The school holidays are coming. A great way to entertain kids – and teach them all sorts of life skills, as well as have fun, is to camp. But what if you don’t have any equipment, or a limited budget? A trip to the Isle of Wight helped inspire this post on ways to go camping… from glamping to champing; on a trampoline or under a washing line. There are more good ideas in Homemade Kids: how to raise children in a thrifty, creative and eco-friendly way author Nicola Baird.
- The Isle of Wight can be reached in about two hours from Waterloo station, then take an Wight Link ferry at Portsmouth to Ryde (with its long sandy beach) or Fishbourne. http://www.wightlink.co.uk/iow/
- Park Resorts has 48 UK holiday parks including the Lake District, three on the Isle of Wight and also along the Essex and Norfolk coasts. www.park-resorts.com
Camping is lovely – the smell of the tent, the feel of dew-drenched early morning grassy fields and the murmured conversations in your cosy mini-world make fabulous memories. But I can’t remember when I last stayed a night in a tent. Um…not last summer. Nor the one before.
I like camping, even if I don’t always get round to it, partly because it’s exhausting having to set camp, sleep on the ground, cook all your food in an old-fashioned way and then strike camp. But I love Swallows & Amazons, and the Enid Blyton stories when they camp out, so I want to make sure my kids (now 14 and 17) don’t miss out the camping experience too often. So here are some ideas to make sure you, or the kids, or everyone gets a taste of the camping life. They range from the “it’s going to be dry tonight, let’s sleep outside” to needing to plan so you can book yourself a safari tent and have a glamping experience.
OVERNIGHT ON A TRAMPOLINE – ideal for anyone with a trampline (or a friend with a trampoline) especially for young teenagers or sensible primary school kids. If the weather report is good (and correct) then two friends (or more if you’re not worried about how much sleep they get) can easily sleep well without even a roof over their heads. Instagram and Snapchat are full of records of nights spent under the stars/street lights. And if it rains in the night, or gets too cold, it’s easy for the kids to run indoors.
CAMP IN YOUR GARDEN
– my garden is small, lacks grass and is a bit too crowded, thanks to the swing and chicken shed. But if you’ve got a washing line you can create a basic tent.
It’s an old-fashioned camping method – just sling a large sheet or blanket over a lowish washing line and then make it into a triangular structure by weighting it down with large stones (or the laundry basket and other improvisations). Little kids love to do this. You may even get them to have their after lunch sleep al fresco.
TRY A HAMMOCK – A hammock is how many South Americans spend their nights, and how many sailors used to. It’s more comfy to sleep on it if you don’t get in and put your head under the first tying point with your feet pointed towards the other tying point. Instead sit on the side in the centre point and then try to figure out how to life there. Use YouTube if it’s easier – this is good IQ training.
MAKE A DEN – set the kids the task of making a place they can sleep using a tapaulin and ground sheet. Piling up logs and then lining it with bracken will waste hours, though it may still not be suitable to sleep in.
HIRE A POP UP TENT – lots of campsites have tents a family can move into. At the Isle of Wight’s Nodes Point Holiday Park, run by Park Resorts, you can book a tent with three bedrooms (sleeping six) plus a central space that it is easy to stand up in.
FOR UNKEEN CAMPERS – I’m thinking of my Mum and my Husband (she hates the inconvenience, he hates the lack of proper loos) there is an answer, glamping or even champing.
- Glamping is staying in such a posh tent you almost feel as if you are in a home. It’s developed from safari tourism.
- Champing is a much newer concept; using a term borrowed from glamping to encourage churches to let people stay in them in a bid to raise money for local congregations.
