Now if you follow me on social media you can’t fail to have noticed that we spent a good chunk of our Easter holidays camping in the Lake District with Wild Living Expert, Ben McNutt.
I won’t deny that prior to the trip Dave and I were more than a little apprehensive. We’ve never camped as a family before. In fact mine and Dave’s camping experience basically comes down to a couple of nights at Leeds Festival which isn’t really comparable. We were worried that we would be cold, that we wouldn’t sleep, that we’d all be grumpy and nobody would have any fun at all . . .
However, we also know that when it comes down to the kids enjoying something, a good chunk of that comes down to our own attitude. If we’re positive, having fun and getting stuck in then they will too right? So we pulled our socks up, packed every hoodie we owned and hoped for the best!
View this post on Instagram
We’re going on an adventure…. Over the next few months we’re going to be working with Piri to prove that you don’t have to be a slave to your allergies this summer… We’re heading off to The Lake District for a week of ‘Wild Living’ – no WiFi, no running water and a ‘self-composting toilet’ which the kids currently think is hilarious but I’m not sure sure how amused they’ll be in reality. Wish us luck!! #AD
Usually when we’re going away we don’t tell the kids much about it beforehand, preferring to just tell them “We’re going on an adventure” but this time we decided that they needed a little bit of background information – expecting to stay in a hotel and then finding we were staying in a hut in the woods with a self-composting toilet might not have been the best surprise . . .
Our week long trip started on a very sunny Saturday afternoon in the Easter holidays when we drove up to the Lake District to meet Boss Ben for the first time. Boss Ben is a wilderness skills instructor and he normally runs expeditions and survival camps for adults. A family of five complete novices is not his usual clientele. (I should point out that it was Ben & Chloe who nicknamed him Boss Ben as it made it much easier to distinguish between Bens in conversation!)
Our home for the week was a beautiful but basic 110 year old boat house . . . this isn’t something which has been converted into a luxurious little cottage, it is literally just a hut but it provided us with the warmth and shelter that we needed as first time campers. Being able to light a fire in the hut first thing in the morning certainly made getting out of our toasty sleeping bags a little easier.
The purpose of our Woodsmoke trip with Piri Allergy was to really immerse ourselves in nature. To feel the benefits of getting outdoors and doing. It would be all too easy to spend the spring & summer tucked up indoors with the windows shut, doing our best to avoid all contact with allergens – but that’s not fun is it!
Saturday evening was spent building a fire, enjoying campfire tea of bangers and mash and climbing a nearby hill to enjoy some incredible views and a beautiful sunset. Ben loved clambering the hill and swinging off bits of tree – you could already see he was going to enjoy the physical activity that the week had to offer. The sky was clear and the sunset a real treat but it was obvious that the kids weren’t as enthralled as we were and Ben was keen to get back to camp!
Our first night’s sleep wasn’t amazing but it was a hundred times better than I had anticipated. Our sleeping bags were super cosy & the blow up mattress made life much easier for Dave & I. We shall ignore the stupidly early start from three very excited children which I suppose was to be expected.
After a delicious cooked breakfast we set about learning how to make our own string from natural materials. I was impressed by how focused all three children were on the activity, especially as it was very fiddly! Once we had made our string we turned it into bracelets which Chloe and I wore for the rest of the week. Obviously Amy found twisting the string very tricky so gave up quite quickly but had great fun learning to tie knots!
Taking advantage of the lovely weather, we went for a walk looking for animal tracks in the mud as we went. Now I must admit I thought that once we’d seen and chatted about a few paw prints that the kids would be more interested in running about and climbing but I was SO wrong. Once they’d started to look for tracks we couldn’t stop them, every few metres we were stopping to investigate someone else’s prints and before long they were identifying whose paws had made the prints and, with the help of Boss Ben, working out which direction they were travelling and sometimes being able to tell if the animal had been moving really quickly. Boss Ben even showed them how to identify various animals poos . . .
After lunch we chopped wood for the campfire & the fire in the boat house . . . it’s amazing how much wood you can get through – collecting sticks to start the fire and chopping wood was a daily activity.
Once we’d stocked up on firewood and enjoyed a game of hide & seek (something which was to become a firm favourite for the week), we hunted out some sticks for the obligatory toasting of marshmallows. Boss Ben showed Ben, Chloe & Amy how to safely peel the bark from their chosen twigs before putting a point on the end for sticking marshmallows on.
Having made enough sticks for the marshmallows we set about making our own beads from twigs. I didn’t even know you could do this but if you find the right stick (I can’t remember which tree they needed to be from) you can basically saw them down into sections and scoop out the insides to make beads – if you’re being really clever you can thread them onto the string we had made earlier in the day however ours was a little too thick so we used some that had already been made instead.
The task of lighting the fire for the evening fell to the kids . . . using a flint & steel to create a spark and light a piece of cotton wool before using this to light the campfire. Ben thought this was ACE!
Once the fire was lit we retreated to the boat house to watch Boss Ben prepare a whole salmon for cooking on the campfire. I had been quite nervous about this activity as I really wasn’t sure the kids would enjoy it (if I’m honest I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with it myself!) Much as we all know that our meat was once alive, skinning a whole fish is a sure fire way to hammer the message home and Chloe really wasn’t sure about it at first, explaining that she felt very sad for the fish. Once I’d got over my initial squeamishness I was just enthralled watching Boss Ben work methodically to prepare the fish for our dinner and watching it being cooked over the campfire was pretty special. Who knew you could eat like kings whilst living in the woods?
Although we were all absolutely stuff from our dinner, there’s always going to be room for toasted marshmallows isn’t there?
Boss Ben advised us to keep the kids up a bit later so that they saw it go really dark, allowing their natural melatonin to kick in which combined with a full day of fresh air & activity should mean they fell asleep quickly and, crucially, stay asleep a bit longer in the morning. Of course they had a right old time playing out in the woods after bedtime, especially once Boss Ben had attached some glow sticks to string for them to play with. And, as expected, they went to sleep very quickly and even manage a bit of a lie in so they were well rested for their morning of activity with ecotherapist, Beth Collier.
*This post forms part of a paid collaboration with Piri Allergy*