Something rather remarkable occurred in the Yorkshire Dales over the weekend. John and I got bitten. Not by the midges (and there were plenty of those) but by the camping bug. I've always said I don't mind camping, but, if there's a choice, I'll take walls and a roof over canvas any day. (I should point out that we haven't camped in 15 years, not since we slept in a tiny two man tent on someone's farm in Cornwall to watch the eclipse in August 1999.) But we had such a wonderful weekend with our friends, on a really lovely campsite near Pateley Bridge, that we thought hmm, maybe we can do camping after all. Maybe all our pro-camping friends are onto something.
When we arrived on Saturday lunchtime is was raining a little and it was all rather cold and bleak, with that kind of heavy, grey sky I dislike so much.
We weren't thrilled, to be honest, and I was glad we had no tent to put up, as we were sleeping in a "pod".
It's a fabulous idea. Small and basic inside, with two single bed frames and room for a double mattress, it has electricity*, a kettle and a useful things like a water canister, picnic bench and fire pit. You bring your own mattresses and bedding, and I wasted no time making it look pretty.
It was comforting to know that, no matter how much it might rain outside, we would be snug.
After a cup of tea we walked down to the river that runs through the campsite and spent a while down there. I say a while but it was all afternoon, I think. Time seemed to stand still. We were a large party, about 20 adults and 20 children, all families we've known for years. We met through the NCT when all our eldest children were babies or toddlers and, 8 years on, still like each other.
It was so gloomy down there, with no sunlight to filter through the trees, and it was all very lush and still.
Beautiful wildflowers were everywhere you looked.
There was a lot of clambering and paddling fun to be had in the (cold) water. A lot of the kids were in wetsuits and were having a great time.
Bella, like me, preferred to watch from the riverbank.
The clouds parted as the evening wore on and we lit the barbecue and opened the wine.
The kids finally went to bed very late - I've actually no idea when, time just seems to pass when you're camping with no routine to ground you - but not until they'd listened to stories around the campfire. We all sat outside until even later. It was pretty cold and I was glad of the fires.
We woke to a beautiful sight on Sunday morning:
I mean, how can you not be happy and glad to be alive when you see those hills, the spectacular beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, and that blue sky. Nothing more to think about than the task in front of you. Boil kettle. Find mugs, Make coffee. We had breakfast (rolls, butter and jam because it was easy) and I was glad I'd remembered the cafetiere.
And I think it was at about that moment that I had my mini-epiphany and thought that, actually, me and camping might be friends after all.
*Although there is electricity there is no wifi, which was fine with me. Also, since it's in the middle of nowhere, there is no phone signal either!