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Sleep Under the Stars, Church Farm, Ardeley

It has seemed like a rather dismal school holiday this summer, with rain, damp and cold making outfoor living feature rather less heavily than usual on our agenda.

We were truly lucky the weekend before Bank Holiday on a mini camping break in pretty Hertfordshire, with a wonderful family environment, music, vodka, and the best star gazing we’ve seen in a while. The weather held right until pack up on sunday, and we even saw a shooting star (in amongst the myriad aircraft waiting to land at Luton) on the Friday.

The farm is a great location for campers – not too far from the city, but idyllic with working animals, pretty tea rooms, a well stocked famr shop and otsof kids activities. The Sleep Under the Stars weekend also boasts a bar, homemade flavoured vodka (try the tarragon if you get a chance – odd, but delicious), bonfire, and live music. Yes, portaloos, but very clean and tidy, and portable hot showers made this a really pleasant venue, and the kids loved yomping through hay bales and saying good morning to the piglets.

There is also alovely country pub opposite the entrance to the farm, The Jolly Waggoner, with excellent pub grub and traditional ales.

Coleman Double Airbed

The trip proved to be the perfect opportunity to try out our latest airbed, the Coleman Durarest Raised Double. The bed is a tough, high level double with soft velour effect top with a coil support system, and has its own wrap and carry bag attached for easy pack away.

Despite not having a built in or included pump, which actually I think is a shame for the price, this is a lovely, quality airbed. It held its shape beautifully, was very comfortable and warm, and supported an adult and child with no roll together even after several days. Ours is a fetching sea blue, and the attached carry bag makes it a cinch to pack away fast.

Dog Day Afternoons…

One of the reasons Brits have had such a longstanding love affair with the outdoor life is the ability to take your dogs on holiday.

Whether you camp or prefer to take a tourer or motorhome with you, this is a brilliant option for dog lovers everywhere. No kennel fees, no worry about leaving faithful Fido behind while you go off to enjoy your summer holidays.

It also means your hound can take advantage of long walks though the woods, sunny afternoons at the beach and a refreshing dip in the sea or a nearby lake, make doggy friends and get some exercise too.



Are dogs welcome on the site you have chosen? What restrictions are in place regarding their behaviour? Do check as turning up with several large dogs in tow only be turned away could literally ruin your holiday.


Make sure you are happy that your dog is well trained not tomes in your living quarters, and take puppy pads and plenty of disposal bags. Make sure you cklean up after your dog as religiously, or even more so, than at home. Beaches and campsites alike are usually very family friendly, so do make sure you are fastidious with this.


Take a supply of your usual food, plus a few suitable treats for bribery. Yes, there are supermarkets everywhere, but if you have a fussy pooch or one on a restricted diet, a midnight dash to the 24 hour supermarket may not yield quite the right results, and the last thing you want is a food refuser or worse, a poorly tum. Make sure water is easily available as you would at home.


If you dog is crated or sleeps in a particular basket or bed, take it with. Try to keep to her usual routine which will make it easier when you return home, but should also stop any nearby neighbours complaining about noisy pets.


Most sites will have a rule about tethering. Good pet shops should sell these, plus a stake to anchor it firmly. If in doubt, a flexi style lead tethered with the stop pushed at the correct length will work. I’d also so you can never have too many leads – if one does go astray, it will stop you being marooned with no way of taking the dog out.


Just to reiterate – a car or caravan interior can reach baking temperatures in a matter of minutes. If you take your dog, be prepared to look for pubs which allow dogs, or eat outside. Leaving your dog in the car is absolutely not advised, even for short periods.

Last but not least, take a good supply of old towels. Wet dog in a small space is not pleasant, and who knows what your mutt may decide to roll in on your long forest walks!

