Let’s go camping!

August 31, 2015

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

The last time I camped in this country I was an innocent 13 year old on my school leavers trip and I hated every second! The sun turned to rain as soon as we started our hike to the campsite and excitement turned to dread. The rain didn’t stop. I loathed the damp sleeping bags and clothes, lack of space and the frugal facilities. I vowed I’d never camp in the UK again. So goodness knows what I was thinking when I announced to my boys that we were about to invest in a tent and go camping in Wales.  It’s amazing what motherhood does to the brain.

However, there were 3 fairly significant stumbling points between me and my dreamed up perfect family bonding camping trip:
1 – we needed to buy a tent.
2 – which campsites? I’m a 5 star hotel type of gal, so didn’t have the foggiest where to start!
3 – catering equipment. Surviving off fast food was not an option. I was thinking organic foods, BBQ’s on the beach and marshmallows on a bonfire. Picture postcard stuff!

Wow, this little adventure was looking more daunting by the second. The internet became my best friend for 48 hours whilst I searched for a tent and to find any decent campsites that still had room! Within that limited timeframe I bought a beautiful 5m bell tent, booked a highly recommended campsite and ensured we had everything we needed to survive the big outdoors. Thanks to Amazon Prime, everything arrived promptly and all my girlie glamping needs were met.

Let's go camping!And so we were off. Our 4×4 suddenly felt as big as a mini, with the boot packed to the roof and even the floor space below the boys feet consumed by camping paraphernalia! I’d always snubbed the idea of a roof box – so unnecessary, surely?!? But quickly my narrow mindedness was altering. I think I may have even uttered (in my head of course) that we might need to look into getting one. Crammed in with shoe horns, we set off on our family adventure… in the rain of course. By the time we reached the Severn Bridge my hopes for good weather started to wane, but our luck was in. We arrived at the campsite Nicholaston Farm, tucked away on the Gower coastline, in bright sunshine. Things were looking up. I am very pleased to say we put our tent up with ease, without argument and in only 10 minutes. My solar powered fairy lights completed the look, much to the amusement of my other half (OH). It’s all in the details right? The next mission was to check out the facilities….I can’t tell you how much I dreaded this part. They were a make or break for me. I’m still haunted by the memory of my childhood experience. Concrete floors, cold, wet covered in slime and mould. Loos that stank of sewage. No hot water. It was hell. I braced myself for the worst.

The loos next to reception were decent, first impressions were good but I couldn’t quite face the showers yet, so I sent the boys off with my OH first. I thought I could then manage my expectations from their experience. ‘Mum, they’re good’ declared my eldest (ES) and ‘The showers are really nice and hot’ was my youngest son’s (YS) feedback. Huh, what would they know? I was determined that I was going to loathe them. I reluctantly packed up my toiletries with survival aids, such as flip flops to wear in the shower, and headed for the shower block. I laughed at myself on entering the building, all my fears washed away (excuse the pun!). I was left eating my words. I loved them! Yes, thats right, I loved our Welsh campsite’s showers! Each one is a huge wet room, large enough to fit a family if required, with beautiful big contemporary tiled walls and flooring. The showers themselves were hot and powerful but best of all….the floors were heated! Underfloor heating! What’s not to love? They were manned throughout the day, with the showers cleaned after each use. And, to add to all this camping luxury, the staff were friendly and polite.

Let's go camping!Let's go camping!With my facilities anxieties over, we settled into camping life with ease, loving the proximity of the beach and the views. The boys had room to roam, the freedom to be independent and made lots of friends. Our days started late and slowly, the antithesis of our usual lives, eventually meandering down to Oxwich Bay for the boys to body board. OH and I just enjoyed each others company, and I finally got round to reading the fabulous Girl on the Train. In the evenings our new Bon Fire BBQ added that little bit of romance to our trip. The kids and I ate toasted marshmallow brownie sandwiches every night, our little bit of naughtiness whilst star gazing. OH and I learnt to relax and embrace camping life. Everything was going beautifully…until our last night.

It had just gone 4am and I woke to the sound of the tent being unzipped. I saw my ES tiptoe out of the tent for a wee. That had become pretty normal. When I looked across to check on my YS he wasn’t in his sleeping bag. I immediately surmised that he’d gone out before his big bro for a quick watering of the hedge behind our tent…I relaxed and awaited their return. Only that my YS didn’t tiptoe back in behind his brother. When I questioned my ES he said he’d gone out alone and hadn’t seen our YS. My heart raced. I felt sick to my core. I violently shook my OH awake and told him that our YS was missing. OH was brilliant, he jumped out of bed and dashed off to check the facilities block just in case the hedge didn’t meet our YS’s loo needs. I did a quick check around the tent and the neighbouring ones but with no luck. OH returned, panting and fraught, he hadn’t found YS either. He asked me to check the sleeping bag again, which I did, I unzipped the top of the bag….empty. I was now near hysterical….OH pushed past me and picked up the bottom of the sleeping bag…it was weighed down. We unzipped the whole sleeping bag to reveal our YS fast asleep in a foetal position at the foot of the bag. I almost cried from relief. I learnt a valuable lesson: kids slip down sleeping bags!

That little incident hasn’t put us off camping again. In fact I thought I coped rather well with camping life. I left my pampered princess behind (for a few days) and embraced all that is camping life. I even peed behind a bush at 2am when I couldn’t be bothered to walk to the loos! I’m glad we did it. The boys loved the freedom, they grew up and we even learnt things about our boys that weren’t so apparent ‘at home’. So, with a great experience behind us, I’ve planned a trip to Devon and next year we might even take ourselves abroad for guaranteed sun!

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