What started as a week’s work experience for my daughter, turned into a farming adventure to remember at Penhein Glamping.
Words by Victoria Evans
Parents of future teens, take note now! Anyone who wants to work with animals or do an animal-related degree needs a huge amount of work experience. Sounds pretty reasonable, but it can be quite specific, which is how I ended up on a Monmouthshire hillside in April, alongside my daughter who was preparing for lambing season. She would work on the farm and I would review Penhein Glamping. Perfect.
As luck would have it, we stayed with Helen Hearn, owner and ‘keeper’ of the 450-acre Penhein estate which has been in her family for six generations. Helen is very clear that she is caretaker of the farm buildings and fields and bears a responsibility to the land that has supported her family for 150 years. Adapting to the changes and pressures of farming, Helen launched a glampsite just before Covid hit, but which has now grown to eight alachigh tents positioned in a coppice overlooking the Severn Estuary.
The alachigh, named after woods and fields on the farm, are a nod to the family’s Persian heritage, but think yurt, and you’ll get the idea. However, the tent which was our home for the week was unlike any yurt we’d stayed in before. Did someone say ensuite, flushing loo? Helen’s attention to detail, thoughtfulness and appreciation for the land has resulted in a high-end, contemporary twist on glamping with a commitment to sustainability.
Each alachigh has a ‘fitted’ kitchen, with all the utensils you’ll need, worktop, sink and running water. There is, of course, the wood burning stove which you’ll need to heat the tent in colder weather, but which can also be used to heat water for hot drinks and washing up, as well as cooking food: a hob if you will. Fear not if this is too far removed from familiar facilities. Helen has your back. A few steps away, The Cheat’s Kitchen is equipped with kettles, induction hobs, a fridge/freezer and a range of freezer meals as well as local ice cream, lamb, burgers and bacon from local suppliers. You will not go hungry here!
After a day’s exploring you may want a good clean up. If you’re staying in Cae Solomon, Castroggi or The Park, they each have an enclosed shower unit outside the tent. The Oakes, The Cribbau, Catta Dee and The Slades are each allocated a specific shower within a luxurious, heated showerblock. The Coombe has a roll top bath if that’s more your thing.
Once clean and fed, you’ll be able to light candles, your oil lamp and your tea light chandelier, look out to the stars and rest on your sofa or atop your comfy bed. The décor is rustic with some exotic touches inspired by Persia. Beds are made with proper white linens and colourful quilted bedspreads add to the cosy and overall feel, just perfect for bedtime stories. Children of all ages are catered for here, with cots and accessories available.
For those who can’t resist the call of a firepit, each tent has its own for socialising or making s’mores. You’ll also find another just beyond the treeline with a spectacular view of the Severn. A communal tent where various activities and workshops are held, can also be used for family get togethers and meals.
You may have gathered that Helen has thought of everything and that’s evidenced by the number of activities that can be organised for your stay. Anything from axe-throwing, foraging, bushcraft, private chefs, yoga, treasure trails and of course lambing, plus much more aside.
If you want to get back to nature, but cheat a bit when you feel like it, explore plenty of new experiences and have the luxury of hot water, a duvet and an ensuite loo, then Penhein is for you. Plus, the added bonus of staying on an award-winning glamp site which is committed to offering sustainable choices to guests is a firm tick for us! It was a spectacular week and one we will never forget!
While we were on site for work experience with the sheep, Helen hosts Lambing Live every year, where families can get hands-on with lambs. This can mean anything from bottle feeding, turning mother and baby out to the field, watching a birth or even a castration. Timing is everything with sheep (as we learned!) but with two slots a day hosted by inimitable Helen explaining how the farm runs, what’s she’s doing and why she’s doing it, everyone leaves with a good idea of how exhausting lambing season really is. But also, how rewarding.
There’s a host of places to visit and things to do within an easy drive of Penhein. Caldicot Castle, Chepstow, the River Wye, Chepstow Castle, Clearewell Caves, Dean Forest Railway, hot air ballooning, mountain biking and Elton Giant Maze offer a range of activities for children of all ages. The team at Penhein can advise.
For more information about staying at Penhein Glamping: