Our family's holidays were often camping based and I have many a fond memory of them. I’ve camped in all sorts of places, from Kirkcudbright in Scotland with its ‘Tardis’ toilet to the Isle of Wight with its ‘open air’ (aka arctic) swimming pool. More recently my tent has taken me to BirdFair in Rutland and around the White Peaks for my silver Duke of Edinburgh award. At night the environment around you is transformed and camping out is the best way to experience it.

What I remember most vividly from camping as a child is all of the different sounds. Identifying owls from their calls was a particular favourite. There is only the canvas between you and all of that brilliant nature. What results is an experience of being right in the action. When I heard a Muntjac bark for the first time as a kid I must admit I was terrified. But that terror turned to curiosity very quickly when my parents told me a deer was making that noise! Making connections with nature throughout childhood is crucial and so this one of the perfect ways to do this. Anyway, who can resist a campfire and marshmallows on a stick?

But before you get cosy in your sleeping bag take a dusk walk or sit outside and wait, watch and listen. While camping I’ve seen many barn owls, deer, badgers and foxes all really close up. Bats are always great fun to watch as well. If you’ve got a bat detector you could also try and find what species you have living in your area. You could then take part in some citizen science and help the Bat Conservation Trust with their surveys. Another great activity is moth trapping. Unless you’re going to an event with a proper trap, an easy DIY alternative for your garden is a white sheet with a lamp behind it. Even an outside light on your wall will attract them in. Toilet blocks on campsites are brilliant places for looking at moths as well. So if you’re camping this summer have a look and see what you can find. Thetford Forest Camping and Caravanning Club Site had a Poplar Hawk Moth on the wall of them most nights when we were there!

Aside from the fauna, stargazing is another great activity. On the second day of our silver DofE expedition we had a perfect cloudless night. After carrying the packs around all day, lying flat in a clearing on the forest floor watching the stars was blissful. We were even treated to a couple of shooting stars. The Big Wild Sleepout is the weekend of 29th-31st July and the Perseid meteor shower is from around 17th July until 24th August. Hopefully you’ll get lucky during your Big Wild Sleepout or if not, the peak is on 12th-13th august, so make sure you stay up then.

I hope my experiences of camping and the great fun I’ve had will tempt you to give it a try. For more information on activities to do and events near you check out the RSPB webpage: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/bigwildsleepout. But make sure you try and get the kids involved. It’s a perfect way to connect them with nature which is very much what they need to be doing!

Leanne Tough

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