Character building. I use this phrase quite a lot. It’s a phrase that attempts, sometimes in vain, to put a positive spin on circumstances that might otherwise make me cry. You know, when the situation you are in is making life in that moment incredibly difficult. This post is a report of what was indeed a character building weekend; a very wet and windy camping weekend in Lancashire.
The Royal Umpire Caravan Park in Leyland, Lancashire.
The weekend, which was a collaboration between Outdoor Bloggers and the team at VARTA and Prova PR, was a brand-run press trip to give us an opportunity to learn about some of the products coming to market soon that should help make our outdoors lives much easier. Camping in mid-March was always going to be a little chilly, and we were well prepared for that, but it was the character building weather that means this is a weekend we’ll be talking about for years to come.
The camping field.
We stayed at the Royal Umpire Caravan Park, a proper caravan park with a serious atmosphere, full of huge caravans and coach-sized motorhome with permanent looking features (and garden ornaments). The facilities were as you would expect for a holiday park style site; the ablutions block (which you had to have a key for to get in, not had that before) was a little tired looking but was clean and warm and had decent enough showers and Heart FM piped in. There was a laundry room, kids play park, the rest of the usual camping bits, and plenty of space. On arrival the lady at reception gave me a map of the site and put a big circle around “the least waterlogged part of the camping field”. Yes, those were her words – “least water logged”. Oh. She was being super helpful but I am sure she must have been chuckling to herself inside. I mean, who camps in a tent for the weekend when the forecast is for gale force winds and heavy rain?! Er, well, me it seems, and for fun. And I had arranged for some other bloggers to join me, too. Sorry guys!
My new Quechua Arpenaz tent. Cheap and cheerful!
I walked up and down purposefully to find the least waterlogged area of the least waterlogged field. It was pretty squelchy, but actually not too bad; it could have been worse (famous last words). I picked my spot, grabbed my tent out of the car and got to pitching. This was my first pitch of my new Quechua Arpenaz from Decathlon, bought to replace our 20-something-year-old tent that we chucked at the end of our Zartusacan road trip last summer. It turns out that pitching a four-man standing-height tent in strong winds on my own was not that easy, and it took me around an hour to get from rolled up tent to pitched tent, and even then I wasn’t entirely happy with the shape. I suspect there is a technique I haven’t quite mastered yet, and know it’ll be quicker next time, but hey it was up, I was in it, and I was ready for the weekend.
As a brand-led event, the main reason for our gathering was to learn something about the products that VARTA and other brands also managed by Prova PR have to offer. We started by being treated to a fantastic dinner of barbecue and stew courtesy of the Russell Hobbs and George Foreman resident chef; oh yes, they brought a chef! The PR team had arranged for us to use the function room above the pub to keep us out of the wind and rain, which was hugely appreciated. Thankfully the George Foreman barbecue is an electric appliance that can be used indoors or outdoors, which is handy. We ate rather well I have to say; if I was in a camper van or used an electric hook-up for my tent I might consider taking one of the grills with me.
The new VARTA lamp – no more midges!
After dinner we learnt all about VARTA’s portable battery operated lighting products. The company, which originates in Germany and in the manufacture of batteries, has a massive range of torches and lamps, a vital piece of kit for any outdoors lover. I actually already have a couple of their products at home; my massive black camping lamp and small handheld torch are both from their indestructible range, and have served me well for a little while. I particularly liked the idea of the new orange lamp they are bringing out this year, designed to provide a nice light for camping that doesn’t attract the midges, a great idea if you’re heading to Scotland like we are this summer! I can’t wait to get my hands on one when they come out.
So wet. So so so wet.
Tired and ready for some sleep, I wandered back to the site before most others. It was absolutely blowing a gale; the tent was being battered but it was still standing, so I headed to bed. A few minutes later I heard a bit of commotion outside and poked my head out of the door – Allysse’s tent had blown down the site! Wow! The wind had picked the whole thing up, with all her kit inside, and dumped it on the field the other side of the track. Her footprint groundsheet was nowhere to be seen, but the tent was actually fine (if not a little bit muddy!). She re-pitched it and we all went back to our tents – head over to her blog to read her account of the rest! So yea, character building!!
