More than a breath of fresh air?

I know some of you will think we’re mad, but we were contemplating starting the camping season early and going camping last weekend!

The overnight temperatures were forecast to be very mild, so we thought it might be worth it.  But from our experiences last year (see here and here), we’re learning that the wind is also important!  Thing is, when is a breeze more than a breath of fresh air?!

We’re all familiar with roughly what temperatures are cold and which are pleasant and which are scorching, but windspeeds are less intuitive.

I found this website with the interesting name of ‘Willy Weather’, which gives really clear forecasts and also tells you how that compares to the average for that month. You can search it really easily by just typing in a place name.

The met office also produce a graphic, but it is much less detailed.

Suffice to say, last weekend was windy and sadly no good for camping!


Tents on Christmas day?!

Don’t worry we weren’t camping for Christmas!!  Although one of us was in a Youth Hostel on the top of South Downs listening to the wind howl and whistle!

And the tent in questin wasn’t outside… somewhat bizarrely it was inside a church!  We rocked up at Bishop Hannington church on Christmas morning, not quite sure what to expect… and one of the preacher’s illustrations involved erecting a tent!

tent in church!

tent in church!

I think he was explaining that Christmas marks God coming to earth as Jesus – but that he wasn’t here permenantly, just pitching his tent for a while until it was time for him to accomplish his salvation mission at Easter….anyway, I couldn’t resist grabbing a quick snap for the blog!


A fellow fire-cooking enthusiast!

Last weekend I had a lovely day out at Hampton Court Palace.  I had a free ticket and I’ve always wanted to go… so I treated myself to a little day out!

My highlight was the kitchens where I met Robin cooking over a roaring fire:


Sadly I didn’t get to try any of this roast beef, but I did later get a ham, chicken and leek pie in the cafe, which was very tasty!

Robin and his friends were very generous with their time, telling me all about traditional Tudor cooking… and got me all ‘fired up’ (boom, boom) to look up traditional recipes and spices to use in in my campfire cooking.

Roll on Spring and the start of the camping season!



Go it alone goat

This weekend only one goat was available for adventures and a little bit of rain wasn’t going to put her off!

The river was pretty high:

Autumn 5

… and wellies were definitely called for:

Autumn 6

But a walk in the autumnal woods was definitely worthwhile:

Here are my autumn treasures:


… can anyone identify them for me?


Gazebos #2

It’s taken a while, but now for some reviews of models we’ve experienced.

Robert Dyas garden gazebo

This was my first ever gazebo purchase and it was a disaster!  It barely survived one usage as the poles started to bend.  It wasn’t that easy to put up either.  To their credit I took it back to Robert Dyas and they gave me my money back without any fuss.  (This was a good few years ago, so I can’t comment on this season’s stock!).

Outwell day shelter

This is the one you’ll have read about in our recent disaster.  To be fair, we quite liked it.  It was pretty big – although the curving shape meant we didn’t generally utilise the full area. And it was a good height – although the doorways were lower, so some ducking was required to enter and exit.

It was a bit tricky to erect for two reasons.  Firstly the ‘clicky things’ to keep the poles in the right place were never very clicky.  Secondly, even when we were putting it up correctly, it always looked like it was going wrong until the very last minute!  Eventually we learnt to ignore our instincts and trust the fact that we’d got it up last time, but it was a bit disconcerting!  The joints and poles were labelled with colour stickers which soon wore off in the rain.  We got round this by adding our own blobs of paint, but you’d think the manufacturers might have thought of that themselves. There is no way you could get it up with just one person.


Outwell day shelter in Snowdonia

One of the good features of it was that it was self-supporting.  By this we mean you didn’t need the pegs except to stop it blow away.  Going peg-free is not a good option when you’re camping, but if it’s just for a couple of hours of shade in your garden, it’s handy.

