Camping in the Forest-our perfect weekend & camping tips

Perfect is a strong word but bear in mind since previous holidays we have attempted often seem to involve some form of medical, financial or weather-related disaster I feel justified in using it on this occasion.

I had hoped for a idyllic few days under canvas while the children played outdoors, we could enjoy al fresco meals, traditional holiday activities like crabbing and beach combing and cosy evenings with my family.

camping and BBQ in New ForestI booked 2 nights at Ashurst Campsite through Camping in the Forest's clever site-finding app - a genius idea which came out of a collaboration between the Camping and Caravanning Club and the Forestry Commission.

I dreamed of a relaxing break while expecting a stressful blend of bored kids clamouring for electricity and constant work keeping our family of 7 comfortable, fed and happy.

And while I did spend quite a bit of time preparing meals using one gas ring and a mini BBQ it was FUN! I even managed to stick to my current low carb eating plan cooking bacon and mushrooms for breakfast. The smell was so wonderful even a visiting pony was spotted licking his lips.

The children played rounders and ball games, climbed trees, admired the wild New Forest ponies who meandered round the site looking for food (we hid ours in the car!) and even enjoyed helping to set up camp, fetching water, arranging their "bedrooms" and even washing up in the spotlessly clean washing up area in the toilet/shower/laundry block.

(As an aside that block was gorgeously warm and clean and I didn't see a single creepy crawly in there! )

camping in New Forest and wild ponies

I had a wonderful deja vu moment walking across to the block with our washing up with my younger daughter who is the spitting image of me at her age. It took me right back to when I went camping with my parents and I used to wash up with my mum. Sounds silly but I was so pleased to be able to share the camping experience of my youth with my own children.

We enjoyed a tasty BBQ, a sunny picnic, went crabbing and met up with my eldest son who lives about 30 minutes from Ashurst. We visited beautiful Beaulieu and admired the pier with train and ferry at Hythe (definitely going back there for a ferry ride) and the sight of wild ponies and cows in the New Forest was endlessly exciting!

crabbing on UK coast at Hayling island

Only a few gripes - some people don't seem to get camping etiquette. We were woken by inconsiderate people from different tents partying after the 10.30pm "quiet time" cutoff. One couple had a loud chat at 4am! You expect early mornings but children squealing at 6am with no-one seeming to be in control was a bit much too.

I was impressed to see the site had a phone charging facility and the laundry room looked fabulous but I was disappointed to discover there was no ice-block exchange service which I thought was pretty much standard at anything but the most primitive sites. That meant keeping food cool on a hot weekend was impossible even in our cool bags, and we ended up throwing food away which was frustrating on our tight budget.
camping at Ashurst in New Forest

We were lucky with the weather with only a short period of rain while we were still snuggled in our sleeping bags and the experience has boosted my enthusiasm for camping and we would love to go again soon.

Our top tip for newby campers - many "budget"stores like B&M, Wilkinson, and even Poundland now stock camping equipment like kettles, cookware, picnic sets, sleeping bags, blow up beds, fold-up chairs and even gas stoves providing great value for money especially if you are only planning to be a weekend camper.

Specialist camping stores are fabulous if you plan a longer trip or if you really don't know what you might need as they will have experts on hand to help you build your kit.

Have a practice session putting up a new tent and try to arrive at your site well before dusk. Don't spend a fortune on your first tent. Buy budget or borrow until you know what you want out of your tent.

We like a built-in ground sheet and a decent sized living area with lots of windows letting in light on drizzly days. Others must have an awning while others like a simple no-frills design which goes up and down quickly. Bear in ind many sites now either don't accept "jumbo" tents or charge a premium fee for them.

We got serious tent-envy walking round the campsite but with tents sometimes costing many hundreds of pounds it's sensible to consider just how often you might actually go camping before buying a tent and kit which costs as much as a short break in Spain!

Disclaimer: We enjoyed two nights free at Ashurst Campsite in the New Forest from Camping In The Forest (@Camping_CITF) for the purposes of this honest review. Views and opinions are my own.