Wild camping a little closer to the stars

Three days of uninterrupted sunshine, of cooking over the campfire, and chilling out by the river.
Three days of back-to-basics camping, outdoor living and gentle adventuring.
Three days of pure escapism and utter relaxation.

We even went for our first wild swim of the year!

We are back from an idyllic weekend of wild camping at Tipi Adventures Ireland‘s wilderness site near Rathdrum, Co Wicklow. Following our recent (and hugely successful) giveaway, we were invited to the official launch in Ireland of the fabulous Tentsile tree tents, over the May bank holiday weekend.

Tentsile tree tents

For practical reasons, we didn’t actually sleep in a tree tent – they’re not exactly suited to large families like ours. Still the acorns got to see them up close in their dreamy riverside setting.

“Next time we come, we’re sleeping here!” These were Jedi’s words as the acorns played gleefully on the bouncy platform below the incredible “trilogy” of tree tents. 

Check out the slideshow below to understand why it took so long to lure them away from the tree tents.

 

Wild camping in a tipi

Instead, we stayed at Tipi Adventures‘ “family hub” – 5 tipis arranged around a communal campfire under the trees. This is the sight we were treated to on arrival, on a delightfully warm Saturday afternoon.

 

We stayed in the tipi at Stand 4, while Norma, winner of the giveaway, camped next to us with her husband and their two sons, aged 5 and 11. The prize was initially for a 2-night stay in a tree tent but it would have been too small for the four of them. So Ed, owner of Tipi Adventures, offered to put them up in a tipi instead.

It was their first time camping as a family, and they soon fell under the spell of wild camping in a tipi. 

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Near the tipis, a basic kitchen area – waist-high worktops made of a single, rough-hewn plank on stilts, which the acorns promptly appropriated as their workshop. 

Using their Mora whittling knives, Jedi and Mermaid had soon made two fairy doors, which added a touch of magic to our camp.

From then on and for the rest of the weekend, the workshop was a hive of activity, with children whittling sticks into spears and arrows, crushing rocks with the wooden mallet, or assembling bows from a stick and a piece of string.

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Placing an order… Result!

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Wild Girl

Around the campfire

As often when wild camping, life revolved around the campfire.

Smoldering gently, blazing heartily or crackling merrily, the communal campfire, built inside a wide circle of stones and under a bellowing parachute, burnt non-stop from the moment we arrived on Saturday afternoon, until the last guests (us!) left two full days later.

With a low bench to prepare food (as the kitchen area had been taken over as the children’s workshop – see above) and a dozen logs to sit on, the campfire immediately became the social hub of the camp. 

Pat, a bushcraft expert who stayed in one of the tipis with his young family, first lit the fire with a feather stick.

feather stick (sometimes referred to as a fuzz stick) is a length of wood which is shaved to produce a cluster of thin curls protruding from the wood. It allows damp wood to be used to start a fire when dry tinder is hard to find.

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This was the first of many bushcraft tips and tricks that we picked up over the course of the weekend.

The next day, Pat showed Mermaid how to chop wood using her whittling knife and an improvised mallet. And just before leaving, Ross, a scout leader who works for Tipi Adventures, cut up slices of a bicycle tube to secure in their sheaths the acorns’ Mora knives.

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Outdoor cooking

Of course, breakfast, lunch and dinner were cooked over the campfire. Even though the acorns didn’t help out as much this time, busy as they were playing with their new friends, cooking and eating soon gathered everyone, young and less young, around the fire – conversations started, tastings took place, tips and recipes were exchanged.

With the Kelly kettle nearby to boil the water collected from the stream, bacon and eggs, pancakes, fish in tinfoil, pasta, quesadillas, even pizza in a cast-iron Dutch oven, were on the menu.

Read this / A lire  Four Acorns go camping in a tipi / Quatre graines de chêne dans un tipi

When the time came to finally bake our infamous snøbrød (Danish bread on sticks, sometimes called dampers), the sun had long set over the tipi camp. Still, the acorns successfully mentored Norma’s son into making his first ever bread roll on a stick. 

The next day, Norma asked for the recipe before they set off for home, as it apparently was “the best bread” Cillian had ever eaten!

Read this / A lire  Campfire bread on a stick (snobrød) / Pain au feu de camp (snobrød)
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Preparing the pancake batter 

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Fetching water from the stream 

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Washing up in the stream 

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Wild swimming

gravel-beach-wooden-sign-tipi-adventures-irelandIt was our first wild swim of the year, and our first time swimming in an Irish river. The Avonmore provided the ideal setting.

The weather felt like a summer’s day. So when our friends Anita and Tom paid us a visit with their two boys, we walked down to the gravel beach, determined to go for a quick dip.

