Camping Nightmares

Camping nightmares - windy conditions

We are nothing, if not resilient. Seriously, we had a nightmare trip in 2019 that would have turned less nutty committed campers into gibbering wrecks. From storm wreckage to flat beds to wet beds – we experienced all the camping nightmares possible for an average family. We started off with misplaced optimism about exploring the stunning county of Cornwall, taking in a couple of family visits and having a generally wonderful break. First stop South Winds Campsite in the surfing capital of Polzeath:

1. Flat bed

Had an absolutely amazing first day and went to bed full of fresh air, happiness and “isn’t my family great-ness” whilst snuggling into our lovely cosy bed.

Woke up at 2am. Pumped bed back up and crossed fingers.

Woke up at 4am. Wasn’t full of happiness. Pumped bed back up again.

Woke up at 6am. All happiness had leeched from my body along with the ability to move without creaking or groaning.

We spent an hour or so with our repair kit, finding the leak and confidently repairing it ready for the next night. Spent another lovely day and went to bed totally ready for restful and recuperative sleep.

Repeated pattern of previous night.

Bought new bed.

Camping sunset

2. Wet bed

Our dear daughter was 3, but had been going through the night with no “accidents” for 6 months. So, for whatever reason, we decided not to follow our own advice and did not pack any nappies. You can probably guess what’s coming.

Night 3, after 3 full-on days of sea, sand, kites, running, making friends and bucketloads of fresh air, our children were sound asleep in their shared double. So sound asleep in fact that neither had noticed the circle of wetness they were both lying in.

As any parent knows, waking up sleeping children is absolutely the LAST thing anyone wants to do so Daddy and I started a whispering argument about how to deal with this. “Leave them” was Daddy’s wise advice following the path of least effort. I was not so sure and eventually we decided to try our best to sort this without waking them. So, mission impossible began. This involved careful placement of towels on our bed, moving children to our bed and changing them with minimal movement/sound, changing their bed and more placement of towels, moving everyone back.

Well, obviously they woke up.

We bought nappies the next day.

 

3. “Sleeping” Through the Storm

We heard there was a storm coming. “We’re not scared!” exclaimed Daddy in true Bear Hunt style, after all we’d survived plenty of adverse weather in our trusty tent and knew all about double pegging, storm pegs, etc.

Turns out this was a bit optimistic.

It was rather windy when we went to bed, but we settled down, confident in getting a good night’s sleep. I woke up a couple of hours later and it was clear that this was not your average storm. The noise was, frankly, terrifying particularly given that it was the middle of the night. “Are you awake?” I whispered and knew it must be bad when partially deaf husband replied, “Totally!” We poked our heads into the living area and saw the tent bowing in so leapt out to investigate. There followed a flurry of activity – re-shaping, re-pegging, moving the Landy to shield the tent, pacing up and down with our hands on our hips, shaking our heads and finally going back in.

The kids were fast asleep all through this and continue that way until morning. I mean, how?

I did not go back to sleep. Just lay there waiting to be blown to Ireland.

Mummy is tired
Flattering photograph of Mummy feeling tired

4. What’s happened to our tent?

We were due to move to the next campsite the next morning so packed up feeling rather subdued and a little concerned about the rather odd shape of the front of the tent. But with true optimism, set off further down into Cornwall to explore areas we had never been to before, confident our camping nightmares were finished. The picturesque village of Mousehole beckoned with camping at an out-of-season football club, Mousehole Camping.

So, we started the process of pitching our tent again. Although the storm had passed, the wind was still buffeting us and presenting all sorts of challenges. I was definitely on crank factor 10 following almost no sleep but made the decision to not lose it if at all possible. Daddy had also made this decision and was trying not to shout at the hyped-up children who were running round and losing things in the wind. “Losing it” was starting to win however and in the end, bribery was employed to get them to stand (still please) on tent corners to try and get the job actually done. This was having some effect and we started the muscle-sapping process of pumping up the tent.

It became apparent that all was not well.

The back of the tent/sleeping area was fine but as we got closer to the front end that had taken the full impact of the wind, the shape of the air beams was distinctly bowed as though the wind was still pushing on them. We went around straightening, adjusting the air pressure, umming and ahhing to little effect. I heard a couple of cracks during this time and thought that it was the cricket game that was taking place in the next field. But then heard a couple more cracks in quick succession and turned my attention sharply to the air beam where the sound was actually coming from. I saw a bulge at the corner of the beam and heard a few more cracks which turned out to be the stitching popping and saw that the bulge was a rapidly expanding air beam as it pushed its way out of the popping protective casing.

The inevitable happened.

Bang!

Airbeam down. Now what?

As luck would have it, the lovely proprietor of the campsite offered us the use of a vacant bell tent for the rest of our stay and our holiday was saved!

Camping nightmares - burst airbeam
Pop!

5. Lost items

With a son who is perfectly capable of losing items in his own bedroom, losing things is inevitable.

It felt a little unfortunate that the thing he lost was the only coat he brought with him. Taken off whilst in the middle of an energetic game with new friends and discarded somewhere on the field never to be found again. Probably swept out to sea just as the storm came in.

We conceded that he really couldn’t do without a coat given the mad weather and of course, we just love spending money on more things from our constantly haemorrhaging bank accounts.

It was also a sad time for Daddy as he imitated his son and left his beloved hat of 30 years at some never to be found again place.

At various points, I also lost my patience and sanity.

Camping nightmares - lost items

6. Poo-gate (x2)

Here is a case in point.

First night in lovely bell tent and am woken up in the morning by beloved son who has an urgent need for the toilet so off we set over the 500 yards across grass, tarmac, around the pitch to the loo block.

“Oo, I need a poo Mummy.”

“Let’s go a bit faster then.”

“I really need to go, Mummy!”

“Not far now darling!”

And then the words, every parent dreads:

“It’s coming out, Mummy!”

