Camping in London: "Glamorous camping" has always struck me as an oxymoron. Surely the two words are as polarised as Tiger Woods and monogamy or Simon Cowell and tact. However, seeing as it seems to have become such a global phenomenon, I decided to find out whether sleeping in a tent in a forest could be in any way described as "luxurious".
My former boy scout fiance is over the moon as I reluctantly agree to a weekend break to the New Forest. Before I can say the words "waterproofs" and "cooking stove" our mini-break has been booked and we are on the two-and-a-half-hour drive from London to Brockenhurst.
Given that we have enough equipment for a large family as well as enough clothes and food to last about two weeks, itís quite useful that we have a Chevrolet Captiva for the trip so that we can fit it all in.
The journey to Roundhills campsite is stunning ó with lush countryside, quaint villages and ponies free to roam around the forest, which is steeped in history, itíís easy to see why itís such a popular destination for nature lovers. After ten minutes or so of me being extremely picky, we find a suitably secluded pitch at the site, and Rich puts our tent up while I attempt to help. Given that, in my quest to make sure the trip is as comfortable as possible, we have an Outwell Indian Lake tipi Outwell Indian Lake tipi which sleeps six in two rooms, itís not the easiest of tasks. After an hour of pretty much doing it by himself, a friendly couple come to assist [Rich]. Another hour later and weíre sitting on our Outwell Dawson Picnic Table, drinking a rather nice bottle of red wine and nibbling on delicious Paxton & Whitfield cheeses, having just eaten dinner which I cooked on our two-burner stove.
I could, maybe, get used to this. The next day ó glossing over the Ďcommunal showerí experience ó we cycle for about an hour east to Beaulieu, home to the world-famous motor museum. Itís a picturesque village dating back to the 13th century and has many attractions ó including the charming Palace House and historic Beaulieu Abbey. We continue our journey to The Master Builderís pub at Bucklerís Hard for lunch. Itís a beautiful location, overlooking the Beaulieu River - and they serve a great selection of home-cooked food and a delicious barbecue.
Suitably fed, we begin the ride back to the campsite, which is more than an hour away. Halfway through our ride, the rain starts. Itís gentle at first, but then we turn a corner for the final stretch and the wind pounds against us. All I can say is thank God for Helly Hansen, as my stylish Ekolab jacket is a life saver ó keeping me dry while my underlayers ensure that Iím toasty warm as well.
Back at the campsite we freshen up and then head to the civilisation of Brockenhurst village, one of the largest in the New Forest, where there are a few nice old-fashioned pubs, such as the Rose & Crown and the Snakecatcher. We have a couple of drinks before heading to Lyndhurst, which is known as the capital of the New Forest.
Here you can find out about the village, a favourite with royals for centuries, and its famous residents, who include Alice Liddell, Lewis Carrollís inspiration for Alice In Wonderland, at the New Forest Museum. Afterwards, head to Passage of India, which is where we enjoyed a first-class meal. The venue is modern and the staff are very friendly, while the food is unfaultable.
We head back to our tent and to our (surprisingly comfy) double Camping ReadyBed at the end of what seems to be another successful day camping. However, by the next morning, I appear to have spoken too soon.
The rain looks as though itís not letting up, so, armed with out waterproofs, we make the best of it. We wander around the traditional street market along Lymingtonís Georgian High Street before strolling along the pretty cobbled streets to the quay to watch the luxury yachts and fishing boats.
Itís then a short drive to Keyhaven where, after having a ploughmanís lunch in the quirky Gun Inn, we catch a small boat for a 15-minute journey to Henry VIIIís Hurst Castle.
The fortress ó built to defend the western approach - was completed in 1544 but has been modernised over time. Despite the rain, it was fascinating to learn about the history, view the 38-ton guns that were installed in the 1870s and admire the stunning (albeit cloudy) panorama across to the Isle of Wight. We decide to call it a day and drive back to the campsite for our final meal before leaving the following morning ó to head to a boutique hotel.
Not that I wanted to appear defeatist even before our trip had begun, but, as this is my first camping trip, and, although now I can see there are some elements of "glamorous camping" that ring true, I thought we might need a night of pampering before heading home. And, right now, the prospect of a "proper" bed and taking a shower in a private bathroom seems the epitome of luxury - and I canít wait.
How to turn your camping experience into "glamping"
Make sure your vehicle is big enough for all the equipment ó drive a Chevrolet Captiva, visit www.chevrolet.co.uk.
Space is paramount in a tent ó buy one thatís big enough to stand-up in such as the Outwell Indian Lake tent ó a high-quality tent suitable for families, sleeping six in two bedrooms (£819.99) visit www.outwell.co.uk or call 01937 591101.
Make sure youíre kitted out for the worst of British weather with Helly Hansen technical clothing. Try the urban chic Korker hiking shoes (£70), the W Converter Zip Off trousers (£60), the stylish W Barrier Hoodie (£80) and the lifesaving W Ekolab Recycler Jacket (£270). Visit www.hellyhansen. or call 0115 960 8797.
When it comes to eating alfresco, make sure your dining experience is comfortable with the fold-away Outwell Dawson Picnic Table (£59.99) and cook in style using the Coleman Perfect Flow 2 Burner (£59.99) available from Cotswold Outdoor. Or take a Cahors Portable grill, which folds flat, to enjoy a summer BBQ (£26.99), available from www.outwell.co.uk or call 01937 591101.
Enjoy a comfortable nightís sleep in a Camping ReadyBed (£59.95) ó an all-in-one mattress, pillow and duvet available from www.argos.co.uk.
Make sure youíre warm and cosy in the evening with cotton PJs from Pink Camellia such as the Milk-cotton jersey shortie pyjamas (£117.50), visit www.pinkcamellia.com.
And to enjoy the experience all over again, take photos on the new 2010 model from GE digital cameras Ė the X5 (£129.99), visit www.ge.com.
Getting there: Find out more about the New Forest www.newforest.co.uk.
Carol Driver is a journalist with more than 13 years' experience writing, subbing and editing at national and regional publications and websites in the UK. Carol is currently the group editor at TNT Multimedia, which has magazines in London, Australia and New Zealand. She previously worked at national newspaper website the Mail Online well as writing for a host of other publications. She has also ...(Read More)