It wasn’t long before Jedi and Mermaid waded in, while Squirrel and his best friend chased each other on land and in water. Pebbles and M were happy throwing stones in the water.

I was the first adult to go in. It had been six months since my last sea swim, yet stepping in the cool peat-coloured water, the vice-like sensation on my feet and legs was nowhere near as bad as expected, and I could wade in, slowly but steadily. 

Tom, then Anita, followed me, and finally Brian. The water was undeniably cold, but swimming in the warm sunshine of this glorious weekend of wild camping felt like the right thing to do.

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Foraging

As soon as the acorns got out of the car on Saturday afternoon, Mermaid spotted a patch of shamrock leaves, i.e. wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), and checked with me before announcing to her brothers that chewing on this edible leaf leaves a lemony taste in your mouth. 

Wood sorrel 

For the rest of the weekend Pebbles picked some “lemonade leaves” every time he spotted them, chewing them for a while before spitting them out. He even encouraged my friend Anita and her son to try them!

There were several coconut-scented gorse shrubs around the edges of the wilderness site, as well as stands of beech trees with bright young leaves. We also spotted several bluberry bushes, with their unripe berries still red and tiny.

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Unripe blueberries

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Beech trees

But the foraging highlight of our wild camping weekend came on the Sunday, when Tipi Adventures‘ Ross showed us where and how to dig for pignuts (Conopodim majus).

This elusive wild tuber looks a bit like a Jerusalem artichoke, with a hazelnut flavour. With delicate carrot-like leaves, it grows underground, at the end of a thin, twisted stem, which breaks ever so easily. 

Read this / A lire  Foraging – A taste of the wild / Un goût de nature

The soft, sandy soil of the river bank made digging for pignuts slightly easier. After several minutes of determined excavation, Jedi triumphantly pulled one out of the ground. On Ross’ advice, he washed it in the river and peeled off its brown skin, before taking an impatient nibble out of it.

Because it was our family’s first ever pignut, we all took a bite to try it. Pignuts do indeed taste like hazelnuts, only with a drier, more carrot-like texture. They can be used in salads, or sliced and slightly fried in butter, but gathering enough pignuts for a full dish would be time-consuming indeed!

Pignut leaf

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Pignut

It was only a while later as we explored the riverside further downstream, that Mermaid dropped to her knees on spotting the delicate leaf of a pignut. Jedi also started digging beside her and soon extracted a medium-sized tuber.

Mermaid hadn’t found one yet, and her determination never wavered. When the stem broke after nearly 10 minutes of dogged efforts, Brian helped her dig deeper through the maze of roots and small pebbles, until the biggest pignut was finally pulled out!

Riverside chilling

Just like six months ago when we first tried wild camping in a tipi, many hours were whiled away by the majestic Avonmore River.

Fast-flowing yet calm and quiet, wild and unspoilt yet accessible, majestic yet gentle, it suddenly appears between the broad-leaf trees lining its banks – a true hidden gem.

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At lunchtime on the last day, while the other guests packed and left one by one, we settled on the gravel beach with two folding chairs and a tarp, for a Kelly kettle picnic by the water.

Following these two hours of chilling out by the river, our weekend of wild camping came to a close.

The warmth of dappled sunlight as it glided over the forest floor;
The ringing of children’s laughter as they played among the trees;
The elusive scent of a warm summer evening as smoke wafted around the camp; 
The crackling of the campfire as dusk slowly descended over the tipis;
The constant murmur of the river flowing nearby as the stars twinkled in the night sky.

With the sun still shining, we drove home, feeling deeply refreshed after this time away.
Away and yet not far from home.

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Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. Should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on one of them, I may receive a small commission and your purchase will help support this site.
For the purpose of this article, we were guests of Tipi Adventures Ireland for two nights of wild camping for the official launch of the Tentsile range of tree tents. All opinions are honest and my own.

     

 

Practical information

Tipi Adventures
Rathdrum
Co Wicklow
Tel. +353 0877866734
Email ed@tipiadventures.ie
Facebook @TipiAdventures

Tipi Adventures hold tipi & hammock adventure camps in Wicklow throughout the year, at their private wilderness site located between Laragh and Rathdrum. The site is in a woodland setting with the beautiful Avonmore River flowing alongside it. Experience a true wilderness camping adventure in a tranquil location with its own private entrance and car parking. 

Some people rarely get the opportunity to experience a camping adventure due to lack of equipment. Tipi Adventures facilitate family gatherings, youth groups, scouts, schools, clubs and corporate groups with the exclusive use of their site and equipment.

Prices start at €200 for the initial night (€310 for 2 nights, €65 per night thereafter) camping in a tipi which can sleep up to 12 persons. See details of tipi packages here.

The online store offers tipis for sale, along with a wonderful range of camping essentials.