I mean…what can you do? I thought brazen it out and keep going so half dragging him along, that’s what I did.

By the time we got to the loo block, things were not good.

It was literally all over his lower half including squelching inside his trainers. He was obviously upset so I was simultaneously trying to comfort him whilst not touching him or giving in to the rapidly rising tide of vomit. I pretty much had to hose him off, bin the PJ bottoms and disinfect his trainers. Also had to hot foot it back the way we came to assess the erm, damage left behind. A few doggy poo bags and squirts with a water bottle later and no one was any the wiser. I swerved every time I went past that bit though for the rest of the stay.

The next fun time for Mummy came the very next morning. I woke up before the others and took myself off to get washed. On my return, I saw dear daughter stood outside. As I got closer, it seemed her pyjama bottoms were round her ankles so I sped up with that familiar sinking feeling. As I got closer, it became apparent that I was too late and that she’d “deposited” immediately outside the entrance to the tent.

“Poo, Mummy.”

“No sh*t,” was what Mummy wanted to say.

Daddy stayed sound asleep through both incidents.

Despite our camping nightmares, we are desperately disappointed not to be camping in the next few weeks/months as Covid-19 rampages around this beautiful country. Please stay safe and stay at home for now. But don’t forget to support our wonderful camping industry as soon as you are able to so that we can all enjoy it for years to come. Check out some fab campsites on our directory and perhaps give them a follow or a like to keep them in mind for the future.

Fitting tent into bag

6 Cosy Glamping Experiences

Well, although spring is supposed to be coming, it still feels decidedly cold and gloomy out there! With this in mind, perhaps you’re not yet ready for all-out camping just yet and still want that feeling of cosiness with a few home comforts? If so, why not try the luxury of glamping? We have found 6 gorgeously cosy glamping sites, where you can get your fix of outdoor living whilst relaxing in comfort by a log burner or even in a hot tub before retiring to a comfortable, fully prepared bed (and even have a hot water bottle!)

1. Beavers Retreat

Situated in the beautiful Welsh countryside in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National park, all your worries will drift away at this truly luxurious glamping site where every detail is tended to with the customary care of Beaver’s Retreat.

All family-sized, you can choose from beautifully furnished bell tents or the cosy Geodomes with wood-fired hot tubs! Both options come equipped with a comfortable double bed with crisp cotton bedding for a good night’s sleep as well as sofa beds, tables and chairs. The floors are carpeted adding to the homeliness and each unit has a private sheltered kitchen, full cooking facilities, cutlery, crockery and a fire pit to warm up around. The luxury Geodomes have the added bonus of an indoor wood burning stove so you are guaranteed to stay warm and cosy.

2. Marthrown of Mabie

Within the spectacular Scottish countryside of Dumfries and Galloway, you will find the hidden forest gem that is Marthrown of Mabie. All furnished with wood-burning stoves for a truly cosy glamping experience, you can choose from luxuriously furnished yurts, a Native American style tipi or even a Celtic Iron Age Roundhouse! There is a covered BBQ cooking area, usable in all weather conditions and complete with tables and chairs and electricity for lighting and music. And if you get chilly, why not try the authentic Finnish sauna or a wood-fired hot tub whilst gazing at the stunning dark skies?

3. Yurtcamp Devon

Set in forty acres of beautiful Devon woodland, you can choose from twenty-two contemporary yurts of different sizes and locations from secluded to “village” style at Yurtcamp Devon. All the yurts are fully equipped and luxuriously furnished for cooking, sleeping and relaxing in. Each has access to an outdoor fire pit, for campfires and barbecues and you can be sure of staying warm and cosy next to the log burner, even when it is cold outside.

4. Kiss Wood Cabins

On a family farm in Cheshire, surrounded by breathtaking countryside in the Peak District National Park, you will find luxurious and cosy glamping accommodation at Kiss Wood Cabins suitable for all seasons. Each pods is furnished with a comfortable double bed, sofa bed, en suite bathroom, kitchenette, T.V. and heating so there is no chance of getting cold! Outside, you can cook up a feast on the BBQ provided or simply enjoy the beautiful views from the hot tub with a glass of prosecco in hand!

5. Stanley Villa Farm Camping

Situated in the lush countryside of Lancashire, Stanley Villa Farm Camping offers a total of 24 cosy camping pods. These are all well-insulated with wool and come with 2 good quality single beds and mattresses for a comfortable night’s sleep. The beds can be pushed together to make a double and a further airbed can fit in for the kids. Each pod comes with its own firepit for nights around the campfire and you can hire free hot water bottles for that extra cosy feel. Take advantage of their March Madness Offer for any bookings made before 31st March 2020 for discounts well worth taking.

6. Wye Glamping

Wye Glamping, Powys is set in a simply stunning part of Wales offering a true retreat with mountain views and nature all around. A small family run site with only 5 pitches including a locally built yurt, a beautifully handcrafted cabin and 3 spacious bell tents, every detail is catered for so that all you need to bring are your clothes and food. Each come with a fully made-up king-sized bed, futons and a wood burning stove for cosy evenings in. Outside, there is the firepit and plenty of rugs, cushions, blankets to wrap up in and watch the sun go down over the spectacular views.

6 cosy glamping experiences:

Beaver’s Retreat, Pembrokeshire

Marthrown of Mabie, Dumfires and Galloway

Yurtcamp Devon, Devon

Kiss Wood Cabins, Cheshire

Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

Wye Glamping, Powys

How to Prepare Your Caravan For Towing

We all love our home comforts, so going on a caravanning holiday is a great option for many people who prefer to cater for themselves but still want the freedom of exploring what the UK and Europe has to offer. From beautiful seaside towns to warm beaches and green pastures, you can get that little bit closer to nature by travelling in a caravan.

