Our (growing list) of best camping spots for kids

I have an aversion to holidaying in the same spot more than once – my favourite thing to do when I’m away is to get lost and explore new places so going somewhere again seems a bit dull. This trait has come in handy when friends and family have come to me for advice on the best camping spots! Since my husband and I first met, we’ve stayed in many different sites – spanning several continents! And one thing I’ve been aware of is how our ‘wants’ from a campsite have changed through the years – early twenties, (a bit more) sensible thirties, with the camper van, in a tent and of course the biggest change – kids.

So here is a list of campsites in the UK that have ticked the boxes for us when camping with our kids – it also reveals a few insights into what you might be looking for when selecting a campsite for you and the family.

Dot’s Camping, New Forest, Hampshire

IMG_9130We discovered this gem last year, and lucky we did. It’s a bit of a pop up campsite with very limited opening but if you get in you won’t be disappointed!

We love smaller campsites that feel a bit rugged but at the same time have reliable facilities and a friendly, helpful owner. Dot’s gets a big tick on all of these.

The space is one large field with the tents and vans pitched around the perimeter – this leaves a cricket pitch sized space in the middle for the kids (and there’s a lot of them) to play on the various toys made available to them. In fact it feels so kid orientated, I’m not sure I’d be up for going without them – you’d definitely feel a bit left out.

Other good points to note, the owners are really welcoming, running a little shop with the essentials. Once a day the kids are allowed to go in and feed the small selection of farm animals – and one ginormous pig! There’s a pub in easy walking distance which we love because it means you can go out for dinner and walk back, hopefully arriving home with two sleeping babies. Being based in the New Forest, there’s heaps to do rain or shine so you won’t be disappointed if the British weather fails you.

Things we could do without – the site is very small and there’s not much to do there in itself for a full day. Having said that, there are plenty of routes to explore on foot (important if you’re in a camper van so you don’t have to pack everything up). A shame that it’s not open longer through the year.

The damage:

£23 a pitch per night for 2 Adults
Child £2.50 a night
Extra Adult £5 a night
maximum of 5 people per pitch
First night stay required as non refundable deposit

5m Bell tent – £200 a weekend, £250 for bank holiday. Ideal for family of 4. Sorry, no dogs or smoking allowed in Bell tents .

Bank holiday – add £2 per pitch per night
Fire pits -£20 for the weekend with 1 basket of logs.
Refill of logs and kindling £6
Dogs – 1 dog free, extra dog £1.50 a night

Opening Times:

28th April – 1st May and 26th to the 29th.

August Bank holiday
25th Aug – 28th

Every weekend, Friday to Sunday, 7th July until 20th Aug.

 

Inwood, Camping Unplugged, Basingstoke

IMG_6865Inwood is owned by the folks at Camping Unplugged who are all about ‘real’ camping, with camp fires at the heart of a trip away in the tent or van. We’ve stayed at Inwood twice – and a bit confusingly it’s been based at different sites each year (a long story best explained by the owners on their website).

Both sites have been really good – a balance of open fields and wooded areas which are completely open for campers to set-up in or explore. No restrictions so you can really make your site your own. The sites are huge so you can explore or walk the dogs without really leaving. I mentioned campfires, a massive plus – you really are free to do as you wish. We tucked ourselves away in the forest and we could have gone the whole weekend without seeing another camper the whole time if we hadn’t ventured from our own camp.

Downside, there’s nothing within walking distance to the site so you need to get in the car. Plus side, you’re moments away from Basingstoke town centre (who would have thought!) so big supermarkets etc are close by.

The damage: Check the website for pricing options.

Henry’s Campsite, The Lizard, Cornwall

This special spot is about as far South as you can go. In fact it boasts to be the most Southerly campsite in the UK. If it wasn’t for the distance I think we’d be there every weekend!

Henry’s throws away the rule back and has a distinctively hippy vibe. The sites are small but with many nooks and lanes that ensure you’re not on top of each other and feel a sense of privacy from the whole site. There’s a small farm of animals you’re free to visit at any time, a cafe and even a cosy amphitheatre which hosts intimate music gigs late into the night – the fire in the middle sets the mood and makes it truly spectacular for an evening’s entertainment.

A bit of a walk away is a cove, feels like a trek there but well worth it past the cows down hill and through the rocks. A cafe ensures a large crowd but we managed to find space for a picnic. A word of warning though, the cliff walk on the way down is quite treacherous with running toddlers so you need to keep a close eye. Also worth a visit is the stunning light house right on The Lizard peninsular.

