Camping is in my blood, but there was a time when illness forced me to come inside. Assuming the wilderness life was lost to me forever, I accepted a more sedate way of holidaying. However, the great outdoors kept beckoning and the second my strength returned, so did the determination to once again sleep under the stars.
By Julie Andrews Photos by Nigel Andrews
This time, ‘under canvas living’ would need to include a tad more creature comforts than a roll mat and sleeping bag, but where there’s a will, there’s a tent.
So, to the purchasing of a snail shell on wheels, better known in the camping fraternity as a trailer tent. It took a while to ﬁnd the perfect wheelchair accessible trailer, but once we’d discovered the marvellous Camp-let, we never looked back.
Turning up at campsites, we are often a source of wide-eyed entertainment for our fellow campers. With a tent that unfolds as easily and quickly as a pushchair; kitchen, lounge and cosy bedroom cocoons are set up within 40 minutes, kettle on, relaxing in sunshine commenced.
Previously, I had to endure a willingness for creativity and ﬂexibility, in the camp life sleeping department, not to mention humility. Indeed, only the best people get to sleep on the ﬂoor with a ﬂuffy dog for a mattress. Now though, I get to experience the real luxury of sleeping on a proper comfy mattress; bliss.
So with our home on our backs, we camp to our hearts’ content. We have to be discerning about where we pitch up, obviously ﬂat ground and a space near the amenities is essential, but nowadays most Caravan and Camping Club sites have really good access.
Sometimes we take off with just the two of us and the dog and other times it becomes a group event with family and friends joining in. We do however, abide by one important rule: British weather will never stop play and so far, we haven’t given in to the elements.
A couple of summers ago, we were tested to our limits. The ﬁrst day of August brought more rain in 12 hours than we had seen in the whole of July. High on a hill in Devon, a seven-hour rain and windstorm raged so violently that half the tents in our camp were flooded! Holding on to our canvas for all we were worth, with the guy ropes tied to our car, somehow we weathered the storm. The next morning, bedraggled, cold, wet campers staggered around the campsite saying they were giving up camping for good. Then, the sun came out, bacon started sizzling in pans and all was soon forgotten.
This is the way of the wild. You embrace it, you batten down the hatches and tackle it, and then you embrace it again: a bit like life really.
Of course, children have a completely different take on it. As long as they are fed and watered and don’t have to wash for a week, they’ll say that this camping lark is easy. This I can testify to, as recently we went camping with our four godchildren. Fully embracing every part of the madness, even the regular running over of toes as they got under my wheels in the tent, they had a blast.
Childhood memories are not made up of perfectly styled holidays, they are rendered out of beans up your nose and mud in your toes. And that ﬁrst morning, several tiny muddy feet sprawled happily across our pillows as we played games and waited for the rain to stop. Five hours later, we emerged from the tent to discover a ﬂood outside our door. Thus followed the building of a makeshift path out of bits of wood from around the campsite. Who needs play areas when there is this kind of wild fun to be had? And who needs beaches when you have a built-in Julie entertainment centre whenever her powerchair gets stuck in the mud? This happened often. Yet all I had to do was holler and my spade-wielding mini-diggers would run to my rescue. My husband, was a slightly more reluctant rescuer. During one of his attempts to push me out of the mire, as my wheels got traction, I sped off, he fell over face ﬁrst, on the ground. The mud monster that ran around trying to give the kiddies a hug, sent hysterical laughter ricocheting throughout the camp.
What a week! We had rain, we had mud, we had sunshine and best of all we laughed until our tummies hurt so much that we were forced to lie down. There were moments when we may have wanted to be ﬂ own by helicopter to the nearest luxury hotel, but we prevailed. Happy are the campers who stick it out till the Sun shines – and shine on us it did, every single fun-ﬁlled day.
Camping is not for everyone, but if you’ve ever wanted to try it and thought it impossible, just take a quick look at a few of the UK’s 300 accessible campsites.
Taking yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while, is a really good thing and with camping you get the opportunity to enjoy freedom and true escapism that just cannot be beaten.
When looking for accessible campsites, the best and most honest accessible information we have found for the UK is on: www.ukcampsite.co.uk
And just to save you hours and hours of frustration trying to ﬁnd a genuinely wheelchair accessible trailer tent, have a look for a second-hand Camp-let. A high-quality accessible tent with plenty of room for the whole family. Camp-lets can be extended and adjusted to suit your individual needs and are such amazing quality, you will be guaranteed worry-free camping for years.
Wherever the road takes you this summer, may your waterproofs be sturdy, your determination strong and no matter your style of camping abode, may you thoroughly enjoy yourself!
ABLE Magazine’s travel section is sponsored by Post Office Travel Insurance