I’ve never been a fan of campsites and have less than happy memories of cold shower blocks, stinky broken loos and being disturbed by dodgy Europop. I do however love being in the middle of nowhere, swimming in rivers, lighting fires and stargazing. So when I get the opportunity to sleep in the great outdoors away from dodgy campsites I jump at it, and have had some great experiences in the Australian outback, Rajasthani Desert and Costa Rican jungle.
I haven’t been camping since having children, partly because we haven’t been anywhere warm enough, but mostly because of my obsession with sleep patterns and my fear that life under canvas would involve tired fractious children unable to fall asleep on the long summer evenings. But in preparation for our big trip, I decided that it was time we gave camping a try.
Last week, we were staying with my lovely sister in law in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park who asked a friendly local farmer if we could camp in his field. It was the perfect spot. We walked from their house for about a mile, carrying our rucksacks, until we found our field by a stream.
We were in a big group of aunts, uncles and cousins, so some put up tents, others collected wood for the fire and stones for the hearth while the children had a fabulous time playing in the stream. It was just a shame that they didn’t take their shoes and socks off BEFORE jumping in.
We did all the classic camping activities, building a huge fire to toast marshmallows and brew tea, making plans for midnight feasts, cooking sausages, telling ghost stories and being gently kippered by the fire. My watch still smells of woodsmoke.
The children stayed up much later than their normal bedtimes, but were really good about going to sleep when I asked them to. Our night was rather broken with loo trips, freezing children who needed extra layers and small boys rolling off airbeds. I’ve also forgotten how blinking cold it is at night in England when you aren’t surrounded by four walls and a roof.
However all the discomfort was worth it to wake up with three happy children (and a tired grumpy husband) with the sun streaming through the walls of the tent. And nothing beats that early morning cup of tea and bacon sandwich (or crisps and pot noodle for the children), sitting in a dewy field while a heron flies overhead.
We walked home tired, muddy and very happy. It’s definitely something I look forward to doing again, hopefully somewhere hotter next time.