What’s all the fuss about bucket lists?

Posted April 9, 2016 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

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Before you draw up a bucket list, think hard. You might be gifting it to friends, or causing a family drama about how many kids you should have had… For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

Nicola with her two daughters. (2015)

Nicola with her two daughters. (2015)

Everyone has a bucket list nowadays.

What used to be a wish list of dreams – things you might love to do one day – has taken on not just the status of a corporate to do list but also a certain mystical reverence. It has become something that must be done, and if not by you then your nearest and dearest.

When 15 year old Vaishali Bance Suhayr died recently, after years of poor health, her family took over her bucket list. According to the Evening Standard her aunt went swimming with dolphins, her mum wrote her name in concrete and her eldest sister is planning to skydive and crowdsurf. Actually it’s a really lovely way to remember someone… another auntie is to scuba dive, another plans to walk the Great Wall of China and her dad is going to milk a cow. All things Vaishali had put on her list.

If you plan to keep your family busy after you’ve died then a bucket list is essential.

Except I don’t have a bucket list.

Shock
So on a date night with my husband (at Plum & Spilt Milk’s secret first floor bar in the super posh Great Northern Hotel at King’s Cross) we tried drawing up a list of some things we’d like to do, or hadn’t yet done over a glass of Punk IPA (him) and Essex-grown wine (me). His list is mostly places he’d like to visit. But then to my shock – and I’m hoping he’s joking – he added, “Have a son”. We have two daughters and I’m 52, so I won’t be producing the son he’s never mentioned he’s wanted before.

It was unsettling.

And I don’t think his teenage, feminist daughters will be best pleased by this news either.

Image0023

Dad and daughter digging for ancient relics in a mole hill (2011).

Thus it was serendipity that the first story on the radio we woke up to the next morning was how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has just discovered that his Dad was in fact not his biological father. Rather cruelly he’d been obliged to have a DNA test after journalists started snooping around his elderly mum’s personal life. Justin Welby is 60, and allegedly had not a clue that his genetic origins were in anyway questionable. Rather sweetly a top tweet has said something on the lines of how appropriate for a Man of God, now he knows what Jesus must have felt… (!)

In contrast I felt rather smug hearing poor Welby’s discovery… perhaps such revelations will help my DH remove such an outrageous desire for a son off his bucket list. Because children aren’t always the right chip off the old block. Even a much longed for son or daughter.

This post is to warn anyone tempted to dream up a list of things they want to do – either while they still can, or just because YOLO – that you have to be careful what you wish for, because if it comes true the consequences may well turn your life upside down.

But it’s also interesting: having children is such a steep learning curve, but the mix of genders arriving in your home does seem to affect that experience. I’ve loved having two daughters, and I reckon I’d have been happy with boys too. I remember years ago when bleary-eyed from a non-sleeping baby, overhearing our next door neighbour who had three sons, saying how much harder it was to raise boys. She then added that having a girl didn’t really count because they were so much easier to entertain. Obviously she was joking (and I was super-sleep deprived, never mind accidentally listening in), but how different are gender-blended families? Is my husband right – did we make a fatal mistake by settling with just two kids? Not that there’s much I can do about it (and nor do I wish to).  In fact I’m rather more inclined to count our blessings.

Over to you
What do you think? Does just having just boys or girls in your family make you less of a mum or dad? I know the answer is of course not, but I’m asking for your secret thoughts on this -not your politically correct ones…

Where are the kids?

Posted February 10, 2016 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , , , , ,

How much freedom do you give your kids? I didn’t give mine enough when they were little according to a smart-thinking dad and geographer, Daniel Raven Ellison, who is deeply concerned about the lack of free range children. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

Exploring London with dad and dog isn't the same as playing out in your nearest bit of woodland. Find out more by reading research by Daniel Raven Ellison

Exploring London with dad and dog isn’t the same as playing out in your nearest bit of woodland. Find out more by reading research by Daniel Raven Ellison

“Where have all the children gone?” sang Cat Stevens.

Or rather “where are the kids?’ as my husband might say… Mine have come home from school and are making some pasta before homework. They got to school on their own, and back again, but they haven’t done any exploring today.

OK, it’s February and cold, but what if it was a warm, long summer holiday day with light until late evening? where would they be then? Would they be out and about? Probably not.

