The best laid plans...

This weekend saw our first ‘proper’ camping trip with Dennis and the bell tent. We had high hopes for a couple of warm evenings spent around the campfire watching the sun set as the boys played happily in the woods beside our campsite, and a weekend of boating and exploring the villages around and about our Somerset location.

But life isn’t really like that a lot of the time is it?

It started off well. We stayed at Batcombe Vale, a truly beautiful campsite in Somerset which we visited last year on our way down to St Ives in Daisy (the VW campervan that started us off on this whole adventure…). It really is a lovely spot, nestled in a gorgeous green valley with only 30 pitches, a ban on motor homes, a 'peace and tranquility’ pledge and a little boating lake.

We arrived pretty late on Friday night, having taken ages to get through Gloucestershire and battled with high winds on the M5, but the journey was worth it:

Pitching the bell tent is a breeze. You can even do it with a G&T in one hand:

And Dennis sat happily next to the bell tent, garnering compliments galore from our fellow campers, which is always nice.

But the idyllic dream doesn’t ever last for long does it? Louis woke before 7am with an urgent shout. At least, that’s what he told me afterwards. At the time, I had earplugs in (defense against snoring husband) and several layers of sleeping bags and blankets over my head (defense against the biting cold). So I missed the warnings and emerged from my slumber a little too late to find Louis covered in sick, having vomited all over Dennis’ floor and worse still, inside his sleeping bag.

We did our first camping wash and tumble drying at 7.19am. Fortunately, Louis rallied a little by 8.30 and we took a couple of the little rowing boats out on the lake to wake us up a bit. It was really lovely:

Until Spence fell into the lake.

Still, our spirits were still not dampened too much. But then the rain set in. Fourteen hours of non-stop, torrential rain poured down, forcing us to abandon all plans for, well, anything really for the rest of Saturday.

And then Spence got the sickness bug. And was sick in the middle of the night in my beautiful, collapsible, very expensive washing up bowl (which I can highly recommend by the way). Things were not going exactly as we had, perhaps foolishly, imagined.

Sunday morning looked a lot brighter so we dug Dennis and the bell tent out of the mud and headed off to Cheddar Gorge for the day. It was just as good as our visit last year, even though Gough’s Cave was under 2m of water due to the aforementioned torrential rain.

All was well and our woes of the previous two nights were put behind us. We took an open-top bus tour and climbed the 274 steps to the lookout tower and the boys had fun in the museum of pre-history, indulging in a bit of hands-on cave painting and scaring each other senseless with the cannibal exhibit.

Then we headed for home.

Pootling happily along the lovely little Somerset back roads, listening to Dodgy, we chuckled about our first foray into proper weekend camping. It’s somehow more amusing when you look back later isn’t it?

And then there was a loud popping noise, a spring shot out from nowhere and hit my leg and Dennis stopped pootling up the hill we had just embarked upon. An accelerator pedal falling to pieces will do that I guess :(

On the positive side, the breakdown truck took less than an hour to arrive giving us plenty of time for a road-side cup of tea, one’s first VW campervan breakdown is a rite of passage and bad luck does tend to go in threes, so we were at par for the weekend I suppose?

If I were a negative kind of a person, I might think twice about another camping trip, but hey, this weekend it’s the Brickwork Lizards’ debut at Cornbury, the weather forecast isn’t looking quite as bad and Dennis should be mended by then…

Fingers crossed eh?