One thing I love about our growing family is that as the kids get older, we have developed our own traditions and routines. Our story is punctuated by familiar events taking place, the same yet different as the kids grow older, and as we do too.
My favourite Summer tradition is our family trip to Dartmouth. We take our bargainatious 8 person tent, that we picked up for a song a few years ago, and camp at Little Cotton, where my inlaws have a caravan. This is part of the excitement for the kids – they look on this trip as their holiday with their Grandma and Grandad – and for us parents it’s a massive help to have them around – they are brilliant at helping out by minding the kids when we put the tent up, and even more brilliant about us invading the caravan to cook meals, which makes it a very easy camping trip indeed.
Breakfast outside the tent – this is really just a filler until the magic moment when Grandma’s curtains open and they can invade the caravan for special treats 🙂
What I love the most about the campsite is that, to quote my sister-in-law, it breeds free range kids. We arrive and within minutes the big ones are off on their scooters, just stopping by to check in with us every so often; for the first time ever this year, our youngest went off with them too. As they complete their scooting circuits of the site, they inevitably buddy up with other kids – some of whom they see every year, and some new faces, and in that wonderful way kids do, they just seem to get on with having fun together. Despite the fact that I am usually horribly neurotic as a parent, forseeing every disaster probable and improbable in the book (it’s something I’m working on) I seem to be able to relax and let them run free – perhaps it’s the Devon air chilling me out!
In years past, we have usually factored a couple of day trips into our plans, mostly because when you’re sleep deprived with three kids to entertain and at least one in nappies, going somewhere for the day ticked a lot of boxes – fun for their various ages, babychange facilities, coffee on tap for the grownups. This year was different in that the youngest was able to play around and keep up with the bigger ones on the campsite, so they all made their own entertainment and just made the most of being able to play outside freely, which also meant that this very knackered Mum also got some time to chill out – for the first time ever, I took, and used, my Kindle!
We didn’t hang out on the campsite all the time though – we made our usual boat trip to Dartmouth Castle at the entrance to the river – the kids love this as the Castle Ferry is a proper little boat, with plenty of opportunities to lean out and
give me apoplexy look for fish!
And once we’d arrived at the castle, Grandad kindly offered to entertain all three kids on the rocky little beach so the Husband and I could head off for a walk around the coast – reader, we had a Whole Conversation!
Of course, we went crabbing every night. This is a serious business, meriting much debate in the weeks leading up to our trip – will it be a good year? (last year I don’t know where the crabs were, but they sure as hell weren’t in Dartmouth). Should we go with crab bait, on sale at every other shop, or bacon? And if we go for bacon, would it be best if it were smoked or unsmoked, and would tiny pieces or whole rashers be best? Should we use nets (almost guaranteed a catch) or lines (my preferred option, it’s so much more satisfying somehow). I kid you not, these very important questions are discussed on a regular basis from about March in our house!
As it turned out, this year was a Very Good Year for crabs indeed – every night we had a ginormous haul, filling our buckets twice over. (We went for unsmoked bacon and the nets – with extra stones to weight them, which seemed to be a winning combination all round). My girl, who is coming into her own in so many ways, proved to be an able crab handler, demonstrating to every passer by who would listen the safe way to hold a crab so it wouldn’t get scared and pinch you – a big step forward from last year where she would start squealing as soon as she saw them come up in the net! My biggest boy had learnt that patience pays dividends – last Summer he was chucking the net in and out in a frenzied manner, and melting down when he didn’t catch anything – this year he was throwing the net out, waiting, waiting and waiting, and then pulling it up with five or six crabs plus some shrimps – but more importantly, not completely dissolving into a self flagellating diatribe if he had a dud haul. And my littlest, bless him, went the other way – while last year he still had his toddler’s enthusiasm and lack of fear, 12 months on he has decided that crabs are ‘scary and sgusting’ and would have no part in the fun, preferring to watch from the sidelines. He’ll come full circle I am sure – the others both followed a similar path – and when he does, those poor crabs had better watch out!
We were in Devon for five days and I wish it had been ten…but we had to head home for a couple of days of washing machine action before heading to West Wales for our second Summer trip – watch out for Summer Fun part two coming soon!