Our big home renovation earlier this year left us grounded this summer, so a big part of my challenge this holiday has been finding loads of fun, low-cost activities to keep the girls entertained.
We had hoped to go camping near one of the Thames tributaries, but – of course – the couple of days we had planned fell just as the heatwave ended and the rain and gale-force winds began. By the time the weather cleared up, we’d missed our window of spare time.
We’d been sent this Eurohike Cairns Five-Man Tent and two Berghaus Transition sleeping bags from the team at Blacks & Millets, to help with our outdoor pursuits, and I was determined not to let them go to waste. It was time to put Plan B into action.
Our garden had been pretty much destroyed during the building work, so final stage of our renovation was to replace the battered decking and fix it back up to a useable state for the tail-end of summer – and just in time for a little back garden camping!
The last time I personally put up a tent they were still made of canvas and had central poles in the middle. Tents, thankfully, have come a long way baby. The instructions said two people were needed, but I did it by myself in about 30 minutes and with relative ease.
The Eurohike tent is really cleverly designed; the waterproof fly uses flexible rods threaded through the nylon fabric to create a freestanding outer skeleton, then you hang the actual tent up inside – it’s literally suspended from the top by a series of hooks and clipped to the groundsheet, creating a tent within a tent.
This construction also creates a single-layer porch area at the front where you can set out your folding chairs, or store your muddy shoes and coats.
When I was a kid, tents just had the single layer and all the water would coat the outside; if you accidentally brushed against material from the inside, the waterproof seal would be broken and the moisture would start dripping on your head. But with this double layer you’re creating a cavity where moisture has somewhere to go before it reaches the internal wall.
It also allows air to circulate, further reducing dampness and that cloying humidity that used to go hand-in-hand with camping.
I was surprised to find out spacious the tent was inside – technically a five-person family camping tent (which is certainly possible, but you would be very snug!), we found it fit the four of us quite comfortably, including four single blow-up mattresses (which we piled on top of each other to keep the centre clear during the day).
We added a few homely touches – a floral fleece blanket, some pretty bunting and some colourful fairy lights.
We’d bought a disposable BBQ to make our dinner, and set about grilling some sausages, which we ate in fresh bread rolls. Afterwards, it was marshmallows toasted over the embers until they were all soft and sticky. Absolutely delicious!
That night we zipped ourselves inside the tent and stayed inside, chatting and reading by torchlight until they both fell asleep.
Full disclosure: I actually took the the girls back inside about 11pm as the wind picked up and woke them up, and they got spooked by the sound of the trees rustling, but it didn’t detract from our adventure.
We’re already planning our next trip – as much as we loved our back garden camping, next time we’re going further afield (no pun intended) and hope to pitch the tent on great-Grandad’s farm down in Devon.
A big thanks to Millets and Blacks for helping us get outdoors (even if it was LITERALLY just outside our doors!).
• what are your favourite family fairy tales and traditions?