‘The best adventures big or little are those that are shared with the ones you love’ , Clangers 32 Granny and small
Some of my favourite adventures have been wildcamping in the mountains; sleeping with the sound of a stream and waking up to amazing views and the feeling of connection to the environment. This was something I wished to share with my children. This post is an opportunity to share my thoughts on the approach I have taken to introducing them to wildcamping and where it has led us so far.
I am a fan of starting small and building up incrementally. So before I could get to the point of heading off into the mountains with my son with all our equipment on our backs, I needed to introduce him to camping. The first steps on this journey were car camping trips, including the lovely campsite in the Eden Valley.
We quickly became comfortable camping with Ewan and he seemed to just assume this was normal. He was happy sleeping in between his parents in the tent and exploring the campsites.
At about this time when I was researching small campsites, I came across Dixie Willis’ book ‘Tiny Campsites’. This is a great little book, with all campsites listed under an acre are, ranging in facilities. Some have a very wild and secluded camping experience, like the one at Middle Nifed, where you park the car at the farm, walk up the hill to one of the single camping spots. This provided the next step on the journey, allowing us the feel of a more remote campsite, although not far from the car.
As we slowly built up towards a wildcamping trip with these small steps, we not only got to the point Ewan was comfortable with camping, we also learnt a lot about a number of things, ranging from what camping food he liked and the fact that his waterproofs were not waterproof! All of these learning points proved useful when we took the next step, which was leaving the car behind.
One of the campsites in Dixies book was on an island accessible via a boat or tidal causeway. We packed a couple of bags, parked the car near the ferry boat and headed over on the boat to Piel Island.
This was anamazing start to the adventure. Ewan then helped me getting the tent put up, before it was time to explore the island with its wonderful castle.
The photo above shows Ewan looking at another great book that helped up on our camping adventures: ‘Movable Feasts’ by …. The island also had a castle and main area to camp in, which was just a short way from this imposing building. The castle really added a lovely feel to the adventure.
Ewan’s interest in campsite tasks has continued to develop. It was also great to watch him learn and improve his understanding of the world around him.
For those of you for which camping does not float your boat, another amazing option we have in the UK are the Mountain Bothy Association (MBA) shelters. We have had a few amazing bothy trips over the years. While on a family holiday in Scotland we visited Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy near Kingussie. After a relatively flat walk-in covering a few miles, we arrived at the bothy to find the fire burning and a couple of other Bothy already settled in for the night. We had a fantastic evening and morning at the bothy exploring the local area and enjoying the real-time simplicity of staying in these wonderful shelters whilst swapping stories with the other people staying there.
Bothies are like camping without a tent. The MBA maintain a number of these free to use shelters across the UK. There is a wealth of information about yhem on their website. www.mountainbothies.org.uk
With the ground work done and making the most of my years of personal experience in the mountains, I was very excited that Ewan and I were now heading up to the Lake District for our first wild camp. At this point it is important to note that wild camping is illegal in the UK without the permission of the landowner, although it is generally tolerated if it is done well away from roads and buildings, above the highest fell wall and leaving no trace.
Ewan and I drove up to the Lake District, parked up and headed off into the hills with everything packed in my bag. Below I managed a quick selfie with the camera balanced on a fence post!
Unfortunately the weather on the walk in was not great and on arriving at the camping spot I quickly put up the tent to get out of the rain. After eating one of @Carlottaschocolates amazing chocolate lollies, Ewan was very excited and settled down to looking at his books and playing with a few light toys while I prepared dinner.
We had a wonderful night listening to the stream. Soon it was time to get up and have breakfast, before exploring the area we were camped in, including looking at lichens on the rocks.
Following on from this trip, Ewan and I have had a number of great trips out wildcamping in the Lake District and Snowdonia. This has included a couple of trips out in winter. I am a firm believer in the following Swedish quote ‘Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder’, ‘There is no bad weather, there are only bad clothes’. I would strongly advise winter is one of the few times when the kit you have really matters to stay safe.
The first of these winter wild camping trips was a lovely trip along the side of Moel Siabod in Snowdonia.
Another notable trip came about from Ewan asking why we had not been away wild camping recently. This was really due to the fact it was winter! So due to his insistence, we quickly planed a trip up to the Cakes of Bread in the High Peak. This started by being dropped off at Fairholmes car park, with a lovely walk up to the Cakes of Bread and a camp in the snow. The next morning we packed up and walked out to catch the train home from Bamford.
As Ewan’s younger sister Tessa started to get a little bigger, it was time to include her on one of our adventures. I fancied doing something that would be a new adventure for Ewan, but was a suitable introduction for Tessa. So it came to cycle camping to a local basic campsite that is only accessible on foot (or bike.) I had already had a couple of bike rides with Tessa on the front in the infant seat and Ewan on the tag along. The only questions were how little kit could I get away with and could I get us up all of the hills!
So one damp Saturday afternoon we all set off from Chatsworth after a party. Unfortunately the heavens had opened. It looked like the heavy rain was set in. On asking the children if they wanted to do it another time, they were insistent that they wanted to go, so with all our waterproofs on we waved goodbye to mummy and headed off. The up hills were hard. When Ewan peddled on the tag along I could notice the difference. We soon covered the five miles to the campsite. We then had to take all the luggage off, disconnect the tag along and cross the gate to the campsite. Everything was soon back on so we could cycle up to the campsite and set up the one man tent. Our bedding consisted of two sleeping mats, a silk liner each and one sleeping bag that could be unzipped, therefore acting like a duvet. It was definitely snug, although I was grateful I had kept everything to a minimum due to the more difficult uphill sections whilst cycling. Dinner was cooked and teeth cleaned, then stories and time to sleep. The next mornings we woke to an amazing view and clear weather. After breakfast it was time to pack up and cycle home.
Looking back on it this was a simple trip, although one that I am sure will stick with me for the rest of my life.
Now I am left wondering what is next for our wildcamping adventures. As we cross over the equinox and head into spring, it is definitely time to start planning something new…