With maternity leave rapidly heading towards the ‘no money’ stage, and redundancy looming, things weren’t looking too good for getting away anywhere this year.
Whilst a holiday isn’t a must, its always nice to get away and have a break from the relative normalcy of everyday life – so we got to thinking about what we might be able to do that was suitable for two young children, and wouldn’t cost too much.
The answer? Camping!
Two years ago, at the end of the Summer, we were lucky enough to pick up an eight man tent for a bargain price from Decathlon (if it really fits in eight men I’d be extremely surprised. Who are these men they base tent sizes upon anyway? They must be distinctly unaverage, exceedingly thin and generally on the shorter side men with no belongings and the ability to sleep in a rigid line, in order to fit eight of them in what is laughingly described as an ‘eight man’ tent) and it’s been sitting in the shed waiting for an outing ever since. Countless festival trips pre-kids have left us with servicable, if Glastonbury-mud-encrusted camping essentials such as an airbed, camping stove, and chairs with the obligatory beverage holder, and so the entire cost of a camping trip is simply the nightly pitch hire, and the petrol to get to wherever we are going.
So this weekend, with the car full to the brim the Other Half, Myself, the Wee Man, Bubby D, Grandma, Grandad and Rolydog headed off to Brighton. Opinions of family, friends and acquaintances upon hearing of this plan ranged from supportive to alarmed, with statements such as ‘we’ll keep our fingers crossed the weather holds out for you’, ‘camping with a seven month old, you must be mad’ and ‘what a great idea, you’ll have a fabulous time’. (I liked the last response best).
Two and a half hours of driving later (throughout which both children slept happily!) and we arrived at Blacklands Farm Campsite. Following a parade of plastic cows, we headed on down the driveway and discovered the reception, beyond which an interesting looking playground and a lake complete with ducks and geese sat tantalisingly in the sun. Unsurprisingly the Wee Man, freed of his car seat, made a beeline straight to the play equipment and got stuck in with some serious playing whilst I sorted out where we could pitch the tent and locate the (heated!) toilets and lovely hot showers.
Setting up the tent was relatively straightforward (I’ve set up many in my time) and the Wee Man was incredibly excited to see ‘his’ room waiting for him when he returned from playing, having made a new friend from one of the other families camping on the site. We’d decided that the Other Half and the Wee Man would sleep in one room of the tent, and Bubby D and I would have the other, as all four of us in one room together would be a bit of a squeeze.
A short time later, with airbeds pumped (and bounced on, and pumped again), picnic rug laid with a selection of toys for Bubby D, and chairs set out around a fire bucket, we were ready to relax and enjoy the evening. Which we certainly did! Fish and chips were scoffed, wood was burnt, and campfire conversations were had. We even heard an owl terwhit-terwooing in the woods next to us.
Overnight the temperatures did plunge, but snuggled up in our kingsize duvet and blankets it wasn’t too much of an issue. The kids loved the tent, and even on Sunday when it was raining the mood wasn’t dampened at all – our tent has a good sized awning section and an egg hunt easily took place in it!
So whilst it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I can certainly recommend camping as a cheap and fun option for a family holiday. Our campsite was friendly and well equipped with great facilities, and there was no hassle of waiting around at airports or travelling for hours. The rates for a tent are generally very reasonable, and with a gas stove and a couple of saucepans, as well as the option of a barbecue, its easy to cook a variety of food for all the family without having to spend out on restaurants or takeaways.
As the Wee Man commented on the way home: ‘I like camping. I want to go camping again’.
And I’m sure we will!