I have to admit that camping has never been a huge passion of mine. My working life has taken me all over the world, hosted in the very top hotels, and I have been very, very spoilt. My husband, on the other hand, is a confirmed Scout and, having taken vows to ‘be prepared’, seems ready to dig a toilet trench at a moment’s notice…
As a mum of boys, we have joked about taking them camping and how that might work, with them under canvas and me in the hotel down the road. But when I read that, according to a recent survey by The Caravan Club, ‘Thousands of children are missing out on the fun and excitement of exploring the great outdoors because of parents’ aversions to camping’, it made me think again.
We spend most weekends getting close to nature. Whether that’s through our annual National Trust membership, or just in our local woods or park, you’ll normally find us rolling down grassy hills, chasing through meadows, or splashing through muddy puddles. There’s usually an imaginary bear or Gruffalo hunt involved and we end the day with two very tired boys (and two even more tired parents) flopping into bed.
So, what was stopping us? The research said that more than half of parents avoid camping trips because of the unreliable British weather (56%), whilst other reasons included not having the right gear (22%) and fear of mud, dirt and wildlife (13%). None of those apply to us and, let’s face it, with two boys of three years and 9 months respectively, my days of worrying about hair straighteners and make-up are long behind me. The only mud pack that I might get these days would be one administered by the threenager. Although to give him his due, he is thorough, if a little rough…
The Caravan Club’s free Big Little Tent Festival launched last weekend and runs until 19th September 2016, encouraging families to ‘pitch a tent in their own back garden and enjoy the delights of camping; campfire cooking, outdoor games and creating memories all within reach of the comforts of home’. It sounded like the perfect way to bridge my camping shortcomings with my camping aspirations, all from the safety of our own back garden. No fear of running out of nappies, food or worrying about keeping the baby’s things sterile. It also meant that our potty training toddler could stay within very easy reach of the facilities – no toilet trench required! (Sorry, dear!)
So, we pitched our camp at 7am this morning and breakfasted outside before playing dinosaurs in the sand table, eye spy, and a seemingly endless game of hide and seek. Little brother dozed off halfway through the morning and came to just in time for lunch, cooked on the barbecue. The afternoon got hot, so we broke out the paddling pool and sprinklers, before drying off for a picnic tea, complete with teddy bears. Teeth brushed and into jimjams, we had stories under the stars (well, the sun was still up because bedtime is 7pm, but you get the gist)…
Then… we carried them both up to bed to sleep. Okay, so we didn’t stay out all night, but we did 12 hours and three meals outside, which was enormous fun! The boys are a bit too young to do the full camping experience right now, but we have got the bug, and I’ve made a promise that next year (when we are all, hopefully, sleeping through the night) we’ll do it for real.
Although, I still draw the line at a toilet trench.
Families wishing to join in the fun can download the free festival pack at caravanclub.co.uk/BLTF. The packs include wristbands, bunting to help create a festival atmosphere, recipe suggestions to be cooked over a campfire (or barbecue), festival flags and invitations for little ones to send to their friends. There are lots of prizes on offer too, from a European camping holiday to a BBQ, Keela outdoor clothing and Dometic cool bags. Just share your photos on social media, using the hashtag #BigLittleTentFest16
To follow the fun on Facebook, search Big Little Tent Festival™, Twitter: @BigLittleTent and Instagram @BigLittleTentFestival.
For further information and details on The Caravan Club’s Little Big Tent Festival™ visit: http://www.caravanclub.co.uk/BLTF