We spent a wonderful but slightly soggy few days at Fforest last weekend, checking out the logistics of delivering an awesome photography festival to 120 beautiful people.
We'd never been to Fforest when we booked it for SNAP but we knew of it by reputation. Having seen weddings that some of our friends have photographed there, we thought it might just be the perfect place for SNAP and a talk by James, one of the owners, during our visit confirmed our decision.
James explained that Fforest is about belonging and community. Their team of staff are largely people who return to them year on year. They have incredibly strong links to the local community and their whole ethos is based around sustainability and simplicity.
We want that for SNAP. We want to create a sustainable community that will continue to grow long after the event is over and we want you to leave SNAP feeling like something magical happened.
We arrived at Fforest on Friday afternoon and headed down to the Lodge to talk about details and plans over copious cups of tea and a biscuit or two. As you can see Pete (Laura's husband, designated driver and the mastermind behind the SNAP branding) cracked out his Christmas jumper a little earlier than usual this year...
The Lodge is going to be our main chill out area for SNAP. With cosy sofas, long benches and tables that are perfect for doing the odd bit of work at (if you must!). A roaring wood burning stove and a pile of books and games makes it a warm and inviting space that's perfect for down time.
It's also really close to our teaching areas and The Barn, which is where meals will be happening. If the weather is bad (and this is Wales, so there's every chance of rain!) everything is within an easy distance.
Fforest had a wedding weekend so the Barn was set up to show couples who are getting married there what it might look like for their weddings. A happy side effect of us being there at the same time is that we got to meet some lovely local suppliers, including a photographer who told us all about her WV Camper Van photography dark room. Who thinks that would be awesome at SNAP?
The other (very!) important building is The Bwthyn which is the on site pub. It's small but perfectly formed and dates back hundreds of years. They stock a great selection of ales, wines and spirits. We'll be using The Bwthyn as the location for our Secret Sessions.
On Saturday we had a walk around the whole Fforest site, clip boards in hand, to look at all of the accommodation options and other on site buildings.
We squealed with excitement to come across these dilapidated buildings and there is also a veg patch and allotment, all of which will make great backdrops for the various photo shoots that will take place over the course of the festival.
And yes there is a wood burning stove powered sauna, which you can book for a session.
We had a good look around the different accommodation options too. First up, the Threepies.
Threepies sleep five people and are Fforest's own, unique design.
They have a bespoke solid frame, a canvas skin and a suspended wood burner to keep you toasty and warm in the evenings. There's also an overhead light.
Like every accommodation option, you'll also get your own camp kitchen with a gas stove, BBQ, cool box and a kettle for your early morning cup of tea.
The other shared accommodation option is a Camp Shack.
Fforest describes them as a sort of camping spacestation. We like it.
There are two very comfortable pods at each end of the shack, with custom built wooden beds docking into a fully enclosed kitchen and dining "shack" with all the facilities you'll need. There's even a wood-fired stove and oven if you want to get your bake on.
Campshacks are located in their own field looking out west across the valley and the views are breathtaking.
Our final accommodation option is the Domes which have been allocated for couples initially but we might open them up to groups of up to 4, depending on ticket sales. There are 8 domes in total, split across two different fields.
Each dome has a huge double bed and comfortable chairs or a sofa. Each is situated on its own deck with a camp kitchen attached. The Domes also have lighting and enough blankets to keep you warm, however chilly the evening. We were pretty pleased with our fire building skills and we managed to keep our wood burner roaring.
On to the practicalities. The shower and toilet block is located in the same field as the Threepies. It's not heated but we had a shower on a chilly November morning and it was perfectly warm enough once the shower got going. We are massive don't-cope-with-the-cold-very-well wimps so if it was warm enough for us, you'll be fine.
Providing an additional option for showers is one of the things we'll be looking at as part of the logistics, as we want to make sure mornings run as smoothly as possible.
The rest of the site includes fields, fire pits, seating areas and beautiful countryside walks.
We walked along the river, down to the wildlife centre and along the top of the gorge. All of these locations can be used for photo shoots or activities - the light in the gorge was particularly beautiful.
Fforest can organise canoe trips and wild swimming and other activities that focus on the local environment and these are all things we'll be discussing with them, to add to your experience.
Who's brave enough to go wild swimming in April?
On Sunday we visited Mwnt, which is a National Trust owned beach that's around a 20 minute drive from Fforest. We hope to arrange at least one shoot there during the festival. It might involve a trip there for some dawn sunrise chasing or a night time shoot to do some star spotting.
Our stay at Forest was magical and we hope these pictures give you a little bit of a taste of how beautiful it is as a location.
If you have any questions about Fforest please do leave them in the comments.