Finding a caravan park

Find a caravan park or campsite

Camping, caravanning and the use of the motorhome has become increasingly popular in the last decade, and whilst many of us have suffered financially during the recent recession, there has been a distinct growth in the caravanning, motorhome and camping industry, with both holiday parks and campsites seeing a rise in the number of visitors. Increasing numbers of motorhomes are sold in Britain, and camping holidays & campsite use in Europe are also on the up. There are probably several reasons for this, but with some of us unable to afford a holiday abroad, coupled with the exchange rate between the Euro and the Pound (GBP sterling), and the fact that modern camping is a far cry from the traditional image. Campsites and accessories can now make for a very comfortable holiday meaning that holiday parks in the UK have become increasingly popular once again. It certainly can’t be because of the improved weather!
When searching for campsites in England the first consideration of course is the location. There are many fantastic and picturesque places in the UK, from Scotland to the Lake District and then further south you may want to consider Southern England, in areas such as Dorset, or the New Forest in Hampshire, or even further a field in Cornwall.
The next consideration to make is the type of holiday you want to go on. You might choose camping, own your own van to tow to the chosen caravan parks in England or go for a static holiday caravan park – no towing or tent to pack. You might own a motorhome, and have most of your requirements ready to go!
The final consideration to take into account is the choice of facilities provided. Where would you prefer to leave your motorhome? Do you require your campsite to be pet and dog friendly, or have a swimming pool, electricity hook-up, with proximity to leisure activities or even the beach?
When searching for caravan dealers UK, several options would come your way. You would find used, static and touring caravans for sale UK. If you are looking for a relatively larger structure and if you are planning to live in your mobile home for a longer period and feel at home, the static caravans for sale UK would be an ideal solution. If you are on a short vacation and then there are the touring caravans for sale UK. If purchasing a brand new caravan is a little heavy on you, there are many places you could find to purchase a used one.

See our list of caravan parks

Top 5 UK destinations for motorhomes

The beauty of owning your own motorhome is that you can pick a destination at your leisure, pack up and head off – all without having to go through the hassle of finding accommodation.

What’s more, having this freedom means that you can choose to stay at the most convenient location to whatever has attracted you to an area in the first place. Whether your passion is for stately homes, country gardens or heritage sites, simply find the nearest campsite and set up base.

If you’re an enthusiastic walker with a passion for beautiful scenery and picturesque landscapes, take a look at our pick of the top five places in the UK to head for in your motorhome.

Ben Nevis

Sitting majestically in the Scottish Highlands, you’ll find Britain’s biggest mountain and most challenging walking opportunity. Ben Nevis offers walkers the chance to be the highest person in the British Isles, promising astounding views – you can even see Northern Ireland on clear days! And with a campsite at the base, there couldn’t be a more perfect destination for motorhome enthusiasts.

If you’re determine to tackle the highest peak in the UK, you’ll need to equip yourself for the challenges ahead with some decent walking boots. You should take a look at the range of Merrell walking boots and shoes at Cotswold Outdoor. The designs in this selection offer effective ankle support and cushioning, so they’re perfect for tackling the challenging, mountainous terrain that Nevis has to offer.

Cotswold have a full range of outdoor clothing that’s suitable for walkers and hikers of all abilities. Bear in mind that conditions at the top of a mountain can vary enormously from those at the bottom, so it’s important to equip yourself with a fleece and a waterproof coat before you embark on a climb.

The Lake District

The land of Wordsworth and the great English poets, the Lake District has a captivating beauty about it, regardless of season or weather.

Why not carry on your mountaineering accomplishments and scale England’s highest peak, Scarfell Pike? Or if leisurely strolls are more your thing, you’d be hard pushed to find a view as inspiring as that of the calm, blue waters of the area’s largest lake, Windermere.

Campsites are aplenty in the area, although we found this top ten guide from The Guardian useful when deciding where to stay.

Yorkshire Dales


Though the Yorkshire Dales often has bleak connotations for many people, we can’t help but be captivated by this dramatic rolling landscape.

If you’re something of a literature lover, why not fuel your passion for the Brontë classics by taking a trip to the small town of Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters?

