After building up to it for so long, our week’s camping in Wales has been and gone in a flash, and I can’t believe it’s been over a month since we went. Whilst I could probably write for pages and pages about everything that we did, the lessons we learned and the things we’d do differently next time, this is more a post for me just to write about the things I particularly want to remember and to share some of my favourite holiday snaps. I’m calling this a ‘Scrapbook Style’ post… it’s mainly going to be a collection of photos with a spattering of memories and captions. Let me know what you think!
I was determined to set off nice on early on our day of departure, packing as much as I could in the car the night before (which never usually happens!), but even with a 10.30am goal – we didn’t actually get going until midday. It’s a good solid four hour drive to New Quay, Wales from where we live and with a quick stop half way for a little bit of a packed lunch and a toilet break, it was about 4.45pm when we finally arrived. Note to self: never give Pickle some blackcurrant juice to drink whilst in a moving car. It really didn’t agree with him and I don’t want to repeat the experience of having to clean purple puke out of a car seat in a McDonalds’ car park.
Thankfully, we let Pickle run off and have fun with his grandparents (Grandpark and Nanny Pol) whilst we put the tent up and got our little home for the week set up. Having been camping again since, I can tell we didn’t really erect the tent very well… maybe you just get better with a bit of practice but the very rocky ground didn’t really help. If you’ve ever tried to knock tent pegs into ground that is more stones than soil, you’ll feel our frustration. A fish and chip supper on the pier was definitely called for – very well deserved after that drive. If you’re in New Quay and can’t choose between the many chip shops on offer, I’d recommend The Lime Crab. There’s always a queue, but it’s worth the wait.
To make the most of a BARGAIN offer at the local soft play, we headed there on Sunday morning. There was quite a troupe of us – the three of us, my parents and their foster boys and some of my extended family too (when we go camping as a family, we REALLY go camping as a family!).
The weather wasn’t particularly great so it was good to find an indoor activity, and even though we didn’t go back there – it was nice to know we had somewhere nearby to escape to should the weather continue to be grim.
We headed straight into New Quay after the soft play as we needed to get a few gas supplies. You could tell we were new at camping with all the gear as trying to explain what we were after to the bloke in the camping supplies shop did not go well… we just didn’t know the proper terminology! Anyway, we came away with a new regulator for our camping stove and bought a gas canister that my Dad had spare. Actually, have we paid for that yet Dad? You must tell me how much we owe you!
To celebrate getting all our gear finally sorted, we treated ourselves to a spot of lunch at the pub and Pickle enjoyed eating a peach alfresco. And what did we have? Pork sandwiches. Standard. When do we go anywhere and NOT have pork?
Finally – we hit the beach (after a snuggly snooze in the tent)! The campsite we stay at has a little beach just a stone’s throw away. It’s a bit of a rough-and-ready beach with lots of stones and rocks, with some groynes to help stop what sand there is being swept away by the tides, but it was absolutely perfect to just let Pickle run free. It’s fairly deserted most of the time, so we could run around without upsetting other holiday makers and have a good splish-splash in the little rock pools left behind by the outgoing tide. He absolutely loved it.
I was very grateful for the lovely Wellies that Pickle’s Nanny Pol bought him – they were perfect for a quick paddle in the shallow waves, even though I can’t quite get over how grown up they make Pickle look. We’re so far out of baby-territory now, eh? Toddlerhood is definitely becoming more and more established.
And we finished off the day with a bath for Pickle in the laundry sink. It did say the sink was only for laundry so I run the risk of getting into trouble for this but bathing a baby is okay, right? Okay… not a baby, a toddler.
I had great intentions before we went away of capturing lots of family photos – and by that I mean photos of my own parents. All things considered, I don’t actually have that many and I want to rectify that. It turns out, I didn’t really take that many. Something still to work on, I guess… but I do love this one of Pickle enjoying a bit of a treat, surrounded by his grandparents that he just adores.
