The sweet smell of eucalyptus is the first sensory delight to greet you as you cross over into the otherworldly glory of Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans.
Leaving the motorway and A-roads behind, the last few exciting miles before discovering this gem begin to offer an insight into the purity and peace that lay ahead; golden fields, forest laden vistas and the odd church spire snake out of the hilly landscape. I was totally and utterly ready to be off grid: no phone, no electricity, and no worries. My eagerness to shed the heavy, exhausting skin of modern life and set my eyes on the horizon, not my phone, had built this weekend into epic proportions of both expectat
ions and need. As I got out of the car in a flurry of crumbs and crumbled shorts and smelt that evocative eucalyptus I felt my shoulders drop and the weight roll right off them: I had found what I was searching for.
Fairy lights and candles surrounded me, as well as three of the people I love most as the bats swooped in and out of our conversations.
The lazy humidity of early evening was settling on the valley as we unloaded our bags and carried them down to the site. The meadow grass became warmer, the quiet more intensified and clouds of midges danced in the golden light. Sacha welcomed us with a friendly face and calming energy, giving us the tour and tips on using the shower block and site in a safe and green way. This was a new way of life and in just a few short hours we were all totally attuned and deeply relaxed in our precious, simple bubble. Monty was to be home for the weekend, two bunks and a large, sunset facing deck that was put to all manner of uses over the coming days. A delicious cream tea was waiting for us and we eagerly dug in, soaking in the ever changing view of the Brecon Beacons and see-sawing between superlatives and awe-soaked silence.
As the breath-taking view evolved into an epic, glowing sunset and then dipped into the inky back of night, I felt completely safe. Safe in the conventional sense, but also in the knowledge that I could still find magic in this frantic and sometimes deeply scary world we live in. I had taken a moment to step back from the barrage of deadlines, emails and hoovering to appreciate the joy of life and being at one with the astounding beauty of our world. Fairy lights and candles surrounded me, as well as three of the people I love most as the bats swooped in and out of our conversations. I climbed into the comfy top bunk with my Mum, two bridesmaids asleep below us and felt the simplest and finest of emotions: gratitude.
A large, red bell tent that had captured my curiosity upon arrival was full of lanterns, day beds and that very specific massage music that relaxes your muscles before you have even been touched.
Our day started with yoga on Monty’s deck. The sky was a dusty shade of blue and the only sounds were the rustle of the giant trees and intermittent whineys of the horses that live in front of Monty. During Savasana, our instructor (my bridesmaid and light Jess) quietly asked us to take a piece of this peace with us, and I felt my body and mind grab onto this concept, eagerly soaking in the scene and vowing to remember the serenity I was feeling. A sense of (albeit very small) community was instantly felt with the other guests on site as we brushed our teeth (I need a pink sink) and collected enamel breakfast bowls at the communal woodland shower block. Still in my pyjamas, I happily walked through the meadow grass and sun dappled walkways amongst the trees to the shower. Complementary organic toiletries are provided, as is a stained glass window and tiny vases of fresh flowers, just in case showering in woodland isn’t a beautiful enough experience already. Fresh air and warm sun in such a beautiful setting really is extraordinarily good for the soul and I soon found out that full body massages are the icing on the cake. After a walk down to the river, amongst corn filled agricultural land and baby pheasants, I made my way to ‘The Womb Room’. A large, red bell tent that had captured my curiosity upon arrival was full of lanterns, day beds and that very specific massage music that relaxes your muscles before you have even been touched. Flick was to be our Masseuse for the afternoon and as I lay down, cool breeze blowing through the open tent windows and the sun’s warmth kissing my skin I felt totally content.
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Back at Monty, I was greeted by snoring and spread-eagled books, abandoned where they fell. My sisterhood had taken to snoozing in the sun on Monty’s multipurpose deck, delighting in the simple things. I joined them, drowsy from an amazing massage and keen to spend as much time as possible in this state of relaxation. Pimms made an obligatory appearance as we all took it in turns to be kneaded by Flick’s magic hands, returning with sleepy smiles and dropping eyes.
Unbeknown to me, the evening would become one of those memories that glows bright in your mind, carefully protected and called upon when needed to lift us through trying times. I was informed that a ‘Vegetarian Extravaganza’ has been organised with the lovely ladies who own Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans, Sacha and Jo. Not having been to an extravaganza before, I applied some lipstick and tried to control my ponytail (this is the most effort I made all weekend). Jo arrived at Monty and suggested that we ate our starters in The Womb Room, a fine suggestion and reason once more to enjoy the slightly surreal pink ambience that had been the setting for my massage a few hours previously. Along with their sweet nature, Jo and Sacha scatter candles, fresh flowers and magic wherever they go and The Womb Room had been made to look pretty as a picture for our arrival. Words do fail me when it comes to describing the array of homemade dishes that we spent the next few hours devouring, but I can tell you in all honesty it was the best meal I have ever eaten. With most of the fruit and vegetables coming fresh from the garden and Jo’s incredible talent we gorged ourselves silly on bruschetta, crudités, sweet potato Thai green curry, sticky rice, naan breads and a huge pavlova covered in edible glitter. Fancy champagne was popped and our #mudandglitter sisterhood opened our souls in the flickering candlelight, pondering the highs and lows of our own journeys and truly feeling the love. We left Monty’s huge porch doors open that night, listening to the sounds of the darkness as the candles burnt out and we fell into deep food comas.
Leaving the confines of Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans felt slightly surreal; the peace had become our institution. Thanks poured out of me to Jo and Sacha, memories this pure will be treasured for a very long time, at least until my next visit. My mind takes comfort in thoughts of the stillness, the meadow and the people enjoying them to make their own magic. I urge everyone to become one of the guests at this very unique place, where modern life and time become distant clouds that pass by, far, far away.
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