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

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 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

Six Things We Have Learnt Whilst Camping This Year

 

  1. After buying a new tent, test it out at home first.

This is something we know very well. But for some reason, we didn’t bother after our first air beam purchase earlier this year. Cue 2 looooong hours of tension as we crawled our way to full erection! Not advisable at any time, but definitely not with two small and increasingly grumpy children!

  1. Check the weather forecast.

We have had a simply amazing summer this time and in July, it felt that the sunshine would never end. So, when we came to the end of our planned holiday in Somerset, we thought heck, we’ve got some clean clothes left, we might never experience another summer like this again…let’s carry on for a couple more days! So down to Devon we went and the skies turned from the bluest of blues to the darkest of greys.

Great.

Two full days of rain plus a night storm of epic proportions later and we squelched our way home.

  1. Prepare your tent before a storm rather than during.

This is greatly assisted if you have done point 2 beforehand.

So, we woke up in the middle of the night to what can only be described as the stormiest storm in Stormland on national storm day. Our tent was stable but there was no denying the severe wind buffeting it and I did what anyone would do…kicked the husband out of bed to deal with it. Much double pegging later and we eventually felt able to sleep again…although this was trickier as we had two extra small people in the bed.

  1. Help the helpless.

As we arrived at the camp still full of holiday cheer and totally unaware of the storm to come, we came across a family of a lovely dad, uncle and three children all looking hopefully at some poles and canvas. It became apparent that this was their first ever camping trip with borrowed equipment and they had not completed point 1 or 2. They had been in the same position for 2 hours. So, with our travelling buddies we helped them to erect their somewhat complicated tent and they were really happy and grateful. We had that wonderful glow that comes with being useful.

Then came the storm.

Come the morning, their tent half caved in and they hadn’t slept a wink. They decided not to stay for the second night. I would imagine they will never camp again.

Perhaps we should have just left them to it and they could have found a B&B?

  1. Timing is everything.

When packing away your tent, ensure it is thoroughly dry beforehand.

When it came to packing ours away, the rain never blooming stopped. The tent was sopping and weighed the same as approximately 5 elephants, hubby and I dripped all over the Landy and it’s safe to say that we had no more spare clothes left.

The rain didn’t stop at home all week either, so tent had to be aired in a farm shed and I needed a holiday by the time we had sorted everything out.

  1. Camping with friends is the way forward.

We had two trips with different sets of friends this year and it was brilliant! The children always have people to play with, someone else always has something that you forgot to pack, there are more eyes to watch little people and most importantly, lovely people to share wine with at the end of the day!

Despite all these trials, will we be going camping again next year?

Can’t wait!

Camping in Somerset? Petruth Paddocks is hard to beat!

Family camp at Petruth Paddocks

If you’re looking for great camping in Somerset, then look no further than the lovely campsite at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping right next to the Mendip Hills. We stayed there for 4 glorious nights last week along with another family and were struck by the friendly atmosphere, wide open spaces and sense of freedom for adults and children alike.

The owner, Jules, likes to take the approach of “free-range camping” so you are not restricted by a numbered pitch, but can choose where you would rather set up camp. There are two large fields to choose from, one of which is for those who wish to have a quieter camp. During our mid-week stay, despite being in the “non-quiet” field, there were no issues at night and our children (aged 2 and 5 year old) went to sleep peacefully and easily. Jules explained that during peak season at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping, the weekends can get much busier hence the two different fields. He added that he loved the atmosphere during the busier times as you might have some people playing guitars, campfire singing, children having great fun in big gangs. So it would depend on your needs when and where you wanted to stay – whether you prefer a livelier atmosphere or just want some peace and quiet.

Jules encourages children to roam, make friends and enjoy themselves outdoors without the pull towards electronic devices. During our time there, we saw groups of children clambering over the old landrover parked up in the field, much shouting, laughing and chasing as well as ball games and bike riding.

At night time, Jules pops around the campsite offering firepits for those that want a cosy camp feel. We advise you take him up on this as it definitely makes for a lovely atmosphere and it was a stunning site seeing the gentle glows around camp. After he had done his deliveries, Jules offered the kids a ride round on the quad with him which went down a storm! At the weekend, he also takes any kids that are interested across the field to meet his resident menagerie including pigs, ponies and chickens.

At Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping, there are all the facilities you need for a comfortable camp: plenty of toilets and hot showers, separate sinks for washing up, facilities for charging electronic devices, a fridge and a freezer as well as a small shop to top up on necessities. Jules clearly pays attention to detail as he provides a comprehensive booklet on arrival outlining all you need to know about the campsite and the surrounding area. He also insists on careful separation of rubbish into the various types of recycling which we found refreshing as we can’t bear the big skips of mixed rubbish at most camps all going to landfill.

