Down and dirty
Somewhere different where you can feel a bit of
grit between your fingers and not worry about the nails?
Gavan Naden checks out 10 places where you can get away
from it all and come home without feeling the slightest
Thursday July 4, 2002
1. Dust Will Fly
Get your own image carved in stone. The O'Learys - Lottie
and Will - both trained in stone work and have worked
on major project such as Hampton Court and the Palace
of Westminster. Now they run courses providing all the
tools and the stone - mainly soft limestone. They guarantee
after a bit of hammering you'll be returning home with
a finished piece for your home or garden. The courses
run once a month (Friday-Sunday) from April to October.
Cost is £170pp, including lunch and refreshments.
Accommodation isn't included, but there is plenty available
Stonecarving, Upper House, Knucklas, Knighton, Powys
LD7 1PN. Tel 01547 528792 or visit www.stonecarving.co.uk.
2. Wet and Slippery
If you don't mind the feeling of slippery seaweed between
your toes and fingers, a shoreline safari will suit
you nicely. It's a bit wet but it's fun. An instructor
from 3D Family Active will show you, and expect you
to handle, all the beasts that live in the sea, from
crabs and star fish to lobsters and limpets.
And if that's not mucky enough for you, the company
boasts over 40 mud-raking activities, including orienteering
and raft building. All the activities can be pre-booked
or chosen on the day, and are included in the price.
Three nights' stay costs from £119, children from
Barton Hall, Kingskerswell Road, Torquay, Devon. Tel
0800 169 9783 or visit www.3d-activefamilies.co.uk.
There is nothing to test your mettle as much as living
with pigs. Well, this might not quite be co-habiting,
but at Caecrwn Farmhouse in Brecon, you can definitely
find out how to rear and market them.
This introductory pig-keeping course, with the Caecrwn
herd of Oxford Sandy and Blacks is set on a five-acre
smallholding with views of the Brecon Beacons and Pen-y-fan.
Weekends are filled with the fun of the farm and appetites
satisfied with delicious hand cooked local food.
Accommodation is in a converted hayloft and for added
charm the smallholding also supports a range of animals
including chickens, ducks, geese, sheep and milking
goats to keep any mini pig farmer happy. Residential
weekends start from £175pp, including meals. Held
throughout the year.
Tel 01874 625 397 or visit www.caecrwn.co.uk.
4. There's Magic in Muck
Bung in a few weeds along with some eggs boxes, tea
bags and old flowers, then stir in hamster bedding and
a couple of mouldy apples. And what have you got? The
start of your own fabulous compost patch. However, if
you'd like some expert advice, Yalding Organic Gardens
in Kent runs seasonal workshops on composting techniques,
containers, and organic gardening. The workshops are
generally free, provided you've paid the £3 entrance
to the gardens.
Tel 01622 814650 or visit www.hdra.org.uk.
5. Take a Battering
Get up to your elbows in flour and eggs, and cook with
some of the finest ingredients France has to offer.
Visits to France Et Fuchsias in Normandy also include
a trip to the local delicatessen and an oyster farm
to find out about the harvesting of these molluscs.
Then it's back to the kitchens to be taken through,
and participate in, the cooking. The accent is on fish
dishes with chef Jean-Pierre Lelettier. Prices start
from £188 for three nights' dinner and breakfast,
and include cross channel travel.
Tel 01653 629010 or visit www.inntravel.co.uk.
Don't wear white if you go on the Sicilian volcano
hike weekend. You'll hike up three living volcanoes
(including the 3,323m Mount Etna), look into crater
rims and see spectacular scenery. You have to be reasonably
fit, and be prepared to be surrounded by sulphurous
lava fields, black volcanic ash and rumbling noises,
but it is a truly awesome experience. Prices start from
£645 and include flights, hydrofoil, hotel accommodation
and vehicle hire.
Tel 01252 760 144 or visit www.exploreworldwide.com
7. Hair of the dog
Take your mucky pup and teach him a new trick or two.
Set in rural Gloucestershire, this is a hands-on way
to train man's best friend. Before you know it, Fido
will be fetching his stick from the water - and shaking
his shaggy coat all over you. For courses throughout
June and July, overnight prices start at £155
and include farmhouse accommodation (your dog is welcome
to stay in your room) with all meals, and tuition.
Leadon View Cottage, Buttersend Lane, Hartpury, Gloucester.
Tel 01452 700023 or visit www.dogsworldwide.com.
8. Crackers and crumbling
In the heart of Barcelona's gothic quarter, not far
from the famous Ramblas, you can take part in a farmhouse
cheesemaking course on the site of one of the city's
first butter-making factories. The course runs twice
a month and never caters for more than 12 people.
You will be instructed on how to produce fresh cheese
and analyse what makes a good one. Finish off with a
meal of fruit, wine and - of course - cheese. The course
costs around 40 euros.
Formatgeria le seu, Carrer Dagueria, 16, 08002 Barcelona.
Tel 93 412 65 48
9. Oil of a mess
A little bit of elbow grease, plenty of oil and a spot
of nous: this cycle maintenance course is the equivalent
of getting a degree in bicycle mechanics. The Edinburgh-based
Bike Co-op runs courses most weekends, and you can choose
between an intensive course on the complete bike for
around £40 or, if you prefer, learn how to lace,
build and true a wheel, which you can take away at the
end. Alternatively, if you want to go it alone, one-on-one
tuition is available for £35 an hour.
8 Alvanley Terrace, Whitehouse Loan, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh.
Tel 0131 228 1368 (fax 0131 229 4447), or visit www.edinburgh-bicycles.co.uk.
10. Mud on your hands
Ancient emperors loved it, even Mozart took a fancy
to it. And what better way to experience the thrill
of being caked in mud then when it's helping you to
lose weight while detoxifying, toning and revitalising
the skin on your face and body? It might look ridiculous,
but hey - it's all in a good cause.
The Italian resort of Abano Terme, near Mottegrotto,
specialises in such delights, and combines it with soothing
thermal bathing - to wash all the mud away.
Many of the mud therapy sessions are held in special
rooms where guests must arrive with an empty stomach.
The mud therapy cycle lasts an average of one to two
weeks, with six to 12 mud packs, applied daily.