Four go mad in Gloucestershire: Log House Holidays
10:27 28 April 2016
Candia McKormack and family go in search of tranquillity – and a good WiFi signal – on a short break in a Cotswold log house
I’m the mother of two – one boy, one girl – and the wife of one fabulously sensitive, shock-haired ex-Punk.
Tony’s and my offspring are infuriating, hilarious, sharper than a cut-throat, loving, moody, and – in the case of my eldest – very sweary. There’s a seven-year age gap between Leon, who’s 18, and his kid sister, Carmen. Despite that, in the past we did so many things together; we were a family unit that would find common ground whenever we could, and the age gap didn’t seem to be a huge issue. My photo albums – that is, pen-drives hanging from backstage-pass lanyards – have pictures of us fossil-hunting by the River Severn, exploring the Lost Gardens of Heligan, canoeing along the River Wye, toasting toes by pot-belly stoves in tepees, discovering science at @Bristol, and choosing our Christmas trees in frosty farmyards.
These days – sibling gripes aside – Leon and Carmen get on surprisingly well, but the days of the four of us stepping out the door together are few and far between. I don’t expect sympathy; I know that’s often how these things work, and Leon has a tight schedule of scripting and shooting videos for his YouTube channel so can’t be away from civilisation for too long. Could there possibly be anywhere, away from the comforts of home and associated technology, where we could all spend a couple of days and really, truly all enjoy it?
Well, yes, actually.
The solution was a mere 20-minute drive away – a place where we could feel like we’d escaped the noise and bustle of our everyday lives; somewhere that felt secluded and peaceful; a place where woodland and water come right up to the doorstep; where great-crested grebe, tench, otter and water vole thrive… and that has a damn good WiFi signal.
We had just two days to spend in our Cotswold haven at Poole Keynes, on the outskirts of Cirencester, and were determined to make the most of it. Home for our mini break was Kaiser’s Kabin, one of just eight solidly-built, luxurious lakeside Finnish log cabins set in a 130-acre nature reserve.
Anthony Edmondson set up Log House Holidays in 1980 when he had the idea to create an environment where conservation was at its core, but which also offered people space to escape and enjoy some peace and tranquillity. Once he had found the perfect spot in the form of a disused gravel pit to the south of Cirencester, he set about the hard slog of landscaping the grounds and planting upwards of 44,000 trees, completely transforming the land from the barren industrial site it had been to somewhere Mother Nature would take hold and reclaim her ravaged land.
Our cabin was equipped with everything you could want for a country escape – well-equipped modern kitchen, log-burner with enough fuel to keep you toasty warm, generously-sized comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton linen, wet room with rainfall shower head downstairs, and roll-top bath upstairs, accessed via a romantic antique iron spiral staircase. But then there are those far-from essential extras but, oh my word, what a difference they make.
Each cabin is equipped with a hot tub on the veranda, heated by lake-sourced heat pump and always at an ‘aaah’-inspiring 39 degrees. It became something of a challenge keeping Carmen out of it during our stay; no sooner had we dried her swimming cossie then she’d be asking to climb in again. Evenings were by far the best time to enjoy the sheer indulgence of the tub when, in the chilly winter night air you would quickly cast off your robe and, before goosebumps had time to surface, would slip into the inky, steaming water, feeling utterly but shamelessly decadent.
As we were settling in on the first evening we were given a thoroughly warm welcome by Anthony’s son, James, who is part of this family-run enterprise. We also had the pleasure of meeting Anthony and his two dogs – two-year-old Greta, and head of security, Ranulph, who is four – who dropped by to check all was well as we were chilling by our fire pit on the second evening. The wonderfully personal way the business is run means that, while you feel you have the space to be completely alone if that’s what you want, they are also near by should there be anything you need, whether it be more wood for the burner, advice on where to eat out, or booking a luxurious log cabin spa session.
It’s been a few years since I’ve got my hands on oars – I don’t think Canadian canoe paddles or sticking my nose into other people’s business where it’s not needed count, do they? – so I was looking forward to getting out on the lake in our very own rowing boat and seeing if I could still remember how it was done. Each cabin has its own boat, and it’s a great way to explore the lake and coves, and getting a little closer to nature – one of the first things you notice is just how crystal clear the water is; naturally cleaned by the reed beds, which make a great habitat for the prolific water fowl. There’s also a lovely walk around the perimeter of the lake, through woodland, that’s a comfortable 40-minute stroll. One thing to look out for is the gloriously surreal collection of clay heads hidden among the roots and branches of trees along the walk… it’s a deliciously dark sculptural installation that stops you dead in your tracks. Quite brilliant and completely unexpected!
One of the highlights for me, and what will be an abiding memory, was of the four of us spending the second evening, sitting around a roaring blaze in the fire pit as the sun went down behind the lake... Carmen toasting marshmallows while Leon sketched and Tony and I snuggled under a blanket watching the flames. A simple shared family experience, but the stuff that memories are made of.
Log House Holidays, Poole Keynes, near Cirencester, tel: 01285 770082 or 07792 836279, www.loghouseholidays.co.uk