I’m on paternity leave. We have just had our second, so my one of principle tasks… Looking after the 2.5year-old, trying the give my wife as much time as possible with the baby.
So what to do? What wilderness could we find? Grandmum (Mum) was free, so we hatched a plan – build a fire, cook something. I brought the kit, she brought the food and the dog.
We headed to Velvet Bottom on The Mendips. It was raining quite a lot. In the back of both my mine and my mother’s minds was bailing to the pub. Would we find shelter, dry wood? Were we being mad old English?
We needed to walk the dog anyway, so we had a look around. It was blustery with sheets of rain coming in, the toddler would hate it. It wasn’t looking good, till we found this little rocky gully. No wind down there, the rain eased. We built the fire. We cooked.
We could have so easily given up, but we didn’t, we went for it and braved it. And we had such a great time. It was so rewarding, and the 2-year-old really loved the experience, especially the “dancing fire”.
Some things we learnt:
• Maybe pick a better weather forecast. It was incredibly lucky that we actually found a dry window in what was quite a blustery and wet day.
• Don’t do it alone with the toddler, unless you are Bear Grylls and can build and look after a toddler with your eyes shut. Due to the wet wood, it was a bit of nightmare keeping the fire going, and that wouldn’t have happened if Grandmum wasn’t there to talk Talitha through the whole thing and manage the marshmallows.
• Cook something simple. Don’t take on a stew on your first campfire. I couldn’t have coped with chopping etc. So, we just cooked up some bacon and a brew.
• Keep it short. We stamped out the fire and headed home before we saw any sign of tiredness or boredom from Talitha. These sorts of activities can be nasty if they start getting fractious.
• Take marshmallows. Then while the fire is getting hot, they have something to cook and eat from the word “go”.
• Bring your own kindling and firelighters. I want to learn to do it in a more bushcraft way, but maybe when Talitha is a bit older and I know what I’m doing a bit more. Also the wood was so wet, that we really needed dry stuff to get it going.
• Get them helping. Even though she’s only two, she loved picking up sticks and building the rock circle.
• Smoke gets in their eyes. They will cry. They will also learn. But you could head off this problem before it transpires.
You got any campfire tips? Or maybe songs or games?