Somehow, I managed to resist its rustic charms for my entire stay down under.
Not once did I unpack my swag next to a billabong and pitch my tent beneath the Southern Cross.
Not once did I boil up my billy over an open flame whilst slapping on the Aerogard to keep the mozzies at bay.
Not once did I ….. (insert cliched Australian outback reference here)
But why not? Hard to say really.
Maybe I just never got round to it…maybe I never fell in with a camping crew…or maybe I just like my creature comforts too much.
But if I thought that returning to the UK would mark the end of any remote possibility of future tent-based activity (“how can you even consider camping in that climate”, I can imagine my Australian friends saying), then I was very much mistaken.
Even in last summer’s somewhat erratic weather, it seemed that just about everyone I knew was planning some form of camping holiday. Except me, that is.
This year, I decided to turn over a new leaf and at least partially embrace the joys of life under canvas.
But considering this experience would also have to incorporate three small boys, I felt that hard core camping would be a bit foolhardy, but ‘Glamping’…… now that’s a different matter.
For those in the dark, maybe I should explain the term.
Glamping (I’m assuming it stands for a blend of Glamour and Camping) offers many of the authentic benefits of camping (fresh air, countryside, the sounds of rain lashing down on a canvas roof), but with fewer of the downsides (lack of comfy bed or ensuite toilet, having to put up your own tent, etc)
This seemed like a suitably lightweight way to ease my way into the wonderful world of camping.
Following rave recommendations from some friends, we plumped for Feather Down Farm – a name that sounds like a quirky one-off, but is in fact a successful Dutch company with locations all over Britain as well as Europe.
Our chosen location was actually the closest one to home (“…just in case it all goes pear shaped”) – a lovely spot in West Sussex, apparently popular due to its proximity to London, thus enabling the busy executive to schedule a quick ‘window’ of countryside into his or her hectic agenda.
Upon arrival in the farm car park, we had to transport our (ridiculous number of) bags to our accommodation via wheelbarrow. Six journeys it took me, but was a suitably farm-like way to begin the adventure.
Our home for the week was, I guess technically a tent, but it did seem to feature rather more of the “Gl..” than the “.. amping”.
It boasted a wooden floor, running water, a wood burner, a flushing toilet, beds, a dining table and chairs and a large cool chest. I felt reassured straight away.
Our tent was one of five, all located a respectable distance apart and each with its own picnic area, deck chairs and fire pit. This gave us a good blend of privacy and communality.
It was also very family oriented. Every other resident seemed to have multiple kids and within a few minutes of arriving, ours were off playing cricket or football, collecting eggs, chasing sheep and exploring the woods with a pack of other small children. It really was Boy’s Own stuff.
Indeed, over the next few days, we were able to enjoy a fair bit of adult relaxation as the kids all pretty much cancelled each other out by day and crashed out exhausted by night.
Reading a book in a deck chair while gazing out over the countryside certainly helps you to unwind. After three days, it seemed like a week and after a week, it seemed like a month.
Indeed, by the end of the week, I was feeling so laid back that I could scarcely remember my phone number, let alone where I’d left it.
And when the time came for us to head home, I felt truly rested.
Admittedly, we were truly blessed by the weather – a rare extended spell of glorious sunshine – but the week couldn’t have gone much better.