But, before you set off on your next trip away, you may need to prepare your caravan for towing. The experts from SG Haulage have kindly provided some top tips that will ensure your trailer is safe for the journey ahead:

1. Pack it correctly

Packing your caravan in the right way will minimise a lot of problems that could otherwise occur while towing. Always start by referring to your car’s handbook so you know exactly what the maximum towing capacity is before you begin packing. It’s also a good idea to make the nose heavier than the back of the trailer as this will avoid tipping, and only pack the necessities. Unless you’re travelling to the middle of nowhere, extra water can be accessed at your campsite, and groceries can be purchased at your destination.

Items should be packed in the following way:

Heavy items – larger items such as bikes, barbeques and TV’s should be weighed before loading, and always keep the heaviest items as low as possible to prevent unnecessary pressure.

Medium items – next, you should load medium sized items, these can be spread out more than heavier items but should still be stored in the middle and bottom of the trailer.

Light items – small amounts of clothing and lighter items can be kept in the overhead storage.

2. Plan your route

As you would with any other type of trip, plan your route well in advance as some areas are not suitable for caravans, and you may not be able to access certain routes. This is particularly important in this era of the Satnav which can lead you through tricky, narrow roads that are difficult to navigate, so querying this beforehand will allow you enough time to come up with an alternative route.

3. Extra tips

● Be careful when driving – allow extra room around you, more time for manoeuvres and stick to towing speeds.

● Purchase mirror attachments so you have full visibility.

● Use the lightest version of everything you need – e.g. reusable plastic plates and cutlery.

There is nothing quite like the freedom of meandering around our beautiful countryside. And as long as you prepare your caravan for your trip, you can truly relax and enjoy.

If you need more help with your caravan, SG Haulage offers domestic and commercial haulage services across Lincoln. Whether you need your caravan moved across the country or you require international road haulage, go to the UK’s leading haulage company.

And where could you go with your caravan? Well, here is a selection of campsites with excellent facilities specifically for caravans to help your holiday go without a hitch (sorry, couldn’t resist that one!)

Scottish borders: Lilliardsedge Park

North East England: Thornton Hall Country Park

North West England: Park Foot Holiday Park

Wales: Brynawelon Touring and Camping Park

East Anglia: Fakenham Fairways

South West England: Langstone Manor Park

South East England: Chestnut Meadow

Caravan and Camping Shows – Spring 2020

It’s coming isn’t it?

“What?” I hear you ask. Well…camping season of course!

I know, I know…the weather is still doing its crazy British thing, but it really won’t be long and I, for one, cannot wait for our next family adventure.

Before the season gets started, it is a great time to check last year’s equipment: make sure it is all in working order, repair and replace as necessary. If you want to check out the new products and innovations on the market before committing to buying, then you could pop along to one of the caravan and camping shows up and down the country. These are great opportunities to have a good look at products you have heard about, to test things out, find a good deal, stock up on items or just dribble over the amazing things you could buy after you’ve won the lottery (a favourite pastime).

Whatever your budget, caravan and camping shows certainly get you thinking about the summer ahead and we’ve put a list together of a few shows that are on over the next few weeks that might just be worth a visit:

16th February – DubFreeze, Stafford

DubFreeze

18th-23rd February – Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show, NEC Birmingham

CCMShow

7th – 8th March, Camping World, Horsham, West Sussex

Camping World

20th – 22nd March – The Yorkshire Motorhome and Accessory Show, Great Yorkshire Showground

Yorkshire Motorhome and Accessory Show

9th – 13th April – Camperfest, Chester

Camperfest

17th – 19th April – The National Motorhome and Campervan Show, East of England Showground, Peterborough

National Motorhome and Campervan Show

24th – 26th April – Caravan and Motorhome Show, New Forest Showground

Caravan and Motorhome Show

Now, some of you might find the idea of going to a camping show too “peopley” but still feel the need to go shopping. I must tell you that I stay away from ‘normal’ shops like the plague but there is one type of shop that I am irresistibly drawn to… the beauty that is a camping shop (jumps up and down with excitement!) One place that is full of proper camping knowledge and an amazing range of products is the wonderful family-run World of Camping in Cornwall.

They really know their stuff and can help to find you the right product for your budget. If that’s a bit far to go, they also have a website with plenty of offers available for different products. Check them out here: World of Camping.

Camping Vs Electronic Devices

Redshoot Camping Park

A couple of weeks into the school holidays and come on admit it…how many of us have resorted to electronic babysitters?

Well, we have.

Not proud.

In fact, it raises that ever-present guilt that AGAIN we are failing at parenting to the high-level that seems to be required AT ALL TIMES these days. Whether it is the right amount of screen time, sports time, music time, learning time, playing with your friends time, cooking to a gourmet standard time, there is always something to think about and then feel guilty about because they’re not on the right Olympic pathway.

We are, however, passionate about getting the children outside and off electronic devices.

Now, let me just be clear: we are not one of those smug families that say, “Oh no, we don’t even own a TV, we are so wonderfully wholesome!” I mean, life without CBeebies would not be worth living on some days, frankly. We do have an iPad and obviously, the children love it. I mean REALLY love it. They would give their very souls for a whole day of square-eyed gazing at the pad of power. They would literally merge into the couch, oblivious to any other living thing and probably forget even to eat (well, that might be pushing it a bit.) And that is the problem – it just sucks them in and then sucks the very life out of them. They stop communicating other than the odd screech if the other dares to want a turn or if a nasty parent comes to persuade them to do something a little less mind-numbing.

Kids on phones
Why talk to each other when you can look at a screen?

To be honest, it is pretty much banned in our house now as we don’t really like our children when they are on or have been on it – they just become these whinging, whining empty vessels; devoid of imagination and drive. Pretty much like drug addicts which is exactly what they become…addicts! In fact, a study by Sigman looked into the increasing use of the term ‘addiction’ by physicians to describe children engaging with a variety of electronic devices in a “dependent, problematic manner.” They noted that children are more likely to develop a long-term problematic dependency on technology.

