Read all about our Claire’s family glamping trip to Jollydays Glamping site in Buttercrambe Moor Wood in North Yorkshire with her family.
How many of us love the idea of taking our kids out into the wild for a camping family adventure, switching off our phones, televisions and the general noise that make our lives chaotic and heads fuzzy? And how many of us then look out of the window and realise that, June it might be, but this is England. And much as I love living in Yorkshire, it can get bloomin’ cold of a night up here.
Trying to convince my husband to go camping since our son started walking has been somewhat of a fruitless mission. We’ve been camping in the past, pre-wedding, and we threw caution to the wind by choosing Glencoe as our destination, a tent with no groundsheet as our shelter. The upshot is, we’ve had past disasters when it comes to roughing it, and my husband is more a five-star man than even he’d care to admit. But if he wants our boy to grow up all Huckleberry Finn, he’s going to have to put the work in.
When I stumbled across Jollydays Glamping site, I knew I was in luck. Four-poster beds, a wood-burning fire, a bathroom INSIDE the tent… I didn’t have to do much persuading.
So escape into the woods is exactly what we did. Our phone batteries and signal died, along with our addiction to screens and edgy tempers. What took their place was peace, fun, adventure, beauty, survival, simplicity, nature and togetherness. OK, survival might be pushing it, but we still had fires to light (and keep alight), thermals to peel on and off, barbecues to light, sticks to collect, birds to listen to and feed, washing up to do, owls to disturb our slumber and getting a bit mucky to contend with. It was glamping, yes, but make no mistake it was still camping and we were still under canvas in the woods. It was just more comfortable and luxurious camping.
The mantra of Jollydays is to throw away the rule book and leave everyone well alone. This took a bit of getting used to, as we’re so used to holidaying where staff do the complete opposite. But actually, in the end we loved that way of doing things. There to help us with any queries though were two very charming and mature young men, Duke of Edinburgh volunteers, who were in charge of keeping the communal camp fire alight (a definite highlight) and day-to-day duties. There was also a maintenance man on site to help deliver our wood and fix our leaking bath. We stayed midweek, and on our last night on camp we were the only people in the whole site. I was surreal and wonderful, but I am glad we’d had the week to settle in before that happened. Being at one with nature is a naff term to use, but this I would describe as a bit like that.
Regular camp sites full of families in a field might be fun for the kids and good company for adults (I do like a bit of campsite camaraderie), but Jollydays is unique in that there is a good distance between tents, really giving the impression that you’re away from it all and everyone, and you’re just in amongst the very tall trees, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels and rabbits hop by, and even spot a deer if you’re lucky (the DoE boys had one on their deck one morning. Alas, a three-year-old in tow hopping himself all the time is not conducive to attracting such timid wildlife).
The woods came first, the site fit in around that, the ethos of which I loved. The social side would come into it around the camp fire, pizza oven, in the tea tent and by the play area if we’d been there on a weekend or school holiday no doubt, where kids can make friends swooping from the tree swings, playing on the toy tractor or in the Wendy house, as the adults drink and chat around the camp fire, getting doused in the smell of smoke and not caring one bit.
What we ate
We were delighted at the idea of cooking al fresco every night and heating the tent up with a full English on the two gas rings every morning, so that’s exactly what we did, apart from one night when we made our own pizzas in the camp pizza oven. It was so nice that mealtimes and cooking became an activity for all of us, something modern-day family life lacks wholeheartedly.
We went back to basics and enjoyed our food more for it. It might have had something to do with the quality of the produce – we used the friendly Riverside Butchers in Stamford Bridge, which came recommended by Jollydays. Their thin pork sausages were out of this world.
We also went along to the Low Moor Farm in Sand Hutton around the corner to buy just-picked asparagus and strawberries. Honestly the most delicious and juiciest strawberries any of us had tasted. We gobbled up the whole punnet in the car instantly. We stumbled across this farm on our drive to the coast, but weirdly I had bought some asparagus from their stall at the Malton Food Festival just a few weeks before. It was outstanding.
The award-winning farm shop and cafe along the road from Jollydays, The Balloon Tree, is also said to be fantastic for produce and cakes. We meant to try it out but unfortunately never made it there this time around.
