This is one of the reasons I love camping.
I love getting up early and feeling the quiet beginnings of the morning.
With everybody still asleep, I enjoy the peace and the cold crisp air.
In that early hour I’m away from alarms, noise and the normal rush of a morning at home.
And nothing is better than a hot cup of coffee looking at this view.
For me it’s the best way to start a morning.
Our first Duke of Edinburgh Bronze expedition was upon us and, for many young people, it was their first time camping and having to look after themselves away from home. It’s always a huge learning curve for everyone involved, and the staff often end up feeling a bit like stand-in mums and dads for the weekend.
As we weren’t staying too far away from home, my husband and daughter joined us for the adventure. We stayed at one of my favourite campsites, which is Biblins Youth Campsite. This is a Foresty Commission campsite situated in the gorgeous Wye Valley, near Monmouth. It’s a beautiful area right on the banks of the River Wye, with no mobile phone signal or WiFi, and so it has a realistic feel of being isolated from everything.
Finding some fun, back-to-nature style.
The weather was beautiful and the sun was out, which always makes camping that little bit more special. After a day of walking, the groups started to drift into the campsite. They were all happy to reach the end of day one, and were looking forward to an evening of relaxing and fun.
After the tents were up and they’d cooked a variety of meals, (some a lot better than others!), a football appeared and many of the boys piled onto the large field, energy levels recharged. Of course, my little girl joined in, and “managed” to get a few goals in.
The great thing about Biblins is that it allows open fires on the site and, when everyone got a bit tired, we settled down to a roaring open fire and (of course) we toasted marshmallows.
Later, as the fire died down to just the pulsating glow of embers, we were able to gaze upward into the clear night-sky, seeing a speckled tapestry of brightly-sparkling stars, and even the occasional orbitting satellite.
It was the perfect night, watching the stars and enjoying tasty treats.
This early-morning picture reminds why I love waking up to a beautiful, crisp start to the day.
The second day started with a few moans about aches and pains, but knowing that they were walking to the finish-line gave them the boost they needed to set off. I had a lovely surprise at my checkpoint, as I was able to sit enjoying the scenery and watch Canadian canoeists paddle slowly by on the Wye.
Periodically, each group would pass through my checkpoint, and I’d make sure that they were refreshed, and then safely cross the bridge to continue on their way.
As each group finished, everyone was happy to see the mini buses at the end, throwing off their rucksacks and jumping on the buses ready to get home for cooked meals and clean clothes.
We were only out for one night, but the feeling and the atmosphere when camping at Biblins is just perfect. It’s a quiet and easy campsite, with no frills or fuss, but the setting is just amazing.
It always reminds me of why I love camping, and that it’s a great way of spending really great family-time together.
I was very lucky to be contacted, recently, by a company called SLPY. I was asked if I would like to review a new style of sleeping bag. The company kindly sent me links to information about the sleeping bag, and how it even becomes a wearable clothing item to suit different scenarios. For more info, visit www.slpy.com
I usually spend at least two (or more) nights per month on a camp, and a sleeping bag is a very essential and well-used piece of my kit. The SLPY is just like a ‘normal’ sleeping bag, the only difference being that it can be worn in three different ways.
To sleep in. It can be used as a traditional sleeping bag, but it has a hood. It also has zips where your arm area is, and this allows you to sleep with your arms out of the sleeping bag.
It can be worn. The zipped additions at the arm and feet areas, means that the SLPY can be worn as a clothing item, allowing you to move about. That’s the interesting and very unique difference to this effective and functional sleeping bag.
Explore in it. By engaging the zip-cinch system found at the base of the bag, it can be pulled up to the waist and secured. This allows you to wear the bag more like a coat, allowing more movement whilst still within the warmth of the bag.
Designed in Yorkshire, the SLPY is machine-washable. It has a soft outer fabric which is then filled with “Thermalite Extreme”, providing a Comfort Rating of -5 and an Extreme Rating of -15. This means that it’s a fucntional three-season bag for outdoor use. It easily becomes a four-season bag, if you want to use it indoors as a really cosy, snuggly blanket!
The Original SLPY comes in six different colours. I had one in orange, which is very brightly colourful and is very appealing to young, trendy campers! There are five other colours available, each to suit a range of tastes and sizes.
I was intrigued at this uniquely new and different design of sleeping bag, so I jumped at the chance of being able to put it to the test. Coincidentally, I had a D of E assesment weekend coming up, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to try it out.
I was sent one in medium size, and it was just great for my body shape. I’ve had problems, in the past, when trying to find a sleeping bag with a generous fit to allow unrestricted movement to a girl of my proportions. But, I have to say, I found that the SLPY gave me room to move comfortably, and wasn’t too tight around the top area. It was amply long enough to cover me from top to bottom, with a little room left for comfort and movement.
After a long day of getting to checkpoints, and making sure that all the young adults were ok, we got to the campsite at about 7.30 in the evening. It was definitely time for tea and biscuits for the staff. It was also a great time to test out the SLPY, as the sun was starting to sink, and the evening temperature began to plummet just as rapidly.
Here I am, at the end of a long day, enjoying a well-earned snack and hot drink. In the SLPY, I could easily walk over to our kit-van, collect my mug of tea and treat myself to a couple of biscuits!
