Get Kids Camping

22 May

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A while ago I wrote this post ‘10 Reasons why you should take your kids camping‘. It went down pretty well actually.  People seemed to like it.  Today I was contacted about a new campaign from the Camping and Caravanning Club ‘Get Kids Camping’  (they pretended not to have read my post but I reckon I was the inspiration….)

Anyway, despite their refusal to name me as their inspiration, I am very happy to publicise the fact that (social) science has now backed up my assertions.  Clever people from Plymouth University have confirmed that camping is not only great but also great for kid’s education.

Here’s what they say:

‘Children who camp in the great outdoors at least once a year go on to do better at school, as well as being healthier and happier, according to their parents.’

Hurrah!

Still not convinced? Fortunately, the Camping and Caravanning Club have a plan to help convince you.

They are running a series of pop up campsite roadshows around the UK.  There will be opportunities to put up a tent, take a look inside state-of-the-art caravans and motorhomes, enjoy cooking demos, and have a go on cycling, rowing or cross-trainer equipment to simulate the activities campers enjoy while on holiday. And all visitors to the roadshow venues will take away a fun camping goodie bag, yup, you heard me right, a goody bag. I want one,

Here’s the when and where:

Chester Zoo, Monday 25 May;

Fargate in Sheffield, Wednesday 27 May;

Centenary Square, Birmingham, Friday 29 May;

West Quay Shopping Centre, Southampton, Sunday 31 May.

Find out more from the Camping and Caravanning Club 

Chances are if you are reading this blog you are already fairly convinced about the benefits of camping but maybe you have some friends that need convincing? Send them along to one of these (ask them to bring you back a goody bag) and hopefully you can cultivate some new camping pals and while they sit back and watch their kids blossom.  Nice.

Great views.

Campsite Review: Cwellyn Arms, Rhyd Ddu, Snowdonia.

21 May

Where:  Cwellyn Arms, Rhyd Ddu, Near Beddgelert, Snowdonia, LL54 6TL

Contact: 01766 890321

How much:  £10 per adult, £5 child (under 12)

Fires: Yes in off the ground fire pits available on site.  £10 hire per day if you DON’t buy their wood.

Wood:  For sale in the pub.  Buy wood to avoid hire charge.

Facilities: Very impressive new shower and toilet blocks. Well designed and with underfloor heating. Luxury!  Also laundry room.

Dogs permitted: £2 per night

The review:  I don’t usually review a campsite I haven’t actually stayed at but having spent two nights in the adjoining farmhouse during our Snowdon Charity Challenge, I could not resist nosing around and what I found was definitely worth reviewing.

Despite rather windy and overcast conditions  the site was still absolutely beautiful. It sits at the foot of Snowdon overlooking Cwellyn Lake.  One field has a fast flowing river running alongside, whilst the other camping area sits right next to the lake.  The magnificent peaks of Snowdonia proved a stunning backdrop.

There are very sturdy fire pits dotted around, along with picnic benches. The facilities are top notch, really important where many of the campers are off walking in the mountains and need hot, powerful showers at then end of the day.

The site is vehicle free, trolleys are provided to move your equipment and a long wooden walkway provides an easy but attractive path to access the further reaches of the site closest to the shore line.  Sadly, this means there is no room for camper vans.

The website is very clear that the site is music free and that is always a good indicator to me. This is a place to enjoy the scenery and access all the outdoor pursuits available in the area.

IMG_8579 Cwellyn Arms

Cwellyn Arms Campsite

Cwellyn Arms

IMG_8584 IMG_8585 Cwellyn Arms Campsite

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If you are planning on ascending Snowdon the start of the Snowdon Ranger Path lies nearby. I would recommend this path, it is much quieter on this side of the mountain, still offers great views and our 7 and 9 year old managed it well.

Snowdonia is glorious and this campsite is a fabulous base to explore it from. I imagine it is even better in the sunshine!

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,
Charlotte
 

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

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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.

SIM

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

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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?

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