Earlier this month, we packed up the car with a whole world of camping gear for the second weekend in a row and made our way to The Peak District. Somewhere which, whilst not too far from home, we hadn’t visited before. We had been invited by Millets to spend the weekend at Gradbach Scout Camp with a group of other bloggers, most of whom we hadn’t met before. As fairly novice campers we were interested to see what the weekend held and I won’t deny there was some fairly obsessive checking of the weather forecast in the run up to the event. (We had pitched the tent in the rain just a week prior to the #homefromhome event and I’m sure you can imagine it wasn’t an experience I was keen to repeat in a hurry!)
As it turned out we were able to pitch our tent without interference from the weather (well aside from the wind catching hold of our new extension as we tried to fit it for the first time and basically turning it into an enormous parachute . . . ) and with minimal arguing too! Having pitched the tent a few times now, we’re starting to find ourselves a bit of a routine – we know who needs to do what and when, which makes life a lot easier. Ben, at 8 years old, is more than capable of helping us to get the tent up and is actually super helpful when it comes to sorting out the poles and pegging out the guy ropes!
Until our Wild Living experience in the Lakes earlier this year I was fairly convinced that camping wasn’t for me – that I just couldn’t be bothered with all the equipment and the mud and not sleeping properly. Turns out I was wrong and that actually, as a family, we are loving camping. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still the kinda girl that loves a posh hotel or a villa with a swimming pool, but there’s something really satisfying about setting up camp for a few days and living the simple life.
On our first night with the Millets team we were all asked to share what we loved about camping. For me, its about enforced relaxation. Switching off from real life with no TV or laptop and perhaps even no mobile phone depending on the data connection at the campsite – as someone who works for themselves and basically makes a living from the internet, it can be hard to take a real break from my work but so far I’m finding that a couple of days camping can be a great way to implement a mini-digital detox. Of course there’s jobs to be done such as washing up, or keeping the tent in order – but we’ve found that this becomes much more of a team effort. Making your bed and doing the washing up when you live in a tent is 100% more exciting than doing it at home.
Ben’s response to the same question though has really stayed with me: “The thing I love most about camping is the freedom“. Freedom isn’t something children have so much of these days is it? When we are camping the rules are different, things are more relaxed and we concentrate on different things. On each of our camping trips this year, Ben has been allowed just that bit more freedom to explore, to go off with his friends and not necessarily be in our line of sight at all times. I won’t deny this has been a stretch for me at points, he’s my baby and I need to know he’s safe, but . . . he needs room to grow and to make mistakes for himself. I can’t keep him wrapped up in cotton wool. I did draw the line at letting him play in the river again once he’d reached his last clean, dry pair of socks and trousers though . . .
Over the course of the weekend the team at Millets worked really hard to make us all feel welcome on the #homefromhome camp and had planned some great experiences to keep us all busy.
On Sunday morning we had a visit from the local Mountain Rescue Team – which if I’m honest completely blew my mind and is something I intend to write about separately. During the course of the visit we were introduced to Bob the rescue dog and his owner Mick, who showed us just how amazing Bob is by playing a game of hide and seek with the kids. There was also a demonstration of some of the equipment that the Mountain Rescue teams use – the girls found it thoroughly entertaining to be wrapped up in a stretcher and carried across the field.
After lunch it was time to explore the local surroundings and the group set off on a “short” hike. With Chloe’s injured leg being in a brace and her still needing to use crutches we stayed at the tent to do some reading and colouring in. Dave took Ben and Amy off with the rest of the group. By all accounts it was a fairly long and challenging walk for Amy but everyone told me that she coped really well with it. Ben thoroughly enjoyed the excursion with his new mates!
On Sunday tea time the guys from Coleman came down to camp and challenged us to make ourselves either a chilli or a spag bol for tea. Now you all know I’m a fairly rubbish cook at the best of times so I was more than happy to pass the mantel for this one to Ben and Dave who knocked up a pretty delicious chilli! Dave did say he didn’t think he’d be bothered to make a chilli whilst camping (preferring to make it at home and take it frozen) but it certainly opened our eyes up to campfire meals beyond burgers and sausages. The real challenge came when each family was given the ingredients to make themselves a fruit crumble – we were given cherries, which were a right old pain in the backside to de-stone but Dave did a sterling job and I was pretty impressed with the results of our efforts. Although I don’t think the kids were massive fans of the cherry crumble, I was more than happy to have it warm my tummy!
The promised rain finally fell on Sunday evening, forcing us into an early night rather than the campfire and marshmallows we had hoped for but if I’m honest I was quite happy to be warm and dry tucked up in our tent together. We were all shattered and it did us no harm to have a calmer evening and get the kids to bed before 9.30pm (which seems to be standard “setting off to bed” time for us when camping!)
The rain fell hard and fast through the night and thankfully by morning the sky appeared to have wrung itself dry. We were able to take the tent down all but dry and, aside from the very muddy ground under foot we managed to get ourselves packed up without too much hassle.
After saying our goodbyes to the Millets team and the other bloggers, we packed up our car and bundled three muddy, tired but happy children into the back before placing bets on who would fall asleep first. Another successful weekend’s camping in the bag and heads full of plans for more trips next year . . . perhaps even France!
Thanks to Millets for giving us the kick we needed to get going (along with a fantastic tent!) and for having us at the first #homefromhome event! We had a really fabulous weekend!
If you want to see what the other bloggers thought about our weekend away you can read their posts here:
You can also watch what we got up to here:
Photo credits – Thanks for Millets & Penny for letting me use your images!