It wasn’t too long before some of the young people from my group wandered over to see what I was wearing, (I think it was the colour that drew them in!). A couple of them tried it on, and immediately loved the comfort of the SLPY. Most of them go to music festivals, and said how useful it would be to keep warm, yet still be mobile, after a day of dancing. Others said that it would also be lovely to have a SLPY to relax in on the sofa while watching a movie, especially now that darker nights are drawing in.
I kept the SLPY on for about an hour, and I was so warm. While my colleagues were putting on warm jackets and hats, I ended up wearing a t-shirt with a thin jacket, and was plenty warm enough not to even have to put gloves on.
Warm, toasty, cosy and snug!
The biggest issue, for me, was how I was going to feel when I had to get to sleep at night. By the time the group had settled and we’d tidied up, it was nearly midnight, as usual! In the open countryside, it gets deceptively cold very quickly, so keeping oneself warm, while asleep, is really important. I’d put my SLPY inside my tent, as we were camping by a beach and the air had become quite damp. It would have led to disaster, if I’d had to sleep in a cold, wet cold sleeping bag.
When I sleep in a tent, I usually cocoon myself in loads of chunky layers. I also wear a hat to bed, as a big percentage of body heat is lost from the head. However, I found the hood on the SLPY was quite big, so I thought I’d just use the hood “sans chapeau”. I rarely wear socks to bed while camping but, as I had the option of zipping open the bottom part of the SLPY, I tried thick bed socks and opted for movement over restriction. It’s usually quite an irritation to me, as don’t like the feeling of my feet being trapped at the bottom of the usual sleeping bag format, so it was nice to have a choice, in this instance.
I was able to sleep with thick socks on, and feet outside for once. Freedom!
I was happily surprised and very impressed at how warm and comfortable I was. I wore a light thermal shirt to bed, and was warm enough to have my arms outside the SLPY, which was amazing. It was like having a thick quilt on, but also having the snuggest qualities of a sleeping bag. It really was very warm all night, and I didn’t notice not wearing a hat or having my feet outside of the sleeping bag.
My friend sneaked a photo of me sleeping away, very comfortably indeed!
It was a very comfortable and warm nights’ sleep and, put simply, that’s all you want and need from a good quality sleeping bag.
I also managed to try it out, while I was waiting at my checkpoint the next day. Staffing a checkpoint usually means waiting around (for an age) in a mini bus, while all your groups check in and then move off. You see if they’re ok, check that they know their route and fill up water bottles, if needed. You can be at a given checkpoint for anything from half an hour, up to three hours it it’s a long day.
I knew I was in for a long wait, so I put my feet up and got comfy. I enjoyed the Sunday papers and I really was very cosy, with total mobility, wearing the SLPY
As a sleeping bag, the SLPY is great. It offers all the qualities expected from a standard format sleeping bag, in regard to warmth and comfort. I really did enjoy having zips built into the design, as it gave me the opporunity to move more and find a comfprtable sleeping postion.
Unlike a standard format sleeping bag, you can benefit from all these qualities on the move while wearing the SLPY, in a whole range of different scenarios.
When it comes to the”sack race”, thanks to it’s unique and innovative deign, the SLPY wins hands (and feet) down !!
I was sent a SLPY product to review. My opinions are my own, honest and unbiased. For retail info, www.blackleaf.com
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In work, my favourite time of the year is when we take a group of young people on canoe camp. The group work all year round, in their school, to earn behaviour points to be able to take part in canoe camp, so the young people who attend really deserve it and want to be there.
Good behaviour equals a reward.
I love it as I get to canoe in the most beautiful environment. We have two days of open-boat paddling on the River Wye, through the beautiful Forest of Dean. We camp at a lovely (and very quiet) youth camp-site, which allows open campfires, and this is great for toasting marshmallows. It’s a truly breathtaking place to be.
We were very lucky and had stunning sunshine, so there was no need for thermals or waterproofs. The suntan lotion was applied liberally before setting off and we gently paddled down the river. Throughout, we spotted ducks, swans and even saw an otter.
The late evening was spent around an open fire. We told scary stories and the adults freaked out the young people out by telling them gory tales of the wild boar that live in the forest around the campsite. Every year we tell the story, and it has become quite an “Urban Legend” throughout the school.
Trying to dry my socks in the morning sun!
The next day involved a gentle paddle, with the current slowly pushing us down to Monmouthshire Rowing Club where we exit the river. When the end comes into sight, the water fights start! This involves lots of splashing, with boats being paddled faster and faster to get away from each other. By the time we reach the end, we’re paddling in canoes full of water, with all the staff and children squelching and soaking!
It really is a fantastic couple of days. It can be hard work paddling, especially on the first day. It’s usually for about five or six hours, depending on the weather, the river levels, the wind and (of course) the different personalities within the group, but I love it.
The young people get so much out of it, and have a wonderful time. They really make the trip worthwhile, and I love their company. For my part, it’s great to be involved in something that’s so positive.
Those two days of canoe camp always reassure me that I’m in the right job, and I feel really very lucky that this is my “office” !
This photograph reminds me of one of the reasons why I love camping.
I love seeing my daughter all snuggled up in her sleeping bag.