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Monday, March 31, 2008

Cool camping: how many hipsters believed the hype?

The cool camping cool caravanning hype may have convinced style-conscious travellers to get out of the city and get away to the country to pitch a tent for a weekend or two, but did it really fuel some kind of fashionable camping revival? Had camping ever become chic in the first place or was it just a clever bit of marketing that the travel media perhaps embraced a little too enthusiastically? It was a fresh and novel idea after all. And let’s admit it, ‘cool camping’ has a ring to it, don’t you think? Fortunately, one travel writer decided to find out if people were really sleeping under deer skins in daisy-patterned tents and how much things had really changed. For “What, no yurt?”, The Guardian's self-styled ‘urban pansy’ Benji Lanyado set off for Blackberry Wood, the coolest UK campsite according to Jonathan Knight's Cool Camping bible. Lanyado discovered that Blackberry Wood (despite its charming name) was actually “blissfully free of posh tents and designer wellies”. The reality, he found, was that it was just a good old-fashioned camping spot - only after the re-branding, it got busier. And that’s the thing about camping, it’s just a plain old-fashioned travel experience, a great way to escape everyday life and get out and enjoy nature. It’s simply good fun. Did it ever need to be sold as the next sexy travel trend? As Knight himself wrote in The Times' ‘Britain’s Perfect Pitches’: “Its very appeal lies in its contrast with our modern lives, in the chance to lose electricity, the traffic, the television and telephone for a while. Chilling in the countryside, sleeping under the stars and breathing clean, fresh air, is a rich and recharging experience…” If there's been one positive outcome from travel writers’ fixation with camping’s cool factor, it's that the mainstream media now devotes more column inches and web pages to the activity than ever before. The Times even has a dedicated section solely devoted to Camping and Caravanning. Now that has to be a good thing, right?

Pictured is our tent on platform, with double bed and bathroom, which we stayed in at El Questro's Emma Gorge. More impressive than the accommodation were the stunning bush surroundings and birdsong outside your (canvas) door.

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