To start with, my idea of camping holidays comes in a very American flavor; with childhood memories of heavily wooded, mountainous sites in upstate New York combined with a childhood love of the Parent Trap (not the shitty remake, the proper Hayley Mills one obviously, I am old). It’s all swimming in waterfalls and keeping your coolers tight shut and far from your tent to keep the raccoons and bears away, and cooking your supper over a roaring fire using the bare minimum of modern luxuries to accomplish this. This, evidently, is not what camping is like in the UK. What seems clear is that most sites here seem to be open fields next to pubs, and to be fair, that’s what you fine upstanding English-folk expect and probably want. No open campfires here, no sir-ee; more open mike karaoke nights served with a curry.
So how does this all translate into the kid-friendliness of a Uk camp? There are definitely some elements of UK camping that make it easier – that pub toilet is mighty nice as an alternative to a cold shower block and the food is (probably) much less likely to kill you. There is a distinct lack of bears, killer spiders and raccoons, which I suppose is a bonus, although removes that bit of fun. I suppose you could still convince your kids there were bears if you’d been particularly tormented by them on the drive to whatever far-flung place you have decided to pitch your tent. Our tent pitch of choice? Pondwell in Seaview, near Ryde, on the Isle of Wight for a friend’s 40th nearby (so nearby you could hear her screeches from our tent). Weasel bought husband this tent for Father’s Day in the hopes of having fab holidays near beaches in the south of France near a nice vineyard with a pool maybe. Aaaahhh.
Here’s the tent on its first sight of sunshine, just before we took it down to come home…
The Site Itself– interestingly the 1950’s shower/toilet block didn’t bother me as much as dear husband thought it would. The hot water alone meant it impressed me, and if I left my contact lenses out, those spiders on the ceiling suddenly disappeared. There was the aforementioned pub, the Wishing Well, which gave us a nice pint and at least one spider-less loo experience per day. The live band on the Saturday night wasn’t horrendously loud, Weasel managed to sleep through them completely and they finished quite early. I, however, did not appreciate the open-doored, speakers set to 11, seemingly impromptu karaoke that happened in the wee hours of the morning. Weasel also decided to have a total meltdown at dinner at this pub. Having ordered her some pasta, she refused to sit or be anywhere near any food. The only option was for husband to take her out on the terrace, which was enjoying some tres cold English liquid sunshine, and leave me to eat facing 2 empty seats and feeling a bit odd in a pub with a live band on my own on a Saturday night. Good times.
Good points to camping with kids:
-Weasel loved the idea of sleeping ‘outside’ in a ‘tunnel’ (although she did get very excited about not having to sleep outside on her first night beck home!)
-Tents feel like palaces to kids
-Kids think it’s a treat to not have to wash their hair for 3 days
-It probably is difficult for escape artists who have mastered the knowledge of the zipper. I have no idea how you keep a kid in the tent if they really wanted out.
-Milk in the morning – a difficult choice – if you lack a cooler like us, you either have to try a picnic cool bag and buy some milk the night before, or, send your husband with the crazed child, complete with penguin pj’s with wellies, to Tesco at 6am. I enjoyed the 2nd option more, getting a precious extra 45 minutes sleep.
-With Weasel still in nappies, the loo didn’t present much of a problem for her. If you had a newly trained toddler, this could be a total nightmare.
-Neighbours – Thankfully we were pitched in a corner, far, far from anyone else. But friends sharing the tent probably weren’t best pleased with Weasel’s early waking pattern.
Verdict: We managed to survive the rain, the putting up the tent in the dark with a grumpy toddler, the disappointment of it not being a wooded campy paradise, the forgetting to bring any flashlights, the mud, the rejection of sleeping bag, the husband snoring, the karaoke at 2am, the never actually seeing the office open so never checking in (don’t worry, I’m not a thief, we did pay in advance over the phone), the 6am milk and flashlights run and anything else that got thrown at us. If we could get through all that, an actual warm camping holiday that was a little better planned for should be a piece of cake and enjoyable for your toddler and yourselves.