I have a confession to make. I don’t like camping. I’m a hotel kind of guy. Maybe a caravan at a push. Sorry.
I tried cycle camping, I liked the idea of it. I bought the best touring bike I could afford at the time and all the panniers and gear. I was attracted by Dervla Murphy and Jack Kerouac to the romance of the open road but the attraction didn’t last long. The downsides outweigh the positive aspects of it several times over. I like my creature comforts. Call me weird but I like to be – simultaneously – warm and dry. Cold wet cycling shorts are not romantic.
If I was a lone pedal camper maybe the balance would tip. But I am not alone. Cycle camping with kids? Don’t even go there. That sort of adventure is for men and women with more robust constitutions than I. No thanks.
And then there’s all the equipment. Tent, bed roll, sleeping bag, ground sheet, lamp, cooking stove, fuel, plastic cutlery and crockery, clothing, toiletries, wet weather gear, camera, maps, reading materials, tool kit etc, etc. I remember reading in a reputable cycling magazine years ago that one should pack everything one needs for a cycle tour and then discard half of it. Unfortunately they didn’t say which half..
We went camping recently. On our bikes. We two and the three youngest. You’ll no doubt be surprised to discover that I enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I’d love to go again!
Caz, me and the kids penciled a quiet cycle friendly route from York and after 50 minutes of relaxed pedaling on peaceful country lanes we arrived at the ‘campsite’. We carried no tents, no cooking equipment or bedding. We had just our bikes, a pannier each and enough food for our first night.
Welcome to the world of Luxury Camping!
Jollydays, just a few miles East of York isn’t the only such outfit in the country but it stands out as one of the best thanks to the high standard of its facilities. The kids absolutely loved it and, more importantly, so did we! Our belltent was pitched on a wooden decking platform which also had a cute shed/pantry/kitchen for food preparation and cooking. Importantly the ‘kitchen’, the picnic table eating area , the BBQ and the entrance of the tent were all underneath a vast awning so it was easy to stay dry and mud free. Inside the tent was very tastefully decked out with home made bunting, cushions and two sofa beds – everything required for a comfy stay. In the ‘corner’ furthest from the door was a tiny woodburning stove whose chimney neatly passed through the fabric of the tent. I was surprised by just how much heat that little thing chucked out. In a single skinned tent, in winter, we had to open the door regularly to let some of the heat out. Proper toasty.
There’s not an awful lot to do there – it’s a million miles from Centre Parcs – but the kids had no trouble finding things to do in the woods. Building dens appeared to be the number one children’s activity judging by the .. um .. sheer number of dens.
The day after our arrival we all pedaled down to the village shop on our bikes to stock up on fodder for the evening BBQ. An easy and safe ride for the children. And that was about the sum total of our adventure. No great exitement, just a really relaxing couple of days in a comfortable and peaceful environment. ‘All the great things you like about camping, but without the wet socks’? Or ‘easy camping for wimps’?
Whatever it is I’m all for it.
nb. Jollydays doesn’t appear in the usual cycling organisation campsite guides because there are, as yet, no officially recognised cycle security facilities installed on site. No ‘Sheffield’ stands or ground anchors. And so, in their book, it doesn’t qualify as ‘cycle friendly’. We locked all our bikes together the first night and didn’t bother thereafter. Since it is very far from any hotbeds of cycle theft we were quite satisfied that cycle theft was not an issue. Big chunks of steel cycle security would look a bit out of place don’t you think?
There are, of course, plenty of trees.