Downside, the toilets and shower are pretty basic, but we were happy enough with them. I think we felt like we were at a festival when we stayed so a warm shower was a bonus!

The damage:

For a tent and two people £22 or £26 with hook-up. They have a few different options for pricing, thanks to their laid back nature, so give them a call for specifics.

Henry’s Campsite
The Lizard
Helston
Cornwall
TR12 7NX

Tel: 01326 290596
Email: info@henryscampsite.co.uk

Billycan Camping, Arundel, West Sussex

Full disclosure, we’re pretty biased when it comes to Billycan. Not only can we see it from our house, but its where we got married so will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

Overlooked by the Duke of Norfolk’s castle on the edge of the river Arun, the site features a collection of fully fitted-out canvas Bell Tents, Yurts and a (new for this year) cabin. You can dine under the night sky, toast marshmallows on the communal camp fire and feast on a delicious stew cooked by the owners. A breakfast hamper for your first morning is also included. Your tents or vans won’t be welcome here, but when you have the option of a proper bed decorated with vintage accessories, a bit of luxury might be just what you need!

For the kids there’s regular entertainment and thanks to the communal kitchen and campfire you’ll get to know your fellow campers well.

The damage: Upwards of £200, check out the website for accommodation options.

Manor Farm, Tortington, Arundel BN18 0BG

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A must see… Wilderness Woods, East Sussex

Ever had one of those weekends where everything just falls into place? Well we had one, and it was pretty darn special!

We headed off all the way (1.5 hrs drive!) to East Sussex – we were blessed with being gifted a three night stay at a Treehouse at Fairoak Farm (more on that in a later post). But I wanted to quickly tell you about a little place we happened upon on our travels…

Wilderness Woods. And what a wondeful wilderness it is.

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A small sign signalled the spot off the road and we thought we’d give it a go. Greeted by a lovely little cafe in a quirky wooden house with hand written signs and beautiful looking cakes, we started to read up on the place.

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Owned by The Moorish family since 2014, the site is 62 acres of chestnut coppice with stands of beech, scots pine, douglas, cedar and giant sequoia trees. It’s been expertly managed to include a cafe, a workshop, a kitchen garden, camping shelters and the most wonderful children’s activities and play areas.

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We arrived at 2.15 – lunch stopped at 2.30 so first up was to order from Rachel’s Wilderness Cafe. Utterly delicious! Healthy lunch boxes for the kids and a cheese and pickle board for us. So much salad and fresh local goodness! The weather was perfect so we sat outside and while we ate the kids played in the mud kitchen and wooden platforms in the trees. All located amongst the cafe tables so we could keep an eye on everything. (

The Fox still managed to stack it a couple of times but he could literally fall over a crack in the pavement!)

After lunch we followed the (very small amount) of visitors into the woods. A beautiful area for the kids to run around, a tractor for them to climb all over and some sculptures for them to wow over – and us!

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As we carried on round we discovered little bridges, a christmas tree farm and plenty of sticks to pick up and turn into rockets and airplanes. We only just scratched the surface on the forest to explore. Older kids were further down the valley racing around – just so much space! As we returned on the loop we then discovered the giant swing, slide and zip wire – we definitely weren’t getting our two out of there in a hurry! But we promised them an ice cream back at the cafe. Perfect!

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It really is such a special spot – no rules, no plastic signs, no crowds. Just room to roam and explore and spend time together. If I could create my perfect spot to visit, this really would be it. It’s just… magic!

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And before I forget, the cost… you’re just asked to pay what you feel they deserve.

Wilderness Wood

Hadlow Down
East Sussex
TN22 4HJ

http://www.wildernesswood.org

Open Wednesday – Sunday 9am-5pm and every day in the school holidays.

There was a fairy birthday party in the woods while we there – email information@lucyslittleforestschool.com if you’re interested in finding out more. If only our two didn’t have their birthday in the middle of winter!

If you’re interested in camping, email emilyanddan@wildernesswood.org

Final words from me, go this weekend. Go before everyone ELSE finds out how wonderful this place really is 🙂

 

 

 

7 tips for camping with kids

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If anyone ever asks me whether they should take their kids camping my answer is always YES YES YES & YES.

My husband and I have camped all over the world so when it came to having the kids, it was a natural thing for us to have the kids come along straight away. I’m not going to lie, we have had a few disasters along the way… forgetting the bottles one trip, constant rain another. But by the end of the holiday, when I tuck smiling rosy red cheeks back home into their beds, I know they have loved every minute of it.

