My daughter turned 5 today, and to celebrate, we went wild camping.
Despite her only being five, she has spent about 6-months of her life living and sleeping in a tent – most of which has been done in Spain and France. In old money, that’s one night out of every ten spent sleeping in a tent. Most would find that crazy, but we love it, and the kids do too…
Due to complications with my road bike, I hadn’t been out on it at all for three weeks until just last week. Having ‘upgraded’ some of the components, I’ve been like a little kid with a new toy: waking up before my alarm buzzes at 0500 wide-eyed and ready to plug some country miles. And just recently I’ve been heading up to Danby Beacon in the North York Moors for some hill work and found it to be a perfect spot for free camping.
Bank Holiday Wild Camping
August Bank Holiday Monday was exactly how it should be: Hot. We got up to Danby Beacon around 1500, and although it was a little breezier up top, we managed to find a sun trap, where banks rose both sides of us so shield the wind. While the kids ran wild exploring (and getting lost) through the endless mounds of heather, we relaxed and enjoyed some peace.
The great thing about letting the kids run wild in the great outdoors is that they experience so much more than they do if they were stuck at home. Its refreshing to be able to let the kids run free, climb up mountains of heather and sheep shit, survey the landscapes, and debate which animal lives in which hole – all without adult intervention (“Kids! Don’t go there. Don’t do that. Come back here…”).
We set up our BBQ and rustled up some beautiful food (sourced from the best butcher shop in the world: Vic Thomas Family Butcher, Dormanstown, Redcar). There was too much, but we ate it anyway. Besides, any extra food eaten would provide insulation if the night turned too cold.
After wearing the kids out with hours of hide-and-seek, tig [tag], Frisbee, boules, and a walk around the farmers’ fields, I pitched the tent. Although it was only 7pm, the kids were quite tired and getting cheeky. They were ready for bed.
It was a struggle settling them, but once they were fast asleep all was extremely peaceful. We brewed a coffee, sat back in the camping chairs and read some of our books. The sunset was a deep red, and once it sloped off behind the horizon, it felt noticeably colder and we retired to the tent. It was barely 9pm.
We’d decided to use the 2-berth tent for the night. Packed like sardines, it was initially quite uncomfortable. The kids stirred as we tried to manoeuvre ourselves in like part of a jigsaw puzzle. I’d be lying if I said it was the best night’s sleep I had ever had, but it certainly wasn’t as unpleasant as expected, despite no pillow, no space, and kids jabbing feet in to ribs.
Good Morning and Happy Birthday
I arose before 0600 and was greeted by splendid view of the valley. Every morning this week the Moors have got off to a very slow start, and this morning was no different – the valley shrouded in low cloud. It made for a wonderful view and I braced the cold morning in a t-shirt during short walk while the family slept. It was so still, so quiet, and the air so fresh.
We had packed some presents for Alberta to open in the tent, and within no time she’d ripped the paper off, and seemed rather underwhelmed by the experience. Oh well… blame that on the tiredness.
As the sun came up, so did the midges. Having spent the morning before cycling and running atop the Moors, I had expected this and had made sure the night before that once we were ready to pack up, it would be done swiftly and regimented! Kids were bundled in to the car with a croissant for company while I dismantled the tent and was eaten alive by midges. We were back on the road for 0700.
Miraculously, this was my wife’s (Stacey) first night of camping of the year – and hers (and the kids) first experience of camping wild. Would we do it again? Definitely… Just not in the 2-berth tent!