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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

8 Beautiful Campsites for Finding Wildlife

These beautiful and picturesque campsites are set deep within the countryside allowing an abundance of wildlife to flourish. If you want to recharge your batteries amongst stunning scenery and catch a glimpse of a wild animal or two, then have a look at these 8 beautiful campsites for finding wildlife:

1. Red Shoot Camping Park

At Red Shoot Camping Park within the beautiful National Park of the New Forest, you can explore the rare and diverse wildlife habitats of the centuries old landscape and are highly likely to spot some of the famous wild ponies. We aim to help protect and enhance our local environment and are proud holders of the Gold David Bellamy Conservation Award.  We boost biodiversity by managing existing habitats within our park and adding new habitats where possible. Within our park you will find hedgerows, wildflowers, trees, grassland and nesting/overwintering boxes and houses for birds and insects all attracting a range of wildlife. We have signed up to the David Bellamy Honey Bee Pledge and provide a home for several bee hives in a quiet corner of one of our private fields.

Surrounded by nature at its best and with a choice of camping, caravanning, glamping or a holiday cottage, the Red Shoot Camping Park is the perfect place to unwind, relax and escape the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Find out more here: Red Shoot Camping Park

2. Gorsey Meadow

Gorsey Meadow is at the very heart of Norfolk.  Having kept it to ourselves for so long we now hope others will enjoy it as much as we do. Our wonderfully secluded meadow allows adults to escape the hustle and bustle and children to enjoy space and nature in a safe environment. Book individually or hire the meadow exclusively as part of a group of family and friends and have your own slice of Norfolk to build memories that will last a lifetime. We welcome camping, campervans or glamping within one of our five sumptuous bell tents.

You will share the meadow with an abundance of nature from inquisitive rabbits and strutting pheasants, songbirds in the hedgerows and tawny owls in the oak trees.  We even have our own bug hotel! You are very welcome to picnic in the beautiful woodland glade and explore the surrounding area but take care with children as there are natural dangers in the woodland such as ponds and inedible mushrooms.

Find out more here: Gorsey Meadow

3. Forest Glade Holiday Park

Forest Glade Holiday Park in Devon is surrounded by 300 acres of forest and we are proud to hold a Gold David Bellamy Conservation Award.  This is one of the longest running green tourism awards in the UK and we aim to preserve the environment around us so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. We manage our land as a haven for wildlife and have a self-guided nature walk on the park – Our leaflet at Reception or from the Tourist Information Room suggests plants and wildlife that you can look out for throughout the seasons including deer, hares as well as a variety of birds and wild flowers.

You can choose from camping, caravanning or motor homes as well as glamping in our camping pods or staying in one of our self-catering caravans to enjoy the tranquillity of these beautiful surroundings on the Blackdown Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Find out more here: Forest Glade Holiday Park

4. Walton Court Caravan and Camping Site

Walton Court is a small working farm in the heart of the welsh countryside. Our pool, which you will pass as you enter Walton Court has an abundance of wildlife.  There are 2 mute swans that visit, moorhens, wild ducks, a kingfisher, woodpeckers and herons.  During the spring the pool is filled with frogspawn.  It is fed by natural springs and the Riddings Brook passes along the perimeter.

Choosing from camping, caravanning, our static caravan, glamping in our lovely shepherd’s hut or staying in our luxurious cottage, you can enjoy the fresh air, wildlife and fabulous views of the welsh countryside.

Find out more here: Walton Court Caravan and Camping Site

5. Porlock Caravan Park

We at Porlock Caravan Park are delighted to welcome you to our family-run, multi award-winning camping, touring and luxury Caravan Park, set in the beautiful vale of Porlock, in the National Exmoor Park. Our aim is to make your stay as relaxing and enjoyable as possible. We are passionately committed to conservation and wildlife, including our Bellamy award-winning garden, and maintain our grounds and facilities to the highest standards to ensure you have a great and memorable holiday.

Exmoor is one of the most tranquil National Parks and offers some of the best star gazing in the country as well as being home to the tallest tree in England. There is an abundance of wildlife from the largest herds of Red Deer in England to the famous Exmoor Pony – the oldest breed in Europe. We offer the perfect location from which to experience and explore the stunning scenery of Devon and West Somerset.

Find out more here: Porlock Caravan Park

6. The Lost Brickyard

Photos By Trail Camera

The Brickyard Campsite is a unique spot secretly hidden on the North Norfolk coast. Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty you’ll feel like you have the whole place to yourselves! If you love owls hooting, deer grazing and stoats racing this is the place for you.