So, for anyone considering a night under canvas with toddlers here are some of things I’ve learned about camping with Under 3’s.

(Full disclosure, we are blessed with our gorgeous camper van – anyone in the market, I whole heartedly recommend. We are looking forward to when the kids can sleep in a tent on their own outside though!)

1. Organisation is key

IMG_6874I’m a pretty organised person so I quite enjoy getting organised for trips. And with kids and camping it helps, big time!

Spending time outside in the UK comes with the weather gamble, so I tend to over pack in every direction – even if it’s wonderful sunshine, I just don’t want to be stressing about the kids getting dirty or wet when out exploring. The beauty of packing up the car or the van means you’re not confined by luggage limits. And twins come with a lot of luggage.

Being prepared doesn’t just go for clothes either, taking plenty of food, nappies, formula, towels, blankets. I never want a lack of something to get in the way – and there is nothing worse than searching for a supermarket when you’ve got your camp all set up in the middle of the country side.

2. For little ones, it is possible to keep routine… 

CEEC3A34-98FB-455C-9794-A701C8C2F01EIn the first year of Twinning, we were obsessed with routine. I think we had to be for survival. So when we went away we didn’t want anything to change – the main thing for us was bath and bed time and naps in the day. If those corner stones were in check we kind of knew we’d be OK.

In a campsite with only showers, we managed to make things work with a bucket bath – and the boys loved it! When it wasn’t warm we held bath time in the camper van or tent. We used the same lavender smelling bath bubbles which I think eased the boys into routine. When I got them tucked up into their beds, I left my phone on with familiar music (always Ben Howard!) to try and make them feel more relaxed.

For nap times, we timed the day’s activities with a long walk at nap time. They’d fall asleep in the pram which really helped!

3. …. But don’t be scared to flex the rules

Now the boys are older we’re braving it with a lack of routine! Not at home, but we rules are different when you’re away, especially when it’s not getting dark until 10pm. And here’s the secret, a day after coming back and we’re pretty much back to normal routine with a strict 7pm bedtime!

 

4. In fact, make your own rules

Saying that we don’t have a routine when we’re camping isn’t entirely accurate. I believe that kids thrive on routine, so what we do is create a new one and it really works for us, even if we’re only away for a couple of days. We have an early dinner with the kids at about 5pm, we do dessert sitting round the campfire and a walk before bed time. We do baths in the morning when we’ve all got a bit more energy (and need to fill some time in the wee hours before the other campers have woken up!). One of the boys helps me cook and the other does the washing up with daddy. It took us a few trips, but the more we go the easier it is as we all know what our camping routine looks like.

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5. Activities are a must

At 2.5, the boys are not at the stage where they’re running off into the woods to make their own fun. It’s easy to forget that even though we’re outside, they still need kid friendly stuff to play with. Importantly, stuff that they’re familiar with too. If I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed when I came to this realisation – I thought it would all be making things out of sticks and flowers. Don’t get me wrong, we do do that, but with under threes it can be quite hard work sometimes. Having some toys that keep them happy while you cook or (shock horror) relax is a god send!

In the first year we set up a kid friendly play area which kept crawlers out of the mud and somewhere we knew they would be safe.

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6. Just because you’re camping, doesn’t mean it has to be hotdogs every night 

My first valentines day with my husband was spent camping – he made me mussles in a rich tomato sauce and heated up some chunky bread. Mind blown! From that point on we have never compromised on cooking when we’re camping. From pancakes and home made croissants for breakfast to freshly caught trout battered and accompanied by Moroccan couscous. Cooking can be a lovely activity in itself when you’re camping. Putting on a casserole over a campfire in the morning, smelling the cooking aromas throughout the day and feeding hungry little ones (and big ones) after a day of adventure is the best!

I’ll get some of my favourite recipes up soon to share – some other top tips in the mean time: Food prep as much as you can ahead of time – make a bolognaise sauce, or puree the carrots and bring in pots for weaning little ones. I also freeze everything, even milk to keep it in the ice box/esky. It lasts a lot longer. Keep lots of freezer bags for leftovers and open packets, filler some little pots with pre mixed spices that you can chuck onto meat or in a sauce.

7. Finally, relax

No matter what the trip throws at you just remember, your kids will have the best time just because they’re with you. None of life’s normal distractions in the way, no laundry, no internet. Something toddlers thrive on! Try and slow down the pace and they’ll feed off you.

I’d love to hear about you camping adventures!

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