I am a strong believer in exposing my children to as many varied experiences as possible, especially while they’re young, and the idea of taking them camping has always been high on my list. I grew up camping, in my toddler years with family and later as a teen doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions – both experiences enriched my life. Camping with my own children, however, was a new venture!
Securing a good location was important; somewhere with plenty to do, a change of scenery yet close to home. I found a beautiful campsite less than an hour’s drive away and set about preparing for the trip – and the weather! Now my ideal ‘campsite’ would be out in the peaceful wilderness with lots of space and nothing around us but Allah’s (SWT) beauty. However, with young children, hot showers, clean toilets, drinking water and other children around would make camping much more enjoyable and not off-putting for them!
We drove up in a car packed with food, clothing, air mattresses, sleeping bags and lots of cosy bedding, a gas stove, a barbeque, plenty of games for outdoor and indoor use and more varied footwear than we really had space for to prepare us for the unpredictable British weather.
The campsite we stayed in had a farm, an ancient woodland, caves, rocks and a beach within the grounds so we simply explored, discovered and ‘adventured’ to our hearts’ content. As there were other families on site, we immediately made friends and whilst the adults became acquainted, the children climbed rocks, explored the caves or simply played football, swingball or badminton. During family time, thanks to very limited phone reception, there were no other distractions so parents could give focused attention to their children, and the children too were more attentive to their surroundings and each other.
Putting together meals had required a lot of prep work and was an opportunity to get creative whilst keeping it as simple as possible. As well as the essentials, I had taken frozen marinated meat, ingredients for tin foil meals, my pancake mix ready in a bottle and plenty of s’mores-making goodies. It’s amazing what you can do with marshmallows and a barbeque: we enjoyed them in foiled croissants with chocolate spread, stuffed with rolos, with smarties in foiled ice cream cones and with strawberries on sticks!
During the day, we ate to keep our energy levels up and during the evening we ate to fully recharge our batteries! Huddled around a coal barbeque (as this site did not allow fires) we watched the annual August Perseid meteor shower in a cloudless sky and ate cheesy jalapeno nachos and foil-baked apples with sugar and cinnamon. A perfect and unforgettable night, subhanAllah.
For night lighting, we took stringed solar powered lights to drape around the inside of the tent, colourful glow sticks to make into bangles, citronella tea lights, torches and an LED camping lantern. Praying ‘Isha and Fajr salah in the glow of a lantern whilst everyone around you is sleeping genuinely does wonders for the soul. A small in-tent wudhu station by the door saved me making night trips to the washrooms. Come bedtime, we really didn’t feel the night chill as all that daytime fresh air meant we slept richer and deeper, alhamdulillah, and woke naturally only to the sound of birds chirping in the trees besides us.
Keeping our small tent space organised proved to be challenging. The outdoor rugs and numerous cushions we took to “glamp up” our 5-man tent made it cosy, but our comfortable living quarters could easily become messy with cooking equipment, clothing and backpacks strewn around. To avoid constant tidying, we kept necessities within easy reach in shoe organisers.
I am always stressing the importance of travelling light, but with children in tow, being well-equipped is imperative and by taking everything but the kitchen sink we simply made camp life easier and less of a homeless holiday. Wellies, hiking boots, sandals and sneakers were all well used during walks along the coast, through fields and up steep hills.
Beaches in the north of England are not very suitable for swimming but the rock pools on the shores are filled with ‘treasure’ waiting to be discovered: a myriad of shells, stones, beautifully coloured seaweed and dead crabs. The latter proved to be the most fascinating, and my motto of “explore, discover, collect and return” fell upon accepting ears once the kids discovered a backpack of sea life didn’t smell very pleasant in the sunshine!
We really made memories that summer, became closer to one another and strengthened our deen as our hearts were constantly in awe, gratefulness and remembrance of Allah (SWT) through our beautiful surroundings.
Aneesa loves to explore and capture the great outdoors. For the tips and recipes she picked up during her preparation of the trip follow her Pinterest board ‘camping’ at www.pinterest.com/aneesid/camping/. Her photographs can be viewed at www.aneesasidat.com