What we did
While we were actually in camp we spent our time cooking, going on woodland walks, chatting and playing on the deck, sitting around the camp fire, toasting marshmallows on the camp fire, swinging on the swings, building the fire and boiling up the kettle for tea. In the evenings we carried on chatting, read and got early nights.
We also did some exploring. We got back into the car and entered civilisation some of the days (this point in a camping trip is when you realise how bad your hair is). We had fish and chips in Stamford Bridge, went to my old childhood haunt and stunning coastal spot of Flamborough to see the lighthouse and have a picnic and ice creams on the beach, watching the tide go out from the caves. We also went to Castle Howard, an ideal place to take kids if it’s a sunny day, because you can get the train ride down to the brilliant lakeside adventure park and enjoy a picnic, and only have to pay the grounds fees to enter.
Wood – don’t try and be clever and take or buy cheaper wood to burn in the stove. You’ll regret it. The kiln-dried wood they sell on site is pricier for a reason: it lights instantly and makes your tent nice and hot. We bought cheaper wood that just didn’t light, burn or give off any heat, and it was a waste.
Choose your tent to suit you – Unless you like to have baths, choose a tent with a freestanding shower. We had a roll top bath, which looked lovely and was ideal for our little one, however it wasn’t great as a shower for us. It was a bit style-over-substance, which otherwise I didn’t find at all in the camp make-up. It is stylish yes, but it’s just the right amount of spit and sawdust too. You can also choose less expensive accommodation options without the bathrooms, which I would definitely consider because the facilities are certainly adequate.
Take thermals – I almost made the mistake of not taking mine. After a chilly first night, I put my thermals underneath my PJs with fluffy socks on, and I was a happy camper for the rest of the time. Don’t be fooled if it’s summer. The fire can only burn for so long and nighttime temperatures can still plummet.
Take extra candles – there were lots of tea lights all over the place, but this will be your only light in the tent, apart from the kitchen electric light. I replaced tea lights every evening in the bathroom and around the tent, and was surprised at just how much light they gave off. With it being June, we didn’t experience any oppressive dark, but I imagine it could be fearsome in other months. On the plus side, your body knows when to get tired and send you off to bed with…
Hot water bottles – Jollydays cleverly had plenty hung up on the wall, and I quickly realised these were to be our nighttime saviours.
Replace ‘iced’ hot water bottles daily – our fridge was a supplied large coolbox, which fit in everything we brought nicely. Unfortunately I missed the instructions on replacing and collecting the blue hot water bottles they provided, which were frozen to keep your food cold, until our trip was almost over. They really worked too.
Take a few extra utensils – if you’re a seasoned camper, you don’t need me to tell you this. At Jollydays you’ll get all the utensils you need, but an extra sharp knife will never go amiss, and don’t forget foil to make pizzas, plenty of matches and extra cloths and teatowels.
Earplugs – even though my ‘baby’ is three, I still often think of myself as a new mum, and earplugs remain against my instincts, however if you’re a light sleeper and get freaked out by woodland sounds, take earplugs. Personally, I’m glad I didn’t miss out on those owls, but the planes practising their loop-de-loops at the crack of dawn could be annoying. Earplugs won’t stop them waking your three-year-old up though…
Look up – being in the spirit of nature, we were looking all around us for beautiful things that our natural world throws out, even when we were outside camp. We stopped at a pub for a quick drink and lo and behold, we witnessed swallows feeding their young in the nest in the doorway arch. On the other side we witnessed something awe-inspiring: a tiny fledging bluetit from the bird box. Nothing cuter you will see. In Flamborough we were blessed with glimpses of seals fishing and nesting puffins on the cliffs through the binoculars. I felt like I was on Springwatch. It was heartwarming and humbling.
Non-locking doors – another reason why earplugs were a no-no was that our tent didn’t have a locking door. At first this was disconcerting. When I left my phone in the tea tent to charge a few per cent, I was looking around for bandits, criminals and thieves. How could I leave my precious and expensive phone out of my sight, let alone unattended? After a few days, I was into the mindset and culture of the site, and of camping, and so will you too. Relax. Locks just don’t matter. It’s the lions, tigers and bears you have to watch out for.
If you love the idea of camping but just can’t bring yourself to go the whole hog, try glamping on a beautiful weekend in the Yorkshire woods. You won’t regret it.