Posts Tagged ‘camping

There are things I have learned over the years about being on holiday and making it work.

As a result, I can tell you about the braindribbles holiday rule number one. If you are tired before you go on holiday, don’t overdo it while you’re there.

With this in mind, we had one major plan for our first full day on holiday.

Go to the pub.  Eat delicious roast dinner.  Drink beer if possible. Enjoy.

We did.  It was great.  The White Hart in Spilsby provided.

We liked it so much we went back and had delicious fish and chips after packing up on our last night.

Incidentally, what is it about pubs in Lincolnshire called the White Hart?  We had breakfast two days later at the White Hart in Sibsey (also delicious), and two days after that we ate at the White Hart in Boston. Yep, delicious once more.

OK, so the last one was more a hotel than a pub, but you get the drift.

The mystery has forced me to delve into the Wikipedia files, which tell me that a white hart was on Richard II’s emblem, and that the name ‘the White Hart’ is the fifth most popular pub name  in the country.  When you consider that means it was probably as much a symbol of England as a red lion is these days, I suppose that’s fair enough.  And I can’t imagine how many pubs are called that around the country.

Anyhow, so we went to the pub.

And then, when we had space in our tummies once more, we cooked dinner on our open fire, and finished off the evening toasting marshmallows.  The kids had a go at toasting them, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

But that’s OK, because I rather like burnt marshmallows.

thanks to for the imageFor some reason, I just can’t bear the thought of arriving somewhere on holiday and have no food immediately available.  It preys on my mind.  The concept of foraging for food after you’ve got somewhere, spent two hours setting up and are utterly ravenous (and did I mention grumpy kids?), is abhorrent.  I generally order online and arrange for the food to be delivered to our destination soon after our arrival, or pick it up (ready packed) en route.  It makes me feel much better.

On the day of departure, having packed the bulk of the car the night before, having deposited the cats at the cattery, and having cleaned the house thoroughly as soon as the kids were packed (literally) into the car – you never know when you might get a viewing – and then gone back in for the piece of paper that told us where we were supposed to be going, we headed off.  Only an hour and a half later than planned.

Up to the Lincolnshire Fens we drove.  As is traditional on one of our family holidays, we listened to a Harry Potter audiobook.  Annoyingly, it wasn’t the Order of the Phoenix, the next instalment, since nobody seems to stock it any more (has the film franchise bombed the audiobook market??) and I hadn’t got around to ordering it online.  So Prisoner of Azkaban it was.  Kids happy in the back, in spite of barely being able to see/breathe/move under all the paraphernalia they were sitting in/under/amongst, listening to the story. Smallest one gets the biggest seat and nothing on top of her, so she’s particularly happy and snoozles contentedly for most of the journey.

Lunch break and food pickup in Peterborough, roughly halfway to the fens. Wanted to stop and SHOP! since I don’t get much occasion to venture into a shopping centre these days. But we settled for an extremely nice, if rather pricey, John Lewis meal at a table overlooking all the shoppers. Great for making up little stories about the people we see for kiddie entertainment purposes. Sorry, Peterborough.

We wheel the trolley with the best part of a week’s groceries to the car. We then play food tetris.  Loved one, though not a fan of the original computer game, is particularly talented in this area.  Somehow, I’m not sure how, he gets all the cold stuff into the cool box.  Then he gets all of the ambient stuff to stay in various nooks and crannies of the car boot and kiddie laps, without anything falling out.  Respect.

We head on. We are now about two hours late. Lunch was too nice to rush.

I drive along increasingly narrow roads as we pass through Spalding, then Boston. Finally just five miles from our destination, having noticed several ‘High Casualty Route’ signs over the last hour of driving, we see blue flashing lights in the distance and a prominent ROAD CLOSED sign.

I’m sure you can add two and two together.  Our diversion was lengthy; those fens don’t have quite so many roads as I am accustomed to.  At least it was all very pretty, and we hurtled past a beautifully maintained old windmill in the process.

Two and a half hours late, we arrive at the campsite.  ‘Bijou’ is not a word I would usually use when it comes to the joys of camping, but it fits this beautiful bit of land, dotted with caravans and tents, with a picturesque little fishing lake in the middle.  Mark comes out to greet us.  A mop of curly hair, a friendly smile and laid-back attitude. Exactly what we needed. He guides us to our pitch, brings over a fire pit and firewood, and leaves us to set up.

We open the car boot. Amazingly, nothing falls out.  Out comes the Blueberry Hotel, in its two bags, plus the poles we couldn’t quite squeeze in after the last trip.  We lay the groundsheet.  It fills the entire pitch.

Smallest one is keen to leave the car.  Oldest one, having frolicked briefly, kindly agrees to go on anti-drowning duty.  You see, the charm of this place is that all the pitches are set around a lovely little fishing lake. It’s exquisite.  It’s also a death trap, if you don’t watch your non-swimming offspring.   From tent door to lake is a swift ten seconds for smallest one, given the inclination and the opportunity.  We decided we didn’t mind one, but both didn’t bear thinking about.

In spite of a broken pole, the tent goes up in one hour flat.  We pat ourselves on the back.  Last time it took two hours, with no broken poles. The porch takes another twenty minutes, and then smallest one declares vehemently that it’s time for dinner, and can everyone please stop fussing about with that big blue thing over there.

