Fancy giving your city-dwelling kids a few days in the countryside? Amanda van Mulligen explains why a Farm Camps holiday proved to be the perfect week away for her family of five.
We spent a week at Farm Camps Den Brandenhorst in Gelderland during the meivakantie and to say that my boys were upset to be back home is an understatement. They flopped themselves down on the sofa in our front room and the eldest announced,
“We don’t want to be here. We want to go back to Farm Camps.” And, to be honest, my husband and I felt the same way! Despite the initial reluctance from my other half...
“Camping! We should take the boys camping. They’ll love it!” I said to my husband back on a cold, January night.
“They will. I won’t,” he replied.
I’d seen a Facebook advert for Farm Camps and loved the idea. I’m past the age where I want to flail around in the dark looking for my spider-filled shoes when my bladder dictates - which, to be frank, is more often than twenty years ago - and trek over to the other side of a field, armed only with a torch. I’d rather not have to trek anywhere for night-time toilet visits. So I saw glamping as the answer: a toilet, shower and heating - but in a tent.
Things to Do on a Farm Camp
The entire week exceeded our expectations in every possible way. This is what we did during our week at Farm Camps Brandenhorst:
- Milked a cow by hand and watched the cows being machine milked from about as close as you can get without actually sitting on the cow
- Took a huifkar (horse-drawn wagon) ride through beautiful countryside, including a stop-off to taste a Hengeler bitterke (liqueur) - or apple juice, depending on age
- Made waffles with the farmer's wife
- Had a boerenfriet evening
- Barbecued in the sun
- Sat round a campfire roasting marshmallows
- Had a wonderful breakfast delivered to the tent
- Fed the calves
- Looked for freshly-laid chicken eggs
- Helped the farmer bring the cows in from the field
- Brushed and rode a pony
- Looked after a rabbit which stayed at our tent (and escaped twice)
- Played in the witches' forest and made witches' soup
- Played on the sand hill
- Raced around like lunatics on the go-karts
- Experienced amazing Achterhoek (Eastern Netherlands) hospitality first hand
- Played in the hayrick
- Went for a ride on the tractor with farmer Eddy
- Tasted milk fresh from the cow
- Played in the treehouse
- Made a flower chain
Each child gets a Farm Camps passport with activities to do and the farmer's wife stamped the boys’ books once they had done different things. At the end of the week, they were awarded a boerenknecht (farmhand) diploma, much to their delight.
For me, the real measure of a successful holiday is how much reading I get done. Well, during our Farm Camps week, I finished Astrid Holleeder’s Judas, which I was about a third of the way through when we arrived. In other words: a huge success!
Choosing a Farm Camp
There are many Farm Camp locations to choose from, with camp sites across the Netherlands. You can get away for a short weekend or a longer break.
The factors to help you choose the best site for your family are:
- Type of accommodation
- Province of the Netherlands
- Type of animals on the farm
- Activities offered on the farm
What to Pack
Once you have booked, Farm Camps sends a comprehensive list of things to pack, as well as an inventory of your accommodation. These things are on my list of essential items:
- Sun cream and glasses
- A good book or two - the kids will entertain themselves, leaving you time to lie in the hammock and read
- Coffee supplies and tea bags. The kitchen is well equipped, including an Illy expresso machine (capsules were available in the shop) a fridge, and a hob
- Camera and electronic devices chargers. (There are plug sockets in the tents)
- Baby equipment - a baby package is available which includes a baby bed, changing mat and high chair; but you do need to take your own cot linen.
This article was adapted from Amanda’s blog, Turning Dutch, and has been reproduced on Amsterdam Mamas with full permission from the author.
Amanda van Mulligen is a mother, writer and expat. In that order. She is British-born but has called the Netherlands home since 2000. She is ‘mama’ to three boys, and blogs about her expat way of living, loving and parenting over at Turning Dutch. You can find out more about her on her Facebook Page or follow her on Twitter.