Their family home still exists and has now been preserved as a museum, which makes for an interesting few hours. However, the true gem of a visit to this quaint West Yorkshire community, is the walking route from the family home, out across the moors to the ruins of a building which is credited as being the inspiration behind Emily Brontë’s Gothic masterpiece, Wuthering Heights. The walk is wonderful in good weather, but it’s especially inspirational on days when thick clouds and biting winds reveal the inspiration behind Brontë’s dark novel.

Cornish Coast

For something a little sunnier, make your way to the beautiful Cornish coast, where you’ll be delighted to find clear blue water and sandy shores that rival anything the Caribbean or Bahamas has to offer.

Walkers should head for the delightful Copper Trail on Bodmin Moor, so called for the number of abandoned copper mines walkers will find along the 60 mile route. You can obtain a copy of the Copper Trail Guidebook, which tells you information about the history and culture of the area, for free at the Visit Cornwall site. This is also a great place to find a campsite, although we heartily recommend the Tristram Camping, which occupies a fantastic cliff top location overlooking the sea.

 Cadair Idris

There are so many fantastic walking opportunities in Wales, although this one warranted a special mention in our guide. Local Welsh legend states that this mountain is the home of the giant Cadair, who uses it to sit in and look at the stars – the name Cadair Idris translates as ‘Chair of Cadair’. Folklore also indicates that anyone who spends the night at the summit will be driven insane by the giants.

If this prospect is enough to put you off the idea of sleeping on the mountain, we suggest a stay at the Cwmrhwyddfor Campsite and Touring Park, at the foot of the mountain. This is a fantastic base for exploring the Snowdonia National Park and offers tranquil, relaxing surroundings for motorhome owners.

Campfire Cooking

We’ve said it before, and no doubt we will say it again, but no meal tastes quite as good as one cooked and eaten out of doors. Maybe it is the fresh air, helping us to build up an amazing appetite; perhaps it’s the tang of vinegar on your chips on a windy day by the beach, or the woodsmoke from the camp fire. Whatever it is, campsite and caravan cooking can be a real pleasure, providing succour and flavour as well as simple sustenance.

Caravan kitchen are small, campsites kitchens don’t exist. Storage is minimal, and keeping fresh food cool can be an issue. We thoroughly recommend a large, good quality cool box and plenty of ice packs. An excellent tip for al fresco cooking is to freeze up ingredients for several one pot meals in generous amounts, transfer to freezer bags, and keep in your cool box. They should stay frozen for quite some time if properly insulated, and help any fresh perishables from spoiling too quickly.

Many of your favourite recipes will work this way – casseroles and stews particularly. Chop the vegetables and meat, add your herbs, spices and flavourings, a nob of butter mixed with plain flower, and freeze. When it has thawed, simply fry in a pan until beginning to brown, top up with water (or wine, or beer, or whatever you have handy, tinned tomatoes are also good) and simmer until tender.


Cowboy Chicken

Serves 4:

4 chicken quarters or breasts, or 8 thighs

6 rashers smoked streaky bacon

1 medium onion

1 red pepper

1 medium potato

1 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons smoky barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon plain flour

½ teaspoon smoked paprika (or more, according to your heat tolerance)

1 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tin butter or haricot beans

Olive oil or butter

Dice the chicken, bacon, onion, pepper and potato, and mix in a freezer bag with the sauce, flour, herbs and spices. Freeze until necessary. Defrost thoroughly before use.

Gently fry the defrosted mix in a large pan for 8 – 10 minutes until the bacon is beginning to crisp and the vegetables have softened. Add the tin of tomatoes, topping up with water to cover. Simmer for around 45 minutes until the potatoes and chicken are tender and the sauce beginning to thicken. Add the beans, stir well, and simmer for another 10 minutes until the beans are thoroughly heated. Serve with cheesy tortillas or rice.


