The untold wonders of waterproof trousers.

13 Apr

IMG_8266During the first week of the Easter holidays we visited the Lake District.  As we all know the UK has many areas of beautiful countryside but I must admit the Lake District is one of my favourites.  However, it is also the second wettest area of Britain.

‘Yes, it may well rain’ I explained to my children as I booked the holiday, secretly believing we would be lucky and enjoy a week of unusually warm, spring loveliness.  However, as the date approached for our departure it became evident that spring sunshine was highly unlikely. I tried to remain optimistic, weather forecasts I find are generally a little pessimistic,  and I ordered some waterproof trousers for the children – I paid for immediate delivery just to be sure….

At this point it seems relevant to explain that I have tried to persuade the family to adopt the wearing of waterproof trousers in the past, but there had been much rebellion in the ranks.  The children groaned that they were too ‘rustly’ and ‘uncomfortable’ , I don’t think these were legitimate complaints but as their father flat refused to consider wearing them I was on weak ground.

So, as I ordered the kids’ trousers I asked my husband if I should order some for him.  No, not a chance, why on earth would I.

Yet, as the spectacular, but undeniably soggy, Lake District panarama unfolded itself to us as we woke and surveyed the view on our first day, suddenly waterproof trousers didn’t seem such a terrible idea.

One set of adult waterproof trousers and a proper waterproof walking jacket later, the previously nonplussed husband could be found striding the Cumbria Way proclaiming – ‘Look! I’m completely waterproof! You know what I really want is a really big downpour just so I can check it all out properly!’

As you can imagine his wish was granted. Several times.

And it did work, all of it, a whole waterproof family.  We weren’t put off by the rain and we enjoyed quieter walks as fair-weather walkers stayed at home wondering if they ought to pop out and buy some waterproof trousers.

Campsite Review: Celtic Camping, Pembrokeshire.

25 Aug

Where: Celtic Camping, St David’s, Pembrokeshre, West Wales, SA62 6DG.

Contact: 01348 837405  Email

How much: Adults £10, Children (5-15) £5 per night

Fires: Yes, anywhere you like. (Although its always considerate to use a previous spot if at all possible.)

Wood: On sale at reception.

Facilties: Good modern toilets and showers.  Also large camping barn (for campers to shelter in when weather is well…Welsh).

Dogs: Permitted – £2 per night

The review:  This was our first vist to Pembrokeshire, we went on a hot and sunny weekend to experience it’s rugged beauty.  The field at Celtic Camping covers some distance, sweeping right around in front of the farm house and camping facilities and down the hill towards the sea.  It is virtually impossible to find a spot to camp that does not have a stunning sea vista, on a sunny day this was a delight.

IMG_7369 IMG_7365 In other conditions wind could be a serious problem, although there are hedges around the edge that a hardy camper may huddle beside. Hook ups are all located in a small field next to the facilities (still with good views) but to me it felt very crowded there, despite this there was a convivial atmosphere among the campers in this area. 

The further you venture from the well appointed washroom facilites into the wilds of this slice of Pembrokeshire the more space you will find. Although the site generally slopes downwards there are many conveniently flatish areas to pitch. This is essentially a field; do not expect perfectly flat pitches or manicured grass, but do expect space to play and breathe and a beautiful carpet of clover.

IMG_7406 IMG_7402 IMG_7392 Along with the views, the space and the campfires the other factor that influenced me to choose this site was the nearby (10 min walk) small, rocky but very picturesque cove.  In the early evening sunlight it was pure tranquility enhanced by the seal that kept popping up to peer, as if to see if the humans had finished interloping into it’s private spot. 

IMG_7354 IMG_7359 IMG_7360 The cove is on the coast path and I would suggest something a little sturdier than the flipflops and crocs that we wore to explore!

