The Lock family's account of their first proper camping holidays, the ups and the downs.
Carry On Camping with Kids.
This was our first proper camping expedition with all 4 of our kids. We'd been 'glamping' with them all, but not, full on, car, top-box, trailer packed so tightly there were no air pockets left, camping. The children had to be shoe horned in amongst the cool boxes, clothes, duvets and pillows, it made for good sound proofing, but it was a bit of a struggle when they needed to get out halfway up the motorway for a wee.
When we arrived at 'Low Wray' campsite on the edge of Windermere, it was pouring with rain. We left the children in the car and proceeded to erect our most enormous tent. As I stood in my waterproof paraphenalia, the 'gortex' proved ineffectual from the water running down my sleeves, mixed with the tears running down my neck as I stood, arms aloft, holding up the enormous tent poles.
Once the 8 man dwelling was up and the pool of water, which had since collected, mopped up, we carried the children one by one into our temporary residence. They loved it, they ran around like idiots, then zipped themselves inside their sleeping pod, while we, still dripping, unpacked virtually our entire belongings from our house into our new marquee.
A great idea, which my Mum, Sue told me to do was take a couple of frozen boxes of pre-prepared bolognese in your cool box. These defrost enroute, keeping your perishables fresh for a day or so, and then you have a hearty meal almost done when you arrive, all you have to do is cook some pasta or rice. Jobs a goodun.
Our first night's sleep was a bit broken as all the children were sleeping together on a double air bed, so there was a bit of restlessness and fighting for duvet covereage. The fact that I'd drunk nearly a whole bottle of red wine in order to aid my sleep didn't help when trying to extricate the youngest to put her in bed with me. My motor skills were slightly dumbed down from alcohol consumption, so I mistakenly stood on no.2's head, thankfully he'd forgotten come morning and it was time to fight over who was having the coco pops out of the Kellogg's variety pack. A full English breakfast washed down with a strong coffee made in an Italian coffee maker (I know!) and a shower in the well equipped, clean washroom and all was well with me.
The weather wasn't brilliant on our first full day so we headed to Hawkshead to our favourite cafe, 'Poppy Red' to eat homemade cake, oh and to buy me some new wellies as I'd discovered the day before that they had perished and a crack had appeared. My old adage, "Buy cheap, buy twice", sprung to mind, but I will draw the line at paying nearly £100 on a pair of rubber boots.
Hour by hour, the weather improved, as did our mood. We all got into the swing of it, the campsite was beautiful, set right on the edge of Windermere. You could pitch your tent either right near the water or further back in a pasture. There were lots of children for ours to run feral with, an enclosed play area, great walks to go on, and a jetty from where you could launch your boat. We bought an inflatable kayak about a year ago and this proved invaluable, taking it in turns to take the children out on a peaceful paddle round the lake, taking in all the birdlife and stunning scenery that, in my opinion cannot be beaten.
A campsite is a view into the lives of others, a social experiment, a melting pot of the middle classes. Our kids, instigated by the youngest one were walking backwards into the tent walls, enough to build the right amount of tension, before running forward, thus propelling them into the middle of their bedroom, they were laughing like drains. But my husband wasn't. After the 8th occasion, I lost my temper and shouted, "If you dare to do that one more time, I will put you in the car, drive you home and leave you to fend for yourself, while we all stay here and have a nice time without you. And we'll eat all the marshmallows." You forget that your haven from the elements isn't sound proofed until you hear from the father in the tent next door, pretty much word for word what I had just said, except their child would at least have the dog for company.
The other things that tickled me were the man and his, I guess,11 year old son, who, if wasn't reading was practising the ukale. If I hear Frere Jacques played off key, or otherwise, one more time. Another family's kids gave mine a hard time about the fact that they were allowed to drink coke and eat things with sugar in. One of mine had been eating a bowl of dry Cheerios as a snack, I poked my head out of the tent to check on the children only to see one of the aforementioned children polishing off the Cheerios that had been left, she looked at me guiltily, and just about managed to say, "Finished!" with a mouth full, she handed me the bowl and ran off.
If you enjoy getting dressed up and being glamorous then camping might not be for you. Never, if I can help it, do I wear clothing made out of fleece. Until, that is, I go camping, then everything I sport is fleece. Firstly, it doesn't show the dirt. If it does get dirty, it sponges down and dries within minutes, it's lightweight, it packs small, it's warm, it's cosy. I wear it day and night, in fact, in bed, I wore a fleece top and leggings with my jamas over, with a fleece hoody and a pair of fleece lined boots. The other great thing about wearing all of those layers of fleece is you don't have to worry about contraception.
We loved our camping trip, it took a few days to get everything ready to go and a few more the other side to unload and wash every item of fleece we had worn, but when the weather is ok, (it doesn't have to be glorious), there is nothing quite like it. The freedom, the closeness to nature, the closeness with each other, the fresh air, the social interaction with other families, the mucking in, the laughs, the food, it doesn't get better. The family that camp together, stay together. Here's hoping.