Camp Bestival time is here!


Tomorrow we will be making the long journey down to Dorset for this years Camp Bestival festival. It’s not really that long a journey from home to Dorset but when you’re in a 1970′s VW you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s going to take about double the time it should. Still, when you’re in a classic vehicle you just have to suck it up and we don’t let it bother us. It’s all about the experience so we’ll plan to leave early-ish and take a slow meander, using the scenic route as much as possible with a lunch stop-off on the way.

I’m unfortunately stuck at work today which means I can’t spend the day getting everything ready but  come this evening it will be action stations. I’m not even nearly packed and tonight I also need to go shopping for the fresh groceries that we’re taking with us. We’re planning to cook dinner at our van every night this year, not really to save money but to just make sure we’re a bit more leisurely and spend some time just chilling. It’s probably our only van break this summer so it will be nice to have the full experience of camping rather than rushing around all over the joint, queuing at four different food stands to suit varying family tastes and getting all harassed!  I’ve got some nice ideas for camping food and treats and will report back on how well they worked – or not!  This doesn’t meant that I won’t be trying out some of the amazing sounding food vendors attending the festival, because I will and there’ll be more than one visit to the WI tent for cake…


I think all the essentials are pretty much ready – I’m the queen of lists so I have been checking them off for weeks. Baby wipes, bucket for peeing in, glowsticks, bubbles, flowery headbands for the girls…we’ve got them all as well as large amounts of loom bands and packets of Top Trumps to entertain the children well mummy has peace and quiet and sips her wine Horlicks.

Having seen the weather forecast I am thinking that the rain macs and wellies might well need to be packed too. It’s no fun trudging around in a soggy wet field in Birkenstocks. It’s pretty flipping typical though isn’t it? That after weeks of wall-to-wall sunshine and superbly dry weather that the one weekend we plan to go camping in our van is the one where the weather finally breaks and gives us a downpour. I will not let it get us down though. Oh no. Weather – do your worst. We’ll be prepared!

Who else is going to Camp Besitval tomorrow? Are you ready yet?

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Meal Planning Monday (28th July 2014)

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So I know it’s not actually Monday and for that I apologise. I have no real excuse – I’ve just been out enjoy summer and the school holidays with my children and the blog has had to take a teensy bit of a back seat whilst that happens. I suppose I shouldn’t really apologise for that should I? Priorities and everything!

We’re off to Camp Bestival later this week which would normally mean that meal planning would be a bit hit and miss but not this time. Oh no. There is a camping meal plan. How successful it is, only time will tell…so here is what we’ve got planned for this week.

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There it is.

I feel a bit ambitious with my camping plans but we want more of an experience this time camping with the van, rather than just buying food, even though Camp Bestival has lots of lovely offerings!

I am sure you’ve all done your plans by now so the linky is below for you to add your post to.

Sorry again for my absence – better late than never huh!

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Things I’ve learnt about campervans…

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I am busy preparing myself for Camp Bestival next week and getting our dear beloved campervan ready for the journey. Sadly, we’ve actually not managed to make that many trips away this summer, it seems that we have just been too busy bar the odd day trip now and then – she’s good for picnics.

Looking through photos the other day of previous trips, I was reminded of all the things that having a campervan has taught me. Let me tell you, camping in a van is simply really quite different to camping in a tent, so I thought I’d share a few ponderings with you about what I’ve learnt from my campervan experiences so far.

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Campervans are colder than tents. Seriously
Don’t underestimate just cold a tin can can get. For some reason tents seem a little bit more protected, what with their inners and all. In the campervan, whilst my body felt nice and snug under my winter duvet, my nose felt like it was going to drop off. I’m seriously considering a balaclava this year. That ought to scare off the neighbours.

Then there is the heat.
Whilst it really does get ever-so cold in a campervan it also gets rather hot. Swelteringly hot. Damn vintage vehicles and their lack of air-conditioning. Somehow I always seem to spend the hottest day of the season travelling long distances in the camper, which mainly results in dehydration and a colouring slightly reminiscent of beetroot. I never thought I’d miss air-con quite as much as I do.

Get used to waving.
Everybody waves at you in a campervan and okay I’ll admit, the first time we drove past another VW and someone tooted and waved, I did get a bit giddy. You have to get into the spirit of it, people look at you wherever you go. I haven’t yet worked out if its admiration or sympathy.

They’re pretty much weirdo magnets.
And I do mean that in the nicest possible way but there appears to be something about a VW campervan that screams “OPEN HOUSE” and one minute you’ll be sitting their in your PJs with a cup of tea and the next they’re be some middle-aged nerdy man with his face all up in my pop-top. Not necessary. I don’t come poke my head in your tent do I? Get outta mine!

