We spent our first night this year under canvas at the weekend. Pip, despite having spent a weekend in a yurt last year was convinced that she had never been camping. What actually is camping, I wondered, but when I saw the weather forecast for the bank holiday I thought it was a perfect weekend to give actual tent camping a go. Nine years ago we spent a glorious week in June in a yurt at Botelet for part of our honeymoon and we have returned many times since. I thought it would make a perfect spot for their first proper night in a tent.
Packing for camping with kids
The worst part of the whole trip is the preparation (possibly only followed by the unpacking) and I think that is what puts people off – ourselves included. The actual being out in the meadow under the stars by a fire is lovely but before you actually go can seem somewhat unachievable, especially after a long week with work and school and all that jazz. However, I found with a bit of thinking and prepping, and a lot of freestyle, is it just about manageable.
There’s no getting round it, camping with kids is not totally relaxing. It is still parenting, just in an unknown setting. That said, the kids slept beautifully, helped no doubt by both a late night and lots of fresh air; they went down to sleep more easily and both slept until just after 8am.
This being our first trip, we didn’t really have much in the way of kit. Having always stayed in yurts before which come with stoves and cooking equipment, we were limited to the flask of tea we brought with us, and the barbeque as the sum total of our cooking. And yet, Martin cooked the most amazing aubergines I’ve ever tasted – even if the children wouldn’t sit down to eat, so we ended up eating in shifts – I’ll share the recipe in another post.
What did we take?
Despite apparently not owning any camping kit yet, we managed to fill an entire Volvo boot with stuff, including duvets and pillows for everyone, mattresses and picnic baskets and blankets and tablecloths galore. And spare clothes, towels, swimming kit, the whole works for a day at the beach.
We hired the bell tent from Botelet and they kindly put it up as well. We would have taken our air bed but Tia very kindly said she would put one in already, so we jumped at that too. We thought it best to try at least one night before we committed to our own tent, but in the morning, the “shall we do this again” was met with a unanimous yes! So, we need to acquire a tent now…
We also took food (steak, aubergines, salt/pepper/oil, tomatoes, bread, butter) and coals for the barbeque, plates, cutlery, wine glasses, mason jars with lids and metal straws for the kids, which we packed in a basket and wine box (and I then covered with a tablecloth to make a table) and I packed the sheets and pillows in a large flat underbed box which we then also covered with a cloth and used as table. The two picnic blankets then doubled as extra bed blankets for the kids. We also packed a cool bag with gin, tonic, water, milk and wine. (Botelet is the perfect location as there is a beautiful shower and loo and washing up/fridge space at the farm). We also brought skewers and marshmallows for a camp fire.
What did we do?
Well, not much really. We explored the farm and the meadow, watched the goings on at the farm including helping feed the lambs. We picked wildflowers, collected wood for the fire and took it in turns to eat whilst the kids played. Then Martin lit a campfire and we sat round, roasting marshmallows and reminiscing and annoying the children by not letting them leave the blanket. We watched swallows swooping and even a bat later in the evening. Then we put the children to bed, drank wine and talked (before doing the washing up in the quiet darkness). So not hugely different to a normal evening in that we cooked a meal, refereed the children, drank wine and went to bed!
Botelet Breakfast Club
The real treat came in the form of joining the Botelet Breakfast Club on Monday morning. Open every Monday morning throughout the summer, Botelet opens the farmhouse doors and serves breakfast by the fire (and then we had another cup of tea outside in the sunshine).
I loved Alice’s description of Botelet’s breakfast, and it was definitely true the morning we were there. We spent nearly two hours eating and talking to the other guests at the table. “Botelet’s whole breakfast ethos is centred around the communal table. Friends, family and strangers sharing an experience together, enjoying fresh, beautiful, thoughtfully prepared homemade food and discovering that we all have something in common.” We drank coffee, ate overnight oats and planned our afternoon at the beach. An excellent start to the week.
I also found the breakfast inspiring – I’ve bought some bread flour for rolls and I loved the rhubarb and vanilla jam so much that I am planning on making my own. I also realised how important sharing breakfast together as a family is, so we have been getting up earlier and sitting down together before the madness of the school run starts.
Image credits – mine, aside from the two landscape breakfast images which are (c) Richard Tamblyn at Botelet.