It’s no secret – one of Giles Babbidge’s absolute favourite places to go camping is deep within woodland. Here, he shares his love of the simple things in life and the wonders of wild and local food.
I’m not fussed where I camp in the woods – although there is something rather special about exploring acres of ancient forest. The fact is, I always feel very grounded when I’m sitting in my tent of an evening, staring up at the warm sun-dappled canopy above.
For me, the best way to enjoy these moments is to keep things simple. That means a minimum of camping gear – from the shelter I use (sometimes I even do away with a tent altogether, favouring a tarp and bivvy bag), to the cooking equipment I prepare my meals with.
As with so many things, once you take away the clutter and trappings of modern life, you begin to realise just what nature has to offer. You notice the sights, the smells, the sounds and the subtleties of your surroundings.
For many years, I used a traditional Trangia meths-burning stove when cooking. It’s in semi-retirement now, but I do sometimes miss the gentle crackle and pop of its blue flame on a chilly evening under the stars.
Whereas I embraced the freedom to cook all manner of delights on that stove, it seems too many people are content to take the simple boil-in-the-bag route for their camp-cooking these days. Honestly though, you’d be amazed at the culinary creations that can be produced with just a basic set-up.
One occasion springs to mind in particular. I was on one of my many touring trips, cycling around the Isle of Wight. It was the end of a long, hot day and I decided to visit a local corner shop to get a few supplies. As it turns out, I didn’t get much further than the lane outside the campsite, thanks to the abundance of blackberries in the hedgerows, which were just too good to miss!
A quick trip back to my tent to collect a couple of containers, a visit to the shop and an hour of picking later, I had the all the ingredients to make apple and blackberry pancakes! They were quite possibly the best I have ever tasted (even if I do say so myself). They were made from fresh, local produce and served with the satisfaction of knowing that I had crafted this tasty dessert from scratch on the spur of the moment.
I admit that the ‘less is more’ theory is something of a cliché – but still, there is a lot of truth in this saying. For those of you who have young families and are beginning to plan your camping trips for this summer, why not make a conscious effort to get the kids involved in trying a spot of outdoor cooking?
Regardless of the time of year, there’ll always be seasonal ingredients available, most likely not far from where your tent is pitched. All you have to do is take the time to look around, make a little effort and reap the rewards!