One of my earliest memories was of my Dad holding a broken tent zip together on a very wet and thundery night in Cornwall.
In between then and now I had ‘taken’ a tent to Glastonbury, but that was pretty much as far as my life in the ‘great outdoors’ had gone.
After years of relative comfort in hotels and B&B’s had I gone soft? Had fluffy duvets and Full English breakfasts turned me into a wimp?… I wanted to find out, and since we had moved to Norfolk a couple of years ago I discovered many locals love to travel up the road for a weekend under canvas.
We live in such a beautiful part of the world we decided to take our 5yr old daughter camping and see what we were missing.
The British weather had been toying with us all week, by the weekend it was gloomy to say the least. I was beginning to get slightly worried we might be in for a wet one.
However, when we headed out with our friends and their young son on the short journey to Weybourne in North Norfolk, (a small village along the coast from Cromer) the clouds lifted and the sun shone down in approval.
Our campsite (Breck Farm) was infact a working farm, but it was fairly quiet and the smell of BBQ drifted through the air. Some adults and kids were playing rounders…. they were even playing together. The atmosphere was dare I say it?… friendly!
It was so nice to get away from the distractions of modern day life… computers, mobile phones it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in life.
Hang on, maybe I was getting carried away, we had only been here 5 minutes, by the end of the day I might be praying for my warm duvet and Angry Birds.
Pitching the tent.
Things had definitely moved on in the camping world.. our Outwell Explorer tent was definitely a lot more hi tech than the one my Dad had so much trouble with. It was quite large and luckily it was very easy to erect (ooh er!).
Even for novices like us it took only 20 minutes from start to finish, despite the fact that after 10 mins it started pouring with rain!
There are only 3 Poles in the entire tent and they were colour coded, so It was a long way from the Krypton Factor framework I had seen before…. When I was a kid we used to have poles left over!
The sun reappeared so we headed out to the nearby woodlands in search of materials we could use for a fire. Despite the sporadic rain we found a plentiful supply (some of it dry too!).
Camping with young kids is so great, to them just collecting wood for the fire is the biggest adventure ever. Their imaginations run riot – one minute we were in the middle of a Scooby Doo adventure, the next we are a Pirate gang searching for buried treasure.
Lighting a fire
Using matches would have been too easy, we had a Bear Grylss Survival Kit (see next page), and I wanted to try out the lighting flint. The task wasn’t made any easier by the damp conditions, but after a little perseverance (and some swearing), to my satisfaction a small flame flickered in the middle of the fire.
I was now at one with nature and if it wasn’t for a big cloud heading our way would have dashed back into the woodland to wrestle down a deer for lunch.
We took an old twin gas stove borrowed from a friend. I was tempted to buy something cheap and cheerful but was glad we had this. If you are cooking anything apart from soup, you need more than one gas ring, otherwise you need to start cooking lunch straight after breakfast. You can pick these up for about £50, plus you need a small gas bottle too (about £40). The gas will last you ages and when it’s empty you just need to refill it (much cheaper).
One thing my wife was slightly apprehensive about was using the shared communal facilities. This is something I would ask about before you go, but the ones at Breck Farm were pretty good, showers that took tokens (about 50p for a good shower) and the toilets were much better than I was expecting.
It wasn’t particularly cold but we had some really cosy Outwell sleeping bags and after 30mins I has so hot I had to take off the T-shirt I was wearing. Also worth investing in are some mats to go under your sleeping bag. My partner has had a bad back and we got some self inflating ones that took the edge of the hard ground underneath.
Just before we went to sleep on the second night a bunch of noisy (but well behaved) youngsters turned up and did the usual stuff youngsters do, played guitars, talked loudly and had fun (all night).
Luckily we are heavy sleepers, but when I woke in the night the noise was pretty loud and for a lighter sleeper it could have spoiled things (luckily for us it didn’t). A tent wall doesn’t offer much in the way of soundproofing.
The weekend was over so quickly and after breakfast on Sunday I wasn’t looking forward to packing everything up, but it was less painful than I thought. The tent even went back into the bag it came in. We waved goodbye to Breck Farm and were on the road in less than an hour.
Over the course of the weekend we didn’t leave the campsite grounds once and were never bored.
We went on Bug hunts, had BBQ’s, watched an amazing storm (this time the tent zip was fine), played games, went for walks and even had time to speak to each other. The kids loved playing in the dark in the woods with the headlights on the best, and staying up late telling spooky stories round the campfire.
Away from the distractions of ‘things’ we got closer as a family and it was FUN. Ideally the sun would have shone all weekend, but that would have been too easy and great triumphs come through adversity. Plus it only cost us £12 per night.
It was lovely to spend some ‘quality’ time with our daughter and since we have come back she has talked about nothing else. Hopefully it has given her some special memories.
I’m not going to totally give up the B&B’s and Hotels, but we have already booked our next camping trip and I can’t wait.