As an ardent fan of life under canvas, I’m marking the days off until April 12 – when self-catered campsites and caravan parks open up to the throngs desperate for fresh air and a boozy barbecue under the stars following Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Leading booking site Pitchup reported that UK campsites saw a massive 500% rise in bookings for this year, while the Camping and Caravanning Club saw a noticeable spike in enquiries during January and February.
But dare we mention the c-word when the temperature has yet to hit 20C? Yes!
Sure, the weather is unpredictable and the need to pack well (layers! Waterproofs!) is vital. But spring means sheets of bluebells, families of fledging birds chirruping into life – and, mercifully, fewer bugs.
In fact, in the States, actual winter camping has been a growing trend over the past decade, with hardy campers choosing snow and solitude over sunshine and sausage sizzles as they head to the wilderness.
Although a fully committed fair-weather camper, last year I did have a frosty flirtation with winter camping to arm myself for the April showers.
I took myself off-grid to Wowo, a charming woodland campsite in the darkest depths of the Sussex countryside, usually open all year round (from £10 a night).
Armed with thermals, hip flasks and several hot-water bottles, I spent a blissfully quiet weekend romping through silent, skeletal woods, sitting around my little campfire with fortifying hot chocolate and testing my flaky knowledge of constellations out on an inky sky, before retiring to my arctic-standard sleeping bag at 8pm with a mug of merlot and my favourite Jilly Cooper.
And, unlike summer camping, the sun doesn’t deign to peek above the horizon until a respectable 8am, which meant I got a solid 11 hours of beauty sleep.
Camping in high summer has a charming chaos about it. I love hanging out in pretty bunting-strewn bell tents, playing Swingball tournaments and late-night carousing around the campfire, although waking at dawn with a cider hangover and burnt sausage breath is a notable downside.
But camping when it’s chillier is all about simple solitude and quiet contemplation. Rather than enduring a drunken ukulele jam around the campfire, cooler campers prefer to conduct their thoughts in silence, bar the crackle and spit of damp logs.
I was cosier than a pixie’s pocket in my tiny and surprisingly warm tent – the almost constant consumption of chocolate biscuits and red wine to keep out the chills, going to bed early wearing a woolly hat and all my clothes, and not having to make polite conversation with my camp neighbours all helped, of course.
When lockdown lifts and campsites reopen, I recommend a spot of cool camping as the ideal way to recalibrate after a tough year.
Campsites with communal facilities are due to open May 17. Plan your next camping trip at campsites.co.uk.
Five fab UK campsites you can book now at pitchup.com
Grey Willow Yurts, Devon
Set deep in Devon’s Blackdown Hills, this is excellent for stargazing and nearby is Exmoor National Park, the first designated Dark Sky Reserve in Europe. Eco-friendly glamping cabins each have a shower and toilet.
Sleeps up to five, from £199 per stay.
Pencarnan Farm Caravan and Camping, Pembrokeshire
Located at the most westerly tip of Wales, there are sea views and access to Porthsele beach. Shared amenities including family bathroom available.
Grass pitches for tents or caravans from £26pn.
Hackthorn Hall Campsite, Lincolnshire
Camp next to the formal gardens of this Grade I listed 18th-century manor house with attractive rural views. Dogs and barbecues permitted.
Pitches for tents, motorhomes and touring caravans from £20pn.
Hengrave Meadow Glamping, Norfolk
A new site for this summer, you’ll be staying in luxury bell tents. They’re equipped with wood-framed beds, individual canvas-covered cooking areas as well as a toilet and shower.
Sleeps up to five, from £220 per stay.
Waydown Shepherds Huts, Sussex
Just 15 minutes from Brighton, you’ll be on the South Downs Way in cosy, handcrafted huts with shared toilet/bathroom facilities in a separate unit.
Sleeps two adults and one child, from £195 per stay (two nights minimum).
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Author: Tracey Davies