any physics lesson I had paid attention in while cruising round the Needles on the Isle of White on a double decker. If you’ve ever experienced that journey you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Are you a confident driver? I'm not always the most confident behind the wheel
And then there’s my must see and do Ireland. I’ve longed to visit the wild coast of Connemara after loosing myself in the Santa Montefiore novel, The Secrets From The Lighthouse. Part of my planning and research will certainly involve things like this an infographic about Ireland’s Most Dangerous Drives from insurance firm Chill.ie , fore warned is forearmed I say!
So while it hardly compares to the Bolivia Death Road, (see the You Tube vid below from Top Gear if you want to know what I’m on about) my narrow country Devon roads are a force to be reckoned with in the hight of summer and an abundance of tourists not wanting to scratch their cars or reverse.
Highlighting my message that not every car journey’s as fun as it should be and you should always, always respect other drivers.
As you could be stuck traveling between a steering wheel gripper on a slip road, like me!

dangerous drives infographic

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Disclaimer This is a collaborative post with affiliate links.

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