Daniel Raven Ellison, a fascinating explorer and campaigner, has done research about children playing out and his work is published in London Essays at this link http://essays.centreforlondon.org/issues/green/londons-empty-childhoods/ I totally recommend reading it.

It’s sad research, but he has a positive outlook arguing:

London is full of great childhoods, so let’s let children out to enjoy them.

Can parents do that? Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

In praise of a day in the woods & other microadventures

Posted January 21, 2016 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

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What did you do at the weekend? Or more challenging: what did you do after school? The same as you always do? Or something which makes your heart sing – either doing it, or remembering it? This post takes my family to a pub-crammed village famous for inspiring artist Stanley Spencer and Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame in Berkshire on a micro-adventure. Nothing too strenuous happened – you might just as easily call it a day trip. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

Impressive den in Quarry Woods near Cookham. This area inspired Wind in the Willows writer Kenneth Grahame.

Impressive den in Quarry Woods near Cookham. This area inspired Wind in the Willows writer Kenneth Grahame.

Big adventures are fun, but they are often hard to organise, and expensive. Of course you don’t have to cycle the Alps to have an adventure. You can have them in the UK, but as so much of British outdoor life is weather dependent getting a party together (especially of mixed ages) to do something on a set day you can all make can be easily spoilt by grey skies, a stiff breeze and a downpour.

And so micro adventures were born.Big adventures are fun, but they are often hard to organise, and expensive. Of course you don’t have to cycle the Alps to have an adventure. You can have them in the UK, but as so much of British outdoor life is weather dependent getting a party together (especially of mixed ages) to do something on a set day you can all make can be easily spoilt by grey skies, a stiff breeze and a downpour.

The name appears to come from Alastair Humphries, see his website here.

But a micro adventure can just be going somewhere different, or going somewhere you know well and really exploring it in a different way.Instead of going on mega trips occasionally – he was 24 when he decided to ride around the world by bike (which took four years!) – he goes on little ones, often. I love this idea. I need my adventure quotient topped up, ideally outside. For me one exciting walk a week is enough, but I also try to keep bigger adventures on the go in case I lose inspiration. At the moment my family is finishing off the New River Walk (approx. 30miles from Hertfordshire to London along a stream that is neither new, nor a river). We just do a short stage when we fancy. I’m also planning to walk a lot more of the Thames Path.

The shelter we put up... view from our fire! Learning skills at Conkers in the National Forest. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

A shelter Nell and I put up while learning outdoor survival skills at Conkers in the National Forest – lighting a fire in the rain and then toasting marshmallows on it. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

Alastair’s website is all kids in sleeping bags roughing it without tents – you can do that in a garden too, it doesn’t have to be a super glamorous overseas location. His current challenge is to get people to commit to spending one night a month under the stars for a year. It’s a lovely idea and you’d learn so much from it. I’m thinking about it… but rather suspect that I won’t.

Alastair is super creative (he funds his blog by asking people to shout him a coffee – the £2.50s add up and as a result he’s got a fab site). His adventures are incredibly varied and I am sure would be happy to spend a day climbing a tree to really develop a sense of what that particular oak is really like, and which little critters and birds visit it.

My micro-adventures tend to focus on taking the dog for a walk in the woods. There is nothing I like better. Although if you can throw in an art gallery and a nice cosy pub I’ll be extra happy. So visiting Cookham in Berkshire (the train from London goes to Maidenhead, then you change for the 10 min ride to Cookham) was perfect.

Coming down the chalky side of Winter Hill some teenagers were playing on the shallow flooded meadows. it was icy and couldn't hold their weight but they were having such a fabulous time 'moon walking' and sinking up to the top of their wellies. it looked a lot more fun than spending the weekend on your phone.

Coming down the chalky side of Winter Hill some teenagers were playing on the shallow flooded meadows. it was icy and couldn’t hold their weight but they were having such a fabulous time ‘moon walking’ and sinking up to the top of their wellies. it looked a lot more fun than spending the weekend on your phone.

I followed a 7-mile walk through Quarry Wood and up steep Winter Hill then down a chalk hillside for a last one and a half mile stroll along the River Thames back to Cookham and the Stanley Spencer art gallery in the old Methodist church.

