It’s on bright sunny days like today – in fact, it’s only on bright sunny days like today – that my thoughts turn to camping. (Yes, I admit it, I am definitely a fair weather camper.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be waking up to eggs and bacon sizzling on a camping stove before tucking in al fresco, instead of grabbing a slice of cold toast and dashing out on the school run shouting ‘If we don’t leave NOW, we’re going to be late!’
One of our favourite campsites is South Penquite Farm, a 200-acre organic beef and sheep farm high on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.
It was the very first campsite we stayed at as newbies to the whole camping lark, and we loved it so much we’ve returned several times since.
Directions to South Penquite end with a succession of cattle grids, dirt tracks and even a ford, and that’s the first plus point in our book – you really do feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere.
Add the fact that there are no marked pitches, so you can set up camp wherever you like on the camping fields and enjoy a view from your tent of wide open space instead of the clobber of a fellow camper.
Unusually, campfires are allowed and as the sun goes down, you’ll see flickering flames across the site as tired campers relax with a glass in one hand and a marshmallow toasting fork in the other (Very tasty, home-produced lamb burgers and sausages are also sold on site, along with bags of firewood).
You can shower in a morning in solar-heated rainwater – which is always hot – in cubicles lined with sheets of recycled plastic bottles and yoghurt pots.
Washing up is apparently so much fun, that it’s the one week of the year when clearing up messy dishes after a meal is not my problem. (Or is that because the washing up sinks are right by the play barn, where youngsters of all ages regularly congregate for a quick game of basketball or table tennis or simply to hang out with their new mates).
For our two girls, the fact that this is very much a working farm is all part of the attraction.
Expect plenty of visitors to your tent flap of the non-human kind!
The very welcoming couple who run the site, Dominic and Cathy Fairman, are also happy for anyone heading out onto the moor to take one or both of their sheepdogs with them.
And it’s fair to say that our adventures with Gwen and Shep (who are thankfully up to the challenge of being walked 100 times a day by a succession of dog-loving campers) have been THE highlight of all our stays.
There are wild ponies roaming free on the moor, just beyond the farm gate, although these have been the subject of a recent multi-agency welfare initiative to ensure those that remain are properly health-checked, identified and microchipped.
And although this part of Cornwall is never going to attract as many holidaymakers as its coastal neighbours, there is nevertheless plenty to see and do in the area. (And the coast if within striking distance if you are yearning for the sea).
Bodmin itself, home to the apparently haunted Bodmin Jail; Jamaica Inn, the smugglers inn immortalised in Daphne du Maurier’s best-selling novel; and the very family-friendly National Trust stately home and parkland with bike trails at Lanhydrock, are all close by.
Although South Penquite Farm also boasts a quartet of yurts and more recent bunkhouse accommodation, even for a comfort-loving townie like me, it would be hard to beat the sheer escapism of clambering out of your sleeping bag and feeling the fresh Cornish air on your nose as the smell of damp grass mingles with that of a traditional camper’s fry up (even if your ears are being assailed by cries of ‘Can we go and get Shep and Gwen yet?)
Sadly, we won’t be able to squeeze in a return visit before South Penquite closes for the winter at the end of this month.
But it will definitely be on our wishlist for 2018 and in the meantime, we can but dream…
- To find out more, visit http://www.southpenquite.co.uk