We offer a mix of bring your own camping and full-scale glamping; you can even have friends pitch their tents next to your glamping tent. All our camping areas are secluded and private with trees and shrubs – it is truly wild camping. All pitches have a fire pit and we have a communal, wood fired pizza oven for everyone to use.

We are walking distance from Holkham Hall, Holkham beach and you can explore our beautiful scenery from the SUSTRANS cycle route system as well as the North Norfolk Coastal Path.

Find out more here: The Lost Brickyard

7. Haw Wood Farm

We are delighted that our passion for the environment, conservation and nature has been rewarded with a David Bellamy Gold award for conservation for a 3rd year running!

Here at Haw Wood Farm in Suffolk, you can bring your tent, caravan, motorhome or campervan and enjoy the beautiful rural scenery and wildlife. From our newly planted woodland of over 3500 trees, and dedicated dog walking field, you can weave through the wild grasses and feast your eyes on a magnificent array of flora and fauna. In the late spring and summer months you will see our wild flower meadows in bloom. We have a strip for the birds and a strip for the bees and butterflies. As a bee-friendly site, as well as planting lots of flowers that we know bees love we also have our own bee hives. We make sure we leave the little lovelies plenty of honey for themselves but any extra we extract, and you can buy in our shop.

Find out more here: Haw Wood Farm

8. Chapel House Farm

Welcome to our hideaway at Chapel House Farm in the little village of Craswall close to the book town of Hay-on-Wye. Our camping pitches are spread over 15 acres of wildflower fields bordered by ancient woodland. Children can make dens, run in the woods and play games in the long grass. You can bring your own tents or stay in our beautifully furnished bell tents or yurts.

The pastures are a spectacle throughout the spring and summer with a show of bluebells and a host of other wild flowers. Watch out for the Red Kites and Buzzards that wheel over the campsite and listen for Curlews on the road to Hay where you might also spot a Fallow deer or tiny Muntjac deer crossing the road.

Find out more here: Chapel House Farm

6 of the Best Campsites to Keep the Kids Entertained

“I’m bored!” is what you will NEVER hear at these campsites, handpicked for their range of facilities designed to keep the whole family happy. So, take a look at what we consider to be six of the best campsites to keep the kids entertained:

1. Woolacombe Sands Holiday Park

Woolacombe Sands Holiday Park in Devon has fantastic facilities to keep everyone out of trouble including heated swimming pools, kids’ club, crazy golf, children’s play park, bouncy castle, arcades and UV Disco bowling, licensed clubhouse and food bar with great nightly children’s and adults’ entertainments.

In addition to all this, they are the closest holiday park to the UK’s Number 1 beach – Woolacombe, and you can easily access it via their dedicated footpath through National Trust countryside within 10-20 minutes (thus avoiding parking charges). A wide range of accommodation options include touring caravans, motorhomes, static caravans and chalets as well as plenty of space for camping.

2. The Farm Camp

The Farm Camp in Wiltshire offers something a little different where the family can become truly immersed in countryside living. They have dedicated staff to offer experiences in farm craft and sheep herding as well as archery and well-being activities. You can go wild swimming nearby and be entertained by live music. You could learn more about their organic vineyard or simply hire a bike or boat and go exploring. 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.

3. Smytham Holiday Park

At Smytham Holiday Park, take a relaxing swim in the heated outdoor swimming pool or play table-top games in the purpose-built games room. There is a volleyball/badminton court on the lawn for you to enjoy along with a large open space in the valley which can be used for games such as football or cricket. For the younger ones there is a large play area complete with swings, slides and climbing frames!

Smytham Holiday Park has direct access onto the world-famous Tarka Trail – an old railway line converted into a foot/cycle path where there are stops along the way to refresh yourself with a drink and a bite to eat in the beautiful Devon countryside. There is a selection of holiday accommodation to choose from: from traditional camping and caravanning pitches to timber lodges, camping pods, and holiday homes.

4. Campsie Glen

Campsie Glen in Stirlingshire boasts a fabulous set of facilities for family entertainment including a heated swimming pool, indoor hot tub and small children’s pool. The stunning Scottish scenery forms the backdrop to an adventurous children’s outdoor play area and putting green and when the weather turns, they can retreat into the indoor games room. The whole family can enjoy seasonal weekend entertainment in the lounge bar and there are a wide range of accommodation options from glamping pods through static and touring caravans and of course, beautiful camping pitches.

5. Forest Glade Holiday Park


Forest Glade Holiday Park in Devon is proud to boast a fantastic range of facilities to keep the kids active and entertained. These include a free covered heated swimming pool, children’s play areas, a games room, tennis court and forest walks. In fact, the park is surrounded by 300 acres of forest so there could be no end to the adventures to be had!

