Every now and again something happens to put a smile on your face. Some times it can be as simple as seeing a smile on your child’s face. Today, my smile has been caused by this reason.
“Let’s go camping this weekend!”
There is something about hearing your wife utter that sentence that can bring hopelessness and despair into a husband’s heart. I mumbled my opinion and ran for the cover of the toilet, hiding there for as long as I could in the hope that the subject would be forgotten. Just last week I camped out in our back garden with the boys after disastrous attempts at camping in the past, which I have written up for September’s RBU post so I’m not going into that just now. I assumed that this had got the whole camping bug out of everyone’s system. I was miles off.
Fuelled with the success of our night in the garden my wife and back stabbing children went ahead and booked a night in a field while I was at work. We would be packing the car up and heading for the New Forest this weekend, like it or lump it. I opted for the latter.
We arrived early and managed to find free parking a lengthy walk along the coast from Bournemouth’s beaches, which was good going as it was also Bournemouth’s Air show that weekend and the town was expected to be full of tourists. I got out of the car and sagged in the rain. “Come on everyone – let’s go to the beach!” shouted my wife as she bounced out of the car. Everyone was bundled into their coats and spades and buckets dragged out of the boot. I put my foot down and declared that I was not getting lumbered walking around Bournemouth in the rain carrying buckets and so in compromise, we set off carrying just the spades, in the rain, towards the beach.
We found the beach; we found some space on the beach. Here is my family ‘enjoying’ themselves on the sand.
In fairness I have to say that the important point from my above space is that they WERE enjoying themselves. Digging on a cold, wet, wind battered beach turned out to be great fun – for them. I stood and chuntered, which cheered me up a bit.
The air show was cancelled, but we walked about a bit taking in the stalls and enjoying the Navy and Marine’s display – great stuff, the lads loved it, as did I.
Eventually the time came to carry the picnic that had been on my back since we left the car, back to the car and partake in that age old British custom; eating a picnic in a car being pelted by rain within sight of a lovely, but bleak looking, beach.
Then we drove off and found the campsite in a rare break from the rain. This campsite was in Sandleheath by the New Forest and was actually quite good. If you like fields, then this one would be right up your alley. I’m being unfair, this field had a toilet and shower block in it as well, and those facilities were, in fact, very well maintained and clean so it was a very posh field. I actually have to say that as far as fields go, this one is now my favourite and would happily recommend Manor Meadows campsite to any campers heading out to this very nice part of England.
The tent was up in no time, which was handy as the rain came back. We jumped in the car and headed into the New Forest for a drive along looking for trees. We managed to find a couple, but mainly the New Forest is Heath land. Quite beautiful and dramatic looking heath land maybe, but heath land none the less. The crazy things in this area are the ponies. New Forest Ponies are wild, not actually kept by anyone. The ponies are free to roam wherever they like within the National Park including on the roads.
They have no fear of cars whatsoever, and on quite a few occasions they suddenly turned into the road in front of us forcing us to take emergency manoeuvres to miss them. Occasionally you would see the sad results of other driver’s failure to avoid these amazing animals, an unfortunate side effect of their otherwise glorious freedom.
Having stayed out and eaten so late that the boys couldn’t even eat much at all through tiredness, we ventured back to the soggy tent and piled inside, the boys giggled. Jo giggled, I chuntered. Eventually, with a frown on my face, I was the last camper to fall asleep.
I slept heavily, failing to notice that Jamie had a nose bleed in the night and his mum had needed to climb over me in order to help him – honestly, I didn’t hear any of it as she scrabbled around looking for tissues. Okay, maybe I heard some of it…
The morning was cold and wet and the day even wetter. We did get to see James Bond’s underwater car at Beaulieu so it wasn’t a complete disaster.
I struggled not to laugh out loud in the manor house at Beaulieu listening to one of the most ridiculous conversations ever. Inside the house there were some actor types kitted out in old fashioned maid and servant type outfits. They were giving advice and facts and help out to us tourists. One poor ‘maid’ was stood at a table with old fashioned toys that small kids could play with. A dad was impressing her. Dads do this sometimes; this one was making me laugh because he was being absolutely serious. I am convinced that he actually thought she was a maid.
“…I mean, it’s to much isn’t it? A house like this, it’s too big. You can’t feel comfy like it’s a home; it’s not for the likes of us. A Barn conversion, that’s what you want. A barn conversion is just right, I’ve been in some. I have, I’ve actually been in a couple…”
“Yes I know what you mean, I…”
“You wouldn’t believe what they are like, they are like a barn, but converted into a home”
“They are amazing, you’d be better off in one of those than here in this type of old house”
I should point out that Beaulieu was a medieval Abbey, and the manor house is a beautiful old place built among the ruins.
On he went, attempting to amaze the maid with tails of these new fangled barn conversions as she attempted to explain that she wasn’t really a maid and had seen these wonders of the modern age for herself.
I was in tears.
After all of my moaning about the weekend’s rain soaked camping, the simple fact is we had a great time. For me, the best moment was the barn conversion conversation, but for everyone else the answer (when asked what your favourite part of the weekend is) was CAMPING!
The boys absolutely loved it, and cared not one jot about the rain. In fact I think they enjoyed getting to play out in the wet the most.
So I may hate being stuck in a tent, I may hate being cold and wet. But when I see my wife and children smiling and giggling with delight, as they snuggle into a sleeping bag under torchlight, I know that it is worth it – absolutely.
I just need a bigger tent.