You will bang your head, on average, 7,342 times per trip.
How we have never come home from a trip with big bruises on our foreheads I do not know but yes, our heads get bang on the roof of the campervan repeatedly. The little people however thankfully don’t suffer with this problem. They just seem to suffer with some terrible uncontrollable chortling affliction when said head-banging occurs…

Plan to cook simple food.
As is usual for me, I got all over excited when we bought the van and got myself stocked up with camping cookbooks – which was pretty stupid on two fronts. One, you’re seriously limited on space in the van so just where the hell did I think I was going to keep them and two? With two burners and a slightly ropey grill gourmet meals aren’t all that achievable and you’re better off sticking to beans on toast and a jar of Dolmio over some pasta. Simple is the way forward.

Get used to smelling a bit, erm iffy.
You spend any amount of time in an old campervan you need to get used to the fact that you’re always going to smell just a little bit like…well, an old campervan. I can’t quite put my finger on what the smell is but it does tend to ingrain itself into your skin somewhat. It’s rather unique.

Sleepwalking children WILL still sleepwalk even when in a bunk-bed.
Fortunately the double bed was underneath said bunk and my feet broke the fall…that’s all I am saying.

When children drop things on a journey, it’s a huge pain in the proverbial.
Teddies, sweets… The campervan doesn’t corner very well (Hope you’re reading this Mr M – slow down for corners!) and as a result things tend to move around unless they are pinned down. This means that approximately 125 times during a short journey things will be dropped. I don’t recommend walking down a moving campervan at all because it’s probably illegal but I can’t help but think that some kind of extra-long poking/grabbing device would be a good idea. Watch out for me on Dragons Den soon. Not.

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…
And quite possibly she was in a 1972 bay campervan. Pack fly spray and a swatter.

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I know it sounds like a don’t love my van but I really do. Honest.

I love going away for trips in her, especially the long lazy drives.

Best to develop a thick skin though, people get annoyed and overtake, she goes up hills very very s-l-o-w-l-y but try not to bite back. It’s not big or clever when your horn doesn’t so much blast as meep.

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Meal Planning Monday (21st July 2014)

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Good afternoon and welcome to #mealplanningmonday! Sorry for the lateness of the post, we’re on the first day of the school holidays today so all routine has gone out of the window.  Just back from a friends house and now ready to get on with the meal planning!

I’m still at work through the summer so some form of meal planning needs to occur. This week isn’t actually too crazy. I thought it would be worse. I was merrily planning our trip to Camp Bestival before Mr M pointed out it was in fact TWO weeks ago and not one. Such a dufus. Oh well, it does mean I have a little bit more spare time this week as I had told everyone we were busy!

So here is the plan;

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My Chinese-inspired meal is yet to be decided. It’s going to come from one of the gazillions of recipes I have pinned on Pinterest though!

Okay, over to you! Let’s see what you have got on the menu this week.  If you are a newcomer to my blog and Meal Planning Monday (and you might well be if you’ve seen me pimping it out this week!) then the idea is simple. Read more about Meal Planning Monday HERE.  All you have to do to join in is write a blog post about your meal plans for the week and add it to the Linky below. No blog? No matter! Just leave a comment below with your plans or you can join in with our Facebook group and let us know over there!

We’ve also got a great Pinterest board going on.

Follow At Home With Mrs M’s board Meal Planning Monday’s Family Favourites on Pinterest.

If you want to join this collaborative board then let me know. We’ve currently got over 862 followers so it’s another great way to share your recipes and posts with the masses!

Have a great week everyone!

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Family Camping at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2014

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Recently I was given the opportunity to attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed with my family. It’s fair to say that we are fans of Goodwood events having been to the Festival of Speed three times previously as well as Vintage at Goodwood and the Goodwood Revival.  The Festival of Speed is the premier event of it’s kind in the UK, attracting tens of thousands of visitors. The first time we went in 2003 the event was smaller with much lower attendance – those were the days when you could still pay on the gate! Now, tickets are by advance purchase only with attendance capped and it’s pretty much always a sell-out.  The last time we had been to the event was 2005 which was pre-children so this was to be our first experience of attending the event with our little ones.  For the first time, we camped at Goodwood itself rather than a local site and this blog post is purely going to cover the family camping aspect of our trip.

The 2014 festival saw the debut of pre-bookable family camping area. The site, situated at the top end of the Rally Stage and right on Goodwood Racecourse, was designed for the exclusive use of families with just 60 electric plots.  The location was beautiful. The Goodwood Estate really is a beautiful part of the country and the racecourse is just lovely. Must be THE best kept racecourse I have ever seen. Desperate to go to the races there now! It was peaceful, aside from being buzzed by helicopters frequently through the day – you’ve never seen so many helicopters in one place. Lifestyles of the rich and the famous huh!