Whilst we were camping in Somerset, we found lots to do. Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping is on the outskirts of the lovely village of Cheddar, home of Britain’s favourite cheese and the magnificent Cheddar Gorge. There were lots of lovely places to eat including cafes, restaurants as well as the obligatory ice cream parlours and the chance for climbing, abseiling and exploring the caves of the Gorge.

We ventured further to the child-friendly Wookey Hole to see inside the incredible caves which have to be seen to appreciate their dimensions, stalactites and stalagmites – our children were quite happy and there was none of the whinging and whining that can accompany trips out. It is also essential that our holidays involve dinosaurs in some way and Wookey Hole delivered by way of huge robotic models and an “archaeological dig.”

On the way to Wookey Hole, we took advantage of local produce enhance by the particular “micro-climate” of Somerset and sampled some simply divine strawberries courtesy of Cliff Besley’s strawberries. They were streets ahead of the watery supermarket versions and we are not ashamed to say we scoffed the lot whilst the children were asleep in the landy (well, you snooze, you lose!)

We also sampled cider from local producers and would encourage you to look out for the little businesses as you are out and about – buying local makes such a difference for real people rather than lining the pockets of huge earners of big organisations! And after all, you can’t go to Somerset without sampling the cider!

We were lucky with the weather as it was consistently scorchio for the time we were there. We noticed this when we went paddling/body boarding in the sea at Berrow and Brean… really warm water, actually thought we were in the Med! At Berrow beach, the #2minutebeachclean was in place. This is a step up from pick up 3 pieces of litter each time you go to the beach but really encourages the children to look after their environment and raise awareness of the problem of littering. Our own little miss bossy boots LOVED this and took control of both the litter picker (or crocodile as it became known) and the bag so it took a little bit longer than we anticipated! It also triggered a really sweet conversation with our 5 year old son about litter and he told me how it would affect his beloved sharks and the fish that they eat. This project is gathering apace and you can find out more about it and also what beaches are covered on their website: https://www.beachclean.net/

So, if you decide to go camping in Somerset during the summer hols or if this has made you think about next year, do check out the lovely site at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping – you won’t be disappointed!

Camping with Toddlers

Now, if you thought we were crazy to suggest camping with babies, you’re going to laugh your head off at this one! But before you shut us down, hear us out…camping with toddlers honestly can be done!

So, you’ve got through the baby stage…firstly well done! Maybe you chickened out of taking baby camping but are now thinking let’s give it a go? Or maybe you took baby and are ready for the next stage? Whatever your situation, let’s look at how to make your experience fabulous! (Or at least not a total disaster.)

Crawler/wobbler

The good news about this age is that they’re still very easy to transport hither and thither in carriers and pushchairs. This is important as at this age, they won’t be content to just stay in one place – so plan to take them out to tire them out in the fresh air as this can help that magical thing ‘the nap’ to take place.

They are still easy to contain within the tent when required and there should be considerably fewer things for them to injure themselves on…no electric socket and cables, no sharp edges of furniture, no ornaments to pull down, etc. So, you are less likely to follow them around frantically moving things. I would definitely invest in a carpet for your tent (check out those by Outdoor Revolution) as this would be nice and soft for them to crawl/roll about on. Bring a few of their own toys to play with – indoors and outdoors – the more entertaining for them and the less ‘bleepy’ for you the better.

Talking of outdoors, when they are outside, let them crawl. Don’t be afraid of the dirt. I know we live in a germ-obsessed society and are encouraged to clean up the slightest emission, but it really won’t hurt them. In fact, they need some of it to boost their immune systems. At the end of the day, chuck them in the shower/sink and marvel at the colour of the water that runs off them.

Good washing facilities at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping!

As for food, they will be on solids now. They will also probably be self-feeding and therefore onto finger food versions of your own meals. Obviously, this makes it easier for you in terms of packing, preparation and mess. If you are still feeding pureed or mashed food, you could bring some of your own from home (depending on the length of your stay and storage facilities), make some there or be a disgraceful parent and buy a jar. Obviously I’m joking – as long as you feed them, that’s all that really matters!

Running to the hills stage

I’m not talking about you as parents at this point, although you might often feel like doing just that. No, I’m talking about the point when your toddler develops a bit of strength and confidence in their movement and also the ability to make like Usain Bolt. I actually lost a lot of weight when my eldest reached this stage as at the same time he developed what appeared to be a hearing problem, but I later concluded that it was just ‘ignore mummy’ syndrome.

