Glistening sunshine and an invite to the first ever GO Outdoors staycation in rural Kent will sound like nothing short of heaven to the thousands of campers who holiday in Britain every year.
Though, I’ll let you in on a little secret…I haven’t camped for over 15 years! Needless to say, the thought of sleeping on a hard floor, being woken up at dawn and surrounded by bugs all wanting a piece of the Social Butterfly (me) was something that made me feel a tad nervous! I sleep with ear defenders in every night to spare me from Adam’s snoring, how was I going to cope with hooting owls, morning birds and buzzing mosquitoes?! Don’t even get me started on using a portaloo…
Well if you’ve made it this far, lucky you – you’re about to find out!
The team at GO Outdoors had enticed me with their love of the great outdoors when I attended the MK store opening in March *read here.* Trust me when I say it was well needed, the great British weather or lack of had attributed to my laziness and I’d lost my mojo at the gym.
With the slowly improving weather and my new Berghaus walking boots, the excuses to stay in and watch a new series on Netflix had run out.
Before I thought of 13 reasons why I shouldn’t go camping, I contemplated it can’t be that hard if others choose to camp so often. I was intrigued myself whether I’d be able to last the whole night camping. Well, it had been a while!
The horrified concerns from friends and family when I told them I was going camping didn’t help the matter either…I’m not that much of a princess, am I?!
I put my reservations aside and thought back to my New Years resolution to step outside my comfort zone this year. I was intending on giving it my best shot, if I didn’t like it I’d be in no rush to go camping again.
The GO Outdoors #GOcation was created following research, which discovered that 8 out of 10 Britons found holidaying abroad was too stressful and that a holiday in the U.K. enabled them to have more fun and not feel exhausted when they returned home.
I found this an interesting concept as other than beloved weekend trips to Stratford Upon Avon (where I recently got engaged – read here) it had never occurred to me to holiday in Britain rather than abroad.
Putting up a tent must be more stressful than checking in at the airport surely?
I was about to find out and with Adam unable to get the time off work, my pal Stevie B gladly stepped in following our previous jaunt to the Henry Holland pop-up event. Being a bird watcher himself, Stevie was looking forward to experiencing nature and putting his new found photography skills to good use.
*Photo Credit: Steve Burton*
Armed with a hoard of Backstreet Boys CDs it was time to get on the road for a sing-along. Travelling on the motorway we were bound to hit queues of traffic and before we knew it we’d listened to Muse, Oasis and The Fugees as well as the entire Backstreet Boys back catalogue.
Nonetheless, It was a pleasant drive. After going over the Dartford Crossing we found ourselves in rural Kent countryside with quaint villages and appealing pubs.
*Picture Credit: Augustin Cross*
Luckily for us, GO Outdoors had taken the stress out of our camping trip by providing us with pre-erected tents, sleeping bags and to my delight a camping bed each. Cheat, you may be thinking but all I could think about was no hard floor sleeping for me!
Not only that, they’d also laid on fully functioning toilets and showers. Maybe camping wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
After a welcome talk from GO, it was time to explore the activities they had in store for us.
Stevie in his haste to get on the road had forgotten to bring a pair of shorts. In a bold move due to the sweltering heat, he borrowed a pair of scissors and cut his jeans into shorts! Throwing himself wholeheartedly into the camping malarkey, he was all set to explore.
BXM Expeditions and GO consultants Ben Maxfield and Leigh Rose each took a group on a hike, giving us ample opportunity to explore our GOcation surroundings. Ben talked our group through our surroundings, providing insight on the natural habitat as well as useful information about hiking and his treks around the world. We finished up our walk by jumping the hay bales, well the others did…I have the upper body strength of a kitten!
Next up were the bikes. I recognised Mike Sanderson straightaway after researching the bikes following the MK store opening and remembering videos I’d seen of him hurtling through the air on rugged bike trails, I wasn’t convinced I had the necessary stamina to keep up with him. After all, being a fully fledged cyclist on Milton Keynes redways means nothing, it’s just flat concrete. After convincing Mike a quick jaunt around the field would do the trick (thankfully, as I was out of breath from that and couldn’t steer the bike to save my life) it was almost time to tuck into the cheese toasties from the food truck.
Despite my declining fitness levels in recent months, I was very impressed with the female Bossnut bike and quickly remarked how unusually comfortable the seats are. Mike explained he designed the female bikes with input from his wife to create the softest seat possible for females, which is much more comfortable than the gel seat on my bike at home. Intrigued by the suspension on the bike, I would imagine it would be great for hills if I’d had the courage to venture out of the field. I was wowed by the hydraulic breaks and the ability to break with a gentle press of one finger. It goes without saying, I nearly went flying over the handlebars on my first attempt at breaking but with rusty breaks and no gears on my bike at home, which I’ve owned since the age of twelve, it was a given…
I’d watched how to make fire using rope in the bushcraft session run by Thomas, hiked the adjoining forest and braved the suspension bikes. I could safely say at this point I had thrown myself fully into the camping activities but was still unsure whether I would last the entire night.
*Picture credit: Steve Burton*
As Stevie and I approached the campfire, a band named the Super Tenants were playing a whole host of tunes from Amy Winehouse to Prince.
