House buying this year has meant that Mediterranean holidays are just a daydream right now. The reality is, four days camping in Sandy Balls. Yes, this is a real place! It’s in the New Forest but we didn’t get around to visiting the actual sandy balls so I’m still none the wiser as to the origin of its name.
I have very vivid memories of camping for my Duke of Edinburgh award as a teenager. Mostly memories of being cold, there were fun moments of course as my friends were there but the main thing that really sticks in my mind is being colder than I had ever been before. The zip of our tent frozen together, wanting to stay in the same clothes for three days to minimise the exposure to the elements, eating frankfurters for breakfast (why?!?!). Looking back it wasn’t that bad but being a teenager at the time meant it was obviously the worse moment of my entire life!!! I no longer exaggerate quite as much as I did then but my pure hatred of being cold is still very strong today and probably always will be.
Every inch of our large car was filled with bedding, toys, clothes, potty etc. and we were ready to go. The journey was surprisingly pain free because both little ones slept for the majority of it. We arrived to the joyful sight that is, an erected tent. My dad and his girlfriend had been hard at work putting it up and judging by the need to drink wine at 4.30pm on a Thursday I’m thinking it was a pretty tough job. They were sleeping in their camper van and we were in the tent, I could barely contain my excitement at the four nights that lay ahead. Four nights in a tent with my husband and two wriggly children, four nights on an air bed, four nights of using the toilet block, who needs an all-inclusive resort in Lanzarote when you can have all this!
After unloading our essentials and exploring, we decided that we would eat at the campsite restaurant. I know it’s cheating but we were on holiday after all. As I sat sipping Prosecco and eating an amazing Tapas I thought that maybe this camping business isn’t so bad after all. Of course I didn’t realise that at that very moment our air bed was slowly deflating in the tent. The first night was mostly spent awake due to the volume of my dads snoring coming from the camper van and the slowly deflating air bed and as I walked to the toilet block at about 6am I was mesmerised by the lodges that the foot path insists you walk past. You can hire lovely looking lodges at Sandy Balls. These lovely looking lodges weren’t so friendly though. As I walked past they were taunting me with their curtains and lights, bathrooms and beds, and most importantly, heating. They were showing off and my goodness they looked like heaven at that very moment in time.
The day was packed with outdoor play, swimming, pub lunch, indoor play and a wonderful magic show where my quiet four year old volunteered to go on stage and laughed so hard he could barely speak. I have never seen him like that before and it was a total joy to watch. The day ended with a BBQ, a few drinks and a Snickers bar, pretty damn perfect. The rest of our trip carried on like this, eating, drinking, hanging out outside enjoying each other’s company and there were plenty of crafts for the kids to do to (arranged by the campsite). Because dad had his camper van we got to sit inside for our morning cup of tea, dad and his girlfriend even cooked us a wonderful fry up one morning and the kids had a place to hide from the little thunderstorm while watching Frozen on the iPad. Of course there were a few tantrums and fights but I’m pleased to say they where only involving the kids, and of course there was that ever deflating air bed that needed pumping up every night. It was cold at night but a pair of socks and a sweatshirt solved that problem and the weather was unusually glorious most of the time.
So I have to say that I actually enjoyed every minute of it. I just loved seeing the kids spending time with my dad, exploring the outdoors and growing in confidence. It might not be the Med but my son said he wished we could stay forever and that’s good enough for me. I didn’t think I would say this but I would actually do it all over again although I think the lodges might be calling…..