When the children go back to school for the final half-term of the year, the looming abyss of the long holiday that follows will start to feel too close for comfort.
We’ve found the very best kids’ camps that won’t just keep them busy, but be inspiring, rejuvenating and memorable enough that they can’t wait to return again next year.
The Eco-Friendly One: Camp Kernow, Cornwall
An increasingly popular choice for city parents, particularly because they offer a chaperone service from London Paddington to Truro, this Cornish camp where the children sleep outdoors in yurts and tipis, is award-winning with some serious green credentials to their name.
Suitable for 7 to fourteen year olds, the aim of the camp is to give your child a break from the school bubble, which can feel claustrophobic during term time, with a digital detox. A stay with Camp Kernow will also encourage your child to more fully understand and respect the natural environment through sustainable initiatives and exciting outdoor adventures.
In fact, the camp is the only one that is completely off-grid, harnessing its energy via solar panels and a newly erected 1.5kw wind turbine. It uses sustainable technology camp-wide, including composting toilets, reed-beds, a solar powered water pumping and filtration system and solar thermal heated showers. On top of this, its field to fork philosophy enables children to learn about self-sufficiency and healthy eating – they are often the ones to harvest the food that they will later eat. Plus, a brand new field kitchen built over the winter months will introduce news ways of cooking to the camp. For the first time ever, campers will be able to cook using the power of the sun in solar ovens and with biogas generated from any kitchen waste.
The private 200-acre estate just outside Truro hosts a range of activities including technical tree climbing, eco energy workshops, green woodworking, forging, foraging, kayaking, dusk bat walking, falconry, archery, silk screen printing, leatherwork and stone carving.
Wild Wood Camp Outs return this year, allowing campers to enjoy the simple pleasure of shelter building in the woods and feasting under the stars on camp fire cooked cuisine. Forest bathing workshops will also take place, allowing children to practice the art of mindfulness and meditation in the sanctuary of Camp Kernow’s ancient woodland and trees.
When: Dates throughout August; six day camps; £520 (5% discount on sibling bookings); campkernow.org.uk
The Adventurous One: Camp Crusoe, Herefordshire
Championing physical activity and personal development, Camp Crusoe is an American-style summer camp in rural Hertfordshire, hosted at the Longtown Outdoor Learning Centre.
Suitable for 9 to fifteen year olds, it’s an affordable opportunity for your children to relax, gain confidence, new friends and new skills. Nestled at the foot of the epic Black Mountains, happy campers have the opportunity to try a wide array of activities such as kayaking, climbing, bushcraft, orienteering, drama, sports, gorge walking and go-kart making among others. Meals are enjoyed outside as often as possible, with breakfasts served mainly in the communal dining room of the activity centre.
By training their own camp counsellors, the children have strong role models who they can rely on to lead by example. Being able to bond with adults who aren’t parents or teachers can give a child independence and help their personality to develop free of peer or other pressures.
Ultimately though, at Camp Crusoe, their self-dubbed specialism is in ‘having as much fun as possible’ – and that’s all you need to know.
When: Week one – 15 to 22 August, week two – 23 to 30 August; seven day camps; £245; campcrusoe.com
The Inspirational One: Oppidan Camps, Hertfordshire
With more emphasis on stimulating young minds than other camps, Oppidan ensure that their programme of speakers are top-class. As well as sports and outdoor activities taking place in The Walled Gardens at Woodhall Estate in Hertfordshire, every day also incorporates workshops that revolve around more tangible real-life skills: public speaking and debating, business or poetry and drama. Dragons’ Den has proved popular in previous years, but the slip and slide and other more lighthearted activities ensure this feels far more fun than the tight, inflexible structures of school.
A strict no-tech rule is also part of their recipe for success, and though children may not have contact with some friends and family members, the end of the day – post cooking and feasting – when all the children gather around the fire pit for chatting and dancing, ensures that no one feels left out or lonely.
If this all sounds good to you too, then try their Fathers’ Camps. Along with their children, dads are invited to attend an Oppidan weekend camp full of all the same outdoor adventures but with a twist. Fathers will compete against their sons and/or daughters but still sleep under the stars with them in their own bell tent. Will your family survive against the odds? Time to put it to the test.
When: April, May, July, August and October; five day camps; £690 (Fathers’ camps are £480 per pair on 8 to 9 June); oppidancamps.com
The Wild One: Camp Wilderness at the Blenheim Estate
Blenheim Estate has joined forces with The Bushcraft Company to offer schoolchildren aged seven to 18 the unique opportunity to live wild in their ancient woodland; cooking over open fires and sleeping under canvas.
Held in safari-style tented camps deep within the woods of the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site, the back-to-nature days feature a host of outdoor activities from traditional fire-lighting, shelter-building and bushcraft to wilderness cookery, archery and orienteering.
Evenings are spent enjoying bush tucker feasts, playing football and rounders in the fields, and roasting marshmallows over the campfire.
Rural Manager at Blenheim Estate, Rachel Brodie, said: ‘This is a great concept and we are delighted to be working with The Bushcraft Company to open up our ancient woodland to children. We’re committed to raising countryside awareness through education and sharing the diversity and natural beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site with others is one of our key goals.’
The Bushcraft Company plan to run an open day at Blenheim Palace in June for anyone interested in finding out what’s involved.
When: July, August and October; three to five day camps; £175 to £300; campwilderness.co.uk
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