I have been camping, and lo it was very much fun!
Sweet Babou and I and the small herd of daughters were invited to go along with our friends, whom we call our Host Family who are showing us how to be properly British and do British stuff, on a small camping trip for the bank holiday weekend. They have a lush tent with all the bells and whistles and loaned us a “starter” tent to sleep in. Aside from buying our own sleeping bags and inflatable beds (handy things, inflatable beds) and solar powered flamingos (because what’s camping without whimsy?) they allowed us to share (i.e. mooch off) their nice camping gear – like the fold-up shelves and tables and stoves and cooking gear and things.
If you ever get a chance to go camping in the Welsh Marches, I highly recommend going with our Host Family and attaching yourselves to them like useless and pampered parasites. It was GREAT.
The campsite itself, a small private one on the very boarder between Wales and Herefordshire named Chapel House Farm, was wonderful. It was on a real farm with a real herb garden and chickens (I named one very friendly hen Fluffy-Butt the Well-Endowed because she had such a puffed-out backside) and had spring water and solar paneled guest facilities (including a hot shower) that were easy to get to but far enough down the hill and behind trees so that you felt like you were camping in sufficiently rustic environs.
And the view! Magnificent! You could see the Black Mountains and the Golden Valley and your tent was smack in the middle of a meadow bursting with celandines (colloquially known as buttercups in the UK) and cow parsley and all sorts of other wild flowers in full bloom.
The kids all played noisy outdoor games in the nicely mown spaces for romping behind the tents and got a little sunburned and were enjoyed so much fresh air and sunshine and exercise that they ate like horses and slept like logs the whole weekend.
The camp was only a 15 minute drive to Hay-on-Wye (where the literary festival was occurring) but you would swear you were in the heart of rustic isolation. Although we did go to Hay-on-Wye to gawk at stuff one day, the other days were spent hiking and enjoying nature. We went on a walk to a ruined abbey (actually a priory) that was supposed to be a 30 minute hike and turned into a 4 hour ramble. There were three main reasons for this delay: 1) we kept stopping to wade in streams and take pictures of natural beauty, 2) we kept getting lost, and 3) it takes extra time for middle-aged American authors to haul their American-sized arse uphill and over mountains.
The beauty of our surroundings, however, was glorious. Sadly, a mere camera phone could not really do them justice.
The streams were picturesque, often bedecked with the falling petals of blackthorn blossoms, and perfect for cooling our feet.
There were unexpected acres of bluebells along the way.
Then there were the ruins of the priory itself. It was being guarded by ewes and their fuzzy offspring, but the sheep kindly let us venture in.
The Priory of Craswall:
was founded by Roger de Lacy in the year 1220, of a family who gave largely to the monastic establishments in this and adjoining counties. The church was dedicated to St. Mary, and three priests and ten monks were settled here. The Priory was subordinate to the Abbey of Grandmont in Normandy, and for more than two hundred years the establishment flourished. Great Lords of Herefordshire enriched it with donations of land … confirmed by two English Kings, viz., by Henry III in the 15th year of his reign, and by Edward III … These alien Priories were of little real good to the country of their adoption. The foreign Abbey to which they were subordinate deducted from the rents of their lands a very small amount indeed for their own support, starvation wages almost, and the rest of the revenues of their estates were swept out of the country year by year … During the wars of England and France Richard II sequestrated their property for this purpose, Henry IV showed them some favour, allowed them to pay their dues to the foreign house to which they belonged in time of peace, but reserved to himself in time of war the sum they paid to their superior. So matters drifted on until the reign of Edward IV, when the alien Priories were confiscated to the Crown. Edward granted the revenues of Craswall in 1462 to God’s House College, Cambridge (now Christ’s College), but, strange to say, it does not appear that the grant was ever confirmed. The Priory having thus become vacant, gradually became a ruin, and one may suppose that for many years it became a quarry for the neighbourhood. Farm houses were built with its stones, and the parish roads mended with the same.
Thus it is that visiting children can now scamper over the remaining walls and stones of a 13th century Norman priory.
The return walk was just a scenic, and thickly lined with watching sheep. They all seemed specious of us. I am pretty sure they all started baaing smack about is the minute we were out of earshot.
After our long walk, we spent the rest of the day watching the kids play, sitting by our campfire, drinking tea and/or cider and/or ale, eating various yummy nibbles, talking and watching the native fauna flit among the trees. The kids had smores for dessert, while the adults toasted bagels over the fire and smeared them with lavish amounts of nutella, or drank adult beverages, or consumed both.
It was perfect.