One of my family’s hobbies is to go camping. We try to plan at least one weekend trip per summer, and I think we’ve managed to do it each of the years I’ve been married (so almost 12 years now!) Both my husband and I camped when we were kids, and it’s fun to introduce this way of traveling to our own children.
So naturally when we moved to England, we thought it would be fun to experience camping here as well. Here are a few observations from our camping weekends in England:*
- Campfires. In the U.S., you’d hardly bother to camp without a campfire. I know occasionally that’s limited if there are concerns about forest fires, but for the most part, I’ve never camped where you couldn’t have a fire in America. We’ve always cooked most of our meals over the campfire, and then enjoyed the fire for well into the night. (Plus, you can’t have s’mores without one!) In England, it’s not as prevalent, and most campgrounds we’ve found don’t allow it. We were shocked our first camping trip to learn we couldn’t have one. And the reason we chose the particular campground where we stayed this weekend in Somerset was specifically because they DO allow campfires. (Thank you, Petruth Paddocks!)
- Setting. In the U.S., I’ve mostly camped at state or national park campgrounds, and an occasional privately-run campground. Most of these have been in the woods, so each campsite is surrounded by trees. In England, I’ve only stayed in privately-run campgrounds, and they’ve all been a giant, open field (or a series of fields, depending on how large of an operation it is). I have to say that I miss the privacy these wooded sites provide. Although my kids enjoy running around the fields and playing football (soccer).
- Campsites. In the U.S., I’ve always reserved a campsite in advance, and have been assigned (or chosen) the exact campsite. Here in England, I’ve booked a spot in advance, but I haven’t known exactly where we’ll pitch our tent until we arrive on-site and we’re directed where to go. Most of the fields haven’t even had clearly defined or numbered sites, staff just points to a general area in the field where you should go.
- Tents, RVs, etc. One of the things I enjoy doing while camping is walking around the campground and seeing the setups of other campers. You usually see here a mix of tents (large and small), RVs (again, large and small), pop-up campers, etc. Some have electrical hookups, some don’t. Most have their camp chairs and portable tables set up, too, as well as supplies for cooking and coolers. This is all relatively similar in both the U.S. and England from my experience.
- Firepits and picnic tables. I’ve never camped at a campground in the U.S. that didn’t provide some type of firepit and at least one picnic table for each campsite. Conversely, I’ve never camped in England where either of those were provided (in keeping with the lack of campfires, of course!) I really miss the extra surface space and dining space that a picnic table provides, especially when I’m trying to prepare a meal for my family. And we end up eating picnic-style on blankets on the ground (or from our laps while seated in camping chairs). This weekend, the campground provided temporary firepits to each site that wanted to have a campfire.
It’s probably clear from my post that overall, I miss the style of camping I had come to expect from the places I’ve been in the U.S. I have definitely enjoyed camping in England, but it is different.
Have you camped in the UK? I’d love to hear your experiences. Obviously, I’m only familiar with the few places we’ve camped while we’ve lived here and I’m certainly not an expert on how it’s done here.
*I specifically say England here because we haven’t had the opportunity to camp in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, and I can’t speak to how that might be different.