Nearby the tiny city of St David’s and the well known beaches of Newgale and Whitesands (along with other smaller coves etc) offer fun for surfers and families alike.  We felt that Whitesands offered more in the way of facilities (cafe, toilets, beach shop) but Newgale is huge and has more parking.

St David’s is a quaint, pretty city (small town in reality) with lots of surfer shops, cafes, a Tourist Information facility and of course it’s cathedral. It is also possible to catch a shuttle bus from St David’s to the beaches, thus avoiding any parking issues. (Having read up about the area I had feared huge queues and parking shortages at Whitesands but we visited two days in a row on as sunny weekend in July and had no problems.)

In all we enjoyed the campsite, the site managers where friendly and helpful, the facilities are very good. There is no noise curfew, which could be a problem in the busier areas of the site. 

Other campfire campsites in this area include Caerfai Farm and Coastal Stay Camping.

Being appreciated.

21 Jun

I had a lovely e-mai from a reader this week which totally made my day.  I thought I would share it with you.  makes me feel so good when I know I have actually helped someone out.  Thanks Charotte!

Hi Hazel,
My name is Charlotte  and I’ve loved reading your blog for a while now. I have quite a few blogs I follow but until now I’ve never felt the urge to email anyone. That is until the near disaster of my camping trip last week. I wanted to send you a quick thank you, as unbeknownst to you, you totally saved our holiday! 
My husband and I set off on a five day trip to Wales last Tuesday. We’ve never been camping in Wales before, but we decided to tie it onto the back of a work meeting and head over to a campsite just south of the Brecon Beacons. After a bit of research online we picked a wild camping site…carry your kit to the pitch and you get total seclusion. Sounds idillic, but in reality the trek to our chosen pitch was totally underestimated by me and caused some tense words from the hubby! Not to mention that it was raining cats and dogs and the ground was completely saturated. Unfortunatley the site did not mention any of this to us and we were pretty much left to our own devices. I think, given the dramas of getting everything to the pitch and the torrential rain, we weren’t really in our right minds. We should have given in and moved on right then but, for some reason, we persevered and set up for the night. More rain battered down and I spent a sleepless night worrying about the muddy paw prints on my pristine canvas tent and the bog which was developing under the groundsheet. 
I’m making it sounds way more dramatic than it actually was but I guess, when you’re stuck in it, it does seem rather dramatic! 
Anyway, we woke up to this (sorry poor image quality)
Needless to say, I managed to convince the poor hubby to lug all of our stuff back up to the car and we left pretty quickly. We had no signal or battery on the phone so we headed off West and found a pub to use as our “new campsite search” base. This is when your blog comes in – I reassured the hubby that I knew of this great camping blog and I am pretty sure all the sites recommended are guaranteed to be of a certain standard. We refuelled on a lovely pub lunch and phoned a couple of the Pembrokeshire sites you’ve recommended and ended up confirming with Ty Parke. 
This is when everything changed…what a transformation to our holiday! 
Ty Parke is absolutely fantastic. If you haven’t been there already you should definitely go. Gary and Annie, the owners of the farm, were such gracious hosts and they made sure our stay was as comfortable as possible (even finding some washing power for me to wash the mud off ALL my clothes!). 
The rest of the week was quite simply the best camping experience we’ve ever had and it was with heavy hearts that we made the 4 hour trip back home yesterday. Despite the long journey, we will definitely be going back to lovely Pembrokeshire and Ty Parke. 
So I really just wanted to say thank you for helping save us from a nightmare trip!!
Best Wishes,

Campsite Review: Longthorns Farm, Wareham, Dorset.

1 Jun

Where: Longthorns Farm, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 6HH.

How much: Varies by size of tent, we paid £16 per night for campervan with awning + £2.50 per child.

Fires: In braziers for hire, £20 for stay including a bags of logs.

Firewood: See above, also available to buy separately from honesty shop.

Types of Camping: Mixed. Caravans mostly in a separate field with EHU.  Also very lovely tipi area and several shepherd’s huts.

