We knew many London families were desperate for a break by the end of the first Lockdown and many had no prospect of a holiday, so with the encouragement of our partners Pearce Coggan Foundation, based at Green Farm Kent, we decided to push ahead with two much hoped for Outdoor Family Camping trips. The first was in the heat of the summer; the second in the October half-term, where the weather was much more autumnal.
Both were glorious, magical - and a huge learning experience for all.
In the summer we pitched the tents in blazing sunshine (2020 has been recorded as one of the hottest years on record in the UK). The trip meant that we could rejig the procedures to take into account Covid restrictions - and also begin to develop some joint activities with the Pearce Coggan Foundation around healthy eating and sustainable farming practices.
A foraging walk was very popular, led by Claire, one of our volunteers, as was making jam from the fruit that we found. And eating it... We also loved learning to cook the rainbow of vegetables that Green Farm provided on our individual camp stoves, and in the autumn we carved pumpkins - a first for everyone on the trip. We all decided pumpkins are WAY easier than turnips!
It will be great to see how this added dimension will help shape future Family Camping trips at Green Farm. Helping children to learn about the land helps them to develop a greater connection with nature, and means they will be more likely to want to protect the planet when they grow up. We hope a better connection to food will also support healthier eating habits too.
After the summer camp we knew a key part of Covid security was to provide dedicated toilets for the 'bubbles' of families, and we were all delighted when Pearce Coggan were successful in securing a grant for portable eco-loos that were completed for the October half term. Dedicated toilets - decorated by the children - and a shower cleaning roster (overseen by volunteers Yaa and Lana who kept it spotless!), plus cooking gear for each family bubble, meant we felt we finally cracked 'covid secure camping' and we are super confident about the camps planned for 2021.
In the October the weather was much less forgiving, and in the evenings in particular it became distinctly chilly, as the sun sank beneath the slab of grey cloud. Physically distanced, sitting in our bubbles on either side of the fire, we enjoyed the company, if not the close proximity of our fellow travellers.
On the first afternoon the children led us on a frog hunt into the deep ancient woodlands adjacent to our Fairyland camp at Green Farm.
We found no frogs, and neither the whisper of a newt, which wasn't altogether surprising, given it was not the season for frogs and newts (or maybe they had all been scooped up by the north wind, to rain from the skies in Dover). However the lack of amphibians was more than made up for by the superabundance of fungi, including some really magical finds...
We learnt about the fungal mycelial cultures that exist under our boots – each single organism made up of a million interconnected threads, stretching for hundreds of meters, maybe even kilometers...
In this most challenging of years, we're dedicating this post to our sponsors, grant givers and all the customers of Outdoor People, without whom we couldn't fund our Development manager Beth to run our Wild Walks Programme, connect with our community or go on Outdoor Family Camping Trips.
Your support has kept us going through the hardest times, enabling us both to complete two Covid-secure Family Camping trips and lay the foundations for future trips in 2021.
New and strengthened partnerships
An especially warm thanks go to our partners the Pearce Coggan Foundation. Pearce Coggan Foundation secured charitable status this year, a landmark moment, and quickly used that to secure sponsorship for the infrastructure so that from 2021 we can start to grow Family Camping together, reaching more of the families who need to get outdoors most and reconnecting children to their natural roots. Find out more about our partnership here.
This year, our camping experience has also been improved exponentially, thanks to the generous support of Marmot - who donated Family tents and coats to keep our families warm and dry. We were thrilled to host a number of Marmot ambassadors at our summer camping trip - who pitched in to make the whole experience run smoothly.
Making camping Covid-safe
After the summer camp we knew a key part of Covid security was to provide dedicated toilets for the 'bubbles' of families, and we were all delighted when Pearce Coggan secured a grant for portable eco-loos that were completed for the October half term.
Dedicated toilets - decorated by the children - and a shower cleaning roster (overseen by volunteers Yaa and Lana who kept it spotless!), plus cooking gear for each family bubble, meant we felt we finally cracked 'Covid-secure camping' and we are super confident about the camps planned for 2021.
Supporting Outdoor Family Camping in 2021
If you'd like to support our Outdoor Family camping programme, you can donate through our Local Giving page.
You could choose to stay at Green Farm Kent, visit their spa, go on a retreat or go along to one of their Thursday Coffee Mornings. Like us, Green Farm puts a part of all their profits into the Foundation, and if you mention us they'll dedicate a portion of what you spend to Outdoor Family Camping. Find out more here.
Photos: Liz Seabrook