Cookham, or “village in heaven” as the crabby but talented Stanley Spencer called it. His art is full of portraits of the locals and local scenes. I love the way flowers twine themselves into his pictures and the majority are making Cookham the ultimate destination.

To improve a micro-adventure it helps if there are options for all your party. So my husband, Pete, went on the Stanley Spencer guided walk around the village, my teen daughter turned up late for a quick tour of the gallery and then met me and Pete in the pub. We stayed on for tapas and another cheeky drink while she took the earlier train back to London for a David Bowie tribute gig…

There are at least six pubs in Cookham, and all seemed to serve food (there’s also the Teapot Tea shop in the high street which had delicious looking cakes). We tried the lovely old Bel & the Dragon, an old coaching inn. But a glass of white wine cost £9!! So for the next round we went to the Old Swan Uppers where for £7.50 I got a half of good beer, an even better glass of wine and a packet of crisps. Both were dog friendly, and both had lovely staff and roaring fires. My family wanted to talk about Spencer – his art and wives. I managed that, and was also happy to talk over my route which had included a quick detour to see the house that Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame lived in while writing the book. Behind is Winter Hill’s thick wood (and beyond that Quarry Wood), both very obviously the model for his book’s scary Wild Wood – home of Badger and those evil weasels who go on to take over Toad Hall. The house is now a prep school, Herries.

Just being outside was incredibly reviving. When I got back into the warm I felt tired and content – happy to go along with my family’s suggestions. And the dog just lay down and slept. My plan this year is to keep a day a weekend as free as I can so that the micro-adventure habit can blossom. Perhaps what I like best about this plan is that anyone can come along, but it’s still fun if you’re the only one who wants to head outdoors.

  • Walk route was in Country Walks near London by Christopher Somerville. I used the 1994 edition, but this links to a much newer version. Somerville is my favourite walk guide -his routes are great because you don’t have to have your nose in the book. It does help if you can bring an OS map too though.

What skills do your kids have?

Posted October 28, 2015 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

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Here’s a challenge – besides reading, writing and asking for a better phone what skills do your teenagers have? And what do they need?  For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

We sing when we set up camp... "We didn't start the fire," (King Charles) went down well. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

Learning to light a fire, in the rain.  (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

It’s time to take stock about the practical skills my teenagers now have. When my daughters were little, learning was fun and they were willing to try all sorts of things from street dance and trampolining to modelling with sticks. Now they are teenagers life looks more restrictive – there’s a lot of peer pressure and instinct to shop and chat. Both are absolutely fine.

However both my girls now babysit quite often and the oldest is thinking about what she could do during a gap year between school and university. So what practical skills do they have? And what do they need?

DIY experience: how about re-covering a chair seat using an upholstery stapler? This is a goodbye pic to my chair which I recently passed on to a Freecycler.

DIY experience: how about re-covering a chair seat using an upholstery stapler? This is a goodbye pic to my chair which I recently passed on to a Freecycler. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

Life saving
One brilliant tick goes to Lola’s school that organised a first aid session, at a very cheap rate, after AS and A level exams last summer – definitely something worth asking your child’s school to do. Everyone needs to know the basics of first aid because it saves lives. Not long after this training Lola had to step in when a friend collapsed with a diabetes emergency. She said it was very scary to be the only one in the room not screaming, but at least she’d had a little bit of training to know how to use the recovery position, how not to panic and the sort of info you need to tell 999. She also accompanied her friend to hospital which was clearly the right instinct. Going back to the party afterwards was definitely not though!

At 18 in the UK some kids have already been at work for two years, but most have just been at school. Entrepeneurship skills are hard to acquire (I have enough trouble myself making ends meet and spreadsheets balance) but table top sales and babysitting start the process off well for school and college-aged kids. The only problem is that most of these “babies” are in bed, or just about to go to bed, so the teenager doesn’t have much responsibility. What they’ve got to be able to do is step in if things go wrong – and that often needs practice, especially keeping a cool head.

Life hack: trying out a clever way to rethread worn out shoe laces.

Life hack: trying out a clever way to rethread worn out shoe laces.

