Softie Camping in Hardy County; My Holiday Andrew Wilkinson Headed off with Wife Pat and Their Children to a Luxury Camping Site in Dorset

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Byline: Compiled by STEVE RACE

THE instructions were clear enough, yet it was hard to believe what we had just been asked to do.

"Park at the top of the track and put your cases into a wheelbarrow."

It's a lovely way to start a country break because a sense of fun immediately takes over from the monotony of motorway driving.

Once the gear is balanced in the wheelbarrow, you trundle down the lane to the spot amid the trees where the tent is pitched. And this is a tent with a difference.

What makes it different?

At Feather Down Farms the super strength canvas is erected round a strong frame, and the raised floor is wooden, so there's no chance of water seeping up from below as in conventional camping. It works. We know that because on the first night it poured down.

There's a table, chairs, plenty of storage room, and even a flush toilet. No television - but this is camping.

What's on the coast?

Suitably fuelled with a cooked breakfast we were off to explore what Dorset has to offer. The answer is loads.

With the rain persisting well into our first day we opted for town rather than country and headed to Bournemouth. This thriving seaside town offers something for everyone - whether or not the rain stops. Gardens, bustling sea front complete with pier, good shopping, restaurants and theatre.

The rain did stop, so we headed back to the countryside, via Sandbanks. The houses in this distinctive small area, built on a narrow spit of land with the sea on both sides are some of the most expensive in the world. Behind London, New York and Hong Kong comes Sandbanks. Seriously.

We returned to the farm in time to enjoy a cloud-free evening, and a walk up the hillside to the top of Nine Barrow Down, part of the chalk formation which runs along much of southern England.

From up here the views are spectacular, across sweeping farmland to the sea on three sides - Poole Harbour, the English Channel and the bay at Swanage. On the fourth side lay the outline of Corfe Castle.

The rolling countryside is at its best in the June sunshine, verdant after the early summer rains. And the coastline is spectacular throughout the length of Dorset, the highlights being Lulworth Cove, eroded from the clays, sands and limestone; and Chesil Beach, 18 miles of pebbles each one smoothed by the sea. …