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Glorious Goodwood Racecourse

We set off from the Midlands as quick as we could – Friday night leaving after school, it was always going to be busy, but we made it in relatively good time, with a quick McDonalds pit-stop.  We were met and showed to our pitch by the rather lovely Sara, the dedicated Family Campsite Manager.  The weather was incredibly kind to us despite a rather menacing forecast all week. It had threatened rain and showers for the entire weekend and in fairness it was pretty horrendous when we left home however Goodwood must have some strange micro-climate as apart from a light shower in the early hours, barely a drop of rain landed!  This meant we managed to put our rather large tent up in the glorious sunshine whilst the children entertained themselves watching a DVD in the car (Despicable Me 2 if you’re interested…). It wasn’t too long before I found myself relaxing in my camping chair with a large glass of red in my hand.  One of the first things my children wanted to check out was the private play area, situated at the far end of the campsite. This was a fenced off play area, with good quality wooden structures. They loved the play equipment and could have spent all day just climbing on the frames!

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The lovely play area at the end of the campsite

Now I have done a lot of camping in my years but let me just tell you this, this was something else. I’ve never ever been to a campsite so well managed as this one.  The campsite was staffed 24 hours a day and had a dedicated Family Campsite Manager on hand to assist with any issues you might have. Sara, the campsite manager was great – she was friendly and approachable and on hand to answer any questions when we arrived as well as being very visible during the weekend – always with a smile on her face and was even there to see us off.

In terms of catering options on site, there was a bar with ample outdoor seating and delicious food being served up by the Beach BBQ.  The bar was handy to have but we only actually visited it once as we had brought our own drinks with us (always prepared!) and in fact I was really glad I did as it cost us over £11 for a glass of wine and a pint of beer. At those prices it could get very expensive very quickly. If anything could be improved next year, a reduction in bar prices would be welcome!  The Beach BBQ was a nice touch and was perfect for grabbing a bite to eat at the end of a long day. Not only that, but the food was delicious. We tried both the Piggy Bap (pulled pork in a ginger beer sauce topped with crackling) and the 24hr Sous-vide prime rib-eye steak sandwich. Both were amazing but the Piggy Bap had my heart – that slow cooked pork in ginger beer – I’ve never tasted anything like it. I plan to do a while post on the Beach BBQ so watch this space!

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Nothing had been left forgotten – there were refrigeration facilities available for each family using a tent. We didn’t try these as we had our own fridge so I can’t report back on those but I thought it was a really good idea as it can be quite a challenge keeping your breakfast essentials (milk and bacon obviously…) chilled so I liked the idea of the walk-in fridge. There was also a “shop” stocked with essentials such as loo roll, sun tan lotion and toothpaste along with a whole heap of games, toys and activities that were available to borrow like stomp rockets, giant jenga and skittles.

We slept really well, in fact it could have been the best sleep I’ve had whilst camping. As everyone on the site was part of a family group, it felt like everybody respected each other and the campsite was very peaceful past about 10pm which was perfect. Sara had asked that if you were going to be using your car, you park it in the car park rather than by your tent thus minimising traffic and keeping the campsite safe for the children, however this also helped to minimise any excess and unnecessary noise.

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Yeah, it looked dodgy but we were very VERY lucky!

The toilets were very clean and perfectly presentable – it looked and smelt like they might have had a pre-festival spruce-up. There were temporary showers which worked well and the washing up facilities were in the toilet area. A nice touch was that sponges and washing up liquid had been provided. We struggled with hot water one day (not unusual on a campsite) but generally it was okay.

A shuttle to and from the campsite was arranged. This was a double-decker bus, a nice shiny new one. The bus dropped you off at Gate 1 which is fab as there’s no queuing to get in and you are right next to the special family area, where you could relax undercover, get some food and drink, use the toilets etc In theory the bus was a great idea, in reality? I can’t help but think there might have been a better option. We had to rush to get the bus on the first morning we were there as whilst they were meant to be running every 20mins or so the combination of high levels of traffic in the area combined with extremely narrow lanes meant it was taking a lot longer to do the round-trip. It was very tight down some of the roads and I wasn’t in the least surprised to learn that the nice shiny new bus had got into a bit of a smash one day! On the Sunday we decided to hop over the road to the Rally Stage and get on the tractor shuttle down to the festival. That was a much better option as it was a bit quicker and as it went off-road, there was no traffic to contend with. I think if they run the family camping area and shuttle again in the future my preference would be for it to be a tractor style vehicle.

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There were several visits from The Hill Climbers on the campsite. The Hill Climbers were a team of people, tasked with assisting families at the event. The children loved seeing them marching through the campsite singing and entertaining everyone on the shuttle bus.

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The Hill Climbers – well, the back of them. Those dudes move fast!

When it was time to leave the festival and pack up, we all felt a bit sad. We’d had such a lovely time on the campsite and the weather was so lovely it seemed a shame to go home but alas work and school were calling the next day. It’s rare that I get to the end of a camping trip and actually feel like I could stay for a few more days so that speaks volumes. There was a wonderful, pleasant, chilled out vibe which was the perfect tonic after a long busy day amongst the throngs of festival-goers.

The family campsite is an absolutely brilliant addition to the Festival of Speed and I do hope that they decide to run it again next year as we’d certainly love to go again!

Coming soon….my review of the Festival of Speed itself, with a focus on the family elements of the show. 

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Disclosure: I was provided with tickets & camping for the event in return for a review. All words and thoughts are my own.