This summer we thought we would try out camping with the kids as an experiment. None of us were really sure whether we would have the time of our lives or whether we would end up strangling each other. The truth was somewhere in between, more towards the ‘time of our life’ end I think. We hired a tent from Rocket Camping, situated near Helston in Cornwall. The campsite is on a disused herb farm and the tents are each placed in one of the old herb bays which gave real privacy from the other four tents that were there. We basically had a field to ourselves.
The stay was billed on the website as ‘boutique camping’ but really it was anything but. I was expecting something akin to a Feather Down Farm experience – real furniture and chandeliers (!) – but the truth was we had lumpy mattresses on the floor, no furniture, scant supplies of cutlery, cooking equipment and crockery, no means of making coffee, no sharp knives, and unattractive floral duvet covers.
It wasn’t exactly stylish but actually, we got used to it. And because the tent wasn’t particularly comfortable or stylish inside, we basically lived outside which is the whole point of camping really. We were extremely fortunate with the weather – we had one evening where we had to run for cover from a rain shower that arrived with no warning but other than that it was sunny and just a bit chilly in the evenings.
We had no electricity other than one solar powered light and cooking was by way of a barbecue and a temperamental log burner which I didn’t even attempt to go near. We did have an emergency gas ring for boiling water and cooking pasta but other than that Richard cooked all our meals on the burner and we had delicious food all week. He did an marvellous job. We didn’t eat the chicken.
One of the really fun things about the farm was that we had our own chickens which meant we had fresh eggs all week and the slovenly side of me rather enjoyed scraping my plates onto the ground knowing the chickens would hoover all the scraps up. We also had our own salad cart and we foraged blackberries from the bushes for our breakfast cereal.
Ablutions were by way of a surprisingly hot solar shower and a compost toilet which was a million times nicer to use and more environmentally friendly than a chemical toilet.
We played a lot of football and read a lot of books.We ate out in some great country pubs on alternate nights to break up hassle of camp cooking but actually by mid week we were finding that we were missing our new home. After dinner in the evenings we’d sit around the camp fire and tell silly stories and play made up games. It was great fun and we had a real giggle and the entertainment was gloriously free of electronic noise, televisions and computers.
I read recently that camping for a week re-sets our circadian clocks to a natural rhythm and this was certainly true for us. After a couple of days we were all rising at around 6.30am and going to bed around 9.30pm when it was dark. Although with the utterly incredible full moon that week it didn’t really get dark at all and it‘s the first time I think I’ve ever seen my moon shadow.
In some ways life on the farm was about Arthur. You might notice that there aren’t many photos of Evan – he was more inclined to sit in the tent and grumble about not being able to charge his iPod and ask repeatedly whether he was allowed to go to bed at 7pm (that never happens at home). I’m not sure how much he enjoyed the whole camping experience – he talked a lot about how he loved the village of Helford and that we should investigate renting a cottage there next year. But Arthur, well I think he loved it.
He was charged with looking after the chickens. Those chickens LOVED him. He fed them and watered them, he talked to them and played with them. He even got up first thing in the morning to tend to them as we were generally awoken by threatening chicken shadows pacing the perimeter of the tent asking for their breakfast.
He also had his first real taste of independence. As a kid growing up in central London it’s hard to give him the kind of independence that Richard and I both had in our 1970s rural upbringings. We allocated him the task of twice a day trekking across two fields to the farm house to change the freezer blocks for the cool box. It was so nice to see him trotting off on his own and I think he really enjoyed the time alone.
I loved more or less living outside for a week, I loved all the fresh air and the quiet, and I loved experiencing the sun going down every night and seeing the moon. I think would definitely go camping again, perhaps to Evan’s dismay, but I think perhaps next time we’ll have a bit less of an authentic childhood camping experience and so Feather Down Farms or similar, here we come.