Facilities: Temporary toilet block, separate small block for showers, honesty shop and honesty fridge(!). Freezers available for freezing ice blocks.

The review:  This site has a lot going for it.  A variety of camping fields interspersed with fields of alpacas, horses and sheep, A small but pretty woodland with a pretty stream running through it, also featuring a couple of bridges that any troll worth his salt would be proud of. Adding further interest you will see a number of picturesque shepherds huts (available for hire) and a lovely tipi area. Perhaps the most exciting element is the adjacent glider airfield.  Sit back and watch the gliders soar overhead and steady your nerves as they swoop overhead to land in the airfield.  If you prefer your excitement closer to the ground have mooch around near the animal fields as the horses prance and the alpacas munch until feeding time.

Longthorns Campsite

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We enjoyed all these things but possibly had the most fun charging around after a football in the space around our camp.  Lovely!

I love this area of the UK, Wareham itself is a pretty market town of a decent enough size to find most things you may need, but even more picturesque is nearby Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. We went on a sunny, spring day. As the campsite is so close we were able to arrive before the crowds; I was unexpectedly blown away by Lulworth Cove.  It is so perfect in shape, plus the dazzling whiteness of the chalk that lines and surrounds it, it felt almost unreal.

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Also not far away is Studland Beach, lovely for a swim with nature reserves to one end and views towards Brownsea Island. The traditional seaside town of  Swanage can be busy but has lots of different eating establishments and lovely views over the sea.

The final feature I will mention is the campsite’s next door neighbour.  Monkey World. As a friend of mine said ‘like a zoo but with the boring bits taken out’.  Of course ‘Monkey World’ is actually a sanctuary for monkeys, apes and prosimians so none of the less savoury zoo connotations.    But, it is true the monkeys are the most interesting, the crazy show off gibbons are just fantastic. (In fact I could even be a sold a ticket to ‘Gibbon World’ I reckon! )I’m not usually a fan of this sort of family entertainment, I prefer to make it myself and get it for free but the kids were so convinced we would say ‘no’,  I couldn’t resist just driving in without telling them and watching their faces. Classic.

So back to the campsite.  The staff were friendly and the site had a good relaxed vibe.  The little woodland was an unexpected bonus, it is quite possible to spend a few hours on site just wandering around and exploring.  On the downside there is a road that runs to one side, although it is not very busy,  you can clearly hear cars as the zoom by even though you are a fair distance away.  Not a major issue but if roads are a no, no for you then it’s worth knowing.  The other negative aspect of this site is the showers.  Truly terrible I’m afraid, no space, no flow, no privacy.  Oh dear. But don’t be downcast they are building a new shower block which will doubtless be marvellous (with lots of hooks?).  Possibly to be finished this year (2014) but not guaranteed.

Air Bed or SIM?

11 Apr


Let’s face it a good night’s sleep is the single most important element of a successful camping trip.  With a full night’s comfy sleep under your belt you can cope with anything the day throws at you.

To achieve this you will require warmth, a pillow to suit your requirements, and of course a comfortable surface to lay your weary bones upon.  So how do you choose?  Air bed or SIM?

Air bed

Sounds good doesn’t it.  A bed of air. Lovely.  Sea sickness mat with deflating tendency – less good.  I’ve given it away haven’t I?  I was going to try to be balanced and critical but I hate air beds.

Firstly, they take ages to inflate.  Yes, I know you can get electric pumps but they make a hideous noise and are so easily forgotten.

Next, I’m a bit hazy on the physics because I thought air was insulating, but air beds are cold.  Brrrr.  I’m told putting a picnic blanket underneath helps with this but I can’t comment on the effectiveness as I’ve never tried.

Wobblyness – if you’ve ever slept on an air bed this needs no more explaining.  Wibbly, wobbly, bleugh.

Finally, they deflate.  It beats me why with all the wonders of modern technology this particular issue hasn’t been solved but I have never, ever slept on an air bed that didn’t deflate during the night. Some a little, some a lot.

