I have to admit that my first camping experience was last year at the tender age of 33 - and again, like this time, it was in the woods. No camp site, no toilet, no running water, no luxuries - just us, the kids and nature.
I am so happy that Lee chose last Friday - it happened to be the only sunny day - plus it coinsided with the Big Little Tent Festival 2015 which took place over the Bank Holiday, inspiring families to camp outdoors with their kids.
Lee had picked a secluded spot at the top of a hill, tucked away next to the woods, it is always a risk camping somewhere that isn't an actual camp site, but again, we didn't see a single person all day or night.
So Friday, late morning we set off for a two mile trek, laden with rusksacks - two small tents, sleeping bags, spare clothes, cooking pots, food and water.
Lee set the tents up when we arrived and started to collect wood for the camp fire.
We had bought some skewers with us, an onion, peppers and chorizo, potatoes and tin foil and a grill to put on the camp fire. We wrapped the potatoes in foil and baked them for about two hours in the embers of the fire (two of them burnt!) but the others were good, we cooked kebabs on the grill and some baked beans in the tin. Dinner sorted!
The children played in the woods and ran down the hills.
We peed alfesco (in amongst the trees).
Our little tents were at the top of this hill.
These are known as King Alfreds Cakes or Coal Fungus, they grow on trees, they can be used like coal to keep your fire going.
The kids got their onesies on and we got the hot chocolate going in a pan on the fire - and it wouldn't be camping without marshamallows!
The sunset was magnificent - we all sat and watched the colours change.
Sitting by the roaring fire - it got dark very quickly. The kids had a set of battery powered fairy lights in their tent and we had two lanterns wih candles.
I had to read to get the children off to sleep - by this time it was very dark and I must admit it was quite eery sitting with our backs to the woods, hearing the noises of nature - I started having Blair Witch visions.
We got into our tent with Fin sleeping in the middle. We heard a fair bit of rustling outside, we think it was rabbits. Shan woke in the early hours and got in our tent as she was cold, so I then swapped tents as I didn't want Kiki sleeping alone. Again I could hear a lot of rustling outside - but...... we survived, we weren't eaten by badgers or chased off by an angry farmer, we all managed to sleep until around 7.30am!
Lee got the fire going again and we had sausages for breakfast, then started to pack up our tents back into the rucksacks, we had not much water left and we were all pretty tired. What was lovely was whilst we were packing away, the kids all wandered off holding hands and went and sat together in the grass, like proper little children of the wild. The fire had gone out when we left but Lee poured some water over the embers just to make sure.
I know it's not a holiday as such and it's very close to home - but I hope we've made some good memories for our children.
Here are Daddy's words of wisdom and camping tips:
.Three rules of basic survival are shelter, food and water.
.Make sure you have servicable tent/s, not only bring enough food but learn what you can forage on the trip and make sure you bring enough water with you, but that you can get to a source of water within two miles (30 minute walk).
.Make fire without a lighter/matches. Bring a fire steel and locate sources of tinder ranging from dandilion or thistledown to dry grass/twigs.
.Always pick a spot away from your tents and where the ground is free from leaves/grass and clear a space of about 1cm back to the soil. This prevents grass from catching fire.
.Always keep a clean dry set of clothes in your tent, even if your other clothes are sopping wet the moral you feel when getting into a dry set at the end of the day is always great.
.Don't leave rubbish. Try to leave the place you camped just as you found it.
.Don't destroy trees if not needed as there is plenty of wood lying on the floor.
.The two most important rules are don't be unsafe or trespass. Get the landowners permission where you can, in our case we have camped wild but on land we know we will have little issue with (abandoned or met the locals).