Accommodation options include touring caravans, motorhomes and glamping pods as well as plenty of space for camping. All are well-provided for with free hot showers, family and parent and baby rooms, washing up facilities, a laundry room and a campers’ kitchen.  There is even a shop with off-licence and take away so everyone in the family will be happy.

6. Quantock Orchard Caravan Park

Quantock Orchard Caravan Park is perfectly situated in an “area of outstanding beauty” in Somerset. There, the children have access to an exciting adventure playground which has slides, a climbing frame, seesaw and swings as well as a safe environment within the park to play to their heart’s content. Adults might prefer to use the well-equipped gym but everyone on the family can enjoy the swimming pool in this five pennant park. There is also bike hire available to explore the Quantock Hills where you might spot the native ponies, red deer and a host of other wildlife.

Accommodation options include touring caravans, motorhomes, static caravans as well as well-appointed pitches for camping.

7 of the Most Picturesque Glamping Sites

The sun is out and spring is most definitely on the way! If you’re not quite ready for the vigours of camping but fancy some outdoor living, why not try the luxury of glamping? We have identified 7 of the most picturesque glamping sites for you to drool over – places where relaxing is as easy as it gets.

1. Wild Mountains Glamping

As the names suggests, Wild Mountains Glamping offers stunning views across its peaceful, rural site. Situated in the village of Cwmdu, West Wales, you are free to explore the hills, river and woodland and return to the home comforts of the beautifully furnished bell tents. If you are dreaming about escaping and reconnecting with nature, family and friends then this is the adventure you need.

2. Valley Yurts

Valley Yurts sits upon 10 acres of wild Welsh countryside, on the border of Herefordshire and Powys. You can expect 360 degree views of the beautiful Welsh countryside and all home comforts with a touch of luxury. With a firm focus on peace and relaxation in the countryside, you can explore the stunning surroundings at your own pace with your family and friends. From your beautifully hand-crafted yurts, you can stargaze at night through the crown in the centre, without any light pollution.

3. Eco Retreats

Aerial view at Eco Retreats

If you want to experience a real retreat off the beaten track, then Eco Retreats is just that! Situated 25 minutes off the tar road on a working organic farm, this eco-friendly site within the heart of Dyfi forest offers well-equipped accommodation in beautiful yurts and one tipi. With minimal noise and light pollution you can make the most of peaceful days and beautifully starry nights. You will feel far away from the stresses and strains of modern day living as you relax into the rhythms of the forest.

4. Moor View

At Moor View Luxury Canvas Camping, you are surrounded by stunning rural fields, woodlands and gorges within the area of outstanding natural beauty of the Mendip Hills. Enjoy long lazy walks through wild flower meadows, endless views over the Somerset levels, hammocks, camp fires and huge canvas bell tents fully kitted out for the ultimate luxury camping experience. Moor View is the perfect place to spend a relaxing weekend with friends and family.

5. Chapel House Farm

Chapel House Farm is hidden away in the little village of Craswall, close to the book town of Hay-on-Wye. The delightful site is spread over 15 acres of wildflower fields bordered by ancient woodland. In the spring and summer, the pastures are a spectacle with a show of bluebells and a host of other wild flowers. You can choose from exquisitely furnished yurts or a bell tent to relax and unwind, taking in the views of the Black Mountains nearby. Children are free to make dens, run in the woods and play games in the long grass.

6. Whitlingham Broad

Whitlingham Broad Campsite offers a relaxing countryside break in the stunning setting of the Norfolk Broads National Park. With scenic views over the country park and to the Broad, you have immediate access to woodland walks and beautiful waterways. With the choice of fully furnished and funky bell tents or cosy yurts complete with log burner or even a boutique shepherd’s hut, you can relax in true luxury whilst admiring the beautiful Whitlingham countryside.

7. Barnutopia

Suspend reality and make magical memories in rural heaven. Barnutopia is situated in the rolling Shropshire hills, on the Welsh border and thus has far reaching, simply amazing views. With a range of luxurious and comfortable glamping options from yurts to stables and cabins, you can enjoy rural relaxation without roughing it.

7 Amazing Days Out for February Half-Term

Are you looking for some fresh ideas to try out over this February half-term with your family?  Well, we are passionate about finding great experiences for families interested in nature, animals and being active outdoors. So, we have found 7 amazing experiences to help you create beautiful memories with your loved ones:

1. West Midlands Safari Park

Mammoth fun to be had this February half-term!
From 16th February, West Midland Safari Park is open daily for the main summer season and to kick-start the year, they will once again be holding their annual Explorers Week!

