Camping in a Bell Tent

I camped as a kid when I was in Brownies - big canvas tents in a field, groundsheet, sleeping bag, and a washstand made from sticks, string, and a plastic washing up bowl. It was absolute heaven. Growing up on a diet of Swallows and Amazons, I made tents and dens every day during the summer holidays, and even slept in the back garden in a one-man tent inherited from an older cousin. Bliss. My husband isn't a camper though, so I hadn't camped for years and years. Then friends invited me to join them on a long weekend under canvas on a little site on the Welsh coast, and I had a brainwave - leave the husband, baby and dogs behind, stick a tent, a couple of bottles of pink wine, and my two eldest girls in the car, and off we went.

The first time we went camping, I borrowed a friend's tent and all the kit, just to see how we liked it. Well with this view, how could you not enjoy yourself?

 Aberafon campsite in north Wales. You can camp basically on the beach. Don't, because your tent will be ripped to shreds by the wind, but you can if you want to :-)

Aberafon campsite in north Wales. You can camp basically on the beach. Don't, because your tent will be ripped to shreds by the wind, but you can if you want to :-)

 Aberafon beach at dusk. 

Aberafon beach at dusk. 

 Camping makes me pretty happy as you can see. Setting things on fire on the beach while the sun sets - what's not to like?

Camping makes me pretty happy as you can see. Setting things on fire on the beach while the sun sets - what's not to like?

 Camping chow part one - featuring bacon cooked by a mate on her stove, and scrambled eggs cooked on my MSR Pocket Rocket. 

Camping chow part one - featuring bacon cooked by a mate on her stove, and scrambled eggs cooked on my MSR Pocket Rocket. 

 Waitrose rice pudding (obvs), camembert and marshmallows cooked on the beach. 

Waitrose rice pudding (obvs), camembert and marshmallows cooked on the beach. 

After spending a truly lovely weekend getting in touch with my scruffy, sweaty and slightly feral inner self, I immediately invested in a bell tent from Canvas Under the Stars, plus all the trimmings. 

 Back at Aberafon, this time in a bell tent with bunting. 

Back at Aberafon, this time in a bell tent with bunting. 

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I then squeezed in one final trip last year with my big girls to celebrate my birthday. We camped on a little site in Derbyshire, close enough for my husband and the baby, plus my parents to come and visit for the day. 

 Upgrading the facilities with a rag rug and a doormat :-)

Upgrading the facilities with a rag rug and a doormat :-)

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 Well, why not wear a yellow raincoat and a tiara on your birthday. 

Well, why not wear a yellow raincoat and a tiara on your birthday. 

 Riverside apartment. 

Riverside apartment. 

 More camping food - mocha pot and ceramic espresso cups essential!

More camping food - mocha pot and ceramic espresso cups essential!

It rained when I was packing up. When you pack a canvas bell tent up in the rain, you have to unpack it at the other end and drape it over your dining table for 24 hours until it dries out, otherwise it will get mould spots. 

 Yikes!

Yikes!

I'm absolutely in love with our bell tent. It's warm at night and cool on a hot day. I can pitch it by myself (it's not difficult to do, but it takes a lot of lugging around and whacking of tent pegs). It looks super-pretty. It's very spacious inside and you can have a proper family sleepover, all snuggled up in a row. We have a 5m bell and can fit five mattresses in one half with all the kitchen equipment and chairs in the other half (we don't cook inside as I can't get my head around having a stove under canvas).

Fast forwards eight months and camping season rolls round again. I phoned up a site on Anglesey to find out if they had a pitch for the bank holiday weekend. "Yes, love, we do. How many are you?". Well, we've got a five metre bell with an awning, two adults, three kids, and three dogs. Long pause. "Sorry love, we're full". Well, not everyone wants to accommodate a travelling circus I suppose. Back to Aberafon we went, this time with the whole family. My poor non-camping husband slept for about 2 hours each night but bravely pushed on through with the aid of wine.

 Further upgrade with a 2m x 4m canvas awning (plus guy ropes and three poles). You can just about spot the big plastic tubs inside the tent - I bring five with me in various candy colours for storing everything from crisps to cagoules. Plus a couple of wicker hampers. And fairy lights. All about keeping it pretty. 

Further upgrade with a 2m x 4m canvas awning (plus guy ropes and three poles). You can just about spot the big plastic tubs inside the tent - I bring five with me in various candy colours for storing everything from crisps to cagoules. Plus a couple of wicker hampers. And fairy lights. All about keeping it pretty. 

I've become a pro at pitching the bell. First put the groundsheet down. Then arrange the tent on the groundsheet with door (zipped up) pointing in the desired direction. Peg in the base like a clock - door first (six) then opposite (twelve), then three, then nine. Pull tight each time. If you get the base right then the sides will be nice and taut. Then lift the centre pole into place, being sure to angle it at right angles to the slope of the ground (this gets rid of wrinkles in the main canvas). Then the A-frame. Finally the guy ropes, placed so they line up nice and straight with the seam they're connected to. Boom! Takes me about 45 minutes to do a proper job by myself. Don't forget to pack your mallet!

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 Asleep in a beach tent with a sleeping toddler draped over me. 

Asleep in a beach tent with a sleeping toddler draped over me. 

 Spot the sleeping two year old. 

Spot the sleeping two year old. 

 A trio of water dogs. 

A trio of water dogs. 

 Aberafon has a stream running through the campsite all the way to the sea. It's lovely to sleep next to as it creates natural white noise. We've never been bothered by noisy campers though - although the site doesn't appear to have many rules and is very chilled out, everyone self regulates. The showers are blooming awful though!

Aberafon has a stream running through the campsite all the way to the sea. It's lovely to sleep next to as it creates natural white noise. We've never been bothered by noisy campers though - although the site doesn't appear to have many rules and is very chilled out, everyone self regulates. The showers are blooming awful though!

Here's our first ever pitch in the back garden - had no idea what we were doing but got by with the aid of a couple of YouTube videos. Looking back we pitched it horribly but I was pretty pleased with myself at the time!

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 I look like a giant in this picture. Post-pitch prosecco in hand, obvs. 

I look like a giant in this picture. Post-pitch prosecco in hand, obvs. 

It's not all bunting and bonfires on the beach though - this is what happens when you get home...

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Totally worth it!