Watching my son run with a group of other children across a field is my idea of perfect. As a child I had considerable freedom to explore the outside, I regret that my son won’t have that same freedom. To see him disappear down a hill makes my heart sing. That is just one of the reasons why I’m such a fan of camping, well run campsites offer children the opportunity to explore at a distance from their parents, a freedom they rarely have.
Group camping with children works really well, bringing together a group of families, each with their own tent space, it is affordable and the kids quickly form a tribe, always play mates to hand. A group of children is less Lord of the Flies and more self-regulating than might be expected. Cooking together becomes a social event and someone always has an idea where the children are.
At the end of half term we had our first camping trip of the year, two nights in the Forest of Dean. The Forest of Dean sits across three counties and is very accessible. We took our small tent and met up with three other families to stay at Bracelands, Camping in the Forest site.
Camping in the Forest is happy to accept groups, not all campsites do, sometimes due to concerns around noise. However, Camping in the Forest sites pride themselves on being very well run, follow the rules, respect your neighbours and group camping makes a memorable camping experience. The Bracelands rangers, apart from keeping shower blocks clean, did tours of the site both nights we were there, it is a reassuring presence. The facilities were good; clean toilets, good quality showers and plenty available.
Given the weather of the previous few days, the site was, possibly, tipped more towards caravans than tents. Pitched in the non-electric standard area and we had lots of space. It is a broad spacious campsite, there is a 6 meter rule between tents, I can’t imagine it feeling crowded. Last year we camped in the New Forest, camping amongst the trees. I wasn’t expecting Bracelands to be so open, however, the site is bordered by the Forest and hop over a stile at the edge of the campsite and immediately you are in beautiful woodland, at the end of May they are adorned with foxgloves.
The Forest of Dean is a dense ancient woodland, home to deer (which we saw – win!) and wild boar (which we didn’t, sadly). There is a huge variety of birds, housemartins sweep low over the campsite. My son is convinced he heard cuckoos and owls. Wagtails were nesting just outside the shower block in a cigarette bin. That’s another reason I love camping, it reconnects us to nature. A lack of light pollution meant a sky full of stars and because bedtime doesn’t matter when you camp, my boy and I stared up, hoping to spot shooting stars. A sky full of stars never fails to memorize.
There’s lots of do locally, ask at the site office for information. Bracelands is not far from the River Wye, last year we hired a canoe and paddled down the river and then walked up Symonds Yat to watch Peregrine Falcons. Coleford, the nearest town, has supermarkets and pubs. A short distance is Beechenhurst, an imaginative wooden playground which kept a group of children occupied for an afternoon and the cafe kept the adults in tea. We spent a happy morning just ambling through the Forest, finding sticks, hunting for insects, splashing in puddles, creating memories that will last a long time.
Disclosure: I received a press pass allowing us to camp. Bracelands was our choice of destination. All words and opinions are my own.