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

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

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!

Why Settle for an Ordinary Camping Holiday? At River Dart Country Park, you don’t have too…

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