There was a time, once, where a spring weekend did not mean sitting in pyjamas with baby spit down the front, with the curtains drawn, waiting for H to get up so I could half-arsedly push a hoover around before various relatives turned up to coo at the Nipper. No, the dawn of the weekend would mean skiving out of work half an hour early, donning my walking boots and attractive rainproof trousers, heading to Piccadilly station and catching a train to Edale or Windermere, where I would meet the advance party (H and the Dog) and head off for a weekend of proper northern fun. Yes, any weekend between March and November that was not spent knee-deep in mud and empty wine bottles after at least 8 hours walking at a steep incline was not a weekend well spent, irrespective of the gale force winds/torrential rain/subzero temperatures, etc. etc. etc. This weekend just gone would have been perfect: cold, damp and poor visibility. Still, family commitments being what they are these days (and, for the avoidance of doubt, I wouldn’t change a thing), the tent will languish in the boiler room, and I will post a little homage to my favourite Lake District, Peak District and Welsh campsites:
1. Wasdale National Trust Campsite. It was probably ambitious of us to select this for our first ever camping trip, since not only did we have to brave Wrynose pass in distinctly unfavourable weather conditions, but trying to assemble our luxury three-man tent for the first time in gale force winds would have sent a saner couple home, Anyway, we braved it out and it was well worth it. At the head of Wastwater with amazing views of Great Gable, Scafell, the Screes, Illgill Head etc., and with a proper lakeland pub, the Wasdale Head, within staggering distance, this is a reet proper lakeland experience. Handy for exploring the more remote Western lakes and some spectacular walking, although owing to infirmity of Dog we are yet to attempt the obvious ascent up Scafell (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).
2. Thirlspot Farm Campsite. On the road between Ambleside and Keswick, this is a lovely if basic spot opposite Thirlmere reservoir, the experience of which was not spoilt either by the traffic from the main road or by the fact our luxury three-man tent blew down on the second night, never to be used again (and has now been replaced by a far less ostentatious model). Ideally located for Keswick, Blencathra and one of the easier ascents up Helvellyn. King’s Head next door also ideally located for a post-Helvellyn spritzer or three in the sunshine, or indeed for a bed if your tent blows down.
3. Baysbrown Farm. Massive but impressive campsite in the postcard-perfectly picturesque Langdale valley. Good facilities and good access to walking up Dungeon Ghyll, the Pikes, etc. Wainwrights’ Inn a pleasant 15 minutes walk away, the Britannia Inn at Elterwater another 15 minutes on, both dog friendly if I remember correctly. Bacon butty van at the campsite in the morning very welcome after a night of torrential rain.
4. Upper Booth Campsite, Edale. Basic but beautiful campsite at foot of Kinder plateau, about 1.5 miles from Edale. Brilliant walking straight out of the campsite. This was the campsite that made us fall in love with Kinder Scout, and the Peak District generally. The Nag’s Head in Edale is the location of the Best Pint of Shandy I Have Ever Had (after 9 mile circuit of the Kinder plateau in unseasonable sunshine, the last 3 miles being completed in a filthy mood with a sprained ankle).
5. Cwmrhwyddfor, Tal Y Llyn. This is a slightly strange but very attractive campsite at the foot of Cadair Idris, near Dollgellau. Separate areas for caravans by the river and tents in the field above. The farmer owners are friendly, even down to the old guy who sits in his car waiting to collect dosh. Barmouth and Twywn close by. Three pubs close by, two of which are slightly intimidating in their own way (think: Girl’s World head on bar in one (actually, no, who thinks of that?); H getting bollocked by landlord for not using a coaster in the other). Birthday dinner in the third pub was abandoned when chef went missing (?) so ended up eating crisps and drinking fizzy wine in the tent, listening to one of the caravans blaring out Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits. Good times. I’d definitely go back, if only to make it further up Cadair Idris than we did.
So, off you go, no excuses, the weather couldn’t be better for a proper northern camping experience (snow in May, I ask you….)