It’s that repetition of the word “problematic” that concerns me.

How have we got to the point where these amazing portals that unlock the whole world have become so “problematic?”

It comes back to screen time. Research published by  the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, tracked the daily habits of 4,500 children who were then asked to carry out detailed cognition tests. They found that those engaging in more than two hours of screen time had worse results for working memory, processing speed, attention levels, language skills and executive function. All pretty fundamental areas really and scary reading for parents.

It leads us to think about the importance of getting the children outside, away from these hypnotic electronic devices, connecting back to nature and real things.

Camping does allow for “cold turkey.” The change of routine and location can allow children (and adults) to think about other things and kick their addiction into touch.

Think about it – in the morning, you awake to the sound of birds singing and breeze blowing rather than the stark electronic shout of your alarm and that sets the tone for the day. Stuart Lea-Swain of FootArt is an avid camper and agrees that, “You can’t beat waking up in the hills or countryside, listening to the sounds of birds singing, the fresh air and optimism of the day ahead.” This immediately connects you to your surroundings and make you want to stay outside and experience the things around you rather than retreating back to the “eyes down” position.

During the day, the children can set about exploring the play area or thrashing dad at tennis, paddling in the stream or tucking into a picnic. But most likely, they will be making new friends. Jo Smith at Stowford Farm Meadows has observed that “Classic camping memories stay with families forever.  At Stowford we love seeing families, couples, groups and pets coming back year after year and enjoying the great outdoors together. Some families are pitched next door to each other and end up keeping in touch for years – like old fashioned penpals!”

Kids enjoying camping at Stowford Farm Meadows
Enjoying life at Stowford Farm Meadows

At night, it’s time for lovely food around the campfire, games and something that might be tricky at first…talking to your family! The team at Bundle Beds are passionate about camping and enabling people to try outdoor living: “One of the reasons that we set up Bundle Beds was to get more people out and about and exploring, whether touring the world or just camping in the back garden.” They love camping for “the fresh air, for the amazing views, and our favourite bit, the campfires… the endless potential of feasts and treats to cook on them, the huddling around them as night draws in, and the simplicity of just being outside as the sun sets.”

Bundle Bed
Cosy in a Bundle Bed

Without the usual electronic devices, everyone is likely to sleep better at night as well. The usual recommendation is no screen time for 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Well, you can totally nail this one!

When you get back from your trip, rather than slipping back into the old routine, use some strategies from your new routine: Try eating your breakfast outside to set the tone for the day, organising a family game of kwik cricket, get the swingball out or try a boardgame when weather drives you back inside. Just try and break your children’s “crack” habit before they become monosyllabic teens, cos let’s face it, you’ve got no chance then!

Why not try one of these fab sites before you run out of summer holiday time?

Stowford Farm Meadows

Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping

Forest Glade Holiday Park

Red Shoot Camping Park

Haw Wood Farm

Stanley Villa Farm Camping

Deepdale Backpackers & Camping

Greenway Touring and Glamping Park

Walton Court Caravan and Camping Site

References

  1. Sigman, A. Virtually addicted: why general practice must now confront screen dependency. British Journal of General Practice 2014; 64 (629): 610-611. DOI:https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp14X682597
  2. Walsh JE, Barnes JD et al. Associations between 24 hour movement behaviours and global cognition in US children: a cross-sectional observational study. The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, 2018, VOLUME 2, ISSUE 11, P783-791, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(18)30278-5

Festivals for the Summer Holidays!

Festival living

It’s hotting up and school holidays are fast approaching – yikes! For those wanting a bit more from their camping trip, there are simply loads of festivals up and down the country, with more popping up all the time. Most are the more traditional music festivals, but many have a different focus such as art, food or simply fun stuff for children.

We have searched up and down the country for festivals that have specific activities available for the kids, whatever their main focus so you are guaranteed to avoid the terrifying scenario of “I’m bored!”

Hot Air Balloon Festival
Hot Air Balloon Festival

Festivals in July

• 18th – 21st July – Blue Dot, Jodrell Park, Cheshire
• 18th – 21st July – Larmer Tree, Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset
• 18th – 21st July – Latitude, Henham Park, Suffolk
• 18th – 21st July – Nozstock, Herefordshire
• 19th – 21st July – Doune the Rabbit Hole, Stirling, Scotland
• 25th – 28th July – Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset
• 25th – 28th July – Kendal Calling, Lowther Deer Park, Lake District
• 25th – 28th July – Port Eliot, St Germans, Cornwall
• 25th – 28th July – Standon Calling, Hertfordshire


• 25th – 28th July – WOMAD, Charlton Park, Wiltshire
• 25th – 28th July – Y Not Festival, Pikehall, Derbyshire
• 26th – 28th July – Barefoot Festival, Prestwold Hall, Leicestershire
• 26th – 28th July – Campo Sancho, Hertfordshire
• 26th – 28th July – Carfest North, Bolesworth, Cheshire
• 26th – 28th July – Chilled in a Field, Bentley Wildfowl & Motor Museum, East Sussex
• 26th – 28th July – Deer Shed, Baldersby Park, North Yorkshire
ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS 31st July – 4th August – Starry Skies Family Camp, Usk Valley, Wales

Festivals in August

• 1st – 3rd August – Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Inverness
• 1st – 4th August – The Great Wonderfest, Isle of Wight
• 1st – 4th August – The Green Gathering, Piercefield Park, Chepstow
• 1st – 4th August – Wickham Festival, Hampshire
• 2nd – 4th August – Valley Fest, Chew Magna, Bristol
• 7th – 11th August – Boom Town Fair, Matterley Bowl, Hampshire
• 8th – 11th August – Lakefest, Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire
• 15th – 18th August – Green Man Festival, Brecon Beacons, Wales
• 16th – 18th August – Beautiful Days, Escot Park, Devon h
ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS 16th – 18th August – Just So Festival, Rode Hall, Cheshire