During the event, guests will be invited to help onsite palaeontologist, Dr. Nock find some missing Ice Age animals. They will do this by exploring the Park’s new Ice Age exhibit, collecting facts about the animals they encounter. Once they have completed this challenge, they will be able to collect a prize. There will also be the chance to do some fun arts and crafts in the Discovery Room and be in with the chance of winning a Safari Park Annual Pass, by taking a selfie with the woolly mammoths.

To find out more click here.

2. Oaker Wood Leisure

Oaker Wood Leisure is an outdoor activity and Glamping Centre based in Herefordshire. This February half-term we have 2 great outdoor activities for children:

Multi-Activity Day for children aged 7-12 years.

Wed 20th Feb – 9 -3.30pm – £24.50

A full day of outdoor activities including Assault Course, Zip Wire, Climbing, Woodland Krypton Adv trail and more.

Teen Paintball Afternoon

Wed 20th Feb – 12.45 – 3.30pm

£15pp

For more information click here

See this video for more info about our Childrens activity days in school holidays

3. Trentham Monkey Forest

Why not monkey around this half term… get outdoors and walk with 140 free ranging monkeys!

Trentham Monkey Forest, located in Staffordshire, reopens just in time for February half term. The ancient Staffordshire woodland is home to 140 free roaming Barbary macaques. With no cages or bars these endangered monkeys live in freedom within the 60-acre forest. Visitors can walk the ¾ of a mile woodland walk to get an up-close insight into the lives of this fascinating species.

Monkey Forest reopens from the 16th February. For more information, seasonal opening times and to book online visit www.monkey-forest.com.

4. Wicksteed Park

You can expect oodles of excitement at Wicksteed Park this February Half-Term! There’s something for everyone and every weather!

Zoolab will be visiting with their creepy crawlies and furry friends and letting you get up close and personal whilst learning all about them! We have a new orienteering course ready to test your skills and our Archery course will be available too! Our amazing clip ‘n climb and play factory will be open as usual and we have a special ride wristband price of just £10 for 12 rides that will be available throughout the day!!  That’s less than £1 a ride and you can go on as many times as you like!! Wow! Even more amazing, if you book online you can get 15% discount!

Some of these sessions need to be booked in advance so head to our website to find out more and book while there’s still space! www.wicksteedpark.org/FebHalfTerm

5. The Jungle Hut

Visit The Jungle Hut – a unique jungle explorer themed hut in Earlswood near Solihull – and get up close and personal with some amazing exotic animals. They offer a Jungle Ranger 5*, value for money, unique and personal exotic animal encounter that no one else offers!

Have a family bonding adventure, share first-time experiences and make memories together, while meeting creatures that include millipedes, chameleons, geckos, tortoise, snakes, tarantulas and much more!

The young ones of the family will also receive a signed junior explorer certificate from the jungle ranger at the end of the tour. Great for a weekend or holiday visit, birthday party, educational groups and so much more, The Jungle hut also has a unique gift shop selling fair trade hand made products and gifts from around the world.

For more information or to book your visit, go to the website (no payment required on booking.)

6. The Heights of Abraham

Head for the Heights (Matlock Bath, Derbyshire), open from the 9th of February, and every day during half term. (10am – 4.30pm daily). The spectacular award winning tourist attraction takes visitors on a stunning cable car ride with views across the Derwent Valley to a hilltop 60 acre landscaped woodland Estate. Once you arrive by cable car all the attractions are free. Indoor Galleries and Exhibitions, Adventure playgrounds, guided tours through illuminated showcaves deep underground, cafes, snack bars and a fully licensed restaurant with fine views across the valley.  Visit the website for more details and purchase your tickets online for the best deal!

Also, Valentine’s Day marks the start of a four-day Heights of Abraham special occasion celebrating friendship and family (Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th February.) Check out our video to find out more about our “Love is in the Air” special event.

7. Hoglets

If you’re heading to Amerton Farm in Staffordshire for a day out this February half-term, then join Hoglets in Billy’s Farm Barn as they ‘create a love’ for our British Garden Birds!

You’ll find them in the party room from the 18th-22nd (9:30am-4:30pm) where you can choose from a variety of bird-related activities – decorate your own bird box, make a bird feeder or create your own British bird!

All activities are priced between £3-£5 but please note that this is in addition to Farm Barn entry fees!

Once you’ve finished creating, learn some facts about our favourite, feathered friends by completing some fun, FREE educational activities!

Every participating child will receive a FREE bird spotting sheet to take home and a FREE bird glider!

For more information click here