It’s been a good while since I’ve had a proper holiday. My boyfriend (J) and I haven’t been abroad in over four years, and in that time we’ve only managed to grab a handful of short breaks in the UK… As is the situation when you’re both poor students, and then even poorer graduates!
We have a couple of foreign holidays planned for later in the year, but a couple of weeks ago we managed to get away for a couple of nights camping. It may sound absurd to some of you, but I’ve never actually been ‘proper’ camping besides at Leeds Festival. Actually, in hindsight I think festival camping is the perfect introduction to camping holidays. It’s the grottiest and dirtiest I’ve ever felt, having gone without a shower for five days (gross), so stopping on a cushty campsite with access to proper toilets and showers was the ultimate luxury compared to my previous experience!
We spent two nights at a campsite near Ross-on-Wye, Gloucestershire, which isn’t too far from the Welsh border, with nine of J’s PhD/work friends. The campsite is based on a working farm, at the top of a gorgeous valley, and it was lovely being able to wake up in the morning, unzip the tent and stare out at the stunning view ahead.
We pitched our tents around a little fire pit that’s surrounded by big rocks that can be used to sit on – the area was aptly named ‘Stonehenge’ – underneath a huge beech tree. A group of swallows must nest nearby, as all throughout the day three or four of them would be swooping down and darting in between all the tents.
Despite the stunning setting, I was NOT prepared for having to sleep on hard ground, and the first night was absolute hell. I’ve suffered with aches in my hips for a few years – since I was involved in a car crash in 2012 actually – and I can often wake up with pains in my hips and the sides of my legs even when sleeping on a comfy mattress so I was expecting some discomfort, but I ended up waking up in the morning feeling like I’d been put through a vintage mangle. It didn’t help that it was incredibly windy the first night. The sound of wind ripping through and over your nylon-tent-covered head is what I imagine the opening to the gates of hell sounds like… so it’s safe to say I didn’t sleep well at all and ended up feeling pretty grim for the first half of the day on Saturday.
This first evening taught me two imperative camping lessons:
- Take a decent air bed – don’t worry about looking like a pampered princess!
- Take ear plugs!
These items will hopefully rid the possibility of repeating my first night EVER AGAIN. By the second night, I felt too tired to care about aches and pains and fell into a deep sleep almost instantly and slept pretty soundly most of the night. The fact it wasn’t blowing gale force winds outside probably helped a bit as well, to be fair, which is why I am hell-bent on taking ear plugs on our next camping trip – better to be safe than sorry!
The second day we ended up going for a huge walk across the valley and into a little Welsh village, where we stumbled upon a summer fete that was filled with the usual delights you can expect to find at such events. I spent about half an hour with the local bee-keeping society as a cute old man explained the ins-and-outs of beekeeping to me and finished his grand speech by encouraging me to start up the hobby. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds fascinating, but where the hell am I going to pick up and keep a swarm of bees in good old suburbia? I live on a fairly large housing estate and I can’t image my neighbours would be too happy with me bringing home what is essentially a hive of flying stinging machines. I digress…
On the way in we came across the cutest little book shop that sold early editions and vintage copies of all sorts of books. It also had a special restricted section that I assumed was for the rarest and most valuable books. I didn’t get chance to look in, but considering the average price of the books in the ‘normal’ section was about £40-£60, I wouldn’t even like to think how much they were in this section – there were no 3 for 2 or BOGOF offers here!
After what felt like a gargantuan trek around the nearby areas, during which we also managed to pop in to a local brewery and sample a few of its beers, the time came to stroll back up the valley to the campsite – and when I say ‘stroll’, I actually mean ‘crawl’.
Another camping lesson:
- Don’t camp at the top of a massive valley when your fitness level is currently off the chart.
I knew I was unfit, but JESUS CHRIST the walk back really killed me off – hence why I didn’t struggle falling to sleep that night! It was around an hour of a constant uphill battle and by the end of it, I was so out of breath I actually thought I was going to die. Maybe I’m exaggerating slightly, but it really was not a nice feeling and it took me longer than I’d care to admit to really get my breath back and feel somewhat normal again. It probably didn’t help that it was about 28 degrees Celsius and like a complete numpty I’d decided to wear dark grey skinny jeans… I admit this was a questionable decision.
Camping lesson #4:
- Make sure you take clothing appropriate for ALL weather, particularly in the UK! Ignore the weather forecast – we are in Britain and those storm clouds could evaporate and transform into a blistering ball of 30 degree energy ready to zap your soul and shower you with your own perspiration in minutes.
My overall conclusion is that yes, I’d go camping again – we’ve booked another camping trip to the North of Wales in a few weeks, in fact – but I truly feel that my camping virginity was taken from me in the cruelest and most uncomfortable way imaginable. But as the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and whilst I am entirely aware of how melodramatic I am being about the whole situation, I am also aware that this trip could have been a million times more comfortable if I’d been bright enough to think ahead and really prepare myself for the weekend.
Here’s hoping our next trip is a little more comfortable!