Monday, 2 September 2013

Camping in Wales

The summer holidays were coming to an end. It had been weeks packed full of activity but two tasks I had set myself at the start had been completely neglected. One was to do some work on the exterior paintwork and the second was to take the little ones away on vacation. I felt guilty about the paintwork but guilty doesn't even come close to describing how I felt when 5 year old Addy looked at me with such longing and asked "When are we going on holiday mummy?"

I shared the exchange with my husband whose guilt meter also registered off the scale. We decided that whatever happened, we would squeeze in a couple of days of adventure for them.

With our sixteen year old about to head off to boarding school, finances had been stretched to the limit. There was never any question that the shape our holiday would take would be 'wet weekend in Wales' rather than 'exotic luxury'. We made our plans.

My husband has wonderful memories of camping trips with his family as a child: a resourceful grandfather who fashioned a cool box for the butter out of a biscuit tin lined with polystyrene and ever more elaborate solutions to the practical problems arising from living under canvas. It isn't something I have much experience with but I am always willing to have a go.

And 'have a go' we did.

With the aid of the internet, we found a perfect campsite in Cardigan. It was very basic - a field on a farm by the sea with a toilet/shower block. The friendly, laid back owner rode around on his quad bike to make sure everyone was happy.

It was Wales but it wasn't wet. In fact we had one gloriously sunny morning that saw us head off to Mwnt (got to love the Welsh names with no vowels) to the beach with our swimming gear. It was a beautiful sandy beach nestled between high cliffs with steep steps leading down to it. The kids loved it and I was very excited to see a dolphin. Addy clambered on rocks reminding me of my own childhood holidays spent in Barry Island.

They played in the sea and ran over the soft sand.

It was all very carefree until a huge wall of fog began snaking its way into the bay blocking the sun. Moments before, people had been enjoying the warm sun on their skin. Now they were huddling under towels and blankets to protect themselves from the chill whilst waiting for the icy fog to pass. It didn't pass. It was the sort of fog that I could imagine harboured the souls of men lost at sea. It was ominous and bone chilling. We eventually retreated back up the steps to the car park via a small reasonably priced kiosk that sold all your beach essentials and snacks - and most importantly for me, coffee.

My husband was fabulous with his car boot cuisine which was just as well because we were not within easy reach of pubs or restaurants. Our diet was limited - but nobody went hungry.

There was a lovely walk down to the cliffs from the campsite through a wheat field. I love how the ripe wheat brings out the colour of Addy's hair.

Three year old Dylan is a lazy walker. He prefer to ride on dad's head, steering him by his ears. It is cute but does limit how far we can venture.

The farm had a few animals that the children were able to feed, in particular donkeys. A baby donkey was born during our stay. Adorable.

The children also had the opportunity to ride bareback on a donkey which we lead around the field (probably in breech of all known health and safety regulations!) I think Addy imagined herself as a horsewoman but Dylan held on tight and kept repeating with his little lisp Iths a long way down!!

There were a few incidents I'd rather forget.

I took Addy with me to the toilet block to clean her teeth before bed and told her to wait for me. She didn't wait. I assumed that the lure of the donkeys was too much and that she had gone to say goodnight to them. She hadn't. I looked up and down the road. No sign of her.  I scanned the field. Nothing. I asked fellow campers if they had seen her. They hadn't. I was starting to panic but before mounting a full scale search I ran back to the tent to tell my husband what had happened. There was Addy. Sweet and innocent, changing into her pyjamas. I admired her for finding her way back to the tent on her own in the dark but I was also furious.

Then there was the time when the owner turned up on his quad bike to see if we needed anything and dared to call Addy Princess. She stamped her feet petulantly shouting I'M NOT A PRINCESS. DO I LIVE IN A CASTLE? NO! I was mortified.

Overall I have more good memories than bad and as the sun set on our holiday, I'd happily do it all again.

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