As much as I loved Ibiza, Santorini and Rome, sometimes you just need to hold off from booking an expensive flight and explore places closer to home. I am the keenest instagrammer/blogger/twitterer you’ll ever meet, but occasionally I feel a desperate urge to put my phone down, grab a scruffy jumper and embark on a countryside adventure.
That’s why for my boyfriend’s birthday I decided to book for us to go camping.
I stumbled across Riverside Lakes campsite in Dorset on the internet and booked a bell tent for 1 night. The owner was very kind and let us have a 4-man tent (the only one left!) for the price of a 2-man tent (£40).
Set amongst acres of wild flower meadows and with three large lakes surrounded by woodland, it truly is an extraordinarily beautiful campsite. Our tent was bloody huge and, get this, it was CARPETED. That’s right, actual carpet. We were provided with memory foam mattresses, cushions, pillows, blankets – nothing was forgotten. Each tent comes with the cutest little indoor wood-burner as well (the wood is provided) which is perfect for chilly, autumnal evenings.
I’d been extremely organised and brought a picnic with me, complete with my new fave thing: a Scandi-cool IKEA flask that was only £5 – what a bargain. We sat and ate our quiche and strawberries without the worry of an unwanted phone call from work (there’s not much signal), or the sudden excited panic when a ‘ASOS Winter Warmers
20% of ANYTHING’ email pops into your inbox. Don’t get me wrong – I love an ASOS discount, but it was SO refreshing to forget about my phone for 5 minutes and focus on what was around me instead. The campsite is so peaceful as there are very few pitches, but it’s not so quiet that you feel like you’re in a scene from The Blair Witch Project.
I had a short nap in the tent (obvs) and then we went on a beautiful walk to the local village pub. The walk was around a couple of hours long and very bizarre as the route takes you through villagers’ back gardens, but so serene at the same time. Not to be a nature w***er, but at one point we walked through the most heavenly field of grasses and with the sun just about to set, it looked absolutely magical. The pub was ideal: quintessentially English with a thatched roof, low beams and a bloody good pint of beer. The owner’s son even came and picked us up at the end of the evening and dropped us back at the campsite. He couldn’t have been nicer!
After spending 40 minutes wrestling with logs, kindling and firelighters, we finally managed to get a fire going (absolute pros, move aside Bear Grylls). There’s something so simple and yet so lovely about sitting round a fire toasting marshmallows with a glass of prosecco. For once, we had no camera, no phones and no music enhancing our experience, just the flickering of the fire and the sweet taste of sticky marshmallows.
I got up early in the morning as I had to use the eco-loo (not as bad as it sounds – a fairy-lit loo in a shed where you put sawdust over your business…), and then it was time to crack on with breakfast. I challenge you to find anything better than cooking sausages and bacon over an open fire, in your pyjamas with a cup of tea in hand. I nearly cried when we had to pack up, I was devastated to leave Riverside Lakes, but determined to visit the piglets in the pen before we left!
We were incredibly lucky with the weather. The sun shone for the whole 24 hours and it was pleasantly mild in the evening, but even so Riverside Lakes is a charming campsite whatever the weather. If you haven’t managed to make it on holiday this year for whatever reason, I urge you to book a bell tent and just go for one night! For £40 we had the most enjoyable experience and it really made me want to do it more often. A technology detox can do wonders – try it, you’ll be surprised.
You can book to stay at Riverside Lakes here: http://riverside-lakes.co.uk/