Seeing as we had such fun on the beach the day before, we did exactly the same thing on this day – except, LPD and I took ourselves down a little can of gin and tonic each. I’m a little obsessed with packing these for little picnics and outings. There’s something about having a little alcohol beverage as part of a picnic that makes me feel a bit rebellious. It’s a little bit decadent, isn’t it?
Listening to Pickle giggle away as he toddled in the sand, delighting in being chased and tickled is something I don’t ever want to forget. It’s sometimes difficult to know if I’m letting him have ‘too much’ freedom when it comes to just running around… Part of me truly believes it’s good for him to be set free and do his own thing, but there’s always a little niggle in the back of my mind that I’m just making things extra hard for myself for the rare times when I do need him to be confined and ‘restrained’ (for want of a better word). I suppose balance is the key here… and for the time being, I love watching him explore so much that I don’t really want to restrict that. That’s okay, right?
Another afternoon walk along the beach – we haven’t been particularly adventurous this holiday yet but that suits me. Apparently tomorrow is meant to be nicer weather so maybe we’ll venture further afield. But today, we let Pickle get filthy in the wet sand and delighted in hearing his giggles as we let him run free. And you can’t ask for much better than that really, can you?
Wednesday was responsible for my favourite memory from the whole holiday. I didn’t get a photo. It’s not videoed. And it won’t sound like much. But it was such a lovely moment and I can see it so clearly when I think about it. Pickle had fallen asleep in my arms at my parents’ caravan and it was time for lunch… so I sent LPD back to our tent to rustle something up. About fifteen minutes later, I watched him walk across the field, with a plate in either hand and a unique half-smug, half-embarrassed smile on his face.
He’d concocted a strange meal of sun-dried tomato cous-cous with bits of tinned bacon grill (something I spotted in Aldi and bought as a bit of a joke food item… but it turns out, it’s quite nice!) and a fried egg on top. He was expecting that I’d hate it. But I loved it. I loved it because it’s so quintessentially him. I loved it because of how he walked across the field. I just loved it.
After lunch, we headed out for a trip out to Mwnt, a National Trust cove beach known for dolphin spotting. We wound our way through the narrow country roads, parked up (feeling smug with our National Trust car parking sticker) and made our way down the many steps to the beach. Boy, was it windy. And when I say windy, I really mean it. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a beach in that kind of wind – the sand was being picked up and whipped around, and it felt quite sharp and biting! Of course, we didn’t have a wind breaker. But even the people that did have them weren’t sticking around for long. LPD was very brave and straight away went for a swim in the sea, whilst I tried to snuggle Pickle close to keep him warm – he doesn’t really like the sound of hard wind in his ears.
Mwnt is a gorgeous beach, and we’d have stayed for much longer if it wasn’t for the wind – we were all sat with our backs to the sea and poor Pickle didn’t really have the chance to properly play. We called it a day, stopped off at Tesco on the way home to pick up a few supplies and went home to do another naughty in-the-laundry-sink bath.
That night, it poured. Proper stormy, rain. It got to the point where we were just sat up getting anxious about how the tent would hold up so we opted for an early night instead… just in case we needed to vacate in the middle of the night – at least we’ll have had a couple of hours kip! Thankfully, we were fine. Phew.
Today was a celebration day: the birthday of one of my foster brothers! We started off with a big family breakfast BBQ which was essentially just an outdoor cooked big English Breakfast but it was lovely – my Dad knows how to work magic on the BBQ! We let Pickle have his normal nap, and then we headed down to New Quay for an afternoon at the beach before taking the boys on an evening trip out on a Dolphin Spotting boat trip.
