Let's go camping" he said. "It will be fun" he said.
I swore last May when I returned from our first family camping trip in Keswick in the Lake District that I would absolutely, categorically, never ever sleep in a tent ever again.
48 hours of non-stop torrential rain, a 2 year old in nappies and five porta-showers for a field of 500 tents. Divorce papers very nearly issued on the hour, ever hour. A five year old who caught a bleeding stomach bug and puked in his sleeping bag was the absolute final straw for me.
I cried a lot that weekend. For me, for my children, for my husband who was very nearly without a wife – no one wants to be told to ‘pull themselves together and embrace the adventure’ in such conditions.
Roll on 14 months and somehow I managed to sign myself up for another family camping trip.
Camping is a bit like giving birth, somehow you manage to erase all the horrid and painful parts of the process from your memory… until the week before you are due to give birth. Or go camping – then it all comes flooding back.
Post-camping traumatic stress and pre-camping anxiety
I Googled the damn weather forecast every 30 minutes for the seven days leading up our departure last weekend, which inevitably had a huge effect of my mood. My anxiety was on fucking overdrive. It had rained non-stop since that final, school’s-out-for-summer bell chimed two weeks ago to mark the start of the dreaded six week holidays. It wasn’t looking good on the weather front.
Flashbacks of last year’s camping nightmare consumed me. Cold, wet, whining, whinging kids. Mr T and I trying to erect a tent in monsoon weather conditions. The arguments. Waking up in soggy sleeping bags – not that we slept all that well – the sound of the rain lashing against canvas all night long made sure of that.
Holding onto a pee for hours until it was light enough to trudge through inches of thick mud and patches of long wet grass in flip-flops to the grimy bogs. Forgetting to roll up my pyjama trouser legs, which resulted in mud-covered, soggy bottoms. The slow opening of a porta-bathroom door – praying that I could cope with what I was about to be met with – inevitably a slimy mud-bath of a floor with wet clumps of toilet roll clinging to the ceiling. Shower cubicles and sinks featuring long, dark female hairs, the odd pube and a used plaster for good measure.
I refuse to shower in these conditions. Quite frankly I would rather spend three days caked in my own shit than shower thank you very much.
My anxiety is not helped by a husband who’s idea of camping is more about survival that home comforts – sleeping bag, tent, torch, a camping stove and a packet of streaky bacon. That’s it.
So when he returned home every night the week before last ahead of our 2017 camping adventure to find something else had been added to the ‘camping kit’ piled high in the corner of our kitchen-diner, we ended up the first of many camping trip quarrels.
“What the fuck have you bought those for?” (citronella candle lanterns)
“I’m not hanging that off the fucking tent” (obligatory bunting)
“We are going camping… we do not need frigging pillows and duvets”
“A cheeseboard and a chopping board? – Put one back. NOW”. (One for the cheese selection, another for cutting the lemons for our G&Ts).
(Of course all the above came with us).
The camping dream…
Let’s face it, camping in reality was invented for men and children. My perfect vision of a camping weekend is filled with sizzling sausages and marshmallow toasting. Singing ging-gang-gooly, wrapped in blankets round a camp fire swigging G&Ts and spotting the occasional shooting star in the clear night sky.
Waking up fresh-faced to a sun-drenched field of happiness and the smell of bacon cooking, watching my daughter bounce around a field in a floral headdress, wellies and a pink tutu… a picture of perfect camping happiness.
Our 2017 camping trip reality…
Actually last weekend’s trip wasn’t all that far off the dream. Minus the ‘waking up fresh-faced’ bit. I woke up with a mouth as dry as a nun’s crutch and the previous day’s make-up half way down my face. Everything else about this trip though was pretty much… dare I say it… perfect.
This time we camped much closer to home – 12 miles up the road at Catgill Campsite at Bolton Abbey. Now there is a huge benefit to camping so close to home folks – something that didn’t even cross my mind (honest!) until I sat and watched Mr T at 8am on Saturday morning getting increasingly frustrated as he attempted to fit a gas bottle to a 20 quid camping stove. 30 minutes later, he was about the hurl the thing at one of the neighbouring cows.
The words “It would be quicker to pop home for a bacon sandwich” rolled off my tongue.
“No but… it actually would!”
“In fact I could pop home, have a quick shower and be back in an hour!”
And with that Jo and I were gone.
By 11am we were back on site – pruned, hair straightened, faces on, smelling wonderful. OK so we missed out on a bacon sandwich, but it was hardly the end of the world. Meanwhile the kids had experienced a wonderful morning of ‘survival skills’ and bonding time with their daddies – showering in communal bathrooms, cooking bacon on a camping stove and drinking tea out of tin beakers. With a cricket match in-between.
My friend Jo and I kicked ourselves for coming back so soon. We were certainly not missed and could have quite easily gotten away with a morning at the Devonshire Arm’s new spa. Now that really would have been the icing on our camping-trip-cake. Noted for next time.
There were a few low points – being woken up at 6am on a 2.5 litre-box-of-cheap-red-wine-induced-hangover by an army of cows in the adjoining field mooing in sync and so damn loud that the f-ing tent was actually shaking…
Emptying out the contents on the tent bag to find that the second-hand tent I’d purchased from some lady around the corner was missing the all important tent pegs. That was a low point too. She kindly offered me a refund when I called her from the camp site – what fucking good is a refund? I’m in a frigging campsite at 6pm on a Friday night with no bleeding tent pegs!
We managed to beg, steel and borrow tent pegs from various hardy campers across the campsite. Note to all – never take anyone’s word for it when they utter the words ‘It’s all there – we’ve checked.”
Another pain in the arse is putting the tent up (expect an argument). Taking the tent down (expect three arguments), and putting the damn thing up again when one gets home to dry it out so it doesn’t go f-ing mouldy. I half considered leaving the tent in the field as it only cost me £30 and with no tent pegs what use is it? Mr T was having none of it.
The highs outweighed the lows
We seriously lucked out with the weather. A little two-day window of glorious sunshine after two weeks of solid rain made a incredibly huge difference to our little camping adventure.
We were a 30 minute walk from the Devonshire Arms – the Yorkshire Dale’s most salubrious of country pubs, and were able to plan a wonderfully scenic, breathtakingly beautiful four mile family walk from the campsite via Bolton Abbey, along the river Wharfe, over a big hill and into the village of Addingham, where we dined at The Fleece, which recently re-opened after a huge renovation project. (It’s also one of my firm favourites and you can read my review of the joint HERE).
Of course we popped into ‘The Dev’ en-route for refreshments and after a delicious meal at The Fleece, we jumped into a cab back to the campsite, which at 7pm, was rocking and rolling with camp fires, music, cricket matches, BBQs and lots of intoxicated parents, all to the backdrop of a magnificent blazing sun setting behind the rolling hills of Yorkshire.
As Delboy would say… perfick.
Catgill Campsite is a wonderful little campsite perched on a hill 10 minutes away from Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales with splendid views of the rolling Yorkshire Dales countryside – cows included.
The campsite is a short walk from Hesketh Farm – a wonderful day out for little people. The campsite boasts a decent toilet and shower block, kitchen block with washing up facilities, fridges, freezers, microwaves and kettles, a coffee shot serving coffee and croissants until 10am, and camp fires with logs to hire, and a shall shop with all the essentials, including tent pegs, which we discovered later.
For a proper American breakfast head up to Billybobs.
Two nights camping for a family of 4 with 1 tent and a car is £65. Hire a fire pit and logs for £20 for 2 nights with an additional £10 refundable deposit. Find out more HERE