TRY GLAMPING – the sort of posh camping that you used to only experience on an African safari. Most glamping is in a tent, but with luxuries. There might be a wood burner in a central tepee, and real beds. There might be a hot tub just by the door or a VIP route to Glastonbury main stage…
Glamping makes you feel like you are camping without the hardship. No lugging equipment around. No putting up tents. No warm beer/lemonade… But you’ve still got the canvas roof (so cosy when it rains) and the delicious smells of outside – freshly mown grass or even the sea…
At the Isle of Wight’s Nodes Point Holiday Park, above the rock-poolable beach at St Helen’s, the new glamping area is giving families a chance to enjoy a different sort of holiday. As the manager said “If the kids are happy, then mum’s happy.” Staying in a tent is going to make the kids happy that’s certain. In fact my 17yo daughter was very keen to stay in one after being tantalisingly shown a new Safari Tent on a whistle-stop visit around the Isle of Wight to two of Park Resort’s holiday centres.
The Safari Tents look fab. They have a wooden-floored veranda with rattan chairs around a table which looks a lovely place for the family to linger after a day on the beach or exploring the island’s cycle paths in a bid to find the red squirrels. There are fairy lights for when it gets dark (and inside electric light).
It may have a veranda with table and rattan chairs, but the front door has to be unzipped – making that evocative zzzzip sound – and then inside was a kitchen area with a wooden kitchen counter, sink and running water from a tap. Plus there’s a fridge. Opposite this camping survival area is a big sofa – and behind the kitchen bar were the bedrooms. It’s a tent but this one also has sweet bedside lights on a three-drawer bedside table so you won’t need to trip over your unpacked luggage unless you want to. One room had a double bed, and the other two singles. It was sweet and I wanted to move in at once.
So where’s the loo? Well this is glamping and at Nodes Point holiday resort there’s a wash block with showers and toilets a short walk away. It’s a brilliant way to go camping, without quite camping. It’s also good value. For a three night holiday (fri-mon) it costs £142-£474 (six people max, sharing two bedrooms with an option to use the sofa in the lobby/kitchen space).
Another advantage of going to a holiday park – rather than a camp site where you’d have to put your holiday home up – is there’s a restaurant on site, plus evening entertainment, much of it suitable for younger children run as the Sparky Krew, and an indoor swimming pool if the weather is too bad for the beach. There’s also a roomful of arcade games including 2p shove
But it was Sparky who won me and Lola over – he’s a very cute rabbit (see photo right).
CHAMPING – church camping, a new use for old churches. An over night stay in a church might sound spooky and a bit cold, or filled with spectres. But if you are prosaically-minded and have thick sleeping bags/duvets and are happy to sleep by a nave lit by candles then staying at a church could be a life-long family talking point. Imagine cosying up in a pew on a camp bed or a bean bag, or watching the early morning light blast through a stained glass window – and breakfast is brought to the church. Don’t think about ghosts! Although maybe the bedtime stories could be the best part of the experience?
Find out more about champing and what’s on offer in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Kent at http://www.visitchurches.org.uk/champing Also see this video,
FORGET CAMPING AND BOOK A LODGE ON A HOLIDAY PARK – Even if the famous adventurer Bear Grylls grew up on the Isle of Wight, where he learnt how to survive anywhere… during the summer holidays roughing it in a tent (even glamping) isn’t for all of us.
At Lower Hyde, in the island’s famous holiday town of Shanklin there are loads of lodges (sleeping six, many with two en suite bedrooms) spread around the woodland.
This is definitely not camping: the lodges have heating, hot water and proper flush loos. But it could be an economical way to get several families – cousins, grandparents, friends – together for a few days or even a fortnight without having to put up tents all over your lawn back home. There’s lots of child-friendly activities plus an outdoor pool with a huge slide and the chance to go to the adjacent holiday resort’s even bigger indoor pool.
At some lodges there’s even the option to have your own outdoor tub on the veranda – a holiday treat that seems to particularly attract families with a toddler and/or baby
OVER TO YOU – The summer holidays may be short but they are long enough to have a go doing something a bit different. Let me know what you think your family would enjoy, or any good tips.
Nicola and Lola were guests of Park Resorts for a day trip to the Isle of Wight visiting Node’s Point and Lower Hyde holiday resorts. We crossed from Portsmouth on Wight Link ferry.