We all gathered round the campfire for a sing-along with our Pimms and the finest cheese toasties from the Cheese Truck. My Stilton toastie was pure perfection, cheesy as hell with the strong aroma of stilton and heavenly melted gooeyness (yes, my mouth is watering as I write this.)
It was a great atmosphere around the campfire and after resisting every temptation to get another toastie, I proceeded to share out the two bags of giant marshmallows from Costco I’d brought along. Others had brought marshmallows to share also and all of us at the GOcation press evening had formed a community in an instant.
*Photo Credit: Augustin Cross*
It was amazing to see everyone mucking in, sharing food and enjoying each other’s company. I found myself having the warm fuzzy glow that I imagine gives families the same sort of satisfaction from taking their kid’s camping for the first time. The journalists’ children appeared to enjoy it too and with the setting sun casting a glow over their content faces, it was apparent GO had created the perfect ambience for their first GOcation.
Surprisingly, Stevie and I were one of the last ones standing at the campfire and we had a great laugh with fellow bloggers Lucie Loves, Kate (Little Miss Winney), Kate’s friend Natalie, Ben and Scott from the GO Outdoors team.
*Picture Credit: Steve Burton*
GO photographer Gus showed us his talented works of light art, which are viewable on his Instagram page *click here* and he gave us a light pen each for us to create our own art. We all found it amusing creating non-pg-rated material and one our best creations was our backwards writing of LIGHTS shown below.
*Photo Credit: Augustin Cross*
I even got the opportunity to see my name in lights, not Hollywood unfortunately but (badly) drawn by me using a light pen.
*Photo Credit: Augustin Cross/Pen drawing by me 🙂
Before we knew it was 2 am and time for bed. We’d been informed that the farmer owning the field had blocked the entrance with his tractor to prevent any intruders, therefore any opportunity to skip off home in the dead of night had already been quashed. It was time to face up to my camping fears…
After gaining insight from the others about what clothes to wear for bed and an impromptu call to Stevie about how to work the lantern and operate the zip to the tent (yes, I am useless) I was left to my own devices…God help me!
I tucked my I ❤️ NY pyjamas into the thick winter bed socks I’d brought along and after realising my sleeping bag wouldn’t go over my head (I like to sleep with my ears covered, that’s how much I hate being disturbed) I decided to use the micro fibre towel provided to cover my ears and neck. Luckily, I had brought the essentials: Ear defenders, an eye mask, wipes, dry shampoo, a portable charger and my laptop, which fit nicely in my STM backpack despite me not using it. Though, I wish I’d packed more layers!
The camp bed was surprisingly comfortable and I was as snug as a bug in my sleeping bag, other than my chilly neck. Despite this, it seemed like a lifetime before I drifted off to sleep, though eventually, the tiredness took over.
I woke shivering at 4 am, a mere two hours since I went to bed. My teeth were chattering and the shaking from the cold had caused an unavoidable need to go to the toilet. Thinking back to this moment I was peeved…
It was freezing! Though, it was intriguing to be outside at this time of the morning. I’d never been up that early other than for early morning jaunts to the airport. It was a milestone for me and I decided to film a Snapchat, after all, it may not happen again!
Somehow I managed to drift back off to sleep and woke up just before 7.30 am boiling with blazing sunshine flooding my tent. Yes, I had gone through all the motions, having been freezing cold at 4 am and feeling like I was in a sauna come 7 am! Why hadn’t I been a diva and asked for the Coleman Mosedale 5 blackout tent I raved about in my last GO Outdoors post…
Not feeling anywhere near as exhausted as I’d anticipated, I met up with the others at 8 am for some brekkie. The GO team had provided an array of pastries, juices and granola for the campers, which was just what Stevie and I needed before setting off on the road back to Milton Keynes.
The #GOcation surprised me and I had no idea I was going to enjoy it as much as I did. Yes, I may not be a fully fledged camper but the simplicity of the staycation, being at one with nature really is something to marvel at and makes me realise there are some truly beautiful places to visit in the U.K. The rural Kent countryside was the perfect location for my first camping trip and reading the GO Outdoors blog, which is packed full of UK staycation camping guides and places to visit does inspire me to get out and explore the U.K.
The #GOcation camp was open to the public for the remainder of the weekend with the GO team providing a free, fully-equipped campsite setting for families to enjoy.
I can now see why thousands of families choose to go camping every year as it’s a great way to bond, enjoying the great outdoors away from modern technology. I may not be the first one to put my hands up for a camping trip and it goes without saying, I’m always going to choose a hotel over a tent but I wholeheartedly enjoyed my GOcation with GO Outdoors and I really hope they do another pop-up camping experience like this again! Count me in!
I made my own memories captured in my YouTube video of the GOcation, which includes the #GORoadtrip with Stevie and my 4 am jaunt to the toilet (lucky viewers!) below:
I know I said it’s good to have a break from modern technology but you’ve got to capture these moments, after all, who knows when I’ll be camping again!
Huge thanks to GO and the PR team for inviting me and changing my perception of camping, you’ve got one happy camper right here 😀
*Photo Credit: Augustin Cross*
Are you a lover or a hater of camping? Or do you have any recommendations for newbies like me? Let me know in the comments box below.
*Photo Credit: Augustin Cross*
Thanks for reading,
*This post is in collaboration with GO Outdoors, though thoughts regarding the #GOcation are entirely my own. Photos are my own unless otherwise stated underneath.*