UKCampsite.co.uk member Sceptical Camper extols the virtues of a spur-of-the-moment trip, and the freedom of camping:
In a forum post, I noted with surprise that local campsites had emptied on bank holiday Monday evening. That had inspired me to phone a couple of sites in Cornwall and, as they reported lots of empty spaces, I decided on a spur-of-the-moment trip.
What a success it proved
The weather forecast looked very good (and, for once, subsequently proved right) so on Tuesday evening I chucked my camping gear in the car, filled up with diesel and went to bed excitedly looking forward to an early start next day.
I awoke on Weds to a beautiful sunny morning - and a flat tyre! Not being willing to drive 250 miles without a spare, I had to wait until my local tyre place opened. So much for an early start. As it turned out, the tyre had a nail in it and couldn't be repaired and the opposite one had only a couple of thousand miles left in it: I bit the bullet and bought a pair of new 'uns. So much for £117.
Anyway, breaking-in new tyres on the M5 meant keeping speed down so at least I saved on fuel consumption. The southbound motorway wasn't too bad considering it was bank holiday weekend but down towards Exeter the northbound looked chokka with lots of caravans and campervans heading back from the west country.
By the time I got to north Cornwall, the sun was blazing down and there was no wind to speak of. I spent the first night at South Winds campsite near Polzeath. It lived up to its name. Everywhere else I went that day had only a slight breeze but not South Winds - it was blowy up there! That aside, it's a very nice site and the views out to sea across the River camel estuary are spectacular.
I spent the first evening of my impromptu trip sitting with a cuppa in the cool soft breeze watching the scarlet sun sink over the horizon, the rosy pink luminance gradually fading from tenuous wisps of high cirrus cloud. I sat on into the dusk until the chill drove me under canvas.
I'd taken both my tents (I feel more secure if I've a spare - like the tyres really). Besides, I wanted to photograph both tents. At South Winds, I pitched my old "cheap'n'cheerful" porchless dome. Despite adequate guying it shuddered and rustled all night and - annoyingly - the door flapped and crackled despite extempore work with clothes pegs and gaffer tape. Nonetheless, I knew the tent had withstood worse and I eventually got to sleep despite the creaks and flapping.
The next morning I had a shower (I was pleased that there is lots of piping hot water at South Winds), wandered round Polzeath, drove to Tesco and arrived at Carnevas campsite after lunch. I pitched my other tent, a Vango Sigma 300, locked the car, whistled up the dog and walked for miles along the coast path. The afternoon was warm and still, the green of the low gorse was studded with heather and the sea sparkled. Heaven! As a bonus, away from the beaches at Treyarnon and Porthcothan, the path was virtually deserted.
The sunset was less spectacular than the night before and the air was still. I bought supper at the campsite's bar/restaurant. They do all the meals to either eat in or carry out so I sat by my tent to eat. After that, I turned in early and slept like a log.
After breakfast next day, I caught the coast bus from Porthcothan to Mawgan Porth and walked back, a distance of about five miles. Apart from the area around Bedruthan Steps (where the National Trust runs a visitor centre and tearooms) the path was again more or less deserted.
I returned to my tent after the walk and made myself lunch then walked the mile or so to Treyarnon beach and relaxed there until tea time. The wind began to pick up as the afternoon wore on, the sea became flecked with white horses and the surf grew higher. The offshore breeze whipped shimmering clouds of spume off the wave crests and dancing rainbows flickered where the sun caught the mist of water. Magic!
Back at Carnevas campsite, the southeast wind became stronger during the evening and I noticed my little Vango was flexing and swaying so I put out extra guys. One or two windbreaks went down nearby and a newly-arrived couple were having fun trying to pitch what looked like a hot air balloon but eventually took the shape of a large dome tent.
After driving to St Merryn for fish'n'chips I turned in early and, despite the wind, spent a peaceful and quiet night, my tent commendably free of the sounds of groaning poles or flapping canvas.
Next morning after a shower and breakfast, I went for a last walk along the cliffs to allow time for the dew and condensation on the tent to dry. As it was still very breezy, I rolled everything up as best I could secure in the knowledge I could air and repack the tent when I got home.
The journey back - on the Saturday after bank holiday week - was predictably slow with long stretches of the motorway nose to tail at under 40mph. More fuel saved!
And the morals of this story? Firstly, camping is all about freedom. Secondly, camping is cheap - diesel aside, I spent about fifty quid including three nights campsite fees, a couple of drinks, and all my food (less than one night in a B&B).
Finally, and most importantly, don't hesitate if you get the urge to camp - just go, even on a whim!
Postscript: I've just filled the car (Renault Clio 1.5D) with diesel. On the trip to Cornwall and back (plus the following couple of days doing a few local trips) I got 78.3 MPG. So the diesel for my camping trip from Warwickshire to Cornwall and back cost me under £40.