Get back to nature and camp this summer
Under cover of darkness
Over the last few years camping has become such a glamptastic experience that if your yurt does not come with duck down duvets, matching Emma Bridgewater crockery, Cath Kidson furnishings and free WiFi, then you have every right to jump in your immaculate 4×4 and head to the nearest boutique hotel! A little harsh I admit, but when I found myself frantically packing the car for a weekend camping trip recently, I did wonder if we really needed the cafetière and if both red, and white wine glasses where entirely necessary, and why the kids needed their phones, tablets and a laptop. Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if we just grabbed our sleeping bags, a disposable BBQ and headed for the open hills – or at least the garden?
Camping in the garden as a child always felt like such a treat; a spontaneous decision that turned a perfectly normal night in to a magical family adventure. It didn’t seem to matter that you were only just outside your back door, you were still sleeping outside and once the sun had faded and the darkness settled all around, you could imagine you were anywhere. Wriggled into your sleeping bag with your socks still on and your pillow already feeling a little damp it was never long before you heard the hoot of a lonesome tawny owl or the rustle of something closer that almost sent you scuttling back inside.
It is an experience that the RSPB are keen for us all to try again as for some years they have organised the ‘Big Wild Sleepout’, which encourages everyone to uncover the nocturnal goings-on of their own back garden. It is taking place over the weekend of the 29th-31st July and you can register online for some great ideas on how to get the kids to connect with nature, such as torch lit mini-beast safaris and basic bush craft skills. The website also gives details of planned events at some of their reserves, including Lakenheath Fen and Havergate Island in Suffolk, where you are invited to camp out in slightly wilder surroundings.
We do try to camp most summers and together with a group of friends will take over a corner of the farm. And yes we will pack the kitchen sink and yes there is lots of muttering as the tents go up and the airbeds won’t inflate as we have lost the bungs – again – or we realise we have forgotten the corkscrew, but to see the kids wandering off through the meadows and sat around the smouldering fire in the morning, still wrapped in their duvets, is priceless.
A few years ago a rare balmy summer’s evening did catch us completely off guard. One minute we were merrily grilling steak on the BBQ, the next thing we knew we were lying out on the trampoline with the kids for an impromptu night under the stars. With just our sleeping bags, a few blankets and a couple of dogs to keep us warm we watched as the stars slowly circled overhead, and after working out that the best way to sleep on a trampoline is with all our feet pointing to the centre, drifted off into a gentle bouncy sleep. It was fantastic; silly and spontaneous and thankfully there wasn’t a cafetière in sight!