Juliet Coombe goes glamping in the wilds of Cornwall with arty visionary and owner Charlie Hoblyn, and discovers the allure of the Mongolian Yurts that offer the real off the grid glamping experience.
I first experienced yurts on the Silk Route to Kashgar, where all rivers of life run in a place where you can now buy anything from silken negligee to your own Mongolian Yurts. Today these nomadic tents are no longer just strapped on the backs of camels crossing vast wildernesses, but are also part of an exciting new lifestyle Real Glamping at The Fir Hill, Cornwall.
This is the perfect family holiday experience for those who fancy the spirit of nomadic life style in style rather than eating hunks of bread with sugar lumps melted on a wood burner on the Silk Road. Being a girl that prefers high heels to spending a whole holiday in walking boots and a sea of blue cotton duvet to a coir woven coarse scratchy blanket with a delicious cup of sweet tea, then this is the place for a people that enjoy an off the grid adventure in the safety of a wooden structure that celebrates the deep ancient reverie of being at one with nature. From the moment you open the azure blue wooden door of your yurt, one can only be amazed by the size of these family rooms that make one feel like an ancient mariner travelling across boundless oceans to undiscovered exotic lands.
These huge tented sleeping areas are perfect for lovers of the great outdoors, passionate about living history and truly making an environmental difference through all the amazing things you will learn over a week glamping in a place still famous for its curses and witchcraft. The Fir Hill estate over the centuries has had more than its fair share of bedevilment and this is all part of the fun of the place, which is surrounded by ancient woodlands where you will discover a tree that fairies live in where money is left for them, protected bat caves, ancient mine shafts, and ruins from a time when The Fir Hill estate was considered to have one of the finest Manor House in Cornwall all of which you will learn more about on the exciting ‘Trespassers and Hoblyn Historic walks.’
Our sleeping accommodation nestled in this misty mystical ancient Hoblyn estate was truly stunning with its diamond pine trellising held together at the cross points by dried leather skin ties. As you sink into the softest mattresses you have ever slept on, positioned beautifully on artisan hand mad beds, one can truly enjoy the beauty of looking up at the infinity of gnarled light brown knots and shapes, surrounded by white canvas, bound by two white circumnavigating ribbons that emerge as bindings as they grab, like rip tides, at the ships blue cockpit door holding the frame steady as she goes. You feel like a nomadic king of the waves flanked by two doubles in this deceptively spacious chieftan like stateroom and my arms are like Poseidon's tridents as they reach upwards to the ship's giant helm with the morning’s light glowing through it, and at night you can see the stars and the full moon through this magical central point. The helm like skylight is also supported by 78 blue poles rising up from the trellis wall that subtly transforms from round to square to tapered oars as they ascend to the heavens and reflect the light back into this very special domain that makes it an unforgettable Yurtist experience.
The centre of my ger (yurt) is a glorious giant space galleon's wheel beautifully shaping the light as it enters this idyllic spot, an oasis for the soul nestled amongst Cornish hills, the distant rich green hedge lined fields dotted white with bleating springing lambs, overlooking a glasslike lake reflecting distant fluffy clouds and trees all around swaying gently in a light breeze as their leaves quietly whisper of the mysteries of this historic wood where the fern that gave the area its name can be found.
Over an action packed week you can explore the stunning local beaches including Fistral beach where they hold World Championships for surfing and Watergate Bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean famous for its restaurant the Beach Hut. From here you can go to The Eden Project where they prove that transformation is not only in our nature, but also how to connect us all with the living world and through excellent daily tours the importance of plants for medicinal and many other forgotten purposes. Here you can learn more about the flora and fauna of the world and talk to experts about Asia at The Eden Project, including how to make Sri Lankan jaggery while being explained the importance of natural sweetness like cinnamon, which is so much better for you than refined white sugar. A fascinating day trip from Fir Hill, where you can learn from Hetty, the skilled horticulturalist and Carla the story teller. On the way back you can buy produce from the local farmers gates and then cook it under the stars at The Fir Hill stunning barbecue areas, and during the season enjoy award winning producer of the year Cornish Tregassow asparagus.
The Real Glamping experience in Cornwall is all about getting off the grid and being given unique access to Fir Hill’s historical spirit with its magical woodland landscapes. With Charlie Hoblyn you can tap into twenty-three generations of family history by walking with him or one of his team past ochre mines, through caves and, in the process, learning how bats are protected owing to their control of insects such as mosquitos. It is the hidden history of this ancient woodland brought to life that makes this such a special experience like having the phosphorous algae pointed out and where the pathway forms a 'never to be used' canal, Edyvean's Canal, a venture or folly whereby a local businessman/engineer, John Edyvean, had the idea to build a canal from Mawgan Porth through parishes inland and to return to Newquay. Its purpose was to import sea-sand, seaweed and stone for manuring to improve land. Despite parts of it opening for a brief period, the concept was ultimately abandoned.
The most exciting part of the action packed tour was seeing the one of countries only ochre mine operating from 1740 to 1900s, which includes a forty foot cave, that was hollowed out for its stunning orangey brown earthy dye, and then used as pigment for oil paintings and mixed with plaster for stucco facades on the Hoblyn family mansion on the other side of the valley, which tragically burnt down in 1803 before the Fir Hill Manor House was built to replace it.
This beautifully links back to the choice of the yurt as a living structure that reflects the use of surrounding natural materials for building in resourceful and artistic ways with no permanent impact on the land. Like his ancestors who were also guardians of the land, Charlie Hoblyn has used the felled trees for building the architecturally stunning communal mindfulness spaces with roaring fires and showers powered from solar panels. The beams and hand crafted tables and coffee mats were all created from the estate trees - a mix of oak, sycamore, chestnut and ash.
The Hoblyns have been amateur artists for generations and you will see some of Charlie Hoblyn's colourful 'master pieces' on the walls of the main buildings and even a cheeky smaller painting can be found in the outside compost loo. Always look twice at them as they hide hidden scenes, which allow both children and adults to enjoy their masterly beauty. Like the wheel of life Charlie Hoblyn has returned to his spiritual home land Cornwall while juggling his other home in France, that coincidently also produces ochre in the clay hills. Like his ancestors he believes that stewardship of the land is essential for sustaining the future of a balanced life.
Juliet Coombe for Connoisseur Magazine