Life hacks
My daughters see my repairing all sorts of stuff – clothes, sofas, chairs,cushion covers etc. I don’t do it well. There’s no such thing as in invisible repair in my home, but I like the story of a repair showing. I hope seeing me mend things (with my sewing kit and sugru) will inspire them to mend stuff. But I don’t think it does. So today when Lola was queuing to buy some tickets on the net I challenged her to rethread some worn out laces into a shoe. At first she said she couldn’t, then she half did it saying that made the shoes look cool. I want to pass these shoes on to a charity shop so I passed her a pencil to see if that helped poke the worn shoe lace through the eyes… and it did.

You can’t teach practical skills – or common sense – but hopefully you can encourage all children, of any age, to think creatively in order to get what they want. Mine are brilliant at using words to browbeat me: now they also need to learn to use the other side of their brains to mend and repair things – not just to save money when they don’t have much, but to avoid having to throw stuff away unnecessarily.

Over to you
What skills do your kids have – or you’d like them to have – which you reckon are essential? Is it washing up, or thoughtfulness or something else?

3 ideas for coping with half term or days the kids aren’t at school

Posted October 15, 2015 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

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Here are some ideas about how to use a half term holiday not to get away but to get to know a place better.  For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

You can walk or cycle to explore the Olympic Park.

You can walk or cycle to explore the Olympic Park.

In the UK we have quite a few bank holidays – there are two in May and one in August & then there are half terms. As a freelance working from home, bank holidays and half terms tend to catch me by surprise. And I guess that’s how most children busy at school surrounded by friends feel too. Loads of people seem to go away, but that’s not always possible (or affordable) so what can you do instead?

1)HOW ABOUT STAYING PUT?  We live in London which seems permanently restless – maybe this half term the kids will have time to explore the new parks created thanks to the Olympic Village, Stratford or the changes at King’s Cross. Neither trip will cost anything and is a great chance to develop map reading and app use skills. The visitor centre is easy to find at the Olympic Park is opposite the aquatics building. The visitor centre at Kings Cross is just beyond Granary Square, but that’s much harder to find so could be part of a challenge day out.

Cheap and entertaining: walk the boundaries. Here we are in York on the walls.

Cheap and entertaining: walk the boundaries. Here we are in York on the walls.

2) DO STUFF LOCALLY THAT’S FREE If you are planning a bank holiday outing you could check to see if the places you want to go are open, but I tend to check what’s free to enjoy first.

3) WALK YOUR BOUNDARIES: We’ve recently been holidaying in York and after a summer of fabulous activities and sightseeing definitely needed to keep an eye on our spending. Taking a walk around the lovely City Walls was a good way to avoid window shopping temptation (particularly boring for the dog) and to get to see this lovely city from a different perspective. Find out more about great things to do in York here http://www.visityork.org/

Walking the Islington boundary we ran into an Italian fiesta raising money for the local church near Exmouth market.

Walking the Islington boundary we ran into an Italian fiesta raising money for the local church near Exmouth market.

Few places have such an obvious path around their boundary as York. Where we live in London, with 220,000 others, the boundary isn’t clear at all but recently a fundraising group, Islington Giving, made a useful map of the half marathon-length boundary which we’ve been walking around in bits. Being a little unaware of what’s going on meant that we ended up walking into a lovely surprise…  a street fiesta with Italian food stalls and pretty things to look at, like the balloons (see pic).

Plan a pit stop or a sweet treat for all the walkers in your party (even the photographer).

Plan a pit stop or a sweet treat for all the walkers in your party (even the photographer).

Of course smaller kids need shorter walks – but the more they do them you’ll probably find the more they’ll want to do them, especially if the end is rewarded with something tasty and healthy you’ve picked on the way (like blackberries) or brought along. I know ice cream is evil(ish), but on days when the sun is shining (or you’d like it to be) nothing beats it…

Over to you
Where do you like walking with kids? Is it a place you know well? Is it a boundary? Whatever you’re up to this long weekend, have a good time.

6 signs your kids can read

Posted August 30, 2015 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

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It seemed to take ages for my kids to learn to read – now at 17 and 14 they are recommending novels to me. This post is in celebration of summertime word play. There are more good ideas about parenting in my book Homemade Kids: how to raise children in a thrifty, creative and eco-friendly way author Nicola Baird

1 PERMISSION

London

London

love this sign! Found it outside a pizza restaurant just opposite Highgate tube station in north London. For more baby-friendly places to breastfeed (which by rights ought to be everywhere!) see this list of breastfeeding-friendly spots in London compiled by Time Out.

