It is widely suggested that recreational camping as we know it can be traced to Thomas Hiram Holding, a London-based journeyman tailor who, along with six other outdoorsy types in August 1901, set up tent in an orchard on the outskirts of Wantage, then a part of Berkshire; the first vestiges of what became known as The Camping and Caravanning Club. Thomas Holding’s urge to camp was driven by his experiences as a boy: in 1853 he crossed the prairies of the United States in a wagon train, covering some 1,200 miles with a company of 300 at the age of nine. In 1877 he camped with a canoe on a cruise in the Highlands of Scotland. Holding was a keen cyclist and one of the leading lights in the formation of the Bicycle Touring Club in 1878. Then, years later, a chance conversation with a friend, who wanted to try ‘cycle camping’ resulted in him designing some suitable lightweight kit and, with four friends, embarking on a cycle camping expedition in Ireland.
The camping equipment in those days was very heavy, so it was convenient to transport it by boat or to use craft that converted into tents, meaning a lot of camping happened around water. This is a neat explanation for the theory that camping first became popular along the Thames where in the 1880s, large numbers of visitors took part in a pastime connected to the late Victorian craze for pleasure boating, but times have changed and camping has evolved. Although the deliciously earthy kind can still be indulged in, there are now new ways to pitch the proverbial tent and enjoy the great outdoors. Away from London and Thomas Holding, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that camping is as old as humans themselves. Shelter has always been a necessity for life if the world is viewed through a lens of history. In Travels in the East, the poet Alphonse de Lamartine describe his journey with the Bedouin people, describing men who fastened their horses to lances they had struck into the ground and the women who erected tents around it, concluding that, as if by an enchantment, a small town rose out of the ground. In fact, many Victorian writers who observed and wrote about camping were convinced the art was fundamental to the society of Old Testament patriarchs where Bedouin men, in the custom of Abraham, sat in the tent door in the heat of the day.
An experience full of gifts
Nowadays, camping is mostly indulged in at leisure and for pleasure although, over a century since Holding’s adventures, it remains a way for life for some communities. But regardless of this, camping in its many guises brings people close to nature, whose gifts are near impossible to quantify and many of which cannot be owned or taken home. Like falling asleep under the stars. Huddling against the cold around a campfire with friends or family, telling stories and eating mushrooms or smoked sausages. Walking through a forest, where birdsong and the full-bodied sound of crunching twigs and leaves make a fine refrain. Fishing on a lake or along a stream. Climbing high mountain peaks where unmatched views pour into the eyes from every direction. Playing cards under a canopy of rainfall that tickles the world outside. The perfume of pines and flowers. Camping is an experience full of these gifts, and the small joys they bring can last a lifetime in the heart as memories that become stories.
Rejuvenate the soul
Camping is not only fun and relaxing; it rejuvenates the soul, takes you out of your own life and the humdrum of daily living and brings with it the freedom of exploration and adventure – you can do everything and that can be nothing at all. It gives you a sense of being at one with your surroundings, helping to slow the hands of time, detached as you are from emails and schedules and city life. It is good for your health too. From hiking trails to swinging fishhooks and freshwater swimming to working the legs on a bike, there are plenty of opportunities to stay fit, burn calories and work up an appetite. At Lovat, our luxury holiday homes and caravan parks sit on nature’s doorstep – tranquil parks set in beautiful parts of the UK that are a drive, not a dreaded flight away, where you are spoiled by Nature. We’re quite different from other parks and genuinely respect, look after and treat you like family. Spend time with us and fall into the discovery that, just as much as the sea and the mountains and air, you belong to nature too, except you can choose not to put up with the elements!
By Abimbola Alaba