Wednesday, 28 September 2016

September weekend camping

As much as I like Eau de Camping, it is good to get washed and wear clothes that do not smell of campfire. We got back from a long camping weekend late on Monday afternoon, somewhat tired but happy. September weekend is a long weekend in Glasgow and schools are closed, a perfect excuse to go on a last camping trip before it gets too cold. We have been going camping with the same group of friends for a long time and we are all used to each other's messy hair and other camping oddities. The children get on well, too. This time, we sadly missed one family and totalled eight adults, eight children and one in-betweener.

The weather forecast for the West of Scotland was appalling with heavy rains and winds. I really really wanted to go to Kinlochleven but not in the pouring rain. We had lost a tent once in the North West during a freak storm and it is not an experience anyone of us wanted to repeat.

Instead we headed to Northumberland where the forecast was good. We chose to go to Springhill Farm near Seahouses. To be honest I don't cope with change all that well and the thought of a new campsite didn't appeal to me. Springhill Farm looked a bit civilised for my liking. You know, neatly pebbled bays for caravans, campsite shop etc. I prefer the more basic campsite, situated in a stunning landscape with features for children to explore on their own. This and this fits the bill, although the latter has a music festival in late September, which you want to avoid unless you like drunken renditions of the Balamory theme song and endless repeats of soppy guitar ballads. Both allow pitching wherever you like and in whatever constellation of tents you fancy. We favour the semicircle on the water line or against the boundary fence, facing the stunning hills. Both also allow big open fires, which is the best of all really. Neither locations are fun in the rain.

Springhill Farm allows fires in raised pits, which is good. We were allowed to pitch wherever we wanted on the flat and even camping field. Having said that, it got more busy than expected and our interpretation of 'wherever you like' was maybe not quite the Springhill Farm idea of 'wherever you like'. A group of camping newbies then pitched their tent less than a metre away from our own tent. What was worse than this ignorance of basic camping etiquette was the fact that they were early risers, and loud ones, too. 'Bobby, did you have a good night's sleep?' followed by turning on the car engine and letting it rattle at 6:30 in the morning is not something I cherish much.

The facilities were clean and I haven't experienced a single queue. There was a rather uninspired playground for the younger kids (they liked it) but there was no scope for independent exploration, a fact that the near teen and teen girls missed. I would have thought they'd like to 'hang-out' and chat, as they do at home but not so, camping is about exploring the wilderness, about getting wet whilst damming a brook, about claiming the top of a hill and putting your flag down.

Nevertheless, it was a nice campsite in a nice spot of the world. One thing I noticed: England is an awful lot busier than Scotland. Even this late in the year, the campsite was close to full and the seaside towns were bustling with activity. Maybe it is just that the population density is higher in general, maybe it is the remoteness of where we usually go, either way, it was quite remarkable.

The beaches were stunning. Miles and miles of beaches. We rolled down dunes, jumped in the waves and threw balls for the dogs. When I say 'we', I mean the kids mostly. The adults were strolling at a gentle middle-aged pace, chatting and enjoying the views.

We explored Seahouses, a typical seaside town. Tacky shops that sell everything you never knew you needed (but you do), little delicatessens with mouthwatering temptations and a particularly sweet little shop that sold vintage stuff and newer bits and pieces. I bought a vintage cup and saucer just because I could. It is very pretty and I'll show you it some other time. We also visited Bamburgh, a pretty town with a monstrosity of a castle. Every subsequent generation must have added to it. I am not a big fan of castles. There was a most delicious ice cream shop and of course a stunning beach. To get there we piled up people randomly in three. When we got to Bamburgh, we realised that we had left Annie behind at the campsite! I thought she was in another car, with friends. Her friends thought she was in our car..... oops. Richard and I don't usually have our phones on so we had no idea. Annie, being resourceful as always, called her friend Mhairi to tell her she was ok and to ask if we were going to get her. She was more upset that she let on and I feel terribly guilty.

We ate well. We always do. The traditional rota is BBQ night, curry night, fish & chips night. There hasn't been a change for years. Our curries get better and better. We eat them with nan breads warmed in the fire. Breakfasts are always fry-ups. These are a must on a crisp morning. Lunches are more flexible but usually there is a soup day. For the peckish, there is always plenty of cake, to be enjoyed with lots of coffee. There was a selection of beer and other beverages that would make the average off-licence envious. Being classy people, we started the evening entertainment with Margaritas. Another foodie tradition is the camembert baked in the fire. A bit of white wine and garlic gloves up the game. The camembert is then passed around and scooped out with breadsticks. No double dipping allowed.

Campfires are a must. No camping trip is complete without a fire in the evening. It needs to be big enough for everyone to have a space. We brought several big bags of wood, from our old kitchen and from various pallets that were left behind after goods deliveries. We had two fire pits as there were no big open campfires allowed. One for the kids, one for the adults. Nobody was injured. Sam joined in with the adults.

Talking of Sam, he came along. Not voluntarily, don't get me wrong, but under duress. He is nearly sixteen but we didn't feel ready to leave him behind. I'd like to believe that Sam had a good time, even though he might be the last to admit it. He sat around the campfire with the adults, telling jokes, and poking fun at me (I didn't like that). He was allowed a can of cider. Sam spent the days sleeping in his own (!) tent. I think this was his last camping trip with us, at least for a while. Maybe he'll join us again at some point in the future, when he realises that we are actually quite a fun bunch of people.

We played games. Football, frisbee and tig are James' and Alistair's favourites. We also played a game of boules, bearded and moustachioed, as we imagine any respectable boule playing French man would be. It is a bit of a tradition, silly beards and moustaches. Don't ask. Another popular if short lived game was three ways Chinese jump rope with an elastic loop made from rubber bands bought in the shop that sells everything. We know how to keep ourselves entertained.

We were sad to leave on Monday morning. We all had a great time and I am looking forward to a new camping season!

Thanks for your comments on my last post. I can report that I have coloured  my hair, the usual dark brown. Have a good one! x