Are you a family of happy campers? Or do you prefer your home comforts?

Ellen's children

Ellen's children - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s 2.4 Children

How do we get in it?” asked my four-year-old son, crouching on the ground and inspecting the pile of nylon.

“Give us a chance,” I said as I tried to make sense of the instruction booklet.

Our vast new tent had been taken out of the bag and laid flat on the ground and my husband had spent 45 minutes inspecting the poles, pegs and clips in confusion.

“What’s this for?” he asked finally, picking up a bendy bit of plastic and waving it around in the air.

This was to be our first family camping experience – testing out the new purchase in the safety of the back garden where seasoned campers could not laugh at us.

They would have done too.

Most Read

It took us another four hours of sweating and swearing, a thumb bruised by a wooden mallet, a back pulled lifting the frame and a head bashed with a plastic archway, before we finally got the six-man monstrosity standing.

With whoops of delight our children – and the dog – bounded inside to inspect the three sleeping pods and fill them with duvets, pillows and bits of Lego.

“In case we get bored in the night,” my son explained.

When I first floated the possibility that we might go on a camping holiday, my husband laughed hysterically.

“Why would I want to swap my lovely bed with its duck-down duvet for a flimsy canvas roof and a slimy sleeping bag?” he sniggered. “That doesn’t sound like a holiday to me.”

His entire camping history consists of a few nights at Glastonbury where he was too inebriated to worry about his nighttime accommodation.

“Camping is for festivals and the Army,” he said. “And gap year students who want to find themselves.”

“It’s not too late to find yourself,” I replied contritely. “Maybe you will find out you are actually a fun-loving, outdoorsy type with a sense of adventure instead of a miserable old grump.”

“I know who I am,” he said. “I’m the person who likes a shower every morning, that enjoys watching TV in the evening, that is allergic to mosquito bites, suffers from hayfever, can’t stomach baked beans and finds confined spaces really rather claustrophobic.”

I wasn’t about to give up of course.

After all, I thought, I am more of a seasoned camper. I can show him what he is missing out on.

I have fond memories of pitching a tent with my cousins in Aldeburgh as a kid, I remember holidays in Penzance with my parents under canvas and I made my way around Europe, traveling through France, Italy and Greece with my rucksack on my back on a four-month camping jolly.

Trust me, camping can be great fun.

Scenic locations, the great outdoors, sunshine and fresh air. Toasting marshmallows on an open fire, barbecuing sausages and slurping bottles of beer in the moonlight. Watching the stars come out while getting grass stains on your pyjamas and mud on your feet. Cuddling up in sleeping bags on squashy inflatable mattresses. The pitch black silence of the middle of the night and the trill of the birds at first light.

Besides which – and putting all romantic notions aside - it is a cheap and cheerful way to have a holiday and, after my lamenting last week about the sky-high cost of flights abroad in the school holidays, it’s this or nothing.

So I went behind my husbands back and bought a secondhand tent from some friends.

Well I say a tent. It’s about the size of the flat we had in London before we saw sense and upped and moved to the country.

“What did you do that for?” wailed my husband when I presented him with the kit.

He relented after my children pleaded with him to test it out in the garden.

“We can sleep in it tonight,” screeched my daughter with excitement.

“I can’t wait,” added my son, running circles round his father’s feet.

Tent up, they slipped into their onesies and ate tea inside the canvas folds.

“What now?” my daughter asked.

We played Snap, threw a ball in the garden for the dog, sung a few campfire type songs.

“I’m bored,” said my son.

We all trooped inside to watch Britain’s Got Talent.

“This is cheating,” I said. “There is no TV on a campsite.”

At 9pm everyone brushed their teeth, went to the loo and retreated to the tent for bed.

My husband and I lay side by side with children snuggled up next to us.

Everyone fell asleep except me.

It was colder than I thought it would be and there was a scratching sound at the side of the canvas that sounded like some sort of creature was trying to get in. I couldn’t get comfortable. My son kept sliding off the bouncy mattress and my husband snored.

At 11pm I went back inside to make a cup of tea. I sipped the hot drink and peeked back inside the tent where they all looked cosy.

“They won’t miss me,” I thought as I slunk upstairs and got in between the nice clean sheets of my nice comfy bed.

At 2am my son came to join me. At 3.30am my daughter squeezed in. And at 5am we were joined by the dog.

Over breakfast I met my husband’s eye.

“You gave up,” he said smugly.

“Well I gave it a go,” I said.

“Next time we will go somewhere where you can’t escape in the middle of the night,” he said.

“What do you mean next time?” I asked.

Find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter