The OLPRO Rambling Blog
Ecotherapy for Mental Health Awareness Week.
The mental health charity Mind recently commissioned a report which has shown that being outdoors, whether it be growing food, gardening or undertaking conservation work, has a hugely beneficial impact upon mental health. Camping is one of the best ways to get outdoors and have fun whilst easing mental stresses and strains.
The Guardian says that ‘we are twice as likely to be emotionally distressed if we are urban rather than rural (and four times more likely to suffer schizophrenia). Part of the reason for this is estrangement caused by lack of exposure to natural sights, sounds and smells, to dislocation from the natural rhythms of the seasons, of night from day. Ecotherapies work because they reconnect us with nature; its external reality but most fundamentally, our inner natures.’
Of course, ecotherapy must not replace medication or other forms of therapy for mental health, but can be a very useful addition to more mainstream therapies.
Camping is the ideal ecotherapy, covering so many elements that are calming and confidence boosting. The purpose of packing for an adventure, forcing our brains to become organised. Then the camaraderie of our companions; the fun of a road trip, giving us a sense of togetherness.
Add to this the challenge and reward of setting up a camp, erecting your living space, and creating a cosy place to sleep – simple acts of self-care, with the basics of survival the focus, rather than any other mind-clutter. Then simply sitting by the fire and watching the flames flickering, with the stars shining above – can there be any better form of mindfulness?
Often, the fact that campsites are in the middle of nowhere, no WiFi or 3G, means that you are forced to take a screen break - which has also been shown to be beneficial to mental well being.
To wake to birdsong and dew, being immersed in the depths of nature, and to have the freedom of an OS map and a good pair of boots...heaven.
I can still recall my many camping experiences, they are so firmly and fondly fixed in my memory banks, because they have always been good times in amazing places.
I’m planning this summer’s trips now, and can’t wait to get out there.
Do you find yourself more relaxed when camping? Do you sleep better outdoors? Have you noticed a change in your children's behaviour when they spend more time outside?
Let us know how the Great Outdoors benefits you and your family.
- Siani Driver
Lakes, Loopo Breeze and Long Walks.
We left Worcestershire early on a Friday, hoping to avoid the worst of the traffic on the way up the M5 and M6. The SatNav said an optimistic 4 hours, however this wasn’t to be and we endured a stressful 6 hour journey punctuated by the predictable toddler vomit and chants of ‘are we nearly there yet?!’
We came off the motorway and straight into the gorgeously winding, twisty roads and stone-wall sheltered fields of the Lake District. Sheep and lambs were everywhere, the mist clearing into the distance, and the children cheered up by the sight of far away mountains akin to the world of Peter Rabbit.
The road across Austhwaite Brow was stunning (albeit wiggly) with views down the side of a treacherous drop into shaded, bluebell strewn valleys with babbling brooks and plenty more lambs playing. We reached Fisherground Campsite and were immediately impressed by its location – on a flat patch of farmland at the foot of a ridge of large, rocky crags. Given that it was the Easter holidays, we were all amazed that aside from my brother and his family who had already pitched up, it was only us on the site – the forecast Storm Hannah doubtless putting people off.
Reception was very helpful – lent us an EHU extension as ours was too short, offered us some eggs, talked us through the facilities. They walked over with us to our pitch and then left us to it. This was our first trip away with our new awning for our self-build camper – a Renault Trafic high-top. The awning is a Loopo Breeze. It was also the first time we’ve put one up, but we were all really surprised at how easy it was. We unzipped the bag, took out the awning, and laid it out on the ground, found the inflation points, and pumped up the beams using the large pump supplied with the awning. (I’d previously watched some videos on how to pitch these so had a bit of a head start!) It only took a minute or so of pumping before the beams were rigid, and with a helping hand from my brother, we pulled the awning upright and pegged it out. Getting the van aligned with the tunnel correctly was a bit of a fiddle, given that it was the first time we’d tried it and we weren’t sure how close it would need to go to be sure the awning tunnel would fit over the van. With Storm Hannah forecast, we didn’t want to risk any leaks between the van and tunnel. After a little back-and-forth, we figured out where to place the van, and used the straps to peg the tunnel down over the top. Then we put up the porch canopy and set up with our table, chairs, cooker and the kid’s toys.
I was really impressed at the amount of space in the awning! My brother and his family had brought a 4 man tent with them, that they couldn’t stand up in (he’s 6.4” as is my husband, his wife is 6.1” and I’m 5.9” so we like plenty of head room!) but we could all stand up in the Loopo Breeze. Once the rain hit, we all settled down inside to heat up a curry, with the kids playing and the rain and wind battering down on the awning. With the storm bars in place to add some extra strength, we were all happily remarking on how safe, warm and dry we were.
Fisherground Campsite is now high on our list of campsites to revisit. Just up from the site is a steam train track, from which you can halt thesteam train and take it along the railway to Ravenglass, a small seaside village with a stony beach, a couple of pubs, and incredible views along the journey. We all became big kids as we went on our steam train adventure and back again – just perfect.
The site also has many very useful features such as a hot box for drying boots, washers and dryers, and immaculately clean toilets and showers with plenty of space. Showers are 50p but two 50ps will get you a perfectly long shower – and there’s even a free hairdryer! There’s also a freezer for re-freezing coolbox blocks. The kids absolutely LOVED it as there's a fantastic adventure playground for them, with a babbling brook running alongside, and a little lake with some rafts and a stick that they can wobble their way across.
The following day we left the kids with my brother and my husband and I headed up behind the site to traverse the rocky crags above. A path through the houses at the side of the campsite leads to a steep incline over the railway track, from where you emerge onto the heathland above.
The elusive phone signal returned after we reached the crag summit, so we called down to my brother and waved at the children from far above. By this point, the quads were screaming a bit, so I was glad as the climb levelled out and we reached a large tarn.
Following a brief paddle for the dog, we began our descent. The views were simply stunning, and we could see the campsite down below as well as the steam train puffing along the track. To the West we could even see the sea beyond Ravenglass. We climbed down a zig-zag path to the road and walked back along to the campsite, aching legs but very satisfied.
We were only able to stay for two nights and as it looked like rain was headed back in, we decided to pack away the awning while it was dry. I was a little apprehensive about whether we would be able to get it back into the bag, but the process of packing away was about as quick as it had been to put up. We took out all the pegs, removed the storm bars, detached the straps, wound up all the guys, then let the air out of the beams. It deflated under its own weight, with no need to squish it flat at all. We folded it into thirds, drying the groundsheet as we went along, with a tea towel, then rolled it up. The straps supplied in the bag came in very handy for tying the awning together and getting it back in the bag – which was so incredibly roomy still, that we also managed to put in all the other bits and bobs as well, including extra pegs – with room to spare. It slid easily back under the bed in the campervan, and we were done.
We’re all absolutely over the moon that we found such a brilliant campsite and a brilliant driveaway awning – both combined made for a wonderfully nourishing weekend away, despite Storm Hannah’s best attempts to put us off. A great time was had by all, and we can’t wait for the next adventure.
- Siani Driver
Starry Dark Skies
Our guest blog this week from Wanderlust Camper Co's Annah Todman.
The UK has some of the largest areas of dark sky in Europe. It’s possible to see around 100 stars in your own back garden, subject to light conditions, however, how about immersing yourself in a dark sky with over 1,000 stars? How about spotting the Milky Way across the night sky?
If you’re looking for a break with a difference, a real escape from every day life, a digital detox – a break under the vibrant stars at a Dark Skies spot is the perfect option. A break with a campervan under the stars could be just the thing! Combine a campervan break (you can always hire if you don’t have one!), combined with a unique experience of star-gazing for a magical break. With a little planning on the perfect place to pitch up to star-gaze, guests can tailor make a truly unique campervan star-gazing experience, using the information and tips provided.
The UK now has more certified international dark-sky places (DSP) than any other country outside the USA. The UK has three Dark-Sky Parks; Northumberland National Park, Elan Valley Estate (Wales) and Galloway Forest Park (Scotland) and a handful of Dark-Sky Reserves, including Brecon Beacons National Park, Exmoor National Park, Snowdonia National Park and the South Down National Park.
With Wanderlust Camper Co’s HQ perfectly situated on the gateway to Wales, it’s only natural for focus to be on the dark spots in the beautiful countryside of Wales and Wales is lucky enough to have not one, but two Dark Sky Reserves.
Wanderlust Camper Co include many tops tips for their Starry Dark Skies experience suggestions within their website. As an overview, Wales’ two dark sky reserves are within the Brecon Beacons National Park and Snowdonia National Park. There are a few hot spots for setting up for an evening of star gazing, such as the ruins of Llanthony Priory, and Carreg Cennen Castle. Usk Reservoir also offers excellent star gazing opportunity in a magical setting. Within Snowdonia National Park, there are several lakes (llyn in Welsh) that offer great star gazing spots, such as Llyn y Dywarchen located above the village of Drws y Coed in Dyffryn Nantlle, near Rhyd Ddu, Llyn Geirionnydd which is situated in the Gwydir Forest, above Betws y Coed and the Llynnau Cregennen lakes, on the foot hills of Cader Idris.
Elan Valley, in Wales is a Dark Sky Park. There are several good spots to star gaze, around Cwmdauddwr Common, where the Northern Lights were seen in 2016, and Graig Goch and Claerwen Dam car parks.
Wales also offers three Dark Sky discovery sites, starting off at Rhondda Cynon Taf, around an hour or so drive from Wanderlust HQ, whilst the others spread further to the west Wales, in Llandeilo and Pembrokeshire.
Wanderlust Camper Co’s website provides more details on where these dark spots are, some useful hints and tips on making the best star-gazing opportunities and a round up of some lovely campsites to pitch up at, off the beaten track. Take a look at www.wanderlustcamperco.com
- Siani Driver
Review: Wanderlust Camper Co, For Family Friendly Road Trips
Wanderlust Camper Co is an independent camper-van rental business owned by Annah and Andy Todman. Based in Dymock in a rural part of Gloucestershire the vans are in the perfect location to explore the the countryside around the border counties of Hereford and Worcestershire or embark on a road trip to Wales, the Midlands or the West Country.
- Siani Driver