I’ll admit that I wasn’t wholly looking forward to a bank holiday weekend spent camping in the New Forest. The picture above pretty much represented a close approximation to hell in my book.As the rain came down on Saturday morning i was feeling pretty vindicated. We were new to this so had a ramshackle collection of camping gear and had to spread ourselves across a very optimistic 4-man Decathlon tent and my super lightweight and compact mountaineering tent from college days. Where before, as a student mountaineer, I would look down on the ‘soft’ campers and their cavernous home-from-homes. Now I was gazing enviously at their dry breakfast and ‘reading the paper’ space. We went out and sorted the tent and are now the proud owners of something akin to a 2-bed apartment that we can fold up and fit in the boot of our car. So we were at least going to be dry and have room to spread out but the real realisation that camping was going to regularly feature in our future plans came from watching the boys. They were, for the first time, experiencing the freedom we had as children. Roaming around the campsite, messing about with trees, building dens, running around moorland playing football, hide and seek and war games, making new friends over catapult shaped sticks. All within the relative security of the campsite boundary and surrounded by other parents who were all relaxing their usual restrictions on child movements in the same way. It wasn’t a utopian paradise but you felt that pretty much every parent was looking out for all children. The intent was that children should have fun being children.
Times have changed and whatever the rights and wrongs, children can’t roam the streets and fields as we did. Camping is a way to give that back to my children and if it means giving up a few home comforts and realigning my views on what constitutes a holiday then it’s without doubt a price worth paying. It also wasn’t quite purgatory as my Bialetti espresso maker works brilliantly on a camping stove. And, truth be told, I had a great time.