Posted in camping, Family, Holiday, Home, Life

Coming Around Again…

The sun came out.

I know.  In the UK. Amazing, right? And suddenly everyone has realised they own barbecues, and lawnmowers, and shorts.

Including us.

So the garage has been sorted and the ‘oudoor toys’ have been rediscovered by the children who forgot they had them.  In some cases they found some we didn’t even remember we had in there since before they were born…

And we got the pup-tents out.  The pop up ones for a laugh to start with, to amaze the children as to how easy and quick they were. (Yes, someone felt they had to make an instructional video….)


They have memories attached themselves.  The road trip we were on to visit friends for the last time before we emigrated…the first time… and found them in a branch of Halfords and bought them as an impulse purchase; the (one and only) time we actually went camping, to a campsite, on a camping holiday, in them … and ended up on a pitch next to a family with a car emblazoned with a camping and outdoor accessories store logo; and the amazed looks on their faces when we turned up and within minutes were sitting next to our accomodation in camping chairs sipping wine; while they continued to struggle with their 12-person, multi-room mansion (I think they were only staying 1 night…)

And we started sorting out the camping gear in the garage, ready for the next foray into the fun of sleeping outdoors…under a sheet…

Because, so quickly, it seems like only yesterday I posted this blog post about last year’s trip. And here we are again, preparing ourselves for squashing as much as we can into the vehicle to make staying in a cubby hole made from thin fabric and plastic poles, feel like is has all mod cons, already…

And then, this one came out …


Yes.  It’s just a tent.  It’s a little, 2-man, dome tent.  It says “Outbound Sierra 1” on it. Took me 5 minutes to pitch. But took me back an awfully long way.  It’s funny, how things, items, stuff can seem like just posessions, sometimes, but attach so many funny little memory triggers to them.

My dad bought this tent, for my brother, sister and I.  I’m not sure why…the exact reason behind it; but I remember we pitched it for the first time at one of his Seafaring colleagues houses up in Monmothshire somewhere I think.

I can remember sleeping in the back garden one night, in it.  I can remember lending it to a friend from Youth Theatre when he went to Glastonbury for the first time because he didn’t have a tent.  (The tent’s been to Glasto but I haven’t…).  I can remember taking it to my grandmother’s house in Cornwall with me, and two friends from school coming down by train and we camped in it … 17 years old and our first camping trip. And it was nuts. (and the beauty of living out your teens back then is…that’s all you’re getting…. we managed to live out our tweens and teens and twenties before the internet was invented; so we can hide all that stuff that we didn’t tweet and instagram and facebook about …and just smile about it fondly)

But trying to explain to the 7,6 and 2 year olds that this tent was … blimey… about 25 years old, got barely a reaction from them.

Best of all?  It’s still pretty weatherproof.  I attacked it with a hose from all angles, and pretty much turned the grass surrounding it into a bog, and it’s bone dry inside.

It stank a bit when I got it out … the last time I ‘aired it’ was about 5 years ago (at least).

So I think it’ll be sat outside for a while to freshen up a bit.

Which the children are pleased about – One’s favourite colour is green and the other is orange, so they’ve adopted it.  The third one loves blue so he’s gone for the blue pop up.  And I still have my pink one.

Poor Daddy.   Good job we have the cottage tent to go on holiday with, really!



Posted in camping, Family, Holiday, Staycation, Theme Park

Summer holidays!

Yesterday we got back from our ‘Holiday’, a camping trip to Devon.blogpic1 Ok, I know, everyone is doing it now, ‘Stay-cationing’, instead of going abroad.  The perception is that it’s supposed to be cheaper.  It’s not.  Not really.  You end up spending as much in petrol as you would on a plane ticket at today’s prices.  You still have to buy food and eat out when you can’t be bothered to cook (if you go self-catering).  You still have to entertain the children, and go and see the local sights which means paying entry fees for the privilege of feeling like a tourist.  Not to mention, camp sites; once the bastion of cheapness as far as accommodation is concerned, have cottoned on that the almighty tourist pound could now just as easily be heading their way than to the Costa-Lotta-Money; added slightly nicer facilities and wi-fi access and doubled their prices (plus extra if you take a child/dog/want electricity).

So, no, we didn’t choose to go camping to save money.  It’s just that over the years we, and the children despite their young ages, have already done the traveling thing, as it relates to planes and hotels and exotic things, many times over, and more intrepidly than most.  To the point where camping, especially in the good ol’ British climate, is a novelty.  Plus the camping equipment collected over a long period really needed an outing.  So, it was all packed up into the van and off we went, to a campsite we’d pre-booked a couple of months ago (when we had the money available to pay for it); I’d noticed in the 2006 edition of the AA Camping and Caravanning guide we had gathering dust on the bookshelf.

It seemed ideal… Woodlands Grove, complete with theme park next door with zoo farm and falconry center, indoor and outdoor play areas to keep the children occupied.  And it was!  Of course it was a little tired…it’s been there 26 years all in all, with new things being tried and tested and added all the time; and it’s not Alton Towers or Thorpe Park, and a million miles from Disneyworld, but for what it needed to be – a family orientated entertainment area for all ages in all weathers, it’s perfect!  The almost 2 year old had as much fun climbing, sliding, playing, shouting, throwing ball pit balls and chasing around as the 5 and 6 year olds did; and there was still plenty there to occupy those older (and certain rides and slides that only adult sized people could attempt…should they wish to)

It’s on hilly ground, so expect to get tired out just walking from area to area but with that said, there’s not much distance between the ‘zones’ anyway; and plenty of places to sit and rest and eat and drink.  And really, as with other theme parks though maybe not to the same extent, more to see than you can fit in to one day.

As it happens, spending more than 2 nights in the campsite entitles you to free entry into the park; and since we wanted a leveled pitch with electric hook up (Sorry, Glamping this year..not in the mood for completely Bear Gryllsing it just yet), and the minimum booking for High Season (Read = any time it’s a school holiday) was 7 nights, weekend to weekend, we booked Saturday to Saturday and therefore knew we had the theme park entry as a back up.  We saw everything, tried everything, tired out the boys, spent as much time as they wanted on different things, and they STILL weren’t bored by the end of the week.  All in all I think we spent 2-2.5 days away from Woodlands, exploring local sights and towns of interest, spent an evening at the Salcome Regatta nearby; but were easily entertained and suitably nourished by 3-4 full days within the theme park and its choice of food outlets and refreshment booths.

We have one boy who’s more into thrill rides so found enough to excite him; another who loves any creature feature (he was thrilled to be able to help collect the chicken eggs – every day at 5pm – and watch pig racing, and hold a giant snail and a tarantula and a cockroach; and see bats and other nocturnal animals in the dark; and a fearless toddler who would love to do what the other two do…and had the chance, because the toddler areas were safe enough for toddlers but still fun enough for the older two to participate and find the fun in them too.

Of course, it’s camping, so there’s enough mud and dirt and bugs to go around, but as with most camp sites these days, there are unisex/family cubicles and washing up facilities and coin-operated laundry, and on-site shop for bread and milk and a selection of bits and bobs and camping accessories.

Highly recommended…in all honesty, I was expecting a little less from the theme park but it more than lived up to expectations.  And we had a couple of ‘hot’ days (by UK standards!) to make the most of getting soaked on the water slides and not freezing to death afterwards!

Just in case anyone’s interested, our tent (pictured at the top) is one like this although not sure about UK retailers, we acquired it while traveling in the USA.  Other items we’ve gathered over the years from various camping outlets like Go Outdoors, and Ebay and car boot sales.