Monday, 17 August 2015

Under Canvas in Cornwall - Camping at Porthleven

I'm just back from Cornwall and a challenging week under canvas at Porthleven!  We stayed at a National Trust affiliated site, Penrose Campsite, (the link is to a review of the site), which was a real find considering we left it very late to book anything at all.  The campsite is situated high on cliffs, in fields that form part of the Penrose Estate, which is a lovely stretch of coastline.  We arrived in thick fog, which rendered most of the lovely views invisible, but the next day saw the home sewn bunting hoisted, the sunnies on and proper camp life commenced.

As usual, when we set off on the long drive south, our car was bursting with four of us plus one large size pooch and camping gear and so a fairly limited, mix and match selection of clothes was the order of the day when packing.  It seemed we were even more squashed then ever this year as the smaller people are getting bigger, and they also want their fair share of stuff.  This year also saw the addition of a HUGE table and two benches, snaffled up in a camp sale by Tricky, who insisted it folded up to practically nothing.  

Note the moody sky rolling in over our tent.  That sky meant business let me tell you.

So anyway, I had thought quite carefully about clothes this time instead of flinging in everything except the kitchen sink and here are my 5 top tips for packing with limited space when you still want to give yourself some style options for each day.

1.  Scarves.  I'm talking silk, cotton or linen ones here that pack up small.  Probably not woolly knitted ones, unless you really, really feel the cold (and I'm totally with you here if you do!).  A couple of these will take up virtually no space in a bag, can be changed around depending on size from neckerchief, wrap, beach cover to hairband even, and give you a different look each day.  Choose one in a bright colour and one neutral shade at least, so that you change them around.  These are the ones I took; a black and white zebra print one in cotton (Stella & Dot), one in bright pink silk (vintage, given to me years ago) and one in blue and white silk (charity shop find).

2.  Think 'Outfit' over 'Item'.  Ok let's say for example, and totally hypothetically, that you've bought a beautiful yellow panama hat from the Reiss sale with a sweeping, wide brim (that will crush at the mere hint of an overstuffed bag or wilt in damp and rain), and you can't wait to wear your beautiful hat on holiday.  If you are like me you will prioritise this over anything remotely practical and pack it first, along with a number of other individual items that are lovely in themselves but don't necessarily compliment each other.  

This is where you have to resist, step back and think about whole outfits for each day/evening that you know go together, require little space and won't cause you headaches when you get on holiday and find half your bag full of clothes now clash in a non-cool way.

3.  Jumpsuits and dresses are good.  They are essentially one item that covers all of you. Zero thought needed.  Accessorise at will and layer up/down as required.

4. Think light layers.  When short of space, I go for light, non-bulky clothes to layer up or down rather than taking heftier items.  Especially when camping, you do have to think about the potential for a good few degrees of temperature change between night and day, and a selection of cotton or silk vest tops, t shirts or tunics in coordinating colours will be more versatile and interchangeable than one or two big, thicker items.  I tend to go for greys or blues as they suit me and go with virtually any other colour to pep them up a bit. Oh, and waterproofs for your essential last layer for a rainy day.  

Here was the view from our tent when we arrived.  Cold, wet fog.  Layers were applied pronto for the first evening. Brrrr!

5.  Now you've got your capsule camping bag of layers, make room for one lovely thing that feels special. I ended up taking my second best panama hat as a compromise. You want a bit of individuality and to feel good after all, even if you're fighting for survival under canvas in the wilds of a Cornish southwesterly.  Oh my goodness, did we experience the wrath of the Cornish summer storms this week!  Brooding skies were never very far away, as was a bracing and rather unseasonal cold wind.

Tricky says we need a wind-break next time we go camping.  He's suggested I sew one rather than buy it, designed to go with our camp colours (red, blue and pink).  This sounds like a lot of 'straight line' sewing to me, which is a bit uninspiring and takes aaaaaaaages.  Plus it would have needed to be some substantial fabric to withstand the force 8 gale that descended on us on Wednesday night.  On the other hand, something about the idea of a very unique 'statement' wind-break sort of makes it seem worthwhile!  We spend a lot of time on the beach, at all times of year, so I can see it coming into good use with maybe a matching carry bag too.  I see another sewing project joining the list.

Porthleven revealed itself to be a great base for exploring and the town itself has a good selection of pubs, restaurants and little shops to keep you fed and topped up with treats on a wet day.  This little bakery, the Horse and Jockey, served the biggest cornish pasties I have ever seen!

Deliciously hot, substantial and well deserved on a cold and rainy summer teatime.

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