Turning into the car park of West Grove Farm we were greeted by a gaggle of lively geese and a grinning girl bouncing along on a muddy quad bike. Our luggage was swiftly hauled onto her trailer and off she trundled, us following dutifully behind – and with the geese in procession as apparently it was their tea-time and our welly-booted host was in charge of their grub
The gravel track from the car park veered left and we got our first glimpse of the surf pod encampment, nestling in the dewy grass and appearing as a village from a Tolkien novel. There are 7 pods in total, each facing inwards onto a large manicured oval of softly undulating grass with an abundantly blooming flowerbed as the centre piece. The entire design is gorgeous and everywhere you look there is a view to gaze upon.
Our host (I never did catch her name) showed us to our pod – number 2, hooked up the gas for our barbeque and gave us some ice blocks for the coolbox. There is no electricity to the pods but a really bright torch and a solar-charged lamp are both provided.
As it was still early evening and not quite raining, we took a stroll around the farm, the website had promised a farm shop and vintage American diner as points of interest so we went to investigate.
Mimi’s is a genuine American Diner built in New Jersey in 1949, think cutsie colours, malted milkshakes, bar stools, jukeboxes and pretty waitresses in ‘Grease’ style outfits. It’s not at all tacky and you really feel as though you’ve walked onto the set of a cool 1950s movie. The diner is not actually part of the Atlantic Surf Pod business but is an independent establishment housed on the farm. The owner Ben and his staff are really welcoming and do plenty of great authentic food including many vegetarian options. Ben ensures that a lot of his food is either made onsite or is locally produced – without making a big eco-song and dance about it.
After some refreshing orange juice, served in genuine strawberry-print vintage glasses, we crossed the yard to check out the farm shop. No one seemed to be about so we snuck in to browse, I would hesitate to describe it as a farm shop as it felt more geared towards the needs of the glamper-away-from-home, think pot noodles, tins of beans, toilet rolls and toothpaste. There was a lonely fridge with some local meat for sale but centre-stage was the largest shell collection I’ve ever seen – boxes and boxes of different shells, for sale I presume. It’s the quirkiest farm shop I’ve ever seen, but hey I like quirky. They also sold locally-produced soap, luckily, as I had forgotten mine.
With soap in hand we walked back to our pods to get settled in. The Atlantic Surf Pods were built on site by Peter Cobbledick and opened to ‘glampers’ in July 2011, with plans for 10 more. Each pod is shaped like a flattened tube and is very spacious and minimally furnished. The rounded white walls sweep down to a stone tiled floor. The back wall of the pod houses two small windows and the double bed, which sits between two protruding bedside shelves (perfect to rest the torch for some bedtime reading). Opposite the bed, on the front wall, are the doors – these open up concertina style so you can enjoy that indoor/outdoor feeling. There are round Perspex windows in the doors which catch plenty of light on those days too cool to open doors. The other furniture in the pod consists of two giant bean bags to laze about on, a simple wooden lidded box which contains cooking equipment and a large coolbox to keep your perishables in. There is enough crockery and cooking equipment for two happy campers. Each pod comes with its own private decking area with huge barbeque - the kind you can properly cook on and even bake potatoes in, a parasol for shade or shelter (the latter in our case as we were cursed with a typical Devon summer of rain, mist and drizzle) and a sturdy set of rattan patio furniture with glass topped table to enjoy al-fresco glamping dinners. Around the decking you are lit up by solar garden lights and solar fairly lights – very romantic.
Glamping is still camping though so be prepared for British weather, as just like with normal camping you will need to do certain things outside – like cooking or nipping to the toilet, which by the way is a secluded little outhouse down a gravel path next to your pod. Each pod being replete with its own private little wooden shed with gleamingly white and sparklingly clean toilet and sink, there is also a shower head attached to the wall turning the cabin into a wet room for those brave enough for a cold shower (there is not hot water supply to the pods). For those in need of home-comforts there is also a communal bathroom with all the glam and glitz of a posh hotel, including hot water.
The pods also have under-floor heating which is switched on in the colder months of November through to April.
Eco-credential tech-spec: The pods are very well insulated and there is 30kw of solar power onsite. The idea for the showers is that they will use rain water. There is a 25,000 litre underground storage for roof water which just needs to have filters and ultra violet treatment installed before it can be used. The pond, once lined, will store the surplus. All the roofs of the buildings go into one system. The farm itself and land is organic. The lamps supplied for the pods run on batteries charged during the day time by solar, one charge lasts four weeks.
Silent nights and comfy days
The pods, although snugly close to their neighbours, are very soundproof. Despite 5 of the 7 pods being occupied I barely heard my fellow ‘podders’; the only sounds all night being the distant bleating of lambs. I enjoyed a sound night’s sleep – a rarity for this city dweller! I awoke to a glorious burst of birdsong and, sadly, more rain. Despite the bad weather, we were cosy and snug in the pod and had a holiday-length lie-in (translation: we slept until the afternoon).
The bed is the comfiest I have ever slept in. I am an advocate of the futon and abhor sprung beds so I was delighted to find that the pods come with high-tech memory foam mattresses which I felt was a luxurious version of my beloved futon (and no darn bed springs in sight). Everywhere you look in the pod; there are little touches of luxury – from the Ralph Lauren quilt, to the Egyptian cotton towels to the Denby crockery. No expense has been spared to make you feel warm, cosy and pampered.
Top tips for surf podders
1. Bring a padlock – the doors do not lock from the outside but do have a hasp on the outside to enable locking if you have a padlock with you
2. Bring comfy slippers – the floors are stone and can feel chilly on the feet when you hop out of your cosy bed at 5am for a toilet trip.
3. Bring waterproofs – Devon weather is unpredictable
4. Make sure you have shoes that are easy to put on if you’re the type to need a 5am toilet trip, stopping to lace up boots before hopping out into the night is a fiddly task when half asleep.
5. Enjoy the pods for what they are – have a day just lazing about the pod doing nothing. I really enjoyed the break away from mobile phones, computers, internet and fast-paced city life.
6. Visit Mimi’s the vintage diner – ask for quarters to fill the genuine 1950s juke box and order the ‘wets’ or ‘chilli fries’ (they do a veggie version)
7. Take a map of the area – we walked the 30 minute walk to the beach and then got lost coming home and ended up in the next town by mistake. It was a 2 hour walk back in the dark.
Simple luxury for young and old
The Atlantic Surf Pods offer a real camping experience; everything that outdoor life offers but with the touches of luxury that one just cannot emulate in a small dome of nylon. Sleep soundly in a posh-hotel comfy bed while surrounded by ducks, cockerels, lambs and the occasional passing ant. Enjoy al-fresco cooking with ease and dine out under the stars on your private patio.
Although named ‘surf’ pods, the main clientele are couples and families looking for that unique holiday experience. Forget childhood memories of being trapped under canvas, bored stiff, as it lashes down with rain – this is camping with knobs on. And although the pods are very much in the countryside you are only 20 minutes’ walk away from Bude town centre and just 30 minutes’ walk away from the gloriously sandy Summerleaze beach. A real surfer’s paradise.
Am I a ‘glamping’ convert? I certainly am – being an adventurous girl but with a hatred for ‘nylon nightmares (that’s tents to you) – I am excited to find the cosy compromise that the pods provide. They are not so over the top luxurious that you forget you’re camping, but neither are they so ascetic you may as well be in a cold damp tent. Highly recommended.
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Atlantic Surf Pods, West Grove Farm, Bude, Devon EX23 9TG United Kingdom. http://www.atlanticsurfpods.co.uk For bookings call 01288 355288