 

 

So, I spent a lot of my time retrieving him from places he shouldn’t be. To be honest, this is just the way it is so be smiley and apologetic to other campers as you fish little precious out from exploring their tent, toys, campfire, toilet but don’t panic too much about what they must think. If people have children they get it; if they haven’t, let’s face it…people that go camping are generally happy and slightly feral anyway!

 

Not my toy so it’s definitely better than mine.
None of these are mine either

To help your situation, take care to choose a campsite that will entertain your kids in the way that best suits them – whether that is wide open spaces, a playground, sandpit, a stream, petting animals, etc. Take what you can to entertain them toy-wise but do remember the small matter of packing! Maybe consider a trailer if it all gets too much! Venter Trailers UK

Now then…the toilet training thing.

If they are around this age, you will need to think carefully about this. If you have a camping trip planned, you will need to plan the timing of toilet training. You do not want to be halfway through as you commence your trip as it is likely to disrupt their progress and leave you in the land of wee and run out of clothes. So, either get your toddler fairly secure about it first or leave it until you get back. And even if they are secure, do pop a nappy on at night as you don’t want to be washing sleeping bags. It’s all about making your trip easier and fun…and wee everywhere is not fun!

 

On the plus side, “jungle wees” can be quite appealing to those mastering the art and camping lends itself to this. However, do be aware of this: our eldest was quite partial to a jungle wee and after we parked up along a busy road at Cheddar Gorge (which is lovely, by the way) for an “emergency” wee, from my vantage point in the Landy, I heard Daddy utter one or two naughty words followed up with “Oh God, we’re in trouble here, you’ve got to help quickly!” It became apparent that the jungle wee had turned into a jungle poo. Thank God for wipes is all I can say!

In summary:

  • Wear the kids out in the day to get the best night’s sleep possible.
  • Do not fear dirt.
  • Find a campsite that suits your children
  • Pack nearly everything you own.
  • Don’t let them do a jungle poo.
  • Remember not to expect perfection – this in itself will help your trip be a “perfect” family memory.

WHY SETTLE FOR AN ORDINARY CAMPING HOLIDAY? AT RIVER DART COUNTRY PARK, YOU DON’T HAVE TO…

Family-friendly campsites shouldn’t be locations that just offer a pitch in a field with a tired, single children’s play area. Everyone knows that family holidays should be fun. Not just for the children, but for the adults too. It’s an opportunity for the whole gang to spend time together and most importantly, have fun together!

 

At River Dart Country Park in Ashburton, Devon, this ethos has been the key to families returning, time and time again. Located within Dartmoor National Park, the site boasts over 90 acres of stunning parkland and playgrounds with something for everyone.

The sheer amount of outdoor activities available to visitors is incredible. There’s no chance of anyone getting bored or fed up anytime soon! Kids can make a splash in the Pirate Ship Lake, competitive kids (and big kids) can take on the assault course, slides, there’s also the Play Fort, Agility Trail, Climbing Pods and Pump Track, plus loads of other activities. Surprisingly, all of this is included in the pitch price.

 

They also have Dare Devil Activities that run during certain times of the year and are available at extra cost. These activities are more adrenaline-fuelled experiences and include a Mega Zip Wire, Water Zorbs, High Ropes Course, Canoeing, Kayaking and Indoor Bouldering.

It goes without saying that after all the fun and excitement, refuelling is essential. A perfect opportunity for the adults in the party to sit and enjoy a cold drink, or some locally sourced food at the onsite café bar. So, there are certainly moments of calm to be had here, if that is more to your taste. And the park’s location is undeniably made for moments like this, with the tree-lined River Dart running through the site it really is beautiful.

The fact of the matter is, there is so much to enjoy and in a stunning location too. The park caters for all family members, toddlers, children, adults, those looking for activities to do, those looking to put their feet up, those wanting to relax and those looking to explore. Camping holidays should be what we want to make of them, give us the options and let us decide how we spend our time. River Dart Country Park gives the visitor those choices and much more, that’s what makes it so uniquely special.

Find out more here: River Dart Country Park

Why Go Camping with your Kids?

People tend to either love camping or question the very thought of going, let alone camping with their kids. Why would you want to get close to nature? Doesn’t that just mean get dirty? And won’t the kids be bored without their usual entertainment? What would they do?

Well, here’s the thing – childhoods have changed.

Drastically.

I think about my own – freedom to roam around, climbing trees, “fishing” in streams, finding tunnels and caves, recreating the “famous five” with my bestie and faithful hound (terrific trio, oh yes!) just hours on end OUTSIDE!

It was considered safe and very normal for children to be out playing with their friends until dark.

