Are you a camper or glamper?
Sometimes planning a weekend with family or friends can be just too much and you end up staying in the comfort of your own home especially if you were thinking of doing something different like camping in the UK.
My first experience was in my late teens, when a group of friends ventured out to Wales fully ill equipped with basic tents and definitely not the right clothes for hiking up Snowdon mountain. We still did it and had a great time.
From then we learnt with a little preparation camping can be great fun and an adventurous holiday for very little expense.
Forward 25 years having camped in Scotland, different parts of Wales and under the most amazing starry sky of the Saharan desert I took our children aged 1 to 11, we did our first camping at Willowbrook Farm in Oxfordshire.
Well I would say glamping more than camping as they had bell tents set up with bedding and a BBQ.
The kids still have fantastic memories of BBQ in the light drizzle(late summer weather), sitting around a roaring campfire till late night for which they collected the wood from the forest with permission from the farm. This gave the children, not just an adventure but a sense of responsibility having never left the house late night independently, they were scavenging firewood at 11pm in the pitch dark forest. The following day after breakfast we walked around the farm meeting the goats, rabbits, sheep, ducks and chickens and the fields. You choose as to how active you want to be.
Tip 1: Buy camping equipment in autumn, always great bargains available from your local supermarkets, camping & outdoor shops. Just read reviews before purchasing. Spend on a good waterproof tent and it will last you many adventures. No need for a giant 6 person tent, invest in a 4 person one and a smaller 2 person one, this gives you more options.
Tip 2: Take long sleeve tops for the evening and mosquito repellent. You will thank me.
Tip 3: Learn to set up your new tent in the garden to make you look like a professional at the campsite.
Recently we did a father and son camping and hiking, two days break at the same camp.
Willowbrook is a fully working farm run by a very lovely forward thinking muslim family. See
https://www.willowbrookfarm.co.uk/ for their story.
We booked online and set off with 3 tents and food, a small BBQ plus a camping stove not forgetting the all important kettle.
Set in a small secluded area, hidden away behind the trees. The nights are clear and free from light pollution, perfect for stargazing, and the evenings or mornings are great for nature walks.
The farm has a number of footpaths and bridleways nearby and a wealth of wildlife lives on and around the farm. Keep an eye out for badgers, deer, all sorts of bird life, and the always cunning fox!
We set up camp, introduced the newbies to a compost toilet(don't worry, very clean and great for the environment). The campsite has hot and cold water, showers and a separate washing area. We went for a walk around the farm and a very long hike where we discovered the most amazing farm shop that sells Italian ice cream. Always be prepared with decent hiking shoes, walking trainers, water and snacks.
Again the weather turned against us, a drizzle tried to dampen our evening BBQ. We did not let that hamper us. With an improvised cover of golfing umbrellas. We managed to cook the classic burgers and beans. Watched a football game on the Ipad and prayed salah in the tent due to wet grass. The rain stopped so we lit a late night campfire in one of the many pits dotted around for this. Roasted potatoes in foil in the fire. Secret to taking this simple dish to a new level is to have a little butter, seasoning and some herbs/garlic powder to add before serving. The Boys wanted to be adventurous so decided to take a walk around the farm with torches. Five minutes later we could hear the screams and laughter as they all ran back to tell us they were 100% sure they were chased by a shadow!
We retired for the night and woke early to a crisp cold morning. Although the campfire was still smouldering we used the gas stove to toast bread, scramble eggs, beans and sauteed mushrooms. Not bad for a single stove! Don’t forget the tea.
Quick tidy up. Please clean up and try not to use single use plastic/paper plates, we took our own individual mugs and picnic plates and utensils.
Wiping down the tents inside and outside will stop it from getting mouldy, ideally wipe down with antibacterial spray/wipes to preserve your investment.
Make sure to visit the farm shop where you will find local honey, eggs, organic chicken, lamb, burgers and sausages of course all halal.
If you want you can also enjoy breakfast and tea at the cafe too.
There are 1000’s of campsites dotted around the UK. Glamping is another version where you don't need your own tents; they will supply everything but the food.
If not Willowbrook farm I tend to choose sites where dogs are not allowed as some of my children are not comfortable around over friendly dogs.
There are group camping holidays organised by many muslim societies, look out for them or why not organise one for your friends and family, two to three days is ideal.
I do think we overlook this simple but fun holiday. Make the most of Great Britain, get out there and create your own adventure. Be a Zaarveller wherever you go. Travel with ethics and a smile.
The Bearded Father of Five.