LAYERED up in pyjamas, jumpers, socks and a woolly hat, I pulled my duvet up to my nose.
“Ah, this is the life”, I thought, as the rain lashed down on my wind and rain-proof bell tent.
It was July last year, and I was right — despite being in a soggy field, and wearing every item of clothing I owned to stay warm, that weekend really was as good as it would get for 2020.
And with overseas travel off the cards for the foreseeable, staycations on saturated British soil will be the pinnacle of holiday excitement for most of this year too.
But while the weather is out of our control, we can choose our location wisely — and Embers Camping at Pylewell Park in the New Forest will not disappoint.
Though I was in a sturdy yurt and lying on a blow-up double bed, this was not glamping. Novices be warned — there are no plug sockets, fancy boudoirs with hairdryers wired into the wall, or phone-charging stations.
Pylewell’s aim is to give guests an experience that’s as close to nature as possible, and although the site doesn’t have much, I soon discovered it has everything you could want for a soul-soothing staycation.
After that first rainy night, it was T-shirt weather, and the true beauty of the spot was revealed.
Yes, it’s just a field, but there are just the right amount of camping places dotted around the edge that the fabulous view of the Solent — the strait which separates the New Forest from the Isle of Wight — can be enjoyed by all.
And if you’re lucky enough, like I was, you might see a family of the famous New Forest ponies — wild horses — between the campsite and the coastline.
Throughout the day, happy campers buzzed around, breakfasting outside tents, queuing for the showers (each of which is in its own cubicle, with mirror, clothes hooks and an area to dress), or visiting the on-site shop for coffee, local bacon and farm-fresh eggs as well as ice creams and snacks.
The shop also has a wood-fired pizza oven serving up pizzas and burgers on Friday and Saturday evenings.
The site definitely has a family feel. As I washed my pots and pans at the sinks, I overheard teenagers chatting like old friends, clearly having got to know each other over several summers.
Come dusk, pink-champagne skies enveloped the campsite, fairy lights twinkled, and one by one, the fire pits which come with each pitch started to glow.
Parents cajoled their children away from their friends with barbecued burgers, and there was a warm hum of chatter around the site until nightfall and the temperature dropped, forcing most dwellers to cosy up inside their temporary homes.
If you want to escape from civilisation, this site is ideal. It’s easy to get to by car or you could cycle from nearby Lymington Pier train station.
Once at Embers, you’re surrounded by nature and little else. It is easy to while away a few days with lazy mornings and evenings by your camp fire, and daytimes punctuated by woodland walks, pony spotting or bird-watching down by the Solent.
But there is plenty more to see slightly further afield. For brisk coastal walks, or a bit of sunbathing on the beach, there’s Milton-on-Sea or Barton-on-Sea.
The picturesque high street of Lyndhurst, lined with pretty bunting on the day I visited, is ideal for rainy days, a spot of shopping or a hearty pub lunch.
And Brockenhurst is the place to go for countryside ambles, river swimming and if you want a guaranteed glimpse of the infamous New Forest pony.
I spot too many to count on my day out there, not to mention the number of tourists getting a little too close in order to grab that elusive horse selfie.
The New Forest ticks all the staycation boxes — untouched countryside, dramatic coastlines, lovely towns and villages, and nature like nowhere else.
And Embers provides an ideal base. It’s a great place for me to get reacquainted with camping — something I expect to be doing far more of in the next few months.
I can’t see anyone not loving it here unless you can’t live without hair straighteners or if you have a dog – they’re banned from the site.
Frizzy hair and Fido apart, you would be hard pushed to find a better site.
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