It was all about the camping when we booked it – just a nice place to go away as a large group, not too far away, and hang out in the sunshine and let the kids play. The fact that there was an indoor climbing wall and outdoor climbing tower at the campsite was an added extra; a great activity to have on-site to keep the kids entertained if we needed it. What we didn’t realise was that we’d all catch the climbing bug and that the weekend would become well and truly ALL about the climbing!
Far Peak campsite is located in the “heart of the Cotswolds”, meaning it is surrounded by quaint little sandstone villages; the closest of which is Northleach – well worth a visit and a little poke around. But genuinely if you didn’t want to leave the campsite, you wouldn’t have to; there are plenty of activities to keep you and your family entertained for a long weekend.
This trip we were camping with three other families. The trip had been planned for a while as it was a bank holiday weekend, and as with any camping trip in the UK (especially on a bank holiday), all eyes had been on the weather forecast. In the week preceding the trip, the forecast had changed from predicting glorious sunshine all weekend to a bit of cloud and sun on the Friday and then a whopping great big thunderstorm followed by heavy rain on the Saturday and Sunday. Hence, it wasn’t looking the best, but never letting ourselves be defeated by the weather, we just muttered “typical” and filled the car boot with wellies and waterproofs.
It being a bank holiday weekend, we guessed the site would be getting pretty busy and hence headed over mid-afternoon on the Friday to claim our pitch and set up camp. There are a few different areas that you can camp in – we camped in the main area, named the ‘Cotswolds Field’ where you can drive on and park next to your pitch. However there is also ‘The Glade’ which is a car-free camping area. I’ll admit, the area that we were in did feel like a bit of a car park at times as it was a very busy weekend, so perhaps next time we’ll try out The Glade, but that obviously does have the added hassle of having to carry everything from the car to your pitch, which, with two little people in tow isn’t always the easiest thing.
The campsite is really well set up. The owners were very ‘present’ – always checking on the toilet blocks and whizzing around all day in their quad bike, selling logs for campfires.
We’d hired a firepit for the weekend (£15, incl a bag of logs) and bought a couple of extra bags of logs (£8 each) which kept us going all weekend, enabling plenty of BBQs to be had and ensuring a roaring campfire every night when it cooled.
So let’s talk about the climbing…. What a great little climbing centre! We had booked the kids in for a ‘Mini Rockers’ lesson (for ages 3-6) first thing on the Saturday morning, so that they had the basics and the confidence to play around for the rest of the weekend, and this plan worked a treat.
They had a 1 hour lesson (£10) in which they first tackled the bouldering and traverse area, which they got stuck straight into, and then had a go on the climbing pillars, which have four separate top ropes and a multitude of different routes. They all absolutely loved it and their little faces when they reached the top were an absolute picture. They were so proud!
Feeling confident from their climb they then headed to the main bouldering area and continued their climbing there. By this point all the Mums and Dads were well into it too. We had hired the gear (£3 for climbing shoes) and were gradually challenging ourselves to progressively tougher routes, which ranged from a grade 3 to a 7c+, though clearly we were very much in the grade 3 and 4 area!
Ella was passed around while I tackled various routes, but I’m not going to lie, only 3 months after giving birth and with very little exercise in that time, the old body wasn’t feeling that strong! I doubted I even had a core! Plus muscles that rarely got used (forearms and fingers) protested pretty quickly at this most unusual new use. I had some pretty dramatic falls onto the mat whilst reaching for a new hold and the following day had some incredibly multicoloured bruises…..but it was well worth it.
We also headed outside to the 15metre outdoor tower (hiring harnesses for £3). There were 3 auto belays that we all had a go on, but Morts, with a mountain leader background, had also passed his belay test and hence was able to belay us on some of the other 10 top ropes. Basically this meant that poor Morts was positioned outside for most of the day, belaying just about every member of our group on a handful of climbs. But he loved it really.
So that was pretty much how our days continued… heading to the climbing centre first thing and then kicking about there most of the day – heading back for lunch, popping back in the afternoon and then back to the camp early evening. The kids also enjoyed the challenge of the low ropes course, which was right by the outdoor towers and they genuinely just loved being back at camp and charging around, riding their bikes and generally being mischievous. This freedom is the best thing about camping.
The storms never really eventuated. There was one pretty crazy downpour one afternoon, but it was short and sharp and then the sun returned, but certainly not the kind of weather that was predicted. Whenever it did rain, we just headed back into the bouldering area, or into the adjoining café ‘The Hayloft’ for a bit of a caffeine re-charge.
Other than the climbing, a few of us did enjoy a beautiful stroll into Northleach for a little explore, and then before heading home on our final day we also popped to a nearby National Trust property – Lodge Park and Sherborne Park Estate – which are well worth a visit.
However, what would bring us back would be the combination of a nice, well-maintained campsite and the climbing – it’s just too easy: camping and all your activities in one place. Though I definitely need to get myself ‘climbing fit’ and re-locate my core before coming back! Time to head to the climbing wall for some training!