We went camping. Me, One, Two, Three, our tent, some sleeping bags, a couple of gas stoves and a sense of adventure.
We stayed at an old favourite small campsite near Church Stretton, where we have stayed a few times before, but not for six years. When we arrived, one of the older two exclaimed ‘it feels like we’ve come home!’. *Big grin*
While we put up the tent, two ladies came across from the campervan opposite, offered to help and then said ‘we know your children!’ Turns out they are friends of the children’s dad’s new wife and were at their wedding! Last time they saw Three she was dressed as a dragon… Strange coincidence! Lovely to meet them. 🙂
I politely refused their help because I wanted to be absolutely sure I could put the tent up all by myself with just the children to assist, in case I need to in the future – they totally understood. Despite a bit of wind ‘helping’ us along, One and I managed to turn a big pile of material and some poles into a passable home for us for the weekend. Hurrah!
Not long after the tent was up, it began to rain. Undeterred, the children played swingball regardless.
The first night was very, very, very windy. It was very, very noisy. Everyone was scared that the tent was going to blow away. I went out to check the guy ropes twice (they were fine. I was reassured). All four of us ended up snuggled into my bedroom compartment in the early hours, lit by three little lanterns to cheer us up. Eventually I went and put the kettle on and we all had hot chocolate at three in the morning as the gale rattled the tent around us. Of such adventures are lasting family memories made. It was awesome.
In the morning we eavesdropped on various caravan owners chatting about how scary the wind was in the night, and how they were amazed ‘that tent’ was still standing. (We were the only tent at the site). I felt very smug! And very proud of my lovely tent and our satisfactory pitching skills. 🙂
On Friday it rained. A lot. And then a lot more. We went to the Secret Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms – a place we have fond memories of. Some of it was the same (the cuddly mammoth outside the door) and some of it has changed (the local library now occupies over half of the old cafe area; the life size mammoth skeleton no longer makes a scary mammoth noise; the hot air balloon simulation is disappointingly different) and I have a feeling the general consensus was that as a family we may well have grown out of the place a little. I’m glad we went back one time to find that out though.
Later on we had a cream tea in Church Stretton and then met up, for the first time, with someone I have known online for 7 years who also happened to be holidaying in the area! It was the lovely H from Dancing Through The Shadows and she is just as fab in real life as I expected her to be. She put up with our particular brand of family insanity very well and even braved our campsite to be fed a cup of tea and a home made biscuit!
And the rain went on. And on. Overnight the wind came back, though not quite as bad as the night before. I only ended up with one small child (Three) sleeping in my bedroom compartment for a bit of reassurance, and we all had a much better night’s sleep.
By the morning it was not raining. We decided to take ourselves off to Carding Mill Valley and spent a lovely long afternoon playing in the river, making dams, playing a complicated imaginary game I couldn’t even begin to understand (Two and Three), and sitting reading (me), playing games on phone (One) and having a fairly unhealthy picnic (all of us). I love it there, and if we lived near enough we would be there every weekend and probably a lot of weekday evenings too!
While we were there I had a phonecall with some very sad news that someone I loved very much had unexpectedly and peacefully passed away. I’m still very saddened and shocked by this and the news cast a shadow over the day a little, though it also made me even more aware of the need to make the most of every moment with our families and I was doubly determined to enjoy my children’s company and the gorgeous surroundings.
That evening, our last one at the campsite, the sky was clear and we had the chance to cross ‘star gazing’ off the list of things we all wanted to do this weekend. We sat outside the tent with our hot chocolate and watched the stars and planets emerging in the dark sky. This is a family tradition but the first time Three has joined in – on previous family camping trips she was still a baby and had a fixed bedtime! It was lovely and another memory was made.
This morning we awoke to a dry tent, to my relief, but unfortunately by the time we’d started to eat our bacon butties, the rain was starting again, and it only worsened quickly as the morning progressed! We packed everything up inside the tent and managed to pack the car in a window of time when it wasn’t flinging it down, but the tent itself went down absolutely soaked and I didn’t attempted to roll it up tightly back in the bag, just folded it loosely and stuffed it in the boot as it was!
We soggy lot had Sunday lunch at McDonald’s in Shrewsbury and then carried on home. I’ve partly unpacked the car, had a good sit down, a cup of tea, some toast, and kept smiling at the memories of the first real camping holiday I’ve taken the children on by myself since becoming a single parent.
I am very proud that:
– We put the tent up by ourselves and it stayed up despite scary wind.
– We had a good time and the activities I planned worked out well (mostly!)
– We stayed organised and reasonably tidy and had nice meals cooked on two gas rings.
And my favourite thing to be proud of:
– I stayed chilled out and hardly got stressed or shouty at all – only a tiny bit this morning when trying to pack up a tent full of stuff in a torrential downpour!
OK it was only three nights but it worked really, really well; we had a great time, I proved to myself that I can do this on my own and next summer I might be able to plan a longer trip (no time or money left this year now!)
Bonus ASD footnote:
The one disadvantage of taking a child with Asperger’s Syndrome camping: constant repetitive singing of his favourite youtube songs all the flipping time…. and no escape from it!
One of the many advantages of taking a child with Asperger’s Syndrome camping: When the people across the field come back from a night out and are a little louder than they realise they are being, chattering away happily and obliviously, only Two had the gall to get out of his sleeping bag, entirely of his own volition, walk across the field and ask them politely and firmly to please keep the noise down because he is ‘trying to get to sleep and finding it rather difficult’. They apologised to him and kept the noise down. I applauded him silently from my own scaredy cat sleeping bag… 😉