Lyme Regis, 2 nights
We rent our whole house out on Air BnB during the school holidays and needed to get away in May half term (cheaply) for 10 days to maximise profits as our own home was fully booked. After a week at a charming cottage in remote Devon we still had two nights until our own home would be available. So, I hatched a plan that we would take a basic camping kit with us to Devon and pitch up somewhere on the way home.
This meant packing really light. We needed 7 days clothes / toys for the cottage then a tent, sleeping bags, cooking equipment etc for the two day camping pitstop on the journey back to Bournemouth at the end of the week. As a freelancer, its typical that I am always frantically busy with work if I attempt to take any time off so it had been a stressful few days trying to hit all my deadlines and I had spared little thought for packing.
Fortunately, after our first attempt at minimalist family camping I now had a grab ‘n go box system ready to throw in the car. I tried to identify some camping gear we could go without but ended up just leaving the kids little pillows. The double airbed and pump were also rejected as I had been so cold on it previously, and instead got myself a cheap self-inflating mattress by Outwell for £22 from an outdoor shop in Devon. At only 3cm thick I seriously doubted how comfortable this would be but it packed up really small and I had nothing else so thought I’d try it.
The campsite in Lyme Regis
After a 4-hour journey stuck in tedious traffic jams from North Devon to Lyme Regis our plan to ‘just find somewhere’ to camp didn’t seem so great. We were tired, bored and our kids were desperate to get out of the car. Driving around hunting for campsites was annoying. After two unsuccessful drive-bys (‘too many caravans’, ‘too ugly’) I quickly found a site online on my phone with good reviews, phoned them and organised a pitch. In the village of Uplyme, just 1 mile from Lyme Regis, Hook Farm had a great location, good facilities, nice staff and space for us. I felt slightly disappointed we couldn’t see the sea, or indeed anything beyond the hedge and campervan in front of us, but it was good enough.
Camping in a car showroom. Not the view I was hoping for in Lyme Regis.
We had the smallest tent by far and were surrounded by expensive campervans and trailer tents. This was definitely the place for maxi campers (all the gear!). It has a shop, a play area, electrical hook-up, wifi and great showers. Our kids had loads of other kids to play with and were quite happy. (Their new friends loved our Lazi bed!)
My perfect campsite
I think it isn’t until I spend time on a site like this it helps me work out what I do actually want from a campsite. I want nature, views, hardly anyone else, a feeling of getting away from civilisation. (This place is too civilised for me!) But how do you find the quiet, off the beaten-track wild campsites (with hot showers)? They are less likely to have websites and online booking systems. My favourite sites near us inDorset I know entirely through word of mouth.
A handful of recommendations randomly came from some Londoners in a publishing company I was freelancing at in Hammersmith for a day. They were whispering dreamily about escaping the city to camp in Dorset. (Tom’s Field, Steepleleaze, Burnbake, Eweleaze). I scribbled them on a yellow post-it note, feeling slightly smug as I left the office and caught the train back to Dorset that evening while they scuttled off to Zones 3 and 4. All the campsites were great.
Our mini camping equipment
Despite our flashy neighbours in our Lyme Regis campsite, we found the minimalist gear we had brought to be almost perfect this time. The black out tent is still an absolute treat and we all slept brilliantly in the pitch black of the 4-man bedroom. It is small though and we stored our bags of clothes in the bag of the car to leave the small porch clear for sitting/playing in. We pitched the Coleman Universal Tarp over the front of the tent, giving great extended shelter which was brilliant when we needed shade or shelter from the rain.
My husband has bought a compact folding chair which me and the kids kept sneaking into as we didn’t have chairs. I think we all need one as the ground in the UK gets damp in the evening on even the sunniest days.
My new 3cm self-inflating mattress was much better than expected, it was so insulating and warm I found myself stripping off in the night. Infinitely better than a cold airbed, but not very snuggly.
I’d packed a few tiny toys for the children and the glowing fidget spinners and bubbles were great.
Bubble fun before the bottle tipped over! Why does that always happen?
Here I also learned the first rule of minimalist family camping here. Do not talk about minimalist family camping. Not to your maxi camping neighbours. They love their piles of expensive gear and really don't want to know!