Last year I finally got over my fear of camping and we invested in a family tent. We went on a few trips and the boys loved it.
This year we’ve been really busy and the timings just haven’t worked out as well for camping. Whenever the weather’s been good, we’ve been busy. Maybe there’s also been a slight reluctance on our part. Getting yourselves organised for camping can feel a bit of an effort, especially when you feel like you have the whole summer stretching ahead of you. Last Friday – with only a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays – we decided the time had come to just get on with it and have a night under canvas.
As we’d left the booking until the last minute, our favourite campsite at Sandringham, in Norfolk, was fully booked – as were all the similar sites nearby. I really like the site at Sandringham as it has really nice, warm facilities with lots of hot water, but still manages to feel quiet and secluded.
Anyway, that was booked, so we had a look round online for some smaller sites. We found a local site, Karma Farm Eco-Campsite, which is just twenty minutes from us in a village called Isleham, and they had a space. The campsite looked a little more primitive than my usual safe choices, but we threw caution to the wind and booked it. I could always drive home and leave the other three if I hated it!
I’m not a natural camper (two nights is the limit of my tolerance!) and I do like hot water and nice, clean toilets. This site had neither of those, but it was charming in its way. Nestling by the River Lark in Cambridgeshire, the campsite was a series of little fields and copses. We found a nice big pitch in a corner of a small, sheltered field. We remembered how to put up the tent and had the kettle on the stove before too long.
The site is a rambling, relaxed kind of place, with lots of little sheds and wild areas for the boys to explore. You leave your car a little way away and barrow your things across to your tent. It felt safe for the boys to go and explore on their own, which was wonderful. With lots of little landmarks – like a games barn and a bird hide near our field, it was easy for them to find their way around.
We had a little walk along the river to get our bearings. We often drive through the village of Isleham, but haven’t ever walked along the river.
After a little potter we headed back to the tent and started to think about campfires. One of the great things about this site was that it allowed proper fires. For an extra charge you could get a barrow load of logs from the store, and there were lots of metal trays and things laying about.
I left the fire making to the boys and James, and they’d got it going in no time. We had our camping stove, so we didn’t need to cook on the fire, but it was wonderful sitting by it as the temperature started to drop. We heated up our frankfurters on the stove (this is our staple camping meal) and enjoyed watching the fire while we ate our hot dogs.
Once the fire had died down a bit, the serious business of toasting marshmallows began. Heaven on a stick…
The boys settled down to sleep at about half nine, and we spent the rest of the evening sitting by the fire as darkness fell. Having the campfire was wonderful and it was nice to feel warm while camping, which is a new one for me. The night passed reasonably well – I can never expect a brilliant night in a tent, but as long as I get a bit of sleep it’s ok. A bottle of wine certainly helps. I took an extra double duvet with me this time too, to go over the top of sleeping bag – although I was still cold!
We woke up at about 8am to a thick dew and the sounds of geese flying over – they are nesting by the river, so we saw lots during our stay. We got the stove on and made tea, then bacon sandwiches. The boys were a little crumpled and tired, but pretty happy.
After a few cups of tea we started tidying up and getting ready to take the tent down. Gabriel had a birthday party to go to that afternoon, so we needed to be setting off for home by lunchtime. The boys enjoyed helping barrow our things back to the car and we soon got everything packed away. It’s always amazing how quickly your little home goes back into its bag again!
The best bit about such a local campsite was that it only took us twenty minutes to drive home!
Overall, we had a great time, although I would struggle to do this kind of camping for any longer than one night. I’m not obsessed with cleanliness, but I do like hot water and clean toilets. The loos at Karma Farm were definitely not a place to linger and were a bit grim! On the other hand, the campfires and relaxed atmosphere was really special and once you’re dirty, I suppose it doesn’t matter that much until you get home!
Maybe this could be good practice for if we ever went to a festival?
Do you have any great campsite recommendations? Preferably combining campfires and nice loos – or maybe you can only have one or the other…?