So we cook.   In twenty minutes flat we have a hearty meal, and we huddle round our surprisingly unwobbly camping table and eat, eat eat.  Yum.

Then we wrap smallest one up like a Michelin man, followed swiftly by the other two.  I strum a few lullabies, and then loved one and I grab a couple of beers and stroll outside.

We soak in the sunset.  And we are glad to be here.

Funny.  At home, the kids are only interested in helping out for reward, be it pocket money or a more sugary treat.

Camping, on the other hand, seems to bring out the best in them.  They fall over themselves to help with the washing up, they fetch and carry, they entertain the baby without being asked twice.  They go to sleep when they’re told (admittedly very late) and they sleep to a sensible hour in spite of the early sunrise and lack of blackout curtain liners.  They keep out of the way without fuss when we are trying to pack a monstrous tent into a tiny bag.

I, of course, am utterly exhausted, which is why this is so short and I didn’t blog yesterday.

But we must camp again.  I can’t wait for the campfire to transform the kids into happy, helpful human beings.  My eyelids are drooping, but my soul is singing.

Several of you will have already have followed our dithering about getting a tent and how to do camping to please both loved one and I.

Well, in spite of falling in love with Featherdown Farms (thanks for the tip, Lucy), we realised that for the cost of one holiday at Featherdown we could get all the equipment we need for the next ten years or so, camp in a great site in Norfolk for a week, and still have £200 or so left over.

Go Outdoors

At least four of these guys were involved in the hunt for the missing tent inner....

It was touch and go for a moment, though.  There was a deal on at our local Go Outdoors.  We had originally planned to buy a modest tent for £100 to £200. But a 10-person tent worth nearly £700 was on at £250, and we arrived on the last hour of the last day of the deal.  Loved one and I mooched round the display tent (the kids racing maniacally around all the others), looking at how with four double bedrooms the tent should still work when the kids were all teenagers. As we were pondering other people were also coming in and out and, although there had been three sets of tents, I hadn’t noticed anyone take any.  I fetched a trolley, thinking that it would be a good idea to grab some now before we made up our minds, so we didn’t lose the tent through procrastination, and returned to find the outer tents still available in plenty, but the bag with the inner tent and poles noticeably absent.

Had someone really walked off with three tent inners and nothing to hang it onto?  Had there been a stock problem?  Was someone going to arrive at a campsite one day soon, only realising their error when they arrived?

We asked about four different shop staff to see what they could do about this.  We lurked.  We investigated equipment possibilities.  We had a drink and admired the climing wall (I really want to try this out some day when I’m slightly thinner and fitter).  And then we decided to see if they could sell us the rest of the tent on the understanding that if they couldn’t get a hold of an inner for us we’d refund the lot.

They could.  They did get hold of an inner when we rang up the next day…you have to wonder whether it was there all the time and four members of staff failed to find it.  And we whisked it home.

Hi Gear Kalahari 10

image courtesy of Hi Gear

We chose a Kalahari 10.  It’s enormous when up, but fits into two tote bags, so it’s not too much of a drain on space.  It’s now happily stored underneath middle child’s bed, emanating new-tent smells, and I, instead of getting on with my presentation preparation, am spending a huge amount of time on the campfires-allowed section of UK Campsite looking at places we might like to go to.

We might try it out at half term… Can’t wait.

Loved one and I have come to an agreement.  We both like camping, under certain circumstances.  And we both hate camping, under certain circumstances.

foto76 /

So…we have been discussing how to have a camping experience that comes under the ‘like’ category. For both of us. And that’s the tricky bit.

I like camping when you can go for ages and not have to turn around and go home the minute you got there.  I like it when it’s warm and sunny weather.  I also like having mod cons to be able to relax a little and not feel like it’s all hard work.  I love camp fires, especially when someone else does the cooking.

Loved one likes not spending too long camping because it’s not quite as easy as, say, being at home, or spending time in a self-catering cottage. He’s particularly keen on camp fires, and an ‘authentic’ experience, having spent time in the Sealed Knot and knowing exactly how authentic you can be.

There is some overlap here, but there are also some fundamental differences. Especially regarding the length of time.  I would prefer to go south, ideally abroad, to improve chances of good weather, and I would like to go for long enough to make the drive worthwhile.  Loved one, very much aware that ‘real’ camping is not the most comfortable option out there, would like to keep the experience short and sweet, so driving abroad and spending two weeks doing so is not a viable option for him.

The discussion became a little heated last night, when I pointed out that no matter how long you go camping for, the packing is still substantial, since you need a whole load more equipment than you ever would if you were staying in a self-catering cottage, and that generally speaking, I do the packing for all our holidays.  He works hard at the office, I run the home and don’t like it when he mucks up my household routines, so me doing the packing is a given. I wasn’t so keen on monstrous packing for only two to three nights.

Simon Howden /

Loved one then managed to overcome the impasse by promising a non-camping two-week holiday in 2012.  (He would have offered it for this year, but for our attempts to move house scuppering any plans for this summer.)  By doing this, he gets to indulge in his camping fantasies the way he likes, I get to enjoy his campfire cooking, and can cope with not being very comfortable if it’s not for too long, and I still get a decent length holiday.

I’m still not keen on all the packing, though. Erk.

Smallest one in the early days

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