Drumming at Deepdale Festival
Drumming at Deepdale Festival

• 22nd – 25th August – Shambala, Northamptonshire
• 23rd – 25th August – Carfest South, Laverstoke Park Farm, Hampshire
• 23rd – 25th August – The Big Feastival, Alex James’s Farm, The Cotswolds
• 23rd – 25th August – Victorious Festival, Portsmouth, Hampshire
• 23rd – 26th August – Into the Wild, Chiddinglye, Sussex
• 23rd – 26th August – Curious Arts, Pippingford Park, East Sussex
• 23rd – 26th August – Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Shrewsbury
• 23rd – 26th August – Towersey Festival, Thame, Oxfordshire
• 23rd – 26th August – England’s Medieval Festival, Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex
• 30th August – 1st September – Off the Tracks, Derbyshire
• 30th August – 1st September – One Love Festival, Hop Farm, Kent

Festival music
Music in the sunshine – a time to remember

Festival for the End of the Season

And when the holidays are over but you are still feeling the call, why not try the Deepdale Festival in beautiful Norfolk from 26th – 29th September.

Taking Your Dog Camping

For some people, taking your dog camping with you is the most natural thing in the world – after all, they are part of the family, so it makes perfect sense. Others might break out into a cold sweat at the idea of coping with another “person’s” needs on top of everyone else’s.

Well, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you will all have a great time and there are lots of wonderful camp and glamping sites out there that will cater to Fido’s every need.

Will My Doggy Cope? (And Will I?!)

A lot of people think of dogs as hard work. And let’s face it, some can be! A lot depends on breed, age, living arrangements at home, etc and behaviour can therefore be variable.

We have always been fans of terriers (or terrorists, depending on which way you look at them!) and have found them to be great characters, very personable and almost human in some cases. Also, being petite is handy for fitting in around the small mountain that you need to take with you and manoeuvring around in the more “cosy” dimensions of your living quarters.

Taking your dog camping
Taking in the views

Having said that, we have friends with much bigger dogs and they all cope well and enjoy the company of each other. This is an important factor to consider when taking you dog camping with you – Does your dog socialise with other dogs regularly? If they don’t, going away and mixing with strange dogs will be stressful for you and them so try to integrate opportunities for this at home before embarking on a trip with them.

Most dogs do really enjoy going camping because they are with their best buddies (you) and of course, spending lots of time outside.

Taking your Dog Camping at Haw Wood Farm
Dog Walking Field at Haw Wood Farm

Campsite

It sounds obvious, but make sure your destination is dog friendly when booking. Some sites don’t allow dogs, or they do but have a gigantic list of rules suggesting that they are not that keen on them and will keep you under close surveillance for the duration of your “relaxing” holiday!

So, check out what is available at your campsite: A big designated dog walking area, doggy wash points or even doggy showers are all good signs that the campsite understand the needs of dogs and their parents.

Most campsites, whatever their take on dogs, will require that dogs are tied up whilst on site. This is an obvious health and safety precaution because of feral children on the loose, other animals on site, etc. So do make sure you take an extra long lead or perhaps even set up a zipline, so they do not feel over-restricted.

Taking your dog camping to Red Shoot Camping Park
Relaxing at Red Shoot Camping Park

Entertainment

When taking your dog camping, do make regular use of the “dog walk” areas and take the opportunity to explore the area around you with your faithful friend. Involve your children as well – many won’t need asking as they love to play with their best pal, but take toys and balls and play fetch for as long as you can manage. Of course, the more purposeful exercise you do with them, the quieter and happier they are likely to be at camp (this applies to children as well as dogs!)

Taking your dog Camping
Fun with friends

You may have some family days out planned away from the campsite. Always check that where you are going is dog friendly be it the beach, nature walks or particular family entertainment spots such as theme parks, castles, museums, etc.  For some of these it is highly likely that dogs would not be permitted so prior to your trip, it would be worth checking if your campsite is able to help or if they know of local, reputable “dog-sitting” services to save someone missing out on the trip.

I know it sounds obvious, but don’t leave dogs in the car for day trips such as this – they can cope for short periods, but longer ones make them miserable and, in the summer, the temperature quickly rises inside cars.

Taking your dog camping - Doggy friendly beach essential
Doggy friendly beach essential!

Packing

Dogs are simpler to pack for than children as they need far less clothes (lapdogs an exception), but this will still need some thought to ensure your trip is stress-free.

It is worth having a designated doggy bag with their stuff in so it’s easy to find and after all, they are a family member. The obvious inclusions are bed, lead, toys, food and bowl. Make sure you also take a bottle and bowl when you are mobile, so they have regular access to water when you are out and about. A good stash of old towels is useful after walks, beach trips, submerging in swamps, etc as you want to keep your tent as clean as possible. You might consider having a designated “wet area” in the tent if you all come in from the rain so that you can keep sleeping/living quarters clean and dry.

Oh, and poo bags. In every pocket. Of everything you own.

Taking your dog camping to Herding Hill Farm
Taking in the views at Herding Hill Farm, Northumberland

Selection of Lovely Camp and Glamping Sites that welcome dogs:

Stanley Villa Farm Camping, Lancashire

Herding Hill Farm, Northumberland

Point Farm, Pembrokeshire

Deepdale Backpackers and Camping, Norfolk

Haw Wood Farm, Suffolk

Greenway Touring and Glamping Park, Shropshire

Petruth Paddocks, Somerset

Stowford Meadows, Devon

Forest Glade Holiday Park, Devon

Red Shoot Camping Park, Hampshire

Camping in Spring – Campsites with Baby Animals

The Easter holidays are upon us and new life is sprouting everywhere from the abundance of blossom in the trees and hedges to the lambs kicking up their heels in the spring grass.