It didn’t get off to the best start, as we’d arranged to meet my parents at the bottom of the hill, before descending the ramp to the beach. We upheld that plan, but after waiting up there for what felt like hours (it was only about 30 minutes, but that feels longer when you have a grouchy toddler in a stroller itching to get free), I spotted my Dad already sat on the beach and I was FUMING. LPD would probably argue this point as he sees me lose my temper at home quite quickly, but it’s not often I get mad in public, so this was a special occasion. I think I stormed over and yelled a little bit before my Dad tried to tell me he had sent a text message. Great plan, Dad, in the land of the worst mobile phone signal known to mankind. He had some kind of excuse about not wanting to let the boys walk past the ‘posh’ ice cream shop. Not sure it was a particularly well thought out plan or excuse, really. Anyway…
After my little outburst, I went back to retrieve LPD and Pickle and we eventually made our way onto the sand. We sat about 10 metres away from my Dad, on a sandier bit of beach that wasn’t scattered with mini shells, partly because there’s no way I wanted Pickle to be running around playing on sharp pieces of rocks and partly because I was still pretty irate. Happy families, eh? Anyway, it wasn’t long before the three of us donned our swimming costumes and went for a paddle in the sea.
I don’t even want to know how many times I kept asking LPD if I looked okay wearing a swimming costume. It’s not like anyone really cared. But it felt like a big deal. I felt a little bit like too much sausage meat stuffed inside a pig’s skin (you know what I mean?) but it’s more important that we all had some fun splashing in the water and Pickle couldn’t get enough of the sea! I thought he might have been getting cold, so I started to walk him back up the beach and let go of his hand to see what he wanted to do… he turned around and ran straight back in! My little adventurer.
That evening, after a quick return trip to the campsite to pick up some warmer clothes, we hurried back to New Quay just in time to catch the 7.30pm Dolphin Spotting Boat Trip. It was our birthday treat for the foster boys, and also gave my parents a chance to have a breather but it was also the first time LPD has been on a boat trip here so it felt like quite a momentous occasion. As we stood at the end of the pier, awaiting the boat to arrive, Pickle was being a right pain. I was seriously beginning to question whether it was a good idea to have brought him along, but once we were sat on the boat and he was placated with snacks, he was absolutely fine.
And guess what? We did see dolphins! And my favourite – a seal. I’m afraid I don’t have any photos (sometimes, you just have to live in the moment, don’t you?) but the Boat Trip company has a fab Facebook page and a group where other people share some incredible photos – I love seeing them pop up in my timeline.
Although we were booked to stay until Saturday, Friday ended up being our last day. Seeing as the weather forecast overnight wasn’t looking good, we decided with the dry weather during the day, it’d be better to take the tent down in the sunshine and take our time with it rather than be soggy grumpy messes on Saturday morning. My parents decided to do the same thing, and we all began the slow, arduous task of deconstructing our portable homes.
This was the muddy bog left behind by our camping neighbours, and ours was pretty much the same. You can’t quite see the extent of the squelchiness, but trust me when I say it was a little bit like walking on a grimier version of marshmallow. We joked and called it our memory foam floor… because when you walked across our groundsheet, you’d leave a foot imprint behind! But hey, memory foam is quite posh isn’t it? So, really, it’s a tent upgrade.
Once we were all packed up, we decided to have one last trip into New Quay. We figured it would be better to have some dinner before we went in the hope that Pickle would just sleep the whole way back – which he did, so it made for a lovely stress free drive home. We treated ourselves to a final chippy tea, and as we waved farewell to the sea… we were waved to back by a dolphin! It jumped out of the water and splashed it’s tail fin, and it felt like the most wonderful way to end our holiday.
And that was our first family camping trip complete. It wasn’t the best weather, but it wasn’t the worst either. And although I felt like we were quite lazy as we didn’t go out and about most days until after Pickle had his nap, it was nice just to spend the time being relaxed, going with the flow and getting to grips with our posh camping stove and figuring out life under canvas with a toddler. If you haven’t read it already, my 5 Essential Items for Camping with a Toddler is a great read if you’re considering doing the same (even if I do say so myself…).