Sometimes it’s easy to overlook what is right there in front of you.
We spend a lot of time travelling, camping and adventuring far and wide across the UK (and indeed Europe) and yet right here under our very noses in Oxfordshire is some of the most spectacular scenery and amazing camping, which up until now we have largely ignored.
Not any more.
In celebration of a great mate’s 40th birthday, a whole bundle of us were heading to The Real Campsite in Faringdon, Oxfordhsire for a long weekend full of good friends, good food, campfires, long walks, fresh air, great views, and a lot of silliness and fun.
The Real Campsite was the perfect camp for a get-together and celebration. It only has seven pitches (so with 7 families, we took them all), each with stunning views across their 380 acre working sheep and arable farm. With all the pitches facing north-west, you are treated to a spectacular sunset from your camp and can sit back and enjoy watching the sun slowly dip behind the rolling Oxfordshire hills; a perfect end to any day spent out in nature.
The campsite was far more luxurious than I expected and each large pitch has a little wooden shed at the back with a spotless flushing loo and basin! There is also a large loo and shower block up in the farm by the animal barns. So if you like a bit more comfort while you are camping, then this is a great option.
There is a large campfire area at the end of the pitches, nearest to the farm, which being the only people there we just took over and was where we would all convene in the mornings and evenings. There were logs to sit on round the fire, big picnic benches, a tap with running water and once again, perfect views across the rolling farmland.
With 16 children between us ranging from 1 to 9 (!!), keeping the kids amused was a big factor that could make or break the weekend for us adults! No need to worry here…. The kids spent the entire weekend just charging around the spacious camp playing. There was a slope up behind the camping pitches that lead to a forest where the kids spent loads of time building dens, playing hide and seek, rolling around and generally getting happily muddy. There were also some chickens and sheep in a large paddock right in front of the camps, which we spent a lot of time in, stroking and petting the animals. The kids also enjoyed checking for eggs in the morning.
It genuinely was perfect for the kids and hence perfect for us! We could see/hear them the whole time and it all felt very safe and protected. Cue some adult downtime…. Yeeeeeaaaaaaa!
Now one of the great benefits of going away with my local buddies is that they love food, they love cooking and they love sharing! Hence when we all go camping together it is a rather gourmet affair (as far as campfood goes); I am pleased to report that this weekend was no different! The pinnacle being our curry night on the Saturday night, which, with about 6 different dishes and sides, would rival anything you would buy in a restaurant! Amazing!
Both nights we wrestled the kids into bed by about 8pm, full of marshmallows, smores, warm milk and cowboy bread that we had made on the campfire. They were exhausted, filthy but happy.
We then enjoyed just sitting around the campfire, chilling, chatting, eating, drinking, watching the sunset and generally just feeling content and lucky to live in such a beautiful area and be surrounded by such great friends!
There is loads to do in the surrounding area, but we adopted a pretty relaxed approach to our days…. Lazy mornings, multiple cups of tea around the campfire, bacon and egg sarnies and more chilled chat. That being said, a few more active members put us all to shame and headed off eagerly for a morning’s 10k run, which if you fancy doing it is a beautiful location to do so. As soon as the kids were awake they were back charging around and playing happily. There is something for everyone.
On the Saturday afternoon we gathered all the kids and headed out for a group hike to nearby Farringdon Folly. This was a perfect distance for an amble with kids. I think it took us about 1.5 hours, plodding at a very slow pace and stopping enroute for snacks and letting the kids charge around.
The route was pretty flat apart from the last hill up to the actual Folly, but it was a lovely scenic, rural walk, enjoyed by all (and please excuse the fact I forgot to take a single photo of the folly itself! You’ll have to head there yourself to enjoy it!) We picnicked in the woods around the Folly and spent some time exploring the woods, although we didn’t go up the Folly itself.
Within the forest there is a brilliantly wacky sculpture trail of crazy carvings hidden in the trees, including 22 blackbirds, a giraffe, a mouse, a mole, a bat, a troll, toadstalls, a fairy bridge and house and even a piano! You can print out the list of the sculptures to take with you so that you can fully enjoy the trail and see who can find them all first (it takes a while but the kids loved it). They (and we!) also really enjoyed the simply pleasures of a good old game of hide and seek in the forest.
Once we’d finished playing at the Folly we took a different route and walked down into the historic market down of Farringdon for an ice-cream.We had sensed that some of the smaller kids were pretty tired so dispatched a couple of men back to the campsite to pick up the cars (which was much quicker without 16 children in tow!). They then met us in Farringdon post-ice-cream so we could drive the short distance back to the campsite.
Many of the older kids were absolutely fine to walk back and indeed enjoyed finishing this route. It had been a brilliant day and the whole weekend was a perfect family and friend-filled mini-adventure.
So there we have it – a super cool 12th campout of 2017 right in our own backyard. A good reminder that sometimes you do not need to travel far to experience new adventures.
And we genuinely cannot recommend The Real Campsite enough and will absolutely be heading back there next summer…. Perhaps for a repeat of the big friend get-together, or perhaps for a quieter family weekend, either way it’s perfect.