It is a perfect time to get the children interested in the nature and animals that surround them. Time to go hunting for tadpoles in the brook, to watch the ducklings attempt their first swim on the pond, to grow carrots in the garden. It is also a great time to see baby animals in the wild and on farms.

If you are keen to get camping in spring, there are many campsites based on farms or that have pet areas where children can get involved in feeding lambs, stroking rabbits, giggling at pigs and learning about a variety of animals. This can provide a fantastic extra dimension to your holiday and help cement some magical memories.

For those that are heading further south over the Easter holidays, we have found 5 campsites with baby animals on site where the children can get involved and make new furry (or woolly) friends:

1. Fontmills Farm

Fontmills Farm Campsite in East Sussex is based on a 140-acre family farm so you will be surrounded by green space and fresh air.  Easter marks the peak lambing season for the family with their Blue Texel flock.  This means that lucky campers will get to see the tiniest of lambs over the Easter holidays and see them playing in the fields around the campsite (who needs TV?!)

The Davis family are ably assisted by Floss the border collie sheep dog (when she fancies it), the horses Jonesy and Harry, and the cats – Ethel and Ernie who enjoy the occasional chat with campers.

2. Stowford Farm Meadows

Stowford Farm Meadows in North Devon, is set amongst an incredible 500 acres of rolling countryside and mature woodland providing fabulous views and a safe environment for your perfect family camping holiday.  From there, you can explore the blossoming hedgerows and woodland to find chicks in nests, rabbits, hares and numerous wild animals.

You could also venture into Petorama, their indoor petting zoo where you can see and touch baby goats, piglets, rabbits, guinea pigs, degus, plus lots more.

3. Walton Court

Walton Court is a small working farm in the heart of the welsh countryside. As you enter the site, you will pass by their pond that has an abundance of wildlife: from the regular visiting mute swans, moorhens, wild ducks, a kingfisher, woodpeckers and herons to the frogspawn and tadpoles during spring.

Camping in spring time at Walton Court means that you will see their flock of sheep adjusting to their new little ones, with “lamb gangs” in full force.

4. Petruth Paddocks

Petruth Paddocks offers wild camping in wide open spaces where children are free to climb trees and hide in the hedges, fish for tadpoles in the rhynes (ditches) or take a ride on the back of the quad bike with Jules.

Their animal section includes pigs, goats and sheep and they offer animal tours every weekend during the summer where they encourage campers to come and say hello to the team.

5. The Farm Camp

The Farm Camp in Wiltshire offers something a little different where the family can become truly immersed in countryside living. Over Easter, they are in full swing with “lambing live” and have dedicated staff to offer experiences in farm craft and sheep herding amongst a raft of other activities.

A beautifully rural site, within fields and woodland, this is prime memory-making time for the whole family as you relax into the beautifully furnished bell tents with wood burning stoves to keep you cosy.

Many wait until summer for their holiday, but they could be missing out on some of the magical moments up for grabs by camping in spring. Having a look for campsites with animals could be a great way to get an early holiday in – just remember to take a few extra layers!

8 Essential Camping Items To Take on Your Trip

It is not that easy to reduce the list to just 8 essential camping items. But raising children is expensive enough and the idea with camping is to make it a cheaper alternative than holidays in hotels and/or abroad.

So, if you are just starting out, then before you panic buy loads of equipment, do check your campsite. Campsites have come a long way in the last few years and many have lots of facilities that help drastically reduce your packing requirements. For example, there may be a picnic table right beside your pitch, showering AND bath facilities, hair dryers, cooking facilities, fire pits, washing up facilities, a food van, to mention just a few.

Another good tip is to go with another family or two. Check what they have and discuss whether you could share some equipment.

Then, tempting as it may be to buy EVERYTHING that you think you might need, rein yourself in and get only what you NEED to start with with the essential camping items. You can then build up with each trip as your experience increases.

1. Tent

Well that’s pretty obvious!

But where to start?

Finding the right family tent can feel like an overwhelming task as there is so much choice out there and it will be your biggest outlay. Just remember that the children will be just as happy in a small tent as a marquee. It’s us adults that tend to need more space, higher spec, etc. so if you start small, do not fear.

If you are new to camping, you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy one straight away. There are many campsites that provide tents for hire (often already erected) so you can assess whether you actually like camping before rushing out to buy the world. It will also help to “test-camp” a tent to find what works for you size-wise and do ask the campsite owner about taking it down/putting it up – some are much easier than others! Take advice from friends, look in shops, camping exhibitions, etc. and perhaps see if you can borrow one from friends (or go camping with them!)

For those that prefer to pump up their tent, then you can’t go far wrong with an award winning design such as those by Zempire – winner of “tent of the year” and “best luxury tent” with Camping Magazine this year.

If you would rather stick with poles, then have a look at the huge range on offer with World of Camping. This independent retailer stocks all sizes and types of tents from reputable brands such as Outdoor Revolution, Vango, Outwell, Robens and Easy Camp.

2. Bedding

A camping holiday runs a little smoother if everyone is sleeping well and comfortably! The fresh air during the day is guaranteed to help zonk everyone out at night anyway but you don’t want to wake up feeling cold and uncomfortable on a bed that deflated in the night.

So, think about whether you prefer an air mattress, campbed, sleeping mat and bring some sort of repair kit for anything that involves air. Then get a high tog sleeping bag, because even when it is hot during the day, the temperature can really drop at night when you’re in a tent. If you can fit them in, bring duvets as well – it can be nice to have some home comforts!

A great alternative that is comfortable and very easy to pack/carry is a Bundle Bed. As a revolutionary take on the old roll-out bed, a Bundle Bed is a self-inflating mattress, snuggly Jersey cotton sheets, moisture-wicking pillow and warm 15-tog duvet, all rolled together in a waterproof outer layer (perfect to save bedding from little sandy toes running around the tent!).