Back in my standing-height tent I watched as the wind flattened the poles over and over again. Each time I willed it to stand back up with all my might – I was convinced that it was going to snap and tear and leave me laying in my sleeping bag watching it blow away. I admit I got out of my sleeping bag more than once to check the pegs were still in the ground; those hard ground pegs we bought for those terrible USA campgrounds were such a good buy! After an incredibly restless night I got up to assess the site – we’d all survived and no-one ended up sleeping in their car!
Have you followed my new instagram feed dedicated to tea yet? @taketimefortea
We spent Saturday learning all about the power side of the VARTA business, and Proma PR brands Armor All (car cleaning), STP (engine care). Unfortunately the rain meant our car-cleaning activity did not go ahead, which was a shame as my car really did need a wash, but we had fun anyway. VARTA make a whole range of portable battery products to charge your smartphone and other gear on the go, super useful when camping or just getting outside on a day-to-day basis. I was given one of their small power banks to try out and it’s so useful, I’ve now got my eye on their new slim power bank that I’m told will charge my phone six or seven times, which would be perfect as my only power source for a long weekend away. I’ll let you know when I have one!
Massive portable power pack!
The highlight of the day for me came in the form of a talk by a representative from the Bowland branch of Mountain Rescue England and Wales. We learnt all about their work in the local area and were reminded of some important safety messages about spending time outdoors and especially in the hills. I loved learning about the kit they carry, the training they do, and was very happy to hear that Mountain Rescue wish to encourage inclusive adventure rather than encouraging people to stay away from the hills.
With the Mountain Rescue ambulance (yes, drinking more tea!).
Once all the presentations were over, and we had each been presented with a bulging goodie bag courtesy of the brands running the event, we decided to head out for a short walk before dinner. The rain had stopped and the wind was a lot less fierce, so we headed towards the local village and through some countryside, ably led by Sarah from The Urban Wanderer who’d explored the area that morning. We did about three miles, so not a huge hike but a welcome bit of exercise after a day of learning. Our route ended up in path alongside a river that actually was now in the river thanks to the heavy rain, and some very wet jeans. This is why I don’t hike in jeans – why didn’t I listen to my own advice?! Soaked through to my knickers I decided not to bother cooking my camp stove meal that evening and instead headed to the pub for fish and chips instead. Much better! Then an after dinner quiz, a little test of outdoors themed general knowledge for my fellow campers that I think will become a feature of all Outdoor Bloggers weekends from now on.
Croston, Lancashire. Pretty, even in the rain.
Thankfully Saturday night, while still wet and windy, was nowhere near as bad as the previous night and I actually managed a bit of sleep. Our plans for the Sunday were very relaxed; we just had to be off site by 11am so it was a very leisurely morning that involved putting my tent down whilst trying to avoid the worst of the muddy puddle that was my pitch and screwing it up into bin liners at the last possible moment so I had somewhere to shelter from the rain. You know, standard rainy day camp striking! You’ll be pleased to know I have since dried out and rolled the tent properly, and can report that it survived that weekend in-tact. Not bad for a cheap tent!
This was the puddle under my groundsheet when I took my tent down!
It may have been very wet, very very windy, and very very very muddy, but this excellent weekend spent outdoors (and in the pub), with much learnt about myself and my ability to power on through even when the weather was proving most difficult. I brought home a fantastic goodie bag from VARTA and the other Prova PR brands and have already been making good use of the bits and bobs within it. You’ll have already seen mention of the power bank and mini lamp in my Currently Loving for April, and I’ll be sure to mention other products over on instagram as and when I come to use them.
Cool products from VARTA. Thanks guys!
Thanks to VARTA for putting on the weekend for Outdoor Bloggers, and for not giving up when you read the forecast. We genuinely had a blast – and we don’t blame you for the weather, honest! It might have been character building, but this is definitely a camping weekend we will be speaking about each time we meet from now on. I hope to spend a sunnier weekend with you soon.