2 ANTAGONISTIC

Kids: ever so scary? Possibly this sign in Newcastle upon Tyne was warning drivers not to run tots over...

Kids: ever so scary? Possibly this sign in Newcastle upon Tyne was warning drivers not to run tots over…

During the Olympics Londoners seemed especially helpful – so when we spotted this sign in the north of England we enjoyed the irony.

3 SIMPLE AS A, B, C

Absolutely no smacking.

A mastered.

Some signs just help the kids learn to read.

4 BASIC DIRECTIONS

Seen in Chelmsford (I was born here, but lived in Herts!).

Seen in Chelmsford.

It’s meant to be a great place.

5 WARNING SIGNS

We enjoyed this Lake District farmer's irritation with tourists.

The kids enjoyed finding this Lake District farmer’s irritation with tourists.

Not everyone likes children, or visitors. This one made laugh.

6 ASPIRATIONAL

Surprise!

Surprise!

Of course we want to see a kangaroo, and a beware kangaroos sign. But sometimes a sticker has to do.

Over to you
Are you and your kids sign spotters?

SPONSORED: Ways to have a go camping with kids

Posted June 29, 2015 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

During the 2013 holidays Nell and her friend were determined to camp so we brought our broken tent and let them put it up. They moved back inside when the rain started leaking in.

During the 2013 holidays my daughter Nell and her friend were determined to camp so we brought our broken tent to a hired cottage in Wales and let them put it up. The girls moved back inside when the rain started leaking through the sides. (c) Homemade kids/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.

Nicola and Lola get into holiday mood on the Isle of Wight in the giant deck chair at Node's Point near Bembridge. This holiday resort even offers pony treks along the beach.

Nicola and Lola get into holiday mood on the Isle of Wight in the giant deck chair at Node’s Point near Bembridge. This holiday resort even offers pony treks along the beach. (c) Homemade Kids/nicola baird

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.

Signs of happy kids: swing, logs, wrecked grass, pets.

No space in your garden? Or no garden? If you can borrow an easy-to-put up tent then you can put it up in the park for two hours to shelter from rain (or provide shade) – perhaps for a birthday celebration. Park authorities do not like this kind of behaviour, so be sure to make it clear you will be going soon. (c) homemade kids/nicola baird

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.

13,10 and 3 - and each of them need a different book to read.

My daughters and a friend demonstrate the wrong way to use a hammock.

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.

The shelter we put up... view from our fire! Learning skills at Conkers in the National Forest. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

The shelter we put up… view from our fire! Learning skills at Conkers in the National Forest. Sadly we couldn’t stay the night here. (c) homemadekids/nicola baird

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.

This is glamping. I love the hay bale seat but inside it is  amazing with real beds and proper running water - but still a canvas roof that makes you feel like you are camping.

This is glamping at Nodes’ Point. I love the hay bale seat and inside it is amazing with real beds and proper running water – but still a canvas roof that makes you feel like you are camping. (c) Park Resorts

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.
Glamping in a safari tent at Nodes Point holiday park on the Isle of Wight (c) Park Resorts

Glamping in a safari tent at Nodes Point holiday park on the Isle of Wight (c) Park Resorts

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 kitchen in a safari tent - glamping removes the hardships from camping! (c) Park Resorts

The kitchen in a safari tent – glamping removes the hardships from camping! (c) Park Resorts

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.

Glamping means you can camp - but not need to worry that you've forgotten your torch. (c) Park Reorts

Glamping means you can camp – but not need to worry that you’ve forgotten your torch. (c) Park Resorts

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).

Nicola, Sparky & Lola. Sparky helps entertain at some of the 48 Park Resorts which run Sparky Krew activities for up to 12 year olds.

It’s Sparky who helps entertain at some of the 48 Park Resorts during Sparky Krew activities for up to 12 year olds. (c) Homemade Kids

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,

The Isle of Wight's fish is famously good. And so's the garlic, there's even a garlic festival.

The Isle of Wight’s fish is famously good. And so’s the garlic, there’s even a garlic festival.

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.

Londoners can get to the Isle of Wight in two hours! Amazing to do a day trip. But camping or staying over night would mean you'd see a lot more of the island.

Londoners can get to the Isle of Wight in two hours! Amazing to do a day trip. But camping or staying over night would mean you’d see a lot more of the island.

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.


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