A Bundle Bed can be slung in the boot of a car, on a plane, or at the back of a cupboard ready for when you need it. Just unclip, unroll, unzip, and sleep! A British-designed brand, Bundle Beds set-out to bring a little simple luxury to camping, and to make visiting friends, organising kids’ sleepovers, or throwing some things in the car for an adventure, just that bit easier!

Bundle beds are offering £40 off a bed exclusively to Gone Camping Co subscribers until the end of April 2019. Sign up for our newsletter to get your discount code: http://gonecampingco.com/newsletter/

3. Somewhere to Sit

When camping, you are permitted to do that most magical of things…sit down. You can even stay sitting for a while just taking in views, reading a book or gazing into a campfire. Because you are on “camping time,” there is no need to rush around and keep to a succession of appointments. So make sure you have somewhere comfortable to park your rear.

World of Camping has a vast range of different chairs for all needs – little people, big people, upright, laid back, etc. or you could go for a touch of luxury with the moon base at Zempire.

4. Camp Kitchen

Before you buy a fully equipped camp kitchen, do check with your campsite what they will allow (i.e. re. firepits) or what they have available for you to use. Some campsites provide catering so you might not need to take anything at all!

There are many options from portable gas stoves (don’t forget the actual gas though – we’ve managed that!), disposable BBQs, portable BBQs or a fully converted trailer kitchen for those that want to go all out!

Remember the basic safety rule of NEVER taking your stove/BBQ into your tent, even after the flames have died down, because of the very real risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Instead, invest in an awning  or simply secure a tarp over the cooking area if you want to protect it from the weather.

5. Lighting

One of the things that is very easy to forget despite being an essential camping item, is a decent light.

You may want a couple in your tent that work as ceiling lights, particularly if you have young children that are wary of the dark, a portable lantern to park on your table outside at night and then to bring inside the tent later and of course, a torch for those night time loo visits.

6. Suitable Clothing and Footwear

You will inevitably pack more than you need clothes-wise so try to think about the activities you will be doing and pack accordingly.  Are you planning to go to the beach? Go on bike rides? Walking/hiking? Or just staying around your campsite? You are, generally, unlikely to get out of jeans/shorts so leave the posh clothes at home.  Even if it is blazing hot sunshine when you set off, always pack a decent coat as the temperature drops at night and who knows what could happen with our temperamental weather!

With that in mind, pack extra nightclothes – onesies, woolly PJs, thick socks just to make extra sure of being warm enough at night.  Being too warm is easy to sort out, being too cold less so!

You end up wearing less than you think footwear-wise as well, and shoes can take up a lot of room so it’s worth giving this some thought. You definitely need some sort of outdoor trainer or boot to protect against wet grass outside of your tent. It’s worth having some sort of indoor shoe/slippers as well to keep the inside of your tent clean and dry.

Crocs are beloved by kids, especially, and they often don’t wear anything else throughout the holiday! They are wipe-clean, practical for the beach, pool, inside and out and particularly light weight when it comes to packing. FootArt is one of the largest specialist croc retailers in the UK and are well worth a look.

7. Transport

Now, packing for camping is a bit of an art form.

We started off with one child and managed to pack it all into a bog-standard car. After child no.2, we progressed to a Landrover. Now our tent has “grown” as have our accessories and its time to look at further options. A degree in engineering seems a little excessive so we’re looking at roof boxes and trailers instead.

Venter trailers are great for camping as they are lightweight, not so big that they’re difficult to manoeuvre and you won’t need a trailer licence to tow them.

8. Wine

Most essential camping item. Some might argue that this should have been number 1.

 

The list could go on. 

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10 Reasons To Take Your Family Camping This Year

Family camp at Petruth Paddocks

Those that have taken their family camping before could no doubt think of at least 100 reasons to go again but others might not be so sure of the benefits: Is it worth ditching your usual home comforts? Won’t it be dirty? What if the weather’s rubbish? Won’t the kids be bored?

The thing is, family camping has come on a long way in the last few years. All of the above concerns are now easily dealt with at camp and glampsites that have excellent facilities ranging from washing, kitchen, entertainment, organised activities – really you can find whatever you want. But what is it about outdoors living that is so beneficial compared to just going to a hotel?

1. Fun

When you’re on the conveyor belt of life, you can forget what having fun as a family is all about. Well, camping provides the perfect chance to offload the weight of responsibility and get silly. From singing tunefully (or tunelessly, who cares?) round the fire to riding your 5 year old’s bike (and getting chased by him) or shamelessly beating young children at Uno, there are endless options. Campers are notoriously friendly people and kids will make friends as will you. Who knows when an impromptu game of rounders or football might break out? Or when the kites will come out?  You will find that the further into your holiday you get, the more you relax and regress until everyone appears to have the mental age of 9.

Campsite with lots of fun facilities: Stowford Farm Meadows, North Devon

2. Freedom

Freedom when camping comes in many guises:

For children, it is the freedom from the usual constraints of four walls – they can roam, run about, be by themselves or make ten new friends, discover wildlife, sing, dance, ride their bikes, basically whatever they want!

Freedom from routine. When on “camping time” you just do what you want when you want. There is no alarm to obey, no work to get to so just do whatever you feel like on that day. If you want to stay at camp, do it. If you want a day out, go. If you’re hungry, eat. Just don’t look at your watch, you don’t need that.

Freedom from electronic devices. These things are a blessing and a curse. I don’t doubt their usefulness in terms of researching, developing skills, etc. But is it just me that feels that whilst they are great for keeping connected generally, they also “disconnect” you from loved ones? Give a 3-year-old an iPad and you’ve lost them to Peppa Pig; give a 10-year-old an XBox and you’ve lost them to Fortnite; give a teenager a phone and you’ve just plain lost them. The good news is that camping allows you to find them again. You can have actual conversations with your teenager, play real games with your 10-year-old and make up stories with your 3-year-old. Your children are free to be children and you can make some wonderful memories as a family.

