Why do we travel to the corners of the earth to great expense to find relaxation for ourselves and entertainment for our children? Somewhere in the last few decades the stacation was substituted for the prestige and glamour of the trip abroad, and the recent flurry of low cost airlines all but cemented that as the new tradition for those that can afford it.
But just because you can afford it, does that mean you have to get on a plane to find whatever it is you're looking for from a holiday? The younger readers among us will firstly argue that the Ayia Napas and Ibiza jolly ups are unmissable adventures and I have enjoyed many, so would be inclined to agree, I am of course aiming this blog at the parents out there that need more than a cocktail by the pool under the Mediterranean sun to fulfill the necessary requirements.
There are so many half term holidays to fill yet, like mine, if your childhood wasn't spent in a contented family environment it's possible you might not have experienced the joys of camping? Well this week the boys and I joined my uncle Ken, his wife Sarah, daughter Amelia and nephew Ollie at the River Dart Country Park camp site in Devon and I was completely sold on making trips like these a regular occurrence, and here's my five reasons why.
1 Drive four hours or spend half the day at airports?
The biggest crime for many of us is that we don't actually realise just how beautiful the British countryside is! Our camping trip gave me the boot up the bum I needed to remind me that everything my family needs is right on our doorstep. I'm not saying we shouldn't treat ourselves to a trip abroad every now and again but as a shorter and less expensive option, camping is always worth it, even if just for the weekend.
2 Share the memories...
Whilst enjoying the incredible Buccament Bay resort in St Vincent at Christmas I acknowledged the one thing that wasn't ideal, that it was a great shame I couldn't share such an amazing destination with more of my friends and family. It's hard enough to sort out peoples availability but we all have different budgets to stick to too which makes arranging 'group' holidays pretty difficult.
I walked through the camp site at night looking at the tents, caravans and camper vans of all shapes and sizes and the mass of families and friends sitting happily around a table with the dim glow of a couple of lanterns or candles providing their light. With someone in charge of the BBQ it just seemed like the best social scenario I could hope to encourage my close friends and their children into.
3 A parents greatest concern...
Our children's safety. Whilst we can never be too vigilant, to allow our kids out of our sight every now and again is vital for their development and sense of responsibility. I loved the sense of community that engulfed us, getting to know our neighbours as our children made friends with large groups of kids and entrusting the boys to go off in numbers, knowing that the camp site was satisfactorily enclosed and adequately staffed.
4 The Great Outdoors...
All kids love the outdoorsy style stuff and so do I apparently! The highlight of my stay was riding the river rapids in a dingy with Bobby not knowing if we were to get a wave of water over us or a prominent rock making our imminent landing from a small waterfall particularly uncomfortable as we hurtled down stream at a steady enough pace.
The reason that was my highlight is because there were moments that we were out of control - I just didn't tell Bobby that - but I think he gauged we may have been when the boat got a puncture and we ended up falling out, scary for a moment but exciting none the less!
Bike rides, football matches, rounders and these arrows that make a noise like fireworks when you throw them kept us aptly amused throughout the four day stay but the thing I love about them the most is the quality time I get to spend with the boys experiencing new things by their side. Renewing our sense of adventure was liberating and memorable, that's what holidays are all about right?
5 But did I relax?
Impossible not to. The beautiful scenery, fresh air and the gentle sound of the river coupled with the good nature of your fellow campers and endless activities provided for the kids to keep them occupied made it so easy for me to forget about work and the stresses of life and just slow the pace right down.
The fact we were never more than four hours from home if there was a problem, that we spent some time with family members who live in Southampton, which is quite a distance from us so we don't see them very often, and not forgetting the fact the sun shone through for much of the duration made it equally as satisfying. I'm not vouching for the particular site we visited, more to the point is that if you're a family that doesn't spend enough quality time together then this type of excursion could suit you, and any budget you may have down to the ground.
So what happened when we got home?
With the children now home safe and sound the juggling of two children (sometimes three) and everything else that I cram in to each day during the summer holidays I have to give thanks to the things that keep the boys and Poppy occupied. The most surprising probably the John Crane www.thejohncraneblog.co.uk tea set and cake stalls! I've caught the boys having a great little play as well as it going down an absolute treat with little Poppy! We may not be able to rely on the weather but we can have a picnic indoors anytime!
Me having a play with the John Crane Tea Set - suitable for all ages it appears!