Cornwall LivingIssue #71
The perfect pitch
A look at the glamorous side of camping in Cornwall.
I’ve been camping for as long as I can remember. Trips to a farm site in St Ives in our beloved Comma van, where my sister and I both fell in love with the farm dog Flossy, were our family holidays. We only travelled from The Lizard but in those days it felt like a world away. Then came Guide camp, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and Outward Bound – I can still recall that distinct smell of slightly damp canvas that emitted from the basic orange ridge tents that were standard issue in the 80s. The 90s, and my first job as a journalist, saw me testing more modern, state-of-the-art of camping equipment. Gone was the canvas, replaced by lightweight nylon and an unforgettable solo trip to the campsite on St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, where my pitch was so close to the sea I could almost dip a toe in the water from my tent. The ‘naughties’ arrived and with it my beloved Type 2 VW camper van, Betsy. She was a splendid surf bus and a comfy bed on many a beach party night, she even had her own wine cupboard! Heady days spent waking up to the sound and sight of the Cornish surf will stay with me forever.
A baby on the way meant I could no longer fit behind the steering wheel and so Betsy very sadly had to go, but the camping ‘gene’ in me couldn’t rest. On a whim I bought an old four-berth caravan that served us well for many a splendid trip with our young family, including my beloved St Ives. As the children grew and we were able to be more adventurous again the call of the iconic VW camper couldn’t be ignored. Whether it’s a whole week away or just an impromptu night, our new van has taken us all over Cornwall. We don’t go far, but then in Cornwall you don’t need to!
But camping’s not for everyone – friends tell me they can’t bare the thought of being cold and damp and having an uncomfortable nights’ sleep. How far from the truth that can be! With the right equipment and a few top tips, your camping will be glamorous rather than hideous! If you have your own tent, caravan or van then you’re halfway there. Invest in an electric hook up (they do these for tents these days) and you’ll never be cold as you run a little electric heater.
I binned the sleeping bags years ago and we now have a camping set of soft, cosy duvets and pillows. We also take lots of lovely cushions and blankets (www.atlanticblankets.com), great in the van for bedtime, but also lovely to snuggle in to as you watch the sun go down.
Camping is all about the great outdoors after all, so we always make sure we are dressed for the elements. My essential camping kit includes a down jacket and wooly hat (www.finisterre.com) and a pair of sheepskin boots (www.celticandco.com). Everything is better in life with a warm head and cosy toes and it means I can sit outside that little bit longer to watch the final rays of sun drop behind the ocean. Cornwall has some amazing campsites, often perched on the clifftops with magnificent views and if you choose the right ones, many have shower facilities to rival those of top hotels.
Don’t be put off camping with children, it can be one of the best experiences if you’re well prepared. Again, lots of warm clothes will keep the little ones happy while they play with their friends. Bicycles are a must – in fact both of my little ones learned to ride without stabilisers while camping – and plenty of activities to keep them entertained. Badminton and boules are our camping games of choice. Along with a pack of cards and a stash of audio books it’s not long before the dreaded digital detox just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. My children love the fact that when we camp close to the sea they can walk back to the site without the bother of shoes. Snuggled in their camp chairs, sipping hot chocolate with sandy toes after a long day on the beach is theirs idea of heaven!
We don’t skimp on the cooking either when we’re camping. Whipping up a batch of pancake mixture doesn’t take long if you’re prepared and what better way to start the day than with a pile of pancakes and crispy bacon from the barbeque. Even better if you have a friend like we do who always arrives on camping weekends armed with a huge fresh cake and eggs from her chickens! Lunches do tend to be pasties (well we are in Cornwall after all) and at the end of the day the ‘men and boys’ are put on barbeque and campfire duty (if the site allows). Many Cornish campsites have great onsite shops selling local produce so there’s no battling with busy supermarkets – giving more time for us ladies to sip on a cold glass of Camel Valley that’s been chilling in the gas fridge. Slightly sexist, I grant you but men love fire, and I am holiday after all!