To sum up I had the most uncomfortable camping sleep of my entire life sleeping on an air bed.  I was freezing cold and ended up literally on the floor.  The next day we went and bought a couple of SIMS and life was changed.


Self Inflating Mat.  Yep, self inflating.  Unplug the stopper, roll it out and it actually sucks air into itself.  I know amazing isn’t it.  And you wind up with not just air, but a nice foam mat too.  These things come in a hundred different varieties and you get what you pay for.  Check out an outdoors company like Cotswold Outdoor
for a look at a good range. Needless to say the thicker your mat the more comfy it will be but also the bulkier it will be. If you sleep on your back you may get away with a thinner mat but if you sleep on your side get a thicker one.

The cons. It is possible to slide off your mat in your sleep, some mats have less slidy material than others.  Also they are relatively expensive, depending on which one you choose.  However, if you go the air bed route you are likely to end up buying several as they puncture or you go on a never-ending search for one that doesn’t deflate.

So there it is my completely unbiased look at your family camping sleeping options.  The BBC would be proud.

Basically, get a SIM (cheap ones for the kids and plush ones for yourselves).

NB. This is a sponsored post, but I would have written it anyway….

When you can’t camp…

17 Mar Brean Down

Wow! It has been pretty glorious the last couple of weekends hasn’t it?  The camping itch has been getting hard to ignore. But lets face it is only March, and though we’ve had some warm days, nights are still pretty chilly. Although we love camping we aren’t all that hardcore.  The campervan does not have heating and even if it did, I don’t generally like sitting around in it in the evenings.  So whilst we have been very tempted we haven’t quite committed to the start of the camping season yet.  So, in order to calm the itch a little we have been taking the Bongo out on the weekend for one day adventures.

Last week we visited Brean Down.  Brean is on the Somerset Coast just along from Weston Supermare.  The sandy beach is (apparently) the second longest stretch of sand in Europe!  The reason it is not so well known a one might expect is that it has an absolutely massive tidal range; when the tide it exposes large mud flats which make it impossible to safely get near the water. However, it was still pretty stunning and the children were happy to splash around in rock pool and make things in the sand. It is also possible to park on the beach and many a Somerset child has had their first experience steering a car sitting on their Dad’s lap on the beach at Brean.

However, my favourite thing about this beach is the long peninsula of land that juts far out into the channel.  On top is that thick, springy, mossy grass you always get in high up, exposed places.  Wind swept trees, gorse and rabbit holes.  The views to each side and across to Wales on a clear day are spectacular.   Once I’d persuaded them to climb the steps to the top, my children could hardly contain their exhilaration: laughter, hand stands and rolling down hills.

We could of course have done this in the car and not taken the campervan but somehow being in the campervan puts us all in a different frame of mind.  All the associations of holidays and explorations take hold and we all relax.

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Campsite Review – Penrose Campsite, Porthleven, The Lizard, Cornwall.

3 Feb

Where:  Penrose Campsite, Porthleven, West Cornwall.

How much: £5 per adult/ £2.50 per child NB: Open July and August only!

Campfires: Yes, please use previuosly burnt fire circles. There are plenty.

Fire Wood:  Reconstituted fire logs sold on site.  Personally prefer to get some real wood, but a perfectly acceptable alternative and probably more environmentally friendly.

Facilities:  Toilets, showers and washing up sinks all in block in first field.  Well maintained but basic.

ImageI choose this campsite as part of my never ending endeavour to find campfire camspites within walking distance of a beach.  It is true that you can walk to Porthleven beach from Penrose, but it is a bit of a walk and the way back is extremely steep.  However, the campsites does offer lots of space in three large fields. One of which also provides fabulous views over the sea.  As always we were seduced by the views and paid the price in terms of windiness and a fair trek to the toilets.  We would probably do the same again though!

