Perhaps we should start with the spaceship? It would seem rude not to start with something so spectacular. The Futuro, to give it its proper name, is the star-attraction at Marston Park, a new luxury camping experience in south-west England. Around 100 of the architectural marvels were built in Scandinavia during the 1960s, capturing the optimistic spirit of the age, a time when real change seemed possible. A third have been lost to history, but this model endures, rescued and restored by artist Craig Barnes. Freshly installed earlier this year, it is one of the few remaining examples open to overnight guests and, importantly, has almost unlimited Instagram potential.
During our two night stay earlier this month, the immediate impression was one of freedom. In pictures the interior looks rather cramped, as though preparing for an arduous intergalactic journey. In reality, there is generous space for four people. Underfloor heating keeps the place cosy, while two separate sleeping areas provide privacy. Outside guests have their own shower and toilet facilities, adding a flourish of luxury not usually found on a campsite. We whiled away the evening listening to space-themed music on the stereo, taking pictures and watching the sunset over the surrounding countryside. With the light from the campfire dancing on the hull of the craft, it really was a magical experience.
“I first saw the Futuro when it was exhibited at Central Saint Martins and I immediately thought, this has to come here,” Marston Park co-found, Michael Fenna, explains. “It was a long process to work out logistics and timings but now it is ready. The Futuro will be the first in what we hope will be a long line of collaborations with artists, architects, designers and ingenious folk from the world over. It sets the tone for what we want this place to become – an exhilarating Pandora’s Box of unique cultural experiences.”
But while the Futuro might be the jewel in the crown at Marston Park, it is far from all that is on offer. Centred on an idyllic lake, the location offers three dozen bell tents, a restaurant, bar and wild swimming pool. Each of the tents is furnished with a soft double bed, gentle rug, wood-burning stove and fire pit, as well as luxury extras such as fluffy towels, bathrobes and Bramley toiletries. They make a great home for the night for a family of four, with two extra futons also available if needed. There is plenty of green space to explore on site, while most of the porches open directly onto the water, making for a very relaxing experience indeed.
During the day the site is quiet. Guests can indulge their creative passions amid a lively programme of artistic workshops and wellbeing sessions. If you have time, why not spoil yourself with a life drawing class while enjoying a glass of fine wine, or recline in the wood-fired hot tub? There is also a chance to soak up good vibrations at a gong bath meditation by the lake. Here visitors can expect to be charmed by the sociable and stimulating atmosphere. Looking to stay longer? Marston Park offers a beautiful collection of luxury stay/work canvas studios, furnished with a desk, guitar, easel and artists’ materials.
As Fenna explains: “People come to Marston Park to be creative and share new ideas. We believe that giving yourself the space and time to relax and be inspired by a beautiful, natural environment can bring about truly magical moments of serendipity and artistic collaboration.”
Towards evening, Marston Park comes alive. Fenna is also a DJ/producer, and this knowledge has ensured music is the focus of the experience once the sun goes down. While were visiting the Terrace bar welcomed DJs of a calibre surely rarely seen on a small campsite, perfectly setting the mood for the party. As we frolicked, we were joined by a raucous, glittery hen-party, numerous young couples and even a few children - each rediscovering themselves after a trying year-and-a-half off the dancefloor.
Nearby, the Lakeside Bar is open every day until 23:00, while extra-thirsty visitors can whet their whistles on beer-and-nature pairing trails or at secret micro-cocktail pop-ups. Food trucks serve a rotating menu with a melting pot of local flavours and globally-influenced cooking, from Latin, Greek and northern-Thai street food to a wood-loaded pizza oven, spinning rustic sourdough pizzas.
Marston Park is not a cheap break – the few remaining nights in the Futuro are on offer for £400-£1,200 for example – but the prices are justified. Everything on site feels sturdy, well-made and in place for the long-term. Staff are friendly and accommodating to a flexible timetable, while the music across our stay would not have been out of place a proper festival.
This is camping done right.
Marston Park is a playground for creativity, with grown-up food and drink. Set around a Victorian lake, framed by ancient woodland, Marston Estate is located near charming, historic Frome. The site is also just 40 minutes from Somerset’s popular gems, Bath and Glastonbury, and two hours from London. The site aims to bring together like-minded people to share ideas and good times in a beautiful and peaceful environment.