Salmon Laksa (works with chicken, more veg, any seafood or white fish – adjust simmer time accordingly)

Serves 4:

500g salmon fillet

2 spring onions

1 medium carrot

2 cloves garlic

200g mange tout / sugar snap peas

½ red pepper

Bunch of coriander

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons thai yellow curry paste (or your favourite curry paste, to taste)

Splash of oil

1 pack medium egg noodles

1 tin coconut milk

Stock or stock cube, 750ml

Chunk the salmon into bite sized pieces, and add to a freezer bag. Finely shred the spring onions and coriander, cut the carrot, pepper and mange tout into fine julienne, and add to the salmon, along with the oil, curry paste and peanut butter. Freeze until necessary. Defrost thoroughly before use.

Gently fry the salmon, spice and vegetables in a large pan for several minutes until the fish begins to go opaque. Stir in the stock, and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk. Bring back to boiling point, and add the noodles (1/2 a ‘cake’ of noodles per person is usually ample, add more for the very hungry) and cook over a medium heat, stirring, until tender.  Try not to boil too fiercely to avoid the coconut milk separating. Serve in deep bowls. Crushed dry roasted peanuts make an excellent topping!

Find autumn gold on a visit to the New Forest

Find autumn gold on a visit to the New Forest

As I write this I am sitting in an office where the temperature gauge is about to reach 29c, so it’s rather hard to envisage autumn hitting us any time soon, but actually, we are right at the end of an amazing summer 2013, and with kids back and the evenings growing chillier, the camping season does tend to stop for many of us.

We are exceptionally lucky in the UK to have the New Forest on our doorsteps – just 90 minutes from Waterloo and offering majestic scenery, quaint villages, excellent campsites and some of the UK’s finest country hotels.

Autumn is the perfect time to experience the beauty of the New Forest, with its extensive and unique mix of ancient and ornamental trees providing some of the worlds most magnificent autumn forestscapes.

Explore the natural landscape and look for fairies with a Fungi Walk (led by Hidden Britain,, or listen for the start of Autumn as the regal red stag bellows the start of the rutting season. Examine the hedgerows and wildlife on one of the many picturesque, traffic free trails through the forest. To get a true taste of the New Forest, the New Forest Marque is a stamp of quality on the best fresh and seasonal local food to enjoy at classic hotel restaurants, brasseries, traditional English real ale pubs or some of the prettiest tearooms offering indulgent cream teas.

The area is rich in agricultural tradition, such as the Drift round-up, a practice begun under William the Conqueror to protect his new hunting forest. Early autumn sees the Drift, where skilled riders herd 3000 wild ponies whose Commoner owners have the right for them to roam which is attached to property ownership and often passed down from fathers to sons and daughters.  The ponies are well cared fro with regular vet checks. Their young are often weaned at this time and sold at pony sales 6 times a year.

Pony_9407 - Copy Aut_landscape_8303Also during the autumn is the tradition of pigs in pannage – what this means is that the commoners free their pigs to forage for crab apples, acorns, beech mast and other fallen goodies which might be toxic to other wildlife in the forest. The process lasts for 60 days, and plays an important role in the preservation of the forests eco system.

Lifesystems Camping First Aid Kit

Whether you are camping or caravanning this summer, make sure you pack a good first aid kit. Outdoor life is fantastic fun, but accidents can and do happen, and its vital to be prepared for whatever outcome. Of course, ringing for professional medical attention should be your first response, but a well stocked first aid kit is a must have.

If you are hiking or in a small caravan, a compact kit is essential, and Lifesystems Camping Kit seems to us to fit the bill pretty well. A small, durable, bright case with several pockets, this kit is small enough to tuck into a rucksack, bright and easy to find and very clearly marked. It zips up with small zip pulls, which seem sturdy but might be a bit fumble happy in cold / difficult conditions.

Inside, you get:

Small scissors, tweezers and safety pins

  • Wound closure strips
  • Fabric dressing strip, micro pore tape and zinc oxide tape
  • Assorted sizes of plaster
  • Melolin dressing
  • Burn gel
  • Crepe, open weave and pad bandages
  • Thermometer
  • Gloves
  • Paracetomol
  • Gauze swabs
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Eyepad and eyewash

The sections are transparent so you can find what you are looking for quickly in an emergency, and they are labelled, bleeding, medication, breaks and sprains for further ease. There is a very wide range of products in here, and to be honest, as someone who is not a qualified first aider, I wouldn’t be 100% sure on the different uses  between types of tape for example. This isn’t a complaint; if anything a comment on how well stocked this kit is for its size. The products inside are all of good quality, so they won’t let you down at a vital moment.

