weekends away

A Whitstable weekend

So, a weekend away with my love ...

One in which I also fell in love.  With Whitstable.

Our Airbnb was perfect - exactly as described and absolutely ideal.

Right by the harbour.  

A little bit quirky, eclectic, perfect.

Rachel Redlaw whitstable
Rachel Redlaw whitstable
Rachel Redlaw Whitstable

Oh, and seafood!  I love fresh seafood.

Love being by the sea, wandering around the harbour and exploring.

The weather was such an unexpected bonus, but I know I'd love it just as much in the winter too, wrapping up against the sea winds and ending a walk in a cosy pub.

Rachel Redlaw Whitstable
Rachel Redlaw Whitstable
Rachel Redlaw Whitstable

Rachel Redlaw Whitstable
Rachel Redlaw Whitstable
Rachel Redlaw Whitstable

I love being outdoors, connecting with the seasons.

I love being able to walk to get everything we need - and here in just a few streets are supermarkets, farmers' markets, places to eat and drink, interesting individual and independent shops.

We didn't even cook!

I know - me not cooking?!

Nope, we ate out every meal which included a good Saturday night curry and a Sunday brunch of oysters at the harbour.

And within a short drive so much to explore (next time) ... Canterbury, Margate, more of the coast.

We did stumble across Botany Bay - idyllic in this sunshine, to lie on the beach and watch the blue, blue sky, the happy dogs playing around, the little white cliffs.

Rachel Redlaw Whitstable
Rachel Redlaw Whitstable

I wondered yet again, even as we drove away, why I haven't  come here before!

I now know because the time for us (me and Whitstable) to meet was right NOW.

Utterly perfect.

I'm already planning the next trip. And the next after that.

One of them is going to be a rendezvous just me and Whitstable - at only an hour and 15 on the train from London right into the town, it's going to be a perfect little writing retreat ...


A weekend camping in Oxfordshire

The weather's been a bit iffy so far this summer, a bit changeable, well ... just a bit 'British summer' really, but the forecast for this weekend was sunshine, so a spur-of-the-moment decision was made, Friday quickly booked off work, and a weekend camping planned.

it did mean several hours Thursday evening spent searching campsites within 90 minutes of so of London ... but in turn that means I now have a new shortlist of great-looking campsites to visit. 

The 'within 90 minutes' is a new rule (to add to: big, lots of space and no crowding; predominantly campsite as opposed to caravan park / motorhomes; campfires allowed. And possibly it's a new rule only for this trip - but when the weather's beautiful and you end up stuck for 4-5 hours each way in the car for one weekend, it doesn't always make sense.

Last year's camping trip to North Devon, was absolutely stunning, but ... it felt a really long way to go for one full day there and, as it poured down, packing up in the teeming rain and then a long drive wasn't the most fun.

It was still well worth doing and I'd love to go back - read more here - but this trip was all about ease. 

So this year, we set off on Friday for Britchcombe Farm camping, just the other side of Oxford and set in the most stunning English countryside close to the beautiful Chalk Downs and historic Ridgeway path, with the famous White Horse Hill just above the farm.

Rachel Redlaw camping white horse
Rachel Redlaw camping in Oxfordshire

There are five - I think - different fields available for camping and just so much space.

That's what I really love about camping, being outdoors all the time of course and also having a sense of space, just gazing at the sky or the trees, lying on a rug, watching the clouds pass by. 

Other facilities at Britchcombe Farm - there's a tea shop open weekends, a warm welcome, free range eggs and local honey to buy in the on-site shop (which I didn't get to visit this time).

There are spotless portaloos in each field and a water tap, with toilets, showers and washing up facilities at the main farm entrance.

The only thing I think could have been improved on was the showers - I was in one that was freezing cold but then realised there were two that relied on the tank and three that were electric and therefore hot. Once I moved round and tried one of the electric ones it was fine, I just do love a good hot shower and think there could have been more.But that's the only (tiny) thing I could even fault at all.

There's also fridges and freezers to cool ice packs and store food.

I only wish I had more photos of the utterly gorgeous countryside - rolling hills and fields of pretty cream-coloured cows and some noisy sheep - but my phone died the first day and the portable chargers didn't really work, so I had an enforced 'digital detox' too, which was actually rather lovely not to even have the choice!

Gorgeous woods and hedgerows and some sort of magnificent hawk / falcon / bird of prey - just  to lie back on your rug and watch him glide on the airways and hover overhead was amazing to see. 

There isn't a supermarket all that local (that I found) so I'd advise bringing the majority of what you'll need (although we did stock up in the Waitrose in Wantage about 10 miles away through the prettiest ever tree-canopy-covered roads).

There's something so special about sitting outside making dinner, drinking a favourite Bloody Mary, listening to the sound of groups of kids having adventures and seeing the campfires start to be built.

Rachel Redlaw Bloody Mary
Rachel Redlaw camping campfire

Camping food on this trip was steak on the barbecue with salad and garlic baguette (just decided to try it and it worked better straight on the barbecue than wrapped in foil).

Bacon and eggs for breakfast on the camping stove.

Delicious pork belly slices and fish wrapped in foil with lime juice, chillies, garlic and a little fish sauce (based on this recipe) again all cooked on the barbecue.

So good! 

Rachel Redlaw camping steak barbecue
Rachel Redlaw steak campfire barbecue camping
Rachel Redlaw breakfast cooking camping camp stove

Home again now, everything smells of woodsmoke and my skin feels hot from being out in the sun so much.

Totally re-charged by nature ...

Britchcombe Farm is a brilliant campsite, beautifully natural, within easy reach of London, with the most stunning countryside and extremely good value.

I'm actually planning another quick visit before the end of this summer, it was so easy and so lovely.