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Camping in Cumbria

Posted by on Tuesday 24 May 2011 in admin | 3 comments

Apologies for the lack of posts of late – we had four days camping planned for over the weekend and I spent Thursday preparing the garden for four days by itself, so was too tired to post that evening. I’d hoped that I’d come back with lots of post ideas – frugal holidays! ace walks! foraging! exciting stories of catching our dinner flyfishing! – but it didn’t quite work out as planned… We had one fine evening but after the 24 hours of constant rain and strong winds that followed, we decided enough was enough and came home.

We’d been wanting to try camping for a while – neither of us had been camping for more than a decade but it seemed cheap, Lily-dog friendly and could be somewhere pleasantly remote (three things we like in holidays). A couple of weeks ago, back when it was still sunny and warm, I booked us into Low Wray campsite in the Lake District, using Eurocamp. It would have cheaper to have booked directly with the campsite but since it was our first time, we decided to go with Eurocamp — it’s the camping equivalent of renting a fully equipped self-catering cottage and meant we didn’t have to buy a whole load of equipment for an experimental, possibly-one-off trip.

Low Wray is a lovely woodland site – right next to the lake on the Western shore, about four miles south-ish from Ambleside, surrounded by grazing land. It’s owned by the National Trust and aside from the (newly refurbished) toilet blocks & gravel paths for cars, it does feel like you’re camping in a copse in the middle of nowhere. There are some lakeside pitches, some woodland ones (including some pretty remote/hidden ones and the Eurocamp block) and some more meadowland ones (including a tipi field). A really nice place – and I would recommend it if you like camping.

While it was our first break in 18 months (and our first holiday in which neither of us had to work at some point in over five years!), the real focus of the holiday had been about Lily having a fun time – exploring somewhere new, swimming in the lake, maybe meeting the sea for the first time etc – and when it became clear she wasn’t having a great time, it brought us down a bit too. Dogs are heartily welcome at the site (except in the tipis & wooden “pods”) and we did see a lot of bow-wows around the place – but they have to be kept on a lead/under control as you would expect and this meant that Lily had less freedom than she does generally have at home/in the garden/in the woods etc. She did enjoy exploring the wilder bits of the site and got to experience waves (from a boat on the lake) for the first time, which was hilarious, but generally she seemed a bit perturbed – not quite sure what was going on. She wanted to follow us every time we went to the toilet block or anywhere, and she didn’t seem to like how noisy it was inside the tent – especially when the rain was really hammering down and the wind battering the surrounding trees on Saturday night. We didn’t really like that either – and that’s why we came home early — we didn’t want to risk another frustrating sleepless night. (The tent was perfectly watertight and felt sturdy even in the wind, but oh so loud.)

The rain and wind also got in the way of our planned activities. By coincidence, it was the Cumbria Fishing Festival while we were up there and there were lots of fishing events on. I’ve wanted to try different ways of fishing for a while so booked us onto a (highly subsidised so cheap!) “learn to fly fish” course on Saturday afternoon, up past Ullswater. It would have been a great session if the weather hadn’t scared all the fish away. We learnt quite a bit about various things including several casts but only one out of six of us actually got a bite – and we were all cold and wet by the time it was over. Aside from that, even when it was comparatively sunny on the Friday, it was far too cold to even paddle in the lake with Lily and the showers/wind would have rendered a trip to the coast pretty miserable on the Sunday.

So we came home. The biggest thing about the trip for us web-junkies was having an enforced break from the internet and we decided to keep that up, and we didn’t do any chores/normal-routine things either. We basically had two like-a-holiday days at home – reading, relaxing and leisurely dog walks in the woods – and that was jolly pleasant.

All in all, we’re obviously disappointed that the weather ruined things but it wasn’t just the weather, and I think we’ve learnt some important things about what we like about holidays – things we couldn’t really pinpoint until we were there and trying it. I’m glad we went (and went with Eurocamp rather than buying everything ourselves), but I’m even gladder we came back.

(Photo of the lake & Wray castle by Peter Trimming – I didn’t take my camera)


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  1. Hazel

    Oh the joys of camping in the Lake District!

    We go camping a lot and have found we all have more fun on the smaller, less structured sites. We camped at Easter in the most beautiful site on the Pembrokeshire coast, and we were the only ones there most of the time which meant the children and dogs could all free-range without worrying they were disturbing anybody else.

    Apart from the tendency to get wet in the Lakes, the other drawback is that there are sheep *everywhere* and so there are few places dogs can be let off their leads. Other more arable areas of the country might be a bit more to Lily’s taste!

    All this is a long way of saying that if you ever get chance to borrow some equipment, or buy some basics like a camping stove that are useful in power cuts etc as well, do give it another try! Another thing to think of, if you do ever go again, is that we find we all sleep better if the dogs sleep in the car. It’s not too hot overnight, they’re used to being in the kitchen by themselves and they’re right next to the tent, but we don’t get disturbed by their nocturnal mooching!

    Your story does remind me of the time we took our first dog (no children= dog substitute) all the way to the Norfolk coast to see the sea. We live about as far from the sea as it’s possible to get in the UK. She was a Whippet cross, so she spent the whole time standing on rocks refusing to get her toes wet whilst we paddled, trying to encourage her in for a swim! Well, we had a nice day…

  2. Lynsey aka Swirlyarts

    I love Low Wray campsite but it sounds like it has changed a bit since we last went – there were no wooden pods there then. My sister used to work (and live) there and is it a gorgeous spot. I took the girls and Matt there for our first camping trip (to try and get him into it as I had already experienced camping through Guides) and it threw it down the whole time we were there! He didn’t like it much which is why I think we now own a camper van!

  3. louisa

    Hazel – thanks for all the advice! Lily’s got separation anxiety and sleeps in our bedroom most of the time so wouldn’t be happy in the car – in fact, during the hammering rain on Saturday night, she crawled into my sleeping bag with me. That was … snug! The car is a great idea for with braver dogs though!

    Lynsey – it is a lovely site, isn’t it? They’ve apparently done quite a bit of work on the site over the last year – moved reception/the shop to a more central spot and renovating all the toilet blocks.

    I think we might try borrowing/renting a camper van next to see if that’s a better option for us – I’m very inspired by your tales, and Lucy from Attic 24’s adventures :)

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