Cornwall

Memories of cold and uncomfortable camping are put firmly behind her as EMILY DENNIS samples the luxury outdoor life in Cornwall.

MY MEMORIES OF CAMPING are not good.

I haven't been since my teenage years when my friends and I used to pitch our tent in North Norfolk. One year it rained heavily, flooding our sleeping quarters. I remember being freezing cold, soaked through and mouthing abuse at the boys who stole our tent pegs, leaving our stricken tent resembling an upturned umbrella.

I thought it had put me off camping for life.

However, my opinions softened somewhat when the Forest Holidays brochure landed on my desk.


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Leafing through the pages I admired the Grand Designs-style luxury log cabins in woodland settings. I thought this wasn't so much camping as glamping (glamorous camping) – something I had yet to try.

Forest Holidays offer cabin breaks at a range of sites across Britain and we opted for Deerpark in Cornwall, just south of Liskeard.

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Directions to the site were good and it wasn't long before we found ourselves heading down a track into woods near the village of Herodsfoot.

We checked in at reception and were given the keys to our cabin and, as we stepped through the door we were really pleased with our choice.

The timber cabin was really light and airy and a Scrabble board with the letters spelling 'welcome' was a nice touch.

We stayed in a three-bedroom Golden Oak cabin which was well-equipped and very spacious, overlooking a lake which was home to ducks and a flock of Canada geese.

There was a wide veranda overlooking the water, complete with table and chairs. This proved a perfect place to sit with a glass of wine while we barbequed food for our tea. There was also a hot tub! The cabin had all mod cons including a wood burning stove, a flatscreen TV and DVD and a Wii games console.

There was no mobile phone coverage at Deerpark and, for the first hour or two, I panicked. What if someone needed to get hold of me, what about work? Then it kicked in that no one could contact me even if there was an emergency. It would just have to wait. It wasn't long before I thought this was absolute bliss.

The first morning of our stay we and other guests were invited to take part in the Deerpark weekly duck race. We were glad we went to this. It was, of course, nice to meet our neighbours in other cabins; but, more importantly, we won the race and received the first prize of two bottles of wine and a box of chocolates! The cabin was faultless and the Deerpark staff really helpful. There was a shop on the site selling local produce and everyday essentials and there was a wide range of activities for people of all ages to enjoy. These included forest survival, bat and moth hunting excursions and a forest walk with night vision equipment.

We decided to take advantage of the latter two.

As dusk fell around the site, under the expert guidance of the Deerpark rangers, we and a few other fellow campers set off on a walkabout armed with bat-sensors.

It wasn't long before we picked up the bats' high-pitched echo location calls and we could just make out the tiny creatures swooping above our heads as they fed on insects beside the lake.

It was then back to our cabin where a television had been rigged up underneath our sleeping quarters.

Using night vision goggles, one of our fellow campers, with the help of ranger Frank, tracked a bat swooping across the lake.

It was amazing to watch the creature fly so close to the water as it fed.

Later on we set off on a three-mile walk through the forest carrying night vision equipment. We were hoping to see more bats and maybe deer and owl.

After a short time it began to rain heavily and it seemed as if we were going to be out of luck.

The bats that had flown past us earlier had now disappeared and there were no other animals to be seen.

Our ranger, Luke, was carrying a cassette player and played a recording of a female owl's cry to try and tempt a male owl to call back.

But, despite a few hoots which sounded a long way away, there was no trace of any owls.

We trudged back a little disappointed but having enjoyed the walk and the fresh air.

Deerpark is definitely a place for nature lovers and there are a number of signed walks that take you through the forest. It is also ideally located for a host other attractions and places to visit.

We enjoyed a trip to Tintagel Castle, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. The ruins of the castle enjoy dramatic views and stand on rugged cliffs high above the sea.

Over the years the mainland has been eroded by the elements and Tintagel Castle is now only accessible via a narrow bridge and steep steps.

The village of Tintagel is a pretty mix of stone cottages and there are plenty of quaint shops to browse through selling arts and crafts and mystical goods associated with the legends surrounding the castle.

The pretty fishing harbours of Looe and Polperro are only a short drive from Deerpark and are definitely worth a visit. We spent an afternoon in Polperro, a working fishing village with a maze of narrow streets.

Polperro is really quaint and old-fashioned and feels like you have stepped back in time to when smuggling was rife. The village has some lovely pubs, restaurants and gift shops. There is some fantastic coastal scenery to be explored and boat trips for those who fancy venturing out to sea.

The other must-see attraction in the area is the internationally-acclaimed Eden Project.

The site itself is impressive with its giant biomes, which look like something out of a scifi film, nestled in a quiet valley.

The project examines the relationship between people and plants and the impact humans have on plant life through our actions.

We headed first to the Mediterranean Biome which emulates the natural landscapes of the Mediterranean, South Africa and California.

Inside were a range of plants including aubergines, citrus fruits, grape vines, olives and peppers. There was information about farming practices and a wonderful variety of plants, flowers and shrubs.

Afterwards we headed to the Rainforest Biome which was very hot and humid. There was an array of huge palms, exotic trees, large colourful orchids and climbing vines.

There were also colourful birds and large ants teaming up the side of some plants, a waterfall and even a cold room to help give relief from the heat and humidity.

Visitors were able to try baobab smoothies for �1, which were really nice and freshening.

Bananas hung from banana trees and there were lots of informative displays about topics such as rubber plantations and deforestation.

Outside there was a display about which plants are used in particular medicines, which I found interesting.

Our trip to Deerpark in Cornwall was brilliant and we came away after three days wishing we could stay longer.

The accommodation and site was first-class and there is a wealth of things to do and see in Cornwall. The only solution – plan another trip next year!

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