Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The perfect setting

I sat in the woods as the sun set, listening to the wind rustling the tops of the trees and marvelling at the changing light.  I had a plastic mug of very nice wine in my hand, and a campfire to toast my feet over.  I felt utterly content and took a self portrait.

Self portrait at sunset

Just two nights camping with friends was an idyllic break from everyday life.  These short trips usually seem to pan out like this, and it occured to me that over my many years of camping we - and our friends too - have acquired a great deal of experience.  It's a slick operation these days; we bring everything down from the loft, check it off our list, and stuff quilts and pillows into compression sacks.

Compressed quilts, sleeping bag and pillows

My cosy camping nest
Decompressed quilt, pillows and sleeping bag

We stayed at Forgewood Campsite, in Kent, close to the Sussex border.  It is a delightful site which manages to create the perfect blend of wild camping (no electicity, no caravans, campfires permitted and acres of ancient woodland to pitch in) with helpful facilities (plenty of clean showers and toilets, purpose built washing up areas and a farm shop).  When we are camping with friends we want a campsite that lets us pitch our tents together, build a fire to sit round and cook over, and has woods for the children to run free in.  Forgewood had all of this.

Olivia, coming back to camp for food

We all brought great quantities of food - both to feed our own family and to share.  On Friday night we shared vegetable curries, made at home the day before by my friend, Cathy, and reheated over the campfire.  We mopped them up with breads we had all brought with us. On the Saturday we ate salads, also made at home and brought with us, fruit, slabs of homemade cake and endless cups of tea made on the Trangias and gas stove (of the three families camping one favoured a Coleman gas stove, one favoured Trangia with a gas bottle adapter, and one favoured Trangia with the meths burner - they all work brilliantly).  That night we barbecued sausages over the campfire, and ate them with garlic bread that Cathy made.  The children then toasted marshmallows later in the evening. 

Camp kitchen
Camp kitchen

We feasted like kings all weekend - good food is a non-negotiable element of a camping trip for me.  The only thing that can improve sitting in the sunshine, drinking beer with good friends, is when there's a perfectly cooked, juicy, pork sausage (or two) to eat at the same time.

The weather is something you can't control when you're camping - you just have to prepare for it.  The whole point of camping is to get outside and ground yourself in nature - whether that may be sun, rain, warmth or a cold breeze - but there's no denying that warm sunshine is what we're all after, really.  We pitched on Friday as the rain clouds started to clear from the skies.  It was extremely windy, and we were glad to be in the shelter of the woods.  The ground was very damp, but not too muddy because of the leaf litter on the forest floor.

Dappled sunlight and wood smoke

Bunting and tent in the woods
My and Graham's tent, with added jubilee bunting

Over the evening the clouds moved further and further away, and by the time I crawled into my tent at about midnight, there were stars all over the sky.  It stayed dry for the whole weekend, and only started to rain as we brought the last of the bags in from the car, back in London on Sunday afternoon.

Beech leaves

Leaves through the tarp

No wonder I look happy in that photo - I had good friends, good food, plenty of wine and beer, and I was sitting beneath green beech trees listening to them whispering.  The weather was incredible and our dirty children were running around in the woods jumping into ditches and plotting adventures. 

Every minute of packing, driving, pitching, unpacking, putting away and washing is entirely worth it for weekends like these.

Camping - what's not to like?


  1. Perfection! All the ingrdients needed for a wonderful break. I miss proper camping although Amy and I always do have an overnight camp-out in the garden when I get to play with my meths burning trangier again!

  2. Perfection indeed! Like Julie I miss proper camping. In my case the problem is having developed rheumatoid arthritis in my 40s, but if you could guarantee me dry weather and a soft place to sleep I'd be there like a shot!

    Great pics of happy campers :D

  3. It does look lovely, and you do look very happy indeed. I'm glad you had a lovely time - but you should be glad I don't camp near you because I would moan the *entire* time!

  4. Food is definitely the MOST important part of camping - I always bake loaves of tea bread (soak dried fruit in tea, make fruit loaf, basically) to take with us, as they last for ages and are great fresh, toasted with butter, or fried with a bit of cream for pudding. Your camping looks very intrepid, in amongst the woods!

  5. Sounds blissful! We are desperate to get away camping this year, might only manage one trip though :-(
    Food is a big part of our camping too... lots of toast with lashings of butter in the morning and hot chocolate and marshmallows before bed. *sigh*

  6. looks heavenly, there's something so special about food cooked and eaten outside x

  7. Idyllic. Beautiful.
    You look so content : )

  8. I love your self portrait, it is the essence of happiness!

    Thanks for the camping list, it makes it all seem very doable. Only question - under entertainment what does hive stand for?

  9. What a wonderful weekend. Makes me want to get away like this

    My only experience with camping was when I was 15 yrs old and a group camped out in the Wicklow mountains. We were all inexperienced at pitching the tent and the wind and rain seeped in - I still shiver remembering how cold it was and having to wait till the morning light to return home.

    Your experience makes me want to do it in style and seeing that beautiful quilt makes it all the more inviting
    Thanks for sharing

    Helen xx


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