RRP seems to be around £20, which I think is a reasonable price for a first aid kit of this size, it contains all the basics and a bit more besides, and is accessible, compact and easy to use. Lifesystems have a few different kits on the market, and I like the fact that they are geared toward specific activities, so it was a pleasure to see a properly constructed kit meant for camping use instead of something cobbled together from separate elements.








Camping with a Difference

Drayton Manor Campsite

Are you thinking of  planning a ‘staycation’ in 2013? We think you should consider Drayton Manor Theme Park’s popular campsite, which is operated by The Camping and Caravanning Club.

The 90-pitch, full-facility campsite is right at the heart of one of the UK’s most popular family attractions, located near Tamworth, in Staffordshire, and was awarded a four star rating in 2012 by Quality in Tourism, the assessment service for Visit England.

The site scored particularly well in cleanliness (92%) and touring facilities (88%), with other categories scoring 80% or higher.

The campsite has an electrical hook-up for caravans and an adventure playground to keep the children occupied. The campsite is just a short walk away from local amenities and, of course, Drayton Manor. The park is home to a range of rides and attractions, including the adrenaline-inducing drop-tower, Apocalypse, stand-up coaster, Shockwave, the splash-tastic log flume, Stormforce 10, and stomach-churning gyro-swing, Maelstrom.

For the younger visitors, there is Europe’s only Thomas Land™, where families can experience the magic of Sodor and interact with their favourite characters like never before. Drayton Manor also boasts a fantastic 15-acre zoo within the theme park’s grounds, which houses over 100 different species of animals.


For more information, prices, or to book, visit


Pub Camping


Heard of ‘Pub Camping’?

We hadn’t either, until fairly recently, but this rather British form of camping is becoming something of an artform. On our rare, but beloved, warm, balmy summer afternoons, where better to lounge around than a beautiful green beer garden? And to be able to stagger a few yards back to your tent, too? Heavenly.

Many countryside and village pubs do now have camping and caravanning facilities, offering something just that bit different. Having a warm and cosy pub on your doorstep means less need to worry about a campfire meal if you have arrived late, and the chance of a fab fry up for lunch the day after, as well as a pint, a good natter and if bad weather should hit, you’ll have somewhere to shelter and socialise. Some offer take away food and drink, and they usually have tidy, well kept sites with good facilities, so it is well worth a look.

UK Caravan Parks and Campsites – Holidays in UK 2012

Yet again in 2012 caravan holidays and camping holidays in the UK soared.  Even some of the 5 * caravan parks were fully booked throughout the peak months of July and August.  So if you are booking a holiday in the UK next  year don’t waste any time in booking your holiday early.  It is becoming less and less likely that booking your holiday at the last minute will give you a saving.  UK caravan parks and campsites check here.

Still with the cost of flights and even the availability, people are going to caravan parks more and more in the UK.  You should be able to find caravan parks in the UK using our list of holiday parks / campsites and touring holiday parks.

The choice of holiday parks and campsites is endless, as they can be found in every part of the country, so if you want to stay closer to home, or decide to travel further afield and explore parts of the country you have never visited there will always be something to meet your needs.
Once you have chosen where you want to go, the choice then has to be made as to what type of accommodation you want – this can be part of the fun of the holiday as staying in a modern caravan brings new experiences – but still with home comforts! Most caravan parks and campsites have additional facilities and entertainment open to all, so you can have as energetic or relaxed a time as you want – you just need to pray that the British weather is kind to you! If you haven’t yet got a caravan then please consider our ever growing list of caravan dealers or if you have a caravan but need some caravan parts or accessories then please check this web site.