The pegging system is good.  The gazebo never blew away in any of the gales!  The thing was the poles.  They have no give and although they seemed substantial they bent in the wind.  At first we could still use it, but ultimately they just got mangled and that was the end of the gazebo!


We don’t own this one, but we did help put it up and camped with it for 3 nights.  It’s a good height.  It seems to be okay in the wind, but it needs good pegging.

Coleman Gazebo

Coleman Gazebo at Britchcombe campsite

You couldn’t put this one up on your own either, but it does have fewer joints than the Outwell day shelter which makes it easier.  It is a nice colour and doors and walls are available.  We used one of the walls, but it was very flappy.  It was as if it needed another peg loop in the middle.

Outwell Vale

This is our new inflatable one, and being inflatable, it is very possible to put it up by yourself.  Just be sure to put a couple of pegs in before you get pumping so that it can’t blow away!  It doesn’t take too long to pump up using the hand pump – and I’ve taken to standing the pump on a chair for the initial bit of pumping to save my back from getting tired! 

It is a really good height, so although smaller than then Day Shelter, it is easier to utilise the full space.  We bought a couple of doors so that if the rain comes sideways we can still use the full space.

vale air shelter

The inflatable gazebo!


Gazebo bunting!

Being inflatable, means it is bendy.  It is plenty firm enough to keep its shape, but a bit of bendiness is a good thing when it comes to wind.  There are no poles to get disformed!  Being inflatable also means it is light. This is good for when you are carrying it, but does mean that if it isn’t pegged down it will blow away!!  This could make it tricky to use if you wanted to put it on your garden patio for example.

The other disadvantage is that there are some straps that go across the floor space in a cross shape, which are a trip hazard.  I guess these are to help you peg it out in the correct shape, but I’m not convinced they are necessary… I’m just summoning up the courage to chop them off!!

But despite these issues, it’s a nice colour and we are happy with our purchase!
L & R

Edible tents

Earlier in the summer we posted about different sorts of tents – one of which was edible.  But that attempt at a tent cake has been far surpassed by this amazing campsite cake:


Amazing campsite celebration cake with edible tents, trees and campfire!


This spectacular cake was created by two of our camping buddies to celebrate one of the goat’s birthdays.  Everything is edible, the tents, the fire, the Dutch oven, the log, the trees, the mugs and the toasting marshmallows!

Almost too good to eat – but the cake was delicious!!


Vegetarian camping feast

I love preparing the menus for our camping trips, but I was a bit stumped when I needed to devise a vegetarian menu for whole of the bank holiday without using mushrooms or any citrus or apples!!

After a bit of pondering (and internet research)… this is what I came up with:

Friday dinner

stir fry with noodles (why have I never cooked this when camping before? I bought ready prepared packets of vegetable stir fry, some stir in sauce and dried instant noodles – a super fast supper, perfect when you need to eat fast after getting all the tents up!)

pineapple pan pudding (one of my dutch oven staples)

Saturday breakfast

shakshuka (basically eggs poached by simmering them in a tomato sauce)

freshly baked damper bread

Saturday lunch

macaroni cheese and salad (cooked in the Dutch oven)

Saturday dinner

dahl and naan bread (dahl is a cheap, easy and tasty Dutch oven meal.  The naan toast up quickly on the fire using the Dutch oven’s lid)

blueberry cake (this was my first attempt at blueberry cake in the Dutch oven – I think it was pretty successful and I’d make it again another time)

Sunday breakfast

cabbage griddle, scones egss and beans (cooked on the Primus stove, no time for Dutch ovens before church!)


Cabbage griddle scones

Sunday lunch

pitta breads with cheese and leftover salad (toasted up on the griddle pan on the primus stove)

Sunday dinner

sweet potato, butternut squash and bean stew with beer bread (I’d never heard of beer bread before researching for this trip, but it is a delicious, if unhealthy loaf made – as the name would suggest – with beer and drowned in butter as it cooks!)

cinnamon swirl cake (another new recipe for me, served with custard straight from the carton)


Three dutch ovens on the go at once!! Left is the beer bread, having already cooked on the fire, it is having fire just on the top to finish it off. Middle is our vegetable stew and top is the cinnamon butter melting ready to make the pudding!

