Camping trip with a big difference

One of the yurts at Afton Farm
One of the yurts at Afton Farm

TRAVEL: Delays due to broken down vehicle on A27

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Some sneeringly refer to them as merely Yuppified tents. But when I was growing up, the nights we spent under canvas on the side of some Welsh mountain were nothing like this.

As we opened the wooden door to our Mongolian yurt, set in an apple orchard at Afton Park on the Isle of Wight, it was like a mini home from home.

Much larger and sturdier than a conventional canvas tent, it boasted a wooden floor complete with rug, a double iron bed, a futon for the kids to share and a wood-burning stove.

Bed linen and towels are extra, as are logs for the fire, but you do get a cool box that acts as a fridge and solar-powered lights.

With the sun shining, it felt like getting back to nature but with some creature comforts.

Not too many though. As the name suggests, the Really Green Holiday Company is very environmentally-friendly. So ablutions are performed in compost toilets and washing is by solar shower. It’s pretty basic, but you soon get the hang of it.

There is no mains electricity on site. Each of the yurts has a stove and an outside barbecue, but there’s also the option of The Dome, a large tented area providing gas cooking facilities (not quite so green) and a communal area for guests to mingle.

A nearby farm shop specialises in organic, gluten-free and local produce and there’s a cafe too.

There’s always plenty to see and do on the island and one big advantage is that it’s easy to get around.

An enduring favourite with our two boys is Seaview Wildlife Encounter, a lovely park with waterfalls and lakes where interaction with the animals is positively encouraged.

They really enjoyed going into the wallaby enclosure, throwing sprats to the penguins at feeding time and visiting one of the UK’s largest tropical houses.

We also had a good day out at Blackgang Chine, once the haunt of smugglers but now a park packed with things to do for all the family.

If you fancy a thrill, then Waterforce sends you down a long water-filled chute in a tiny dinghy.

Or you can try Cliff Hanger, a compact rollercoaster – but don’t go just after a visit to Chocolate Heaven.

We were lucky with the weather during our stay, so we stayed outdoors with a trip to Robin Hill Adventure Park and Gardens.

This award-winning attraction has everything from rides to falconry displays where the birds get so close you can feel their wings as they swoop down.

The Tractor Train went down well, as did the maze and the Rabbit Run, where children can pretend to be rabbits and explore giant ‘burrows‘.

If you’re feeling brave, try the Toboggan Run and Colossus, a giant boat that swings high in the air.

But the best part of our holiday? Going down to quiet and picturesque Colwell Bay to paddle, hunt for crabs, play beach cricket and eat fish and chips straight from the wrapper.

Then each night it was back to the yurt for storytelling and sleeping under the stars.

· If you’re heading across to the island over the summer holidays, you can also try Secret Wight, a range of fresh-air challenges for parents and children to conquer together on a choice of 10 different itineraries, from dinosaur hunting to finding hidden expanses of sand. Secret Wight is available free by calling 0871 376 1000 or to view/download from


Simon Toft travelled to the Isle of Wight with Wightlink Green Getaways (0871 376 0013 and stayed in one of The Really Green Holiday Company’s Mongolian-style yurts at Afton Park.

A one-week Wightlink Green Getaways holiday in a yurt costs from £103 per person (based on four sharing), including return car ferry crossings from Portsmouth or Lymington. A one-week ferry-inclusive holiday in August costs from £169 per person. Short breaks also available on request.

Simon crossed the Solent on Wightlink’s 40 minute Portsmouth–Fishbourne crossing.

Attractions include:

Seaview Wildlife Encounter (01983 612261

Blackgang Chine (01983 730330

Robin Hill (01983 527352