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Under the sheltering sky


Your children will never forget a holiday under canvas. Laura James explains how to do it with no fuss and lots of fun

Camping with children can be truly magical. They see the whole thing as a huge adventure and instantly get into the spirit of it. Everyday rules go out of the window; thereís no homework to be done, no room to tidy or piano to practise. Itís also an escape from the electronic fog in which many kids seem to spend their lives. I believe handheld electronic games should be banned from camping trips and good, old-fashioned fun the order of the day.

Itís enchanting to watch children engage with nature. From bug-hunting and rabbit spotting to naming stars and collecting fir cones for the fire, thereís always something to keep them occupied. Lying in bed at night and asking them to identify the sounds of nature is both educational and amusing.

Wherever and however you camp with your children, they will remember it for life, and it will shape how they spend holidays with their kids.

TIPS

Tepee villages are always child-friendly, as are small camp sites that are nothing more than a field ó they make it easy to keep an eye on the children, too.

WHERE TO CAMP WITH KIDS

Lots of sites have swimming pools and holiday clubs. The price you pay for these, though, is that they tend to be large and busy. I think itís much better to find a small, friendly camp site such as the ones listed below:

Deepdale Farm: two traditional tepees on a quiet site in north Norfolk. Or you can bring your own tents, tepees or yurts; www.deepdalefarm.co.uk

Larmer Tree Festival (July 12-16): set in the grounds of a historical garden, this genteel festival has plenty to keep both children and adults entertained; www.larmertree.co.uk

Old Cotmore Farm: a small, family-run site between Dartmouth and Salcombe, situated in pretty countryside, with childrenís play areas, a small shop and nearby sandy beaches; www.oldcotmorefarm.co.uk

Pot-a-Doodle-Do Village: sleep in a wooden wigwam in rural Northumberland. The interactive art centre will keep budding Damien Hirsts/Tracey Emins occupied for hours; www.northumbrianwigwams.com

CLOSE TO HOME

Small children can sometimes be nervous about new experiences. Before you go on a camping trip, itís a good idea to practise for a night in the garden. Itís a safe and reassuring adventure for little ones.

One of the great things about creating a garden escape is that weight isnít an issue, as you wonít have to carry anything too far, so you can indulge your fantasies all the way and even have a full-size bed in your outdoor haven. Or sleep out with nothing between you and the sky if youíre feeling particularly adventurous. ďSometimes we drag a mattress onto the lawn if it is a beautiful night with amazing stars,Ē says the designer Emma Bridgewater. ďWith warm bedding, itís a great way to sleep out.Ē

TIPS

Extracted and adapted from Cool Camping by Laura James (Collins £9.99). To order for £9.49 (including p&p), call The Sunday Times Books First on 0870 165 8585

TART UP YOUR TENT

The act of setting up camp and making your space beautiful can be thrilling. Make sure that, as well as the essentials, you take lots of comforting things ó think cushions, rugs and candles.

1. Bunting, £14 for 2 metres, from Bessie and George; 01326 373089

2. Tea-light lanterns, £7 each, from Marks & Spencer; 0845 603 1603

3. Mini table with foldable legs, £20, from Paperchase; 020 7467 6200

4. Sway cord hammock, £10, from Habitat; 0845 601 0740

5. Ottoman rose floor cushion, £35, from Cath Kidston; 0870 850 1084

6. Chrysanthemum rug, £12.50, from Habitat, as before

Sunday Times - Journalist: Laura James
05/10/2003