This morning I have a heap of dirty laundry to do, proper dirty- horse hair, dirt, sand and a bit of cow poo- and to top it all off I’m aching all over from muscle ache and sunburn. Despite all this I am very happy, with contented children just chilling and smiling. You see, we went to experience what Camping in the Forest is all about with the brood.
We “sped” down to the New Forest on Friday afternoon- for those in the know, you’ll agree there is no such thing as speeding down to the South Coast on a sunny Friday afternoon, especially when the weekend is forecast to be a scorcher!
Our destination was Hollands Wood campsite in the New Forest. We were going camping! When we arrived the kids were very happy to be let out of the car. We made it just in time for the Ranger’s Nature Walk. (The campsite runs 4 activities a day and nature walks are one, and they cost only £10 for a family of 4!)
The Nature Walk set off the weekend perfectly. We were bug hunting, learning about the history of the forest, identifying the plants and Hugo and Angelina were making friends.
Tent pitching had to wait till we got back. By this time we had no worry of entertaining the Littlins, as they had made friends and were happy playing, climbing, wrestling. Max was happy sitting tall in his Xplory and watching people and animals and his mum putting up a tent.
It was my first time pitching the Coleman Galileo 5 we had been sent to test. It went smoothly, except for my rookie error of not pinning the corners down first. In my defence the ground was so hard, I couldn’t get the pins in by hand and we didn’t bring a hammer or mallet. A quick trip to the reception and I had a borrowed hammer and was armed with rock pens (massive nails sold at 80p each and worth every penny of it!).
Tent pitched, we settled in. The tent was more spacious than I had expected- wider really.
In the morning we woke- after 7am!, a proper lie-in in this household- to rustling outside the tent. Some cows were nibbling the bracken outside the tent. A bit further a foal was needing to do some extra miles and was neighing and dashing about, weaving through the tents, caravans and campervans at a lunatic pace. (I wish I’d taken a video!)
I liked Hollands Wood for its informality- no electric hook up also means the tents, caravans and campervans are also pitched in a more random manner, some closer, some further.
The staff are extremely helpful. Alan, the ranger, one of our wildlife guides was incredibly knowledgeable and knew exactly how to engage children.
The facilities are great. Simple things make a difference: The toilet cubicles large enough that you don’t have to squeeze to close and open the door. They have dog showers! Thankfully Joshy didn’t find any fox excrement deodorant for us to have to test this facility.
There’s so much to do in the New Forest!
After a light breakfast, we started with bushcraft, learning how to light a fire, make pencils, easy bread in a cup and then identifying lots of edible plants. James and Amanda, who led the course, were very knowledgeable and great with kids and adults alike.
Lunchtime came around all too quickly. In the heat it was difficult to get the kids to eat anything. They were also rather busy with very important things instead of eating- playing, exploring and inventing new games with new friends.
Our afternoon included something Angelina and Hugo had been asking to do for ages- ever since they met the foal of their Aunt’s horse, Baukje- horse riding. We weaved our way through the New Forest to the Bagnum Riding Stables. I changed and went for an hour ride, the Littlins followed for a half hour walkabout. Although I was disappointed that the majority of our trek was on the tarmac, the Littlins absolutely loved their chance to go horse riding. They still can’t stop talking about it. We may have unleashed a secret passion here.
As we were just 10 miles from the coast, I couldn’t stay away from the beach. The sea was calling for me, like a mermaid to lost sailors; especially on such a hot day. With thermometers easily hitting the 30C+, finding parking even after 4 in the afternoon was not easy in Mudeford. When we eventually parked up the children leapt out of the car ready to run all the way to the water. They loved it! Went straight into the icy water.
In Angelina I could see myself at the same age splashing on Bondi Beach in Sydney. Now, I just dipped my toes in and watched from a safe distance, smiling.
True to form my brood quickly made friends with a family near us. Their 4 year old and Hugo were a right comedy duo. Max was constantly trying to go up to their 9 month old to play and give cuddles.
The beach was a perfect finish to the day, all that was needed was to source some food for the troops. We came across a very busy fish and chips shop, Alexander and Sons, and queued for half an hour (!). With queues that long the food must be exceptional, right? The fish and chips and scampi were all average, the portion size well under average, no mayo and just 3 napkins allocated. Disappointing! We ate it in the nearby park.
All three children fell asleep the moment we drove off from our picnic spot to the campsite and Dadonthebrink debated what to do- stay the night as we’d planned and leave in the morning or head back home and have a more relaxed morning getting ready for the two birthday parties Angelina was due to attend.
“Do you want the kids to travel during sleeptime or playtime?”– That was Dadonthebrink’s arguement, and he won. I really didn’t fancy driving in the midday heat, despite the lure of waking up among ponies and birdsong.
As we pulled up to the site the Littlins woke, the moment we stopped they bolted to play a bit more with their new friends. It was 9.30, yet lots of kids were still awake. Packing up, we were super quick. Within 20 minutes we had he tent packed away, within 45 the car was filled. Result!
I could’ve easily stayed a few more days in camping the New Forest and no doubt we will be back before the summer ends. There really is so much to do and see!
Have you had any nice weekend trips away recently? Where did you go?
Thank you for the Camping and Caravanning Club for facilitating the weekends’ activities and reintroducing us to the Camping in the Forest experience, this time with kids. We had been to Forestry Commission campsites previously, but that was before the collaboration with the Camping and Caravanning Club to run them- it’s a very good fit in my opinion- amazing natural sites under great management.
The Hollands Wood site is absolutely gorgeous; the pitch fees very reasonable- working out at £26.60 per night for a standard pitch for 5 of us. My only gripe about the site is road noise filtering in from the main road, (but then we were very spoilt in our last location in Hertford, with tranquil quiet.)
The bushcraft activities provided by Sunrise Bushcraft were superb.
Horseriding at Bagnum Stables costs £16 for half and hour and £25 for an hour. There are 1.5 and 2 hour treks available too which are predominantly off hard surface.
Pop over to Coombe mill to find some other outdoor fun: