… or would the title be better as Mr Bean goes Camping?
(I certainly felt like Mr Bean at times.)
We popped home on the weekend to wash and do washing after our fabulous “a place called away” adventure at Aldridge Hill in the New Forest
READ about our Aldridge Hill adventure
I had it all sussed for this week: a highly recommended site, toilets, hot showers and lots of things to do.
We were going with my BFF and her 3 littlins. Though the site we booked wasn’t the one we really, really wanted (Nicolaston Farm, which is right by the beach), because they had no spaces left, but our site had great reviews too.
Then even before we left, Mr Grumpy, BFF’s OH decided to tag along on our mums and littlins holiday. I was disappointed. The whole dynamics was set to change.
The trip down to the Gower took us 6(!) hours from Oxford, instead of the 3.5- 4 hours it was supposed to.
In the first hour, Hugo drank the whole contents of his water bottle, despite my warnings that it’s not easy to stop and park with Campy. On the Severn Bridge, I heard moans and groans from the back. When I asked what was wrong, I got no answer… he didn’t dare say anything after my warning. I knew what it was!
As we pulled up to the queues at the toll gates, I truly shocked my child, and probably those in cars around,
“Pop out and pee on the car wheels. Quickly!“, I instructed him.
I reckoned if dogs can do it, then why shouldn’t a child be allowed, right?
The rest of the journey to Swansea was uneventful, except for squabbles from the back. I know! I should’ve brought things to do in the car. In my defence, I still have mental images of car journeys with sleeping children when I plan our trips. Sadly, my older ones don’t easily comply to my daydreams nowadays.
Just as we were nearing Swansea, our adventures really began; I must’ve accidentally set my GPS to find the most direct route.
We drove with Campy right through Swansea, at rush hour!
As soon as we go out of the town, donk, donk, donk over cattle grid and onto a single track road. It was beautiful and windy. Luckily not many cars coming the other way or stuck behind me. Once in a while sheep in the road, but a gentle honk and they scurried off. That was 45 minutes of turning and twisting. (Our campsite was at the far end of the peninsula.)
Finally the GPS told me we’d arrived at our destination. Well, no campsite here, so we better drive on, I thought to myself
Little further I saw the sign for our campsite, Kennexstone Farm, under it saying 200m to the left. I drove on 200m. Nothing! Another 200m a road to the left, but no sign for the campsite.
I turned off anyway.
As the road was narrowing and looked like it would turn into a dirt road, suddenly there was a wider bit where there was a field entrance. I stopped & pondered: do I unhook and turn Campy by hand or do I attempt a 3 (x100) point turn with the caravan hooked on?
I decided for the later.
Took a deep breath, asked for dead quiet in the car, closed my eyes and meditated for a moment. So I turn the steering wheel that way and the caravan goes this way. Simple!
After a fair few attempts, the tow bar of the caravan hitting the bumper of the car a couple of times and lots of meditation, but no swearing, we were turned around! I congratulated myself loudly and the children looked at me puzzled as if I had lost it.
Luckily, there was a car waiting at the junction to the road we’d turned off, who directed me back to where I’d seen the sign. It turned out that obscured by bushes was a big red arrow pointing right at the bottom of the sign. So 200m left AFTER turning right there. Grrr! (Later in the week the bushes were hacked back to expose the arrow.)
I arrived flustered to say the least; Checking in was simple, the staff very friendly.
Luckily, or sadly, my BFF had gone out to grab dinner as we pulled up beside their tent. I reversed in to our pitch to the best of my ability, which wasn’t bad and the rest we did by hand with Angelina and Hugo, Max trapped into the car to stop him getting under the wheels.
Set up went relatively smoothly.
READ: Our experience of Kennexstone Campsite, Gower
Hugo asked to use the chemical loo. We still had stuff to do for set up and dragging all three across two fields to the loos was not going to work. It was fine anyway, I thought, as we have a rule of only number ones on the loo. Except my gorgeous 5 year old forgot this after last week. A whiff struck me, but by then it was too late! I was going to have to clean the loo this trip too! I wept silently, for a moment, remembering our fiasco at Aldridge Hill and tweeted my friend about the event. Her sympathetic response:
@mumonthebrink HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Now that made me laugh laugh laugh!!! Are you having fun? x x
— livieandlucaUK (@livieandlucauk) July 28, 2014
By the time my friends arrived back we were having dinner. Sitting peacefully under our awning
…and the holiday improved greatly thereon.
My friends were surprised by my account of our trip, especially the last section. (Days later I found out why: there is a proper A road leading almost upto the campsite. You just have to exit the M4 a couple of junctions later than we had. Oh well, we had a scenic drive instead.)
I was a single parent for most of the time on this trip, as I didn’t want to burden my BFF or make Mr Grumpy even more grumpy. I learnt a couple of things about camping as a single parent with a 7, 5 and 2 year old.
1. Having your own loo in your camping unit- be that tent, caravan or wigwam- is invaluable!
It means you aren’t trampsing back and forth to the facilities with the kids all the time. I’m sorry, but I’m not happy to let 5 year old go on his own. Angelina is fine, though I don’t like her going off either.
(Emptying the loo gets easier each time you do it too.)
2. Shower with the kids or you don’t get to shower!
The first evening I made the mistake of bathing them beside Campy in our big flexi bucket. When they drifted off I pondered whether to have a shower, leaving them to sleep or not. I was reluctant to leave them even with my friends in the tent next to us.
3. Choose a campsite with a family room or disabled showers you can have access to.
There is no way we would’ve fit into one of the shower cubicles. In the family room I filled 3 of the flexi buckets with water, plonked a child in each and we chatted while I had a relatively relaxed shower.
4. Choose your battles and mealtimes aren’t the ones to choose when camping.
Have sausages, pesto pasta or fish and chips from the local chippy for dinner as often as the kids want. Life becomes so much simpler if you keep meal simple and cater to the favours of tired children. Fruit and veg? Ah, leave that for snacks.
5. Snacks, snacks and snacks.
Have lots of snacks at hand to silence over-tired children. And they will be overtired, because bedtime will be delayed. It’s too exciting to go to bed at normal times, especially if other kids are still playing out.
6. Try to get out for activities as early as possible.
Forget the morning dishes, make sandwiches, water bottles, snacks the night before; lay out all the clothes too. I’m still trying to master this one, but on days that I’ve succeeded, we had a much better day.
7. Forget potty training when camping.
Day two 5 shorts and 7 pants later I relented and reached to my emergency stash of nappies. I had 8 shorts for Max in total, so in the evening I faced the choice of hand wash or £3.50 for a machine wash. Hand wash it was, since I didn’t want to leave them behind or take them with me to load and unload.
8. If it rains, don waterproofs and go for a walk.
Staying in will not end well! Point 5 will get you through the day.
9. When all else fails, but only as last resort, reach for technology to babysit for an hour or so.
I bought our little Lenovo Miix tablet for just this and BBC’s iPlayer is amazing at working, where no other streaming service works! I could hardly call up a website, but we could get iPlayer entertaining us with documentaries.
PS More note to self and Dadonthebrink for next time: When your loo shows a red light, it really does mean you cannot flush it anymore! All that is in the bowl has nowhere to go, but into the cavity below, when you pull the holding tank out. All that is then for you to mop out by hand. Lesson learnt!
10. Most important lesson: Enjoy!
It is precious time to spend with the kids. Camping brings everyone together, as we share chores and kids gain responsibilities.
…and have some Gin and tonic in the fridge! 😉
Check out our adventures on the Gower in the next post.
Have you had any fun camping adventures recently?