Please note Porthleven is a good surfing beach, but can be a bit rough for a young family and the beach towards Loe Bar is treacherous, swimming is not recommended here.  However, Praa Sands, a lovely family friendly beach, is nearby. Also check out Dollar Cove and, my favourite, Kynance Cove.

Porthleven is a really beautiful harbour village with some lovely shops (including as small supermarket and a post office) and a good selection of restaurants, pubs and cafes. I can especially recommend Kota Kai with spectacular views over the harbour, a great children’s play room and a very lovely Thai inspired menu.

The campsite also lies right next to the Penrose Estate, a National Trust parkland including access to the large lake Looe Pool.  Well worth an explore, especially if things are a bit windy on the coastal side. Access is free, there is also a NT house with, of course, a cafe!

Penrose Estate

Penrose Estate, Loe Pool in the distance.

The facilites are basic but kept clean and both the shower and toilet cubicles have lots of space.  The showers have plentiful hot water and there is a good number of them. There is also a seperate shower area for cleaning wetsuits.

Penrose Campsite

One of  the shower/toilet blocks.

Each evening the friendly owner comes around to collect payment, apart from this there is no management around.  The site had a lovely genuine feel, offering all that a basic camper could require plus lots of space and beautiful views over the sea.  All this plus the very reasonable price make it a spot very well worth visiting. Even large family groups can happily settle into their own corner of a field without seriouly impacting the peaceful feel of the site. However, do be aware of the possibility of strong winds and do check in advance that she has space as she takes care not to overcrowd.

Penrose Campsite

Ahhh! Lovely!

Five things I wish someone would invent for campers.

1 Feb


1. A way to go for a wee in the middle of the night without unzipping the sleeping bag.

2. A tent that is properly blacked out without causing overheating.

3. A way of stopping the campfire smoke from following you even when you move to the spot that has been smoke free all evening.

4. An invisible boundary that prevents other campers from pitching too close to you.

5. A genuinely comfortable, affordable bed.

Almost every camping trip is accompanied by discussions about how we would make our camping life a little bit easier. The going to the toilet in the night thing is always number one for me. At home I easily sleep the night without needing a to visit the toilet. However, in a tent , my bladder’s capacity apparently shrinks to the size of an egg cup. Tell me it isn’t just me?

I fear this problem is pretty much unsolvable without resorting to an adult size nappy which is definitely a step too far. But I reckon some of the others are possible.  Are you listening clever, designer types?

How about you? What is your camping bug bear?


4 Jan

The days are lengthening , or so it is rumoured, hard to tell amidst the mid-winter storms. We are on the way towards a new season of camping adventures.  Visitor numbers to my blog always leap on New Year’s Day as thoughts turn towards holidays.  I am no exception. Planning for the season’s camping is a many layered thing.

First comes the yearning. Daydreams and remembering of those isolated moments of perfect tranquility in some beautiful corner of British countryside. Sparkling, tumbling, susurrating streams. Black skies wheeling with stars. The hot glow of the fire.  The absorbed play of the children knee deep in nature.

Next the wide world of possibilities. So many places still to visit, so many to return to.  Woods to discover, beaches to roam, streams to paddle and dam.

So we come to some definite areas of interest. Wales is practically on our doorstep yet somehow we didn’t even cross the border last year. Something to be rectified this year. I plan to make our way to Pembrokeshire. I have found the good campsites are often booked up in Pembrokeshire so I may have to forsake my usual method of waiting for a weekend of good weather and book ahead instead. On my list for Pembrokeshire are Celtic Camping , Spring Meadow Farm Campsite, Trellyn Woodland Camping, Ty Parke Farm Campsite. By no means an exhaustive list but enough to be going on with. Each allowing campfires and their own special slice of glorious welsh countryside.

