Monday, 5 July 2010

Thornton's Holt, Nottinghamshire

Thornton’s Holt was the perfect location for a “summer camping” gathering of under fives and their families. Summer in inverted commas, it really was some of the worst camping weather I have ever experienced, to rival the mud bath that was Glastonbury 1997 and that sloping field of a family holiday in Devon in 1980something. Camping in inverted commas because we cheated and I need to get used to saying this, we 'caravanned'. Sorry to our tent friends, I hope we are still friends.

Thornton's Holt is only down the road for us so it was perfect for those inevitable trips home for forgotten gear. In total we managed six families – 12 adults and 11 children. The pitches are situated around the edge of the field which left plenty of room for kids to run free without being too disruptive. I think this was welcomed by our immediate neighbours. A lovely childfree couple who were watched enviously by several sets of parents of under fives as they unpacked a bell tent, candelabra, fluffy duvet and prepared for some romantic ‘glamping’. Also roaming free were chickens, which the kids loved. Although anyone caught chasing these, according to the campsite rules, will be asked to leave without a refund. Try explaining that to a twenty month old who has just discovered he can exert control over something.
With all the tents in place and the children exploding with excitement at the prospect of spending a whole weekend in a field, it was time for a well earned cup of tea and homemade lemon drizzle cake. I was fully prepared for bedtime to be a communal nightmare. The excitement must have worn them out because by half eight all eleven children were fast asleep. We celebrated with fish and chips for mums and dads from Cotgrave fish bar. Lovely staff who coped brilliantly with our huge and scatty order. Great fish and chips had by all.

Saturday morning was bright enough for chasing balls and bubbles across the field and exploring the playground which seemed to really fire the kid’s imagination. They quickly began to play trolls in the house under the rope bridge and superheros in the discarded tractor wheels. The shop was also a hit and is well stocked for snacks, sweets and toys. There are lots of things to look at around the site, old tractors, horses, an old red phone box, there’s a lovely feel about the place.

The showers and toilets were clean and 20p bought a very long and warm shower.

The weather was absolutely atrocious by the afternoon. We held the kids off spectacularly in one tent with a few crayons, some jammy dodgers and Dangermouse downloaded on an ipad. When we started camping with our kids we believed we would manage it with out TV, that dream lasted one weekend. I need that buffer zone between waking up and actually getting up, and a little peace at the end of all that fresh air.

Meanwhile the off duty adults huddled under the communal gazebo furtively seeking a sugar rush through sharing a bar of Green and Blacks and a few cans of coke. It’s amazing what god like status foodstuffs can take on when camping, especially in rubbish weather. Someone reported that the rest of the campsite had taken the cue from the rain and started ‘proper drinking’, but by then many of us were huddled round an Iphone reading the stormy weather forecast and contemplating the short drive home to warmth and shelter.

Fortunately we had booked the site’s indoor swimming pool so after one last torrential downpour we were under cover again for an hour. You have to book to use the pool as there is a limit on numbers, it can also be booked for exclusive use.

Our weekend ended officially on a high, with sun breaking though the clouds and all the children sat round two big camp tables eating spag bol. We waved off the tent campers shortly before another huge downfall at around 6pm. The caravan was pitched under trees and electricity lines. Bit concerned that this was not a great place to be in a storm, but the promised thunder and lightning never materialised.

Sunday morning inevitably brought glorious sunshine. The tent campers who returned to pick up the homes they had abandoned were at least glad to be packing up dry tents.

A lovely roomy site with great facilities, lovely surroundings, very good recycling and a quirky sense of humour. Comes highly recommended.