Campsite that values freedom: Petruth Paddocks, Somerset

3. Food and drink

Now, when taking your family camping it really doesn’t matter if you aspire to a gourmet banquet or a couple of sausages in a bap. I have a friend with a full-on converted trailer/kitchen who cooks up gigantic pots of loveliness for 20 guests and another who only takes pot noodles. It really is up to you. As far as the kids go, every meal is a picnic so you’re winning from the get-go. There’s just something so lovely about eating your meals outside. And the smells that come from a barbecue – bacon sizzling anyone? A lovely treat late at night is hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows around the fire. My main aim with this is to lull the kids into sleepiness so we can chuck them into bed and crack open the wine…works a treat!

Campsite with Farm shop and café: Haw Wood Farm, Suffolk

4. Weather

When the sun is shining, there is nothing better than camping! We had a glorious summer last year and wow, did we love our trips! The children had a feral old time, we did everything outside and everyone was happy.

Then the rain came.

Did it ruin it? Did it heck! There’s something about the rain falling on your tent whilst you’re safe and snug inside it that’s quite therapeutic. You just need to make sure you have some indoor entertainment such as books, playing cards, games, drawing and colouring pencils and away you go. Or you might have made sure you found a holiday park with lots of indoor facilities for when the weather turns. You could also take the opportunity to go on a day out somewhere or just embrace it – get your waterproofs on and get out there!

Campsite will all-weather facilities: Woolacombe Sands Holiday Park, Devon

5. Nature

For most people, the driving force behind wanting to camp out is to be closer to nature and the great outdoors. From drinking in amazing views to breathing in the fresh, clean air, there’s something about it that relaxes, replenishes and re-energises. Little pleasures such as walking through wet grass in bare feet, listening to birdsong, spotting a hare running for cover help to de-clutter crowded minds. Your children appreciate the freedom to roam and will no doubt find that most magical of things – the stick – and think of all sorts of uses for it: a sword, a fishing rod, a magic wand, beating their younger sibling…hmph! But they might also be entranced by a dragonfly, spot the trail of a deer or any number of creatures, particularly if you take them with you for an early morning dog walk.

Campsite for beautiful nature: Fontmills Farm, East Sussex

6. Campfire

A personal highlight is listening to and getting ‘lost’ in a good crackling fire. There’s a certain cosiness that comes with everyone sitting around a fire watching the sun go down. It encourages actual conversations where you remember that your partner is more than the person you order about and get cross with at home when you’re trying to keep to your manic schedule. It is a place to reminisce, to tell jokes and stories, to bond with friends and family and to make plans for your next adventure.

Campsite that hires firepits: Whitlingham Broad Campsite, Norfolk

7. Family Time

With no work, school, clubs, appointments to get to, you will spend precious time together with your family. This might initially instil pure fear into you. However, do not panic! You will warm up to the idea as you gradually chill out over your holiday. You will not have to be a walking entertainment factory – the kids will doubtless run around happily and find their own fun. In fact, you will develop a self-satisfied glow as you watch them having a fabulous time, getting filthy (this is something you will just have to go with if you’re not used to it!) and racing back to you when they’re starving.

As with any holiday, it gives you a chance for days out together whether simply going to a beach, a bike ride, pony trekking or meandering around. At night, you can then snuggle up around the fire, discussing your wonderful day and remembering what a lovely bunch your family is when you aren’t nagging them to find their homework, their tie, or for the tenth time get dressed NOW!

Family friendly campsite: Red Shoot Camping Park, Hampshire

8. Exploring

We are very lucky to live in this beautiful country and you don’t have to drive far to explore a little piece of somewhere different. Whether you are looking for sea air, mountains, hills, valleys, vast fields, woodland, there is a campsite that will match it. Discovering new places is fun and refreshing and the change of scenery does us the world of good. When camping, you are always close to walks and bike rides for exploring the local area, making the most of the scenery. But you might also choose to jump in your car and go and find a castle, steam train, theme park or other such adventures.

You might choose to stay at your campsite and explore that thoroughly when walking your four-legged friend or letting the children guide you. They will be keen to investigate the stream, climb the trees, make a den and generally do their best to increase the burden on your washing machine…but heck! You don’t need to worry about that until you get back so just let them be feral and be glad that their immune systems are having such a boost as they wipe their muddy hands across their mouth!

Campsite that is a great base for exploring: Deeside, Aberdeen

9. Peace and quiet

The peace and quiet that comes from outdoor living is totally different to that from behind double glazing. There is a serenity that allows you to relax right down – your mind empties of the usual worries and you can take the time to really appreciate your surroundings. From the beautiful scenery to the fresh, crisp air; it allows busy minds to just let go and rest. You become aware of unfamiliar sounds and start to look forward to them: owls hooting, birdsong, the breeze through the trees, the crackle of the fire, the satisfying sound of the zip. Even the sound of rain on the tent gives a certain smugness when you are cosy in your sleeping bag (and helps to lull you to sleep as well.)

Peaceful camp site: Herding Hill Farm, Northumberland

10. Simplicity

Outdoor living brings a certain amount of simplicity back to daily life. You ditch all the conveniences, routines, jobs and rushing around and strip it back to what is necessary: love, fun and food! Our family camping experiences tend to revolve around food (that might be everyday life too when I think about it…) and mealtimes are so much more social. You will talk more, you will have lots of comfortable silences, you will watch your kids happily without that usual dread that comes with confined spaces or crowds, you might even read! At night, you can watch the sun go down and then star gaze without the burden of light pollution. The usual hustle and bustle feels a million miles away.

Back to basics campsite: The Lost Brickyard, Norfolk