Child on swing

A wild year continues

A Wild Year Continues

Posted by Jen Benson.
First Published Aug 2015; updated May 2023.

Catch up with Jen and her family as they continue their challenge of living a year under canvas in the UK.

A Wild Year Continues

living long-term in a tent with two young children

When we last put together a blog for GOWTK, we’d been camping for about four months and were really just starting to get to grips with the whole idea of living long-term in a tent with two young children.

We’re now over eight months into our Wild Year – it’s been a steep learning curve and the winter months were definitely hard work, but it feels like we’re gradually reaching a place where things are settled into an (almost) ‘normal’ pattern.

Happy Kids

Happy Kids

Happy Kids

We’re at last really able to enjoy having adventures together; exploring, discovering and experiencing life as a family.

The kids seem to be flourishing: our daughter is fit, happy, sociable and confident and our son has turned from a tiny baby into a walking, talking toddler.

fit, happy, sociable and confident

So far it feels like our decision to move them out of a warm, safe house into a drafty bell tent and eschew the more traditional route of nursery and preschool was – as far as it’s ever possible to know – a good one.

Our daughter could be starting school this September but we don’t feel like it’s the right time for her yet, and we feel we’re in a position to continue her early education ourselves as we adventure.

Tent Life

Sleeping in the tent

Sleeping in the tent

Tent life has been so much easier since the arrival of warmer, longer days.

The light evenings don’t seem to bother the kids too much in terms of going to sleep, in fact it feels completely different from the bedtime battle of days gone past.

we all sleep so much better than we ever have before

Perhaps it’s the fresh air, or the soporific effect of a gentle breeze through the trees, the babble of a nearby stream or the soothing call of a tawny owl.

Who knows – but we do know that we all sleep so much better than we ever have before.


Wild Camping

Wild Camping

Our adventures have taken us from the sandy beaches and wooded creeks of Cornwall and the South Hams across the wilds of Dartmoor and Exmoor and northwards via the Peak District to the Lakes.

hail storms battered the tent

We spent a fantastic month in Cumbria, really experiencing this huge, wild, challenging arena while the savage weather we thought we’d left behind us returned with a vengeance.

Snow still clung to the north faces of the higher mountains; hail storms battered the tent; rain made deep ponds of our campsites and the wind bowed leaf-heavy branches and whipped our awning straight over the top of our tent.

We spent our days exploring the steep trails that led in every direction; running daily in the mountains and walking long ascents with the kids walking or in their carriers.

satisfied tiredness

We left the Lakes with a deep, satisfied tiredness, having been challenged and rewarded in equal measure.

After many weeks away from our families and the kids’ friends and playmates we made our way back southwards, via the Yorkshire Dales, the South Pennines and the Peak District to Dartmoor.

The changes here after only a few weeks away were startling – nature seemed to have multiplied with dense, green foliage everywhere and the ground, the trees and the sky all alive with buzzing, twittering and the pounding hooves of big herds of wild ponies.

nature seemed to have multiplied

The kids love the moorland: it’s so accessible for them and we climbed rocky tors, swam and paddled in icy-cold rivers and slept wild on the moor on a couple of occasions too.

It’s an amazing feeling to walk in search of a perfect pitch for our little backpacking tent, stopping when we find it and simply being there, taking in the surroundings and sleeping till morning when we boil up water for tea on our little stove and walk back off the moor.

Settled for Summer

Paddling in the stream

Paddling in the stream

One of our concerns had been finding a pitch for the summer, as official campsites get busier and more expensive, but at the last minute we were offered a field on the Welsh borders for our sole use during the months of July and August.

We’re happily settled here, enjoying the opportunity to get to know somewhere well, catch up with all the things on our To Do list that we’ve just been too busy for while travelling around and allow the kids to have a bit more stability than usual.

We even have the use of a private toilet – what a luxury!

We’re swapping lodgings for gardening and keeping an eye on things for the owners while they’re away, which makes meeting our £10 per night accommodation budget much more likely.

We even have the use of a private toilet – what a luxury! – although we’ll be setting up the solar shower and hoping the sun shines.

New Kit

Over the past months we’ve made a few key changes to our kit.

When we started out we were living in a 6m Emperor bell tent and doing most of our cooking on our lovely little Frontier stove.

We’ve since downsized to a 4m bell tent from SoulPad and moved the stove outside.

It’s great to cook on and so much safer than having it in our living space.

It’s fantastic to have somewhere comfortable to sit at last!

One of our other big changes came in the form of some chairs and a table.

We’d done without these initially, using one of our storage boxes for a table and sitting on cushions on the floor, however we then came across Helinox chairs which are incredibly comfortable and fold up to a tiny size, so we can fit them in our limited packing space.

It’s fantastic to have somewhere comfortable to sit at last!

We’ve also done away with the bulky roll-up mattresses we were using (believing they’d be more comfortable and longer-lasting) and are now using self-inflating camping mats topped with mattress protectors, sheets and duvets.

It’s the arrangement that feels the most like a ‘normal’ bed and allows us to all sleep well.

What's Next?

With only 4 months left of our adventures we’re inevitably starting to think about our plans for what to do next.

we definitely have a few ideas…

We love the freedom of our current lifestyle and we now know that all being together and approaching life’s wonders and challenges as a team is the most important thing to us. We haven’t decided yet but we definitely have a few ideas…

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