The Lake District is also high on my list of places to visit. We used to live in York and were able to nip with relative ease over to the Lake District for a delicious weekend camping amongst soul stirring scenery. Since moving south and having the children we have not returned. Surely this will be the year. I have had some difficulty in locating the kind of campsites I like: campfires, space and allowing camper vans. Fisherground Campsite, Grizedale Camping Site (No camper vans but I love Grizedale) Gill Head Farm are contenders. There are lots of other great spots but few allowing campfires. An interesting alternative is the Private Camping Company who have agreements with landowners to let exclusive groups of campers camp in certain spots. At least one with direct access to lake shores. They provide pop up camping facilities and campfires for your group. Rather fabulous.

Exmoor is a firm favourite. The wonderful sheltered, wood fringed beaches of Lee Bay and Woody Bay plus the verdant valleys and rushing rivers to be found all around in stunning contrast to the the wide, wild spaces of the moors. (See it made me come over all alliterative.) Caffyns Farm, Doone Valley and Cloud Farm (not at busy times!), Westermill Farm or Pool Bridge – so many great Exmoor campsites to choose from. However, we may have to forsake Exmoor in favour of the unexplored lands of Dartmoor less campsites but Runnage Farm looks great and Westford Farm ticks many of my boxes too.

Finally, the local campsites that I love to visit including the huge, peaceful, nature rich lands of Thistledown Farm, Gloucestershire. One of the few places I return to every year. Wookey Farm a recent discovery, certainly worth a revisit. Perhaps Rocks East Woodland only 15 minutes from my home and not visited for several years.

As you will see I will either have an extremely full camping season or perhaps have to enter the final stage of planning. The whittling down. The hardest bit.

‘Winterising’ your Bongo

10 Nov

I was talking to a lovely American lady the other day about preparing her garden for winter. She called this ‘winterising’, with a lovely midwest drawl .  Although I’d never heard the word before I immediately grasped it’s meaning and I’m guessing you will too.

Apologies to any language purists out there but I do fully believe in the richness of our changing, alive language and so I am embracing the term ‘Winterising’.  Try it out loud – with the drawl.


Winterising your Bongo

1. Damp is not your friend.

Mould in the AFT (Auto Free Top) is a common issue in Bongos. So what can you do about it?

  • At the end of the season (and during the season if you can) give the inside of the AFT a thorough clean.  Try using clove oil (which has antifungal properties) as alternative to hard core antifungal cleaners. After all people will be sleeping up there.
  • Or you can make your own, I suggest using cat litter in tights like this. Use a claybased, non scented cat litter. Which ever you do make sure you place a few bags around in the roof.
  • Think about air circulation.  We remove the roof panels to let air circulate during the winter and if there is a delightful, fresh dry autumn day and you have the chance put the roof up that would be great too.

2. Salt is your most fiendish enemy.

As I have mentioned before Bongos are made for the Japanese market, they were not built for European road conditions.  The Japanese do not use salt on their roads which makes Bongo’s very vulnerable to the damage from salt used on British roads in winter.

  • It is really, really, really important to make sure your Bongo has been undersealed and waxolyed. This should ideally be done by a garage but the determined tinkerer could do it themselves.  Just make sure a thorough job is done, especially in trouble prone areas like wheel arches.
  • The underseal will protect your van from the vagaries of the british weather and the corrosive horror of salt.  Bongo’s have a bit if a reputation for suffering from rust.  The problem usually arises because owners have not applied and maintained their underseal.
  • Even with this protection we avoid using the Bongo in the depths of winter as much as possible.   If this isn’t an option for you I would try to give the underside a good hose down if you have a period of heavy road salting.Better safe than sorry.

3. Store your gear

  • If you usually store all your camping gear in the van then now is a good time to empty it out. Check through your gear. Clean, mend and store it away somewhere dry and away from mice.
  • Give the van a really good clean inside all ready for next season’s camping. Lovely.

Now things are all ready for next season better start researching your trips for next year.  Have a look at this useful map for some more inspiration!


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