Monday breakfast

Ah well, our trip was cut short by our trip to A&E so for Monday we didn’t have what I’d planned, rather we had the emergency cornflakes I’d brought and some of the cereal bars I’d made before we came.

Hope this menu inspires you if you also need to plan a vegetarian trip.


Eco larder!

When we set up camp at Freshwinds we discovered an unexpected facility – an eco larder!!

It took us a while to work out what it was and how it worked, but eventually we realised that if we put something in a carrier bag and attached a string to it, we could store things in it to keep them cool!

We only tried it out with some beer, but we can confirm that on a very hot day it did indeed cool the beer nicely.  A nice eco touch to this back to basics campsite.



Our latest campsite find

You’ll have read in our last post that we had slighty too many adventures on our last camping trip!  But how did the new campsite score?

Considering our experiences earlier in the year with weather warnings for high winds, we were a little apprehensive about trying out a campsite called ‘Freshwinds’!!!  But it was recommended to us by a friend, so we thought we’d risk giving it a go!

Here’s how it compares to our other favourite campsites:  campsite scores.


Freshwinds campsite

Camp kitchen and compost toilet block

The highs and lows of camping!

We tried out a new campsite at the Bank Holiday weekend – and I think it was fair to say it was a trip of highs and lows.

The first ‘high’ was the temperature – the hottest August Bank Holiday ever recorded.  Fortunately we had our gazebo for shade, as it really was very warm.  A bit too warm maybe… but certainly better than our experience in May of camping on the coldest May Day Bank Holiday ever!!

The first ‘low’ was also the temperature – clear blue skies meant no cloud cover and the contrast between daytime and nighttime temperatures was huge.  Sadly this meant some of our camping buddies didn’t sleep so well because they were cold.

In general, we liked our new campsite find.  We were particularly pleased that we could walk through the shady woods to the sea at Pett Levels.  We were disappointed that the pub and ice-cream stall had closed down, but the teeny tiny church on the beach had its doors open and allowed you to help yourself to tea and coffee for a donation – perfect!  Swimming & paddling in the sea was a definite highlight!

There was general consensus that the compost toilets were a low point of the trip.  Our newest camping recruit was not keen on them at all, and to be fair to her they weren’t great.  Firstly you had to climb some rickety stairs to get to them – definitely a need for another hand rail, plus the door for one of the cubicles could potentially knock someone down the stairs!  The toilets were a bit smelly – probably a combination of the end of the season, the hot weather and the fact they didn’t have urine separators on them.  The toilets themselves were probably clean enough, but sadly the cubicle areas weren’t cleaned, so they were cobwebby and dusty… it wouldn’t have taken much to make a trip to the bog a much more pleasant experience, and less daunting for our novice camper!

One of our campers was a vegetarian – which provided opportunities for a whole new avenue of recipes.  Sitting round the campfire eating freshly prepared food was another high.

On Sunday evening we sat round having eaten our fill of stew and beer bread and cinnamon swirl cake with custard discussing the highs and lows of our trip.  Our novice camper was even beginning to imply she might come again sometime.  And then disaster struck!  A simple thing, she went to adjust the fairylights on her tent (yes, we camp in style!) and tripped on a guy rope.  But sadly, it wasn’t a simple little trip and she was in agony.  Fortunately we could get the car to her and take her to A&E, where we discovered the reason for the pain – she had a spiral break in her leg.  This put the compost toilets into perspective and established a record low point for all of our camping trips.

Thank God for the NHS and A&E departments open in the middle of the night and X-ray machines and clever doctors! Distressingly we had to leave her behind in Hastings to have surgery, but 5 days later we are pleased to report she has had her op and is on her way home.

R & L