I would like to be one of those people, bronzed by the sun, who like nothing better than to sit around a camp site, effortlessly rustling up delicious smelling meals on nothing more than a single ring burner or a makeshift barbecue, but I’m not.
However, there are times when camping is the only viable option. Sometimes this is because it is an integral part of the experience; sometimes it is because going away by any other means is so damned expensive in this country.
And so, despite my reservations, over the past couple of days I have found myself away camping for the second time in almost as many weeks.
Buoyed by the success of our previous experience of camping at Cropredy, which fell into my first category for camping, when my wife suggested a couple of nights away in Cornwall I thought why not try it again? This time it fell squarely into the second category for camping as my wife’s favoured Cornish retreat, Padstow, is not a cheap place to stay.
The first thing to say is that the camp site we stayed at was very good. Although my wife is more enthusiastic about camping than me, she doesn’t like to rough it too much, so had found the Padstow Touring Park on-line and was assured that it had all necessary facilities.
The weather forecast predicted a mix of overcast and sun for the duration of our stay, so things were looking promising. We took the long drive down, pitched our tent and headed into Padstow for a wander around. The weather was lovely.
We returned to Padstow in the evening to sample some of the many fine pubs. As the evening wore on it began to rain. It started out as a fine, miserable drizzle, increasing in intensity as the night progressed. This is my general experience of camping. I am sure that a fortune could be saved in expensive irrigation projects: send us camping in the Sahara and within a couple of weeks it would be a lush fertile place.
Once it starts raining everything feels damp. Nonetheless, tucked up in our sleeping bags we were nice and cosy and the sound of the rain on canvass was almost soothing, so we soon drifted off to sleep.
And then the snoring started. Not me, I hasten to add. Although it is alleged that I do snore on occasion, I am not in the same league as these snorers: they were not just sawing logs, they were using industrial chainsaws to do it!
Other than this the night passed without incident and we awoke to a drab grey day, which threatened rain all day, although it never actually came to much. Nonetheless, we had a great day exploring around the coast – our highlight being the discovery of Bedruthan Steps, which is a superb little wild Cornish cove.
As the evening wore on, this time things seemed to brighten up and the threat of rain passed. All was not well back at the camp site though. The snorers had packed up and moved on, but now we had new neighbours.
We were awoken in the night by an almighty racket as an engine fired up. I looked at my watch: 5 am. It ticked over noisily and I tried to ignore it, but my bladder had also been woken up and was getting more insistent so I had to stagger blearily from my sleeping bag and make for the toilet block.
The engine in question belonged to an unnecessarily large SUV camped behind us. It made a deep throaty growl of the type that, during waking hours I may have admired. Needless to say, at this unearthly hour, any thoughts I had were not of admiration.
I finally got back to bed and drifted off with the rhythmic growl of the engine still going on. In some ways it was almost soothing until, just as I drifted off, it stopped abruptly and was replaced by loud voices. Wonderful.
Finally I got back to sleep, but not for long. Next I was awoken by the excited, high-pitched shouts and squeals of the two kids from the tent opposite. It was still well before 8 am, but they were not being calmed, quietened or chastised as you may expect: no, they were being encouraged by their stupid father.
The camp site has a curfew of ‘no noise after 10pm’, which I thought was a bit early, but guessed that it was for the benefit of those with children. It seems not unreasonable, therefore, that this courtesy should be returned and the curfew should work in the other way with no noise before 8 am at least!
So, I am now home to the comforts of my own bed and amenities.
Needless to say I am still not yet entirely won over to the joys of camping, but I am determined to persist at least a little while longer.
The problem is, all my complaints are currently being countered by ‘it would be so much better if we had a camper van…’