 

 

Country Kids Fifi and Hop  Potty Adventures
 

18 Responses to “Wild camping a little closer to the stars

  • Oh wow, what a gorgeous way of reconnecting with nature. I’ll be looking through your blog for inspiration – we’re another bilingual family, based in Northern France, and I’d love to bring the kids over to explore Ireland very soon 🙂 #CountryKids

  • Such an amazing back to nature experience for the children. You had the most beautiful weather and the photos look idyllic. Just look at all those wonderful skills they are learning out in the wild, they are having such a great time, it makes me wish all children could experience this. When they get a little older I bet they will be doing it on their own. I have a group of children, including my own, wild camping on an island in our river tonight. They have the tent set up and a fire made, it is wonderful to see. I worry that their poor parents have paid for the luxury of Coombe Mill and the kids have opted to sleep in a tent with mine, but then it is all part of what we offer, nothing is off limits and we encourage the children to be as wild and free as they dare under supervision appropriate to their age (this bunch are all teenagers). I can just see your four doing the same. This is what childhood is all about.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

  • What a beautiful setting for your latest adventure. It looks like you all had so much fun. #CountryKids

  • this looks and sounds like an amazing few days, with oh so much going on and so many varied activities to do.
    What a shame the tree top is not suitable for a family of 4, a fairly average family size today.
    I like that she asked for approval before eating what she had picked, I would have no idea what is safe and what is not. #CountryKids
    I am not a camping lover, to many midges and other beasties for my linking

  • What a lovely setting for an adventure, it looks and sounds like you had a great few days. I’ve not been camping myself, I think I’d miss my creature comforts too much!

  • What a lovely weekend away and it does look idyllic. I love the look of the tree tents although I have to confess I would have been happier on the ground in a tipi! Love the fairy doors and the wild swimming looks like so much fun. #countrykids

  • A great adventure for the family. I love that you are teaching your children important skills, getting outside and breathing in nature. What fun! I am intrigued by the tree tents. I want to enter the next giveaway for sure!

  • What a fantastic experience. You have me dreaming of returning to Ireland avec ma famille. #countrykids

  • How wonderful , this looks like a fantastic camping trip and a great experience for the children. We’ve got 2 camping trips planned this month, if ours are half so successful as yours I will be delighted! #FarawayFiles

  • The little ones will so love the memories of such outdoor experiences in nature, and your lovely photos will help to prompt those memories as they grow older. Camping can even make some adults turn into big kids for the day or so! Such a nice place in Ireland to know about for future reference. #FarawayFiles

  • What a beautiful adventure. Camping is such a wonderful thing to do with or without children. As a child we always went on camping holidays (although not wild camping!) and I have no doubt it has given me a continued love of the great outdoors and still love nothing more than eating and living outdoors. Your photos are gorgeous #FarawayFiles

  • Oh I know all about foraging! My brother is a professional forager and food writer in the Pacific Northwest and I’ve tried some pretty exotic things! Sounds like an idyllic weekend away. Camping, swimming, camp fires…summer is most definitely in the air! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

  • Oh goodness Annette – you’ve done it again. This just looks like a weekend of perfection. I miss wild camping with my littles, not so little anymore. The pancakes over the open fire just conjure so many good memories with my kids and with my parents. The tipis look like what we stayed in last summer in Northern Norway – so fun. But please tell me what a “pignut” is? I have never heard of this? We are pretty good foragers ourselves here in Scandinavia, going to pick hyldeblomst/elderflower this weekend! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  • This is my perfect family weekend! Looks just perfect. We’re hoping to try out some Tensile products this Summer…they look incredible! Great post #adventurecalling

  • Right. No more persuasion needed, we’ve got to come to Ireland for a holiday next year. This weekend looks incomparable and what a brilliant business Tipi Adventures are running. Totally love it. And the lemonade leaves and pignut foraging – Kids of the Wild heaven. When’s the next competition??!! #AdventureCalling

  • This looks like an amazing campsite. I’ve just added it to the list that I keep in notes on my phone of potential campsites to visit. The Tentsile experience in particular looks amazing. You certainly made great use of the campfire area too – these are such great communal areas for families to gather around and bond. Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling

  • What an incredible adventure for the Acorns! It looks so magical and perfect – wonderful memories for you all to treasure. Stunning photographs too! Would love to try something like this with our 3 boys – I reckon they would just adore it!

    #AdventureCalling

  • What an amazing weekend adventure. I read your post with a smile on my face, you all look so happy. I especially love the ‘wild girl’ photo of Mermaid. I like the idea of hanging about in trees, although I can see why you didn’t sleep in them. Luke loves watching wilderness videos on youtube so he’s now got a hankering for a tipi, I’d better not show him this or he’ll definitely be off buying one. Thanks for sharing #AdventureCalling

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