Last weekend I went out to the North Norfolk coast again, this time with Emma (with whom I had not been camping since the Snake Bite Adventure) and with a couple of friends of ours.
We decided to walk a section of the Norfolk Coast Path, around 10km and split over two days. 5km is about where Emma runs out of enthusiasm when walking, or perhaps where I run out of patience… I am not sure I know the difference between the two.
We met Dan and Libby at the Nelson in Burnham and after a hearty lunch we set out.
This microadventure gave Emma the chance to truly sleep under the stars for the first time. Last time we were out she was in the tent with her friend whilst I slept outside and having seen me just lying under a sleeping bag in the grass she absolutely loved the idea of doing away with the tent.
When you are packing a rucksack for yourself and a 7 year old you don’t need a second invitation to leave something behind and lighten the weight. This combined with the thought of snuggling up under a starry sky with my little girl was irresistible.
In the evening we all ran around madly on the beach throwing a frisbee and throwing ourselves into the cool waters. We ate home-made chill con carne, drank a bottle of red (some of us) and talked idly as we stared at the milky way, counting satellites and shooting stars.
Sadly Emma fell asleep before she saw a shooting star - one of the things on her checklist for thi night, but she did have one of her best nights sleep ever when wild camping, so the bivvying option is definitely one to repeat.
We woke up lying next to each other, big smiles on our faces, to the sound of curlews flying overhead, and little else.
If you haven’t slept out under the stars with your children you are missing out
Of course there was complaining and some wildly dramatic whinging because the grass was spiky, but I also stepped on a weever fish so there was plenty of bleating coming from my side too.
Although I sometimes threaten that this will be the last time we go on such an adventure, whenever Emma overdoes the drama or complains she is tired after 3 minutes walking, when we are back I always forget. She also soon forgets the efforts she made and any discomfort she might have felt and we both look back on it fondly and begin to dream of “next time”.
If you haven’t slept out under the stars with your children, far from light and far from digital distractions, you (and they) are missing out.
It can be tricky in June with very late sun, but now it is perfect. The night is black and quiet, the air fresh and cool and if ever there was something you could define as "quality time" with your kids, this is it. We talked, laughed, drifted off and woke up to nature's rhythms.
A few technical points
It is easier now when the weather is not too cold, but things to consider in cooler times will be the suitability / availability of a bivvy bag for children. I have not seen one for children but you can use a full size one and fold it or tie it to prevent your child slipping down into the bottom.
If you do use a bivvy bag snuggling together is not so straightforward. Emma has her own sleeping bag but I could also throw mine over both of us. Make sure you have a warm sleeping bag for the little ones. I am fortunate in as far as Emma is a furnace and doesn't suffer the cold.
Take snacks for motivation. Make sure your child likes the food you take for the evening meal as this is a key moment in the adventure - refuelling and filling but before bed. So, if it is packet food, it might make sense if they have tried it before.
Take your time over things. The beauty of being outside like this is that you have no other things to do. Next time we will take more time, break up the day into 3 sections and probably walk further for it.
Don't forget the favourite soft toy!
If you have any concerns or questions about how to go about doing this with your children for the first time, put a comment below or feel free to contact me.