Cornwall LivingIssue #120

Wild at heart

We take a look at the ways in which we can spend a night or two under the stars in the fresh and flourishing wilds of Cornwall this spring. 

There’s something about stepping away from the sturdy arches of our homesteads and venturing forth to lay our heads down under the stars that brings with it a wonderful sense of adventurous nostalgia. As the chill of winter evenings starts to give way to the ever-increasing stretches of spring sunshine, we begin to remember the pastimes that brought us so much joy in warmer days. 

While there are those who still hold true to the traditional boy scout practice of canvas tents and roll-up sleeping bags hoisted onto their backs to find a place in the wild to set a triangular silhouette against the warm glow of a campfire, we’ve come a long way since those early, intrepid days. Today, more people than ever are able to enjoy the benefits of the camping world, with a multitude of options to suit anyone looking for a taste of adventure. But how did this popular pastime first take root? 

During the 1800s, a craze for ‘pleasure boating’ had developed in Victorian London, whereby groups of people would row on boats along the River Thames during fine weather. When the evenings drew in, they took to mooring their boats to set up canvas tents along the banks of the river so that they could camp nearby and be ready to get back onto the river in the morning. Whilst the people of London camped on the river bank, a travelling tailor named Thomas Hiram Holding was taking camping to the next level. Having travelled across America with his parents during his youth, he’d developed a great love for the outdoors, and as a result took a cycling and camping tour across Ireland in the early 20th century. After documenting his experiences in his book Cycle and Camp in Connemara, and founding the first official camping club, ‘The Association of Cycle Campers’, camping had become a way to escape into the wilds of nature. After the First World War ended, the National Camping Club was formed by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouts. From this point camping flourished and turned into the leisurely family activity that we are familiar with today, remaining a popular British practice ever since. 

Cornwall, with its ruggedly wild landscape and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has made for an idyllic camping destination for many since the beginning, and whether you’re looking to immerse yourself into nature with a bit of ‘wild camping’, find a family friendly spot for some treasured quality time together, or you prefer the comforts of a romantic luxury glamping retreat, there’s an abundance of choice throughout the Duchy.

With the South West Coast Path marking the limits of the land around the county, visitors from all over find themselves drawn to hike the trail with a permanent view, and campsites dotted along the way make for the ultimate places to rest your weary feet before packing up and carrying on the very next day. With an understanding of the archaic need to reconnect with nature that many of us feel, there are a number of campsites spread along our Cornish coastline, ready and waiting to welcome hardy travellers to pitch up in a secure spot and lay their heads for the night. One such sanctuary is Henry’s Campsite, renowned for the spectacular sunsets, breathtaking sea view and its isolated location away from busy roads. The most southerly campsite in Britain, and just a ten-minute walk to the coast path, this small, family run campsite is situated at the top of Caerthillian Valley, and has easy access to some of the most mesmerising beaches in the area: Pentreath, Polpeor, Housel Bay, and even the enchanting Kynance Cove. If you’re one for wild exploration on the very edge of Cornwall, you may find yourself perched around the communal fire pit, sharing your day’s adventures with fellow explorers. 

Camping is no longer the sole territory of the adventurous wanderer, and provides an endless number of families with a fun-filled, cost effective escape from day-to day-life. From stretches of turf that fade into a sandy beach, to bustling pitches with access to electricity and children’s play areas, Cornwall is brimming with family friendly campsites, ready made for lasting memories. For instance, the National Trust’s Teneriffe Campsite draws families from all over during the warmer months to its site on the dramatic Lizard peninsula, pulling in with cars loaded and kids in the back, ready to jump out and pitch the tent together before exploring the site and planning a fun-filled day ahead. The toilets, showers, baby changing area and washing up point make for an extra comfort and convenience, meaning family life can continue while you have a shared adventure!

Glamping, a slightly more recent phenomenon, suits those of us who are seeking a wild experience with a touch of luxury. This usually involves a sturdier structure than the light-weight tents we have become accustomed to today, and is often attached to a feeling of romance and freedom, making for an enchanting escape for couples looking to get away from it all and retreat into the heart of Cornwall while benefitting from touches of warm luxury. Laced with a charming sense of wild tranquillity, Trenoon Meadow Glamping seems a world all its own, carved amongst the floaty meadow grasses and flourishing habitat of the surrounding wildlife. With four bell tents and two ‘pods’, each carefully arranged with inviting beds and cosy amenities, this is certainly a couple’s retreat for those in search of a private escape complete with starry nights and sunset skies. 

Bordering between the worlds of camping and cosy cottages is the enchanting conception of the shepherd’s hut, a beautiful structure that makes for a comfortable home from home and can be found throughout Cornwall as a popular retreat from the outside world. Famed for his love of the county, Rick Stein’s recent addition to The Cornish Arms in Charlestown, Padstow, are five stunning shepherd’s huts. Nestled by the sheltered woodlands on the grassy grounds of the pub, the wooden huts offer a peaceful countryside calm within reach of Cornwall’s burgeoning food scene, beaches and coastal walks, and make for an idyllic weekend getaway for those of us who may not have the stamina for sleeping night after night on Cornish soil.

From intrepid explorations with our shelters on our backs to the most relaxed of moments in a peaceful structure that still allows for a gentle immersion into the wilds of Cornwall, our treasured county holds the key for campers and glampers of every sort. With a world of natural beauty all around, there is adventure ahead no matter the shelter over our heads while the stars are shining.