If you just can’t bring yourself to ‘camp’ in the traditional sense but love the idea of the experience – sharing time with friends, gathered around a campfire, toasting marshmallows and retelling the tales of the day – then you’re in luck. Cornwall now has some amazing ‘glamping’ sites. This growing trend, sees little portable buildings and tents popping up in the most stunning of places, as visitors to Cornwall are looking to experience all of the benefits of outdoor living, with none of the downsides. From yurts, tipis and safari tents to shepherds huts and wooden cabins, these amazing spaces are camping at its most glamorous. You no longer have to sacrifice comfort or facilities for staying in the great outdoors. For example, Wigwam® Holidays Bodrugan (www.wigwamholidays.com/bodrugan.co.uk), near Mevagissey, offers en-suite glamping accommodation in warm camping cabins complete with firepits and car-free site small enough for children to be left to explore. There is even a heated indoor pool and sauna onsite – turn to page 26 to read more.
If you decide to invest in your own canvas tent, teepee or cabin, then the addition of a portable wood burning stove from a company live Anevay (www.anevaystoves.com) will keep you cosy in all weathers. With space for a stove-top kettle, a steaming cup of coffee will never be far off. If you have your own land, then why not look at putting a cabin or wagon onsite. You still get to enjoy the great outdoors but without the need to travel far. Barrel Top wagons (www.barreltopwagons) create lovely timber structure that make for the perfect camping den. You can add to the ultimate in camping luxury with an eco hot tub. Kernow Springs (www.kernowsprings.co.uk) offer wood-fired hot tubs, to buy or rent, from intimate two person Japanese style tubs much larger tubs that have capacity for up to 12 people. How decadent to be able to soak under the stars.
As a result of this surge in glamping, many land owners across the county are choosing to maximise the potential of their property by creating sites to host would-be glampers. I was eager to find out more about how this new trend and so spoke to Jakie Jewell, Commercial Manager at Classic Glamping, one of the first holiday lettings agency to set up a ‘glamping’ division to find out more. “Glamping is now a very popular concept; we’ve seen visits to our website grow dramatically” Jakie said. “Because of the interest, more people in the south west are now thinking about using their land to create glamping sites to accommodate visitors, especially if they have farms and fields with fantastic views. It’s a great way of diversifying to yield a good income from your land, and can bring very fast returns on investment.”
However, as Jakie explains it is also very easy to get it wrong. “We like to work with people from the pre-planning stage, to guide them through the process of establishing a site, and to give them the benefit of our experience, so they can enjoy optimal returns.” Jakie’s ‘field to finish’ approach means that landowners can draw on her experience every step of the way, from deciding on the best site to choosing the optimum accommodation. For those who want to experience all of joys of camping but without sacrificing the comforts of home, Classic Glamping only accepts accommodation that features en suite bathroom facilities with a hot shower and flushing WC, and mod cons like hot and cold running water, electric, as well as luxurious fittings and furnishings. “We know that these are the things some people are looking for,” explains Jakie.
So whether you’re a die-hard camper like myself, or love the idea of staying in the great outdoors but don’t want to sacrifice the finer things in life, then Cornwall has something to suit everyone. And if you’ve never tried it, you must – I think you’ll love it.
TYING THE KNOT UNDER CANVAS
Cornish Tipi Weddings, (www.cornishtipiweddings.co.uk) which started off as a campsite, now offers tipi, camping and festival weddings.
Wild Tipi (www.wildtipi.co.uk) offer bespoke spaces and tipis to hire, complete with open fires and fairy lights and lanterns.
A small selection of my favourites!
Penrose Campsite – a cliff top site in Porthleven
Porth Beach – traditional pitches and glamping pods, a stone’s throw from the beach. www.porthbeach.co.uk
Trevalgan Touring Park – my
St Ives site of choice. The poshest shower facilities ever and a vintage bus that takes you into town that my children adore. www.trevalgantouringpark.co.uk
Carvynick Holiday Park – a countryside retreat campsite with onsite pub.
Churchtown Farm – one of the best sites for watching the sun set on Gwithian beach,
Heligan Caravan & Camping Park – only a step away from the wonderful 200 acre site of The Lost Gardens of Heligan. www.heligancampsite.com