Now it is considered safe and very normal for children to be playing inside on electronic devices.

 

From years spent as a teacher of children aged 9-13 years, I have seen the massively damaging effects of this shift. Keeping them indoors on smart phones is the opposite of safe and makes me feel ever-so-slightly sick. The amount of cyber-bullying, grooming, addiction to gaming, etc cannot be underestimated.

It happens.

A lot.

I hear all the counter-arguments about the beauty of technology, research potential, needing to keep up, knowing you can contact your children whenever, etc, etc. But, I can’t shake off what I have experienced.  I just don’t think kids and young teenagers are mentally ready to handle it and the negative effects on their self-esteem can be devastating.

So, what is the answer?

I, of course, have total rose-coloured glasses about my childhood. I don’t dispute that. But, I really do feel that for our own kids, we need to get back some of the brilliant bits of our own childhoods and get the heck outside!

Camping is definitely one way to achieve that. You will be surrounded by the good stuff: grass, trees, fresh air, views across the countryside. It inspires a need in children to run, play, roll down hills, paddle in streams, make dens, get absolutely filthy dirty! And we should let them!

It has been proven that exposure to germs improves children’s immune systems, so we should resist the urge to decontaminate them as soon as they touch anything alive and let them get on with it. Most campsites have great wash facilities these days so just chuck them in the shower at the end of the day.

To have the greatest benefit, you have to leave all the technology behind and keep it simple. Let the kids be kids, let them guide their own entertainment, feed their imagination, be active and do things. Without all the usual distractions, you will come together as a family, talk, laugh and make lasting memories.

And isn’t that what life’s about?

Have a look at these campsites for “wild” camping experiences and room to roam:

Wales: Graig WenBecks Bay Camping

Somerset: Petruth Paddocks

Devon: Forest Glade Holiday Park, Ashbourne Woods

Cornwall:  Lower Penderleath Campsite

Derbyshire: Riverside Caravan & Camping Park

Norfolk: Wardley Hill Campsite

 

First Family Camping Trip Jitters? Here’s Our Story.

By Helen, mum of 2 gorgeous girls, devoted dog and novice camper.

We took the plunge with our first family camping trip last year to Mortehoe, a lovely little village just up the road from Woolacombe in Devon. We weren’t sure how everyone would take to it, so we went with minimal gadgets: Bedding, table and chairs and gas camping stove. We thought as long as we had the basics, we would get by and it would give us a chance to test whether this would be something we could pursue in the future.

 

 

Actually, we didn’t need to worry too much about our kitchen limitations – we were spoilt for choice for nice pubs/cafes nearby such as the The Redbarn pub/bar (a great place to go to for lunch maybe as a treat) and we found the Seabreeze café/ice-cream shop was a good bribe to get the kids off the beach. There was also a takeaway in Mortehoe, that did four dishes, one vegetarian, all homemade and delicious. Other times, our humble stove did the job just fine.

 

We decided for safety in numbers for our first time and went with a couple of other families, each with their own tents. This worked fabulously well as the children played together and all wanted to do the same sort of things. So, although the weather was windy, we went to the beach every day and had an amazing time body boarding, sand-duneing and generally larking about. The beauty was that camping allowed us the freedom to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted.

 

So apart from discovering that we as a family love camping and love Devon, what else did we discover?

 

  • We need a porch for the outside of the tent for taking muddy boots off, and a large door mat.
  • A camping potty for mid-night weeees.
  • A camping wardrobe (according to the husband.)
  • An upgrade on my sleeping bag (because I’m nesh.)
  • And most importantly an “aeropress” easy-to-pack filter coffee gadget. Google it – you won’t be sorry.

 

Will we be having another go? Most definitely! We will update our packing as per above and crack on in 2018!

 

Like the sound of this? Check out our campsites around Woolacombe, great for your first family camping trip: Bay View Farmers CampsiteEuropa Holiday Park,  Warcombe Farm CampsiteOcean PitchLee Meadow Camping, 

Who Fancies a spot of Glamping? Competition Time! COMPETITION CLOSED

To celebrate the launch of Gone Camping Co, we have a terrific prize on offer: Who was impressed with the inspiring story from the family team at Round the Woods? Well, in collaboration with Round the Woods we have a holiday up for grabs in one of their amazing yurts. The prize is for 2 nights, to be taken any time from season opening until the end of May, for up to two adults and two children (further people may be accommodated at extra cost.) This competition is open until 8pm on 20th March 2018.

All you need to do to enter is to go to our Facebook Page, like this post and comment: What makes this holiday appeal to you?

Then please like Gone Camping Co and share!

Full terms and conditions can be viewed here.