Britain Goes Camping


Britain Goes Camping

Documentary telling the story of how sleeping under canvas evolved from a leisure activity for a few Edwardian gents to the quintessentially British family pastime it is today.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Britain Goes Camping. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

Camping has been at the heart of our nation's holidaymaking for 100 years.

0:00:100:00:14

Leaving our towns and cities behind, to sleep under canvas

0:00:140:00:19

and to cook over a campfire, has become a quintessentially British pastime.

0:00:190:00:25

I think the camper has always been someone who is quite stoic.

0:00:270:00:32

Someone who has a wry smile, and to be able to carry on in the face of adversity.

0:00:320:00:38

Ah, I think it snowed in the night.

0:00:400:00:43

You're looking a bit Scott of the Antarctic.

0:00:430:00:47

I'm going out for a short walk, I may be some time.

0:00:470:00:49

Starting out as a middle class leisure activity for a handful of adventurous gents,

0:00:520:00:57

camping was transformed by innovations

0:00:570:01:01

and became synonymous with the cheap family holiday.

0:01:010:01:05

The first time that I went into a tent, aged three,

0:01:050:01:10

I couldn't believe it, I just thought it was incredible.

0:01:100:01:13

It had a little window in it that I thought was amazing.

0:01:130:01:17

It had an inner tent with a zip.

0:01:170:01:21

And I was very impressed.

0:01:210:01:24

Despite the weather,

0:01:240:01:25

camping has given us the opportunity to explore the hidden corners

0:01:250:01:29

of our coastline and countryside,

0:01:290:01:33

and to celebrate our relationship with the great British outdoors.

0:01:330:01:37

Unlike anything else, camping really lets you get amongst nature.

0:01:380:01:43

You're out in a field, breathing fresh air,

0:01:430:01:46

you've got the sun on your face, the wind in your hair.

0:01:460:01:49

And you're really up close and personal with nature.

0:01:490:01:52

But the story of camping also charts a century of social and cultural change

0:01:540:01:59

and our struggle to get away from the rules and regulations of modern life.

0:01:590:02:03

To replace them, even for a short time, with a life under canvas.

0:02:030:02:09

From its earliest days, camping for pleasure in Britain flourished

0:02:300:02:33

because it provided an escape from our growing industrial cities.

0:02:330:02:38

For enthusiasts like Dixe Wills from London,

0:02:410:02:44

this desire to get away from the stresses of modern life,

0:02:440:02:48

to get back to the simple delights of the countryside,

0:02:480:02:51

is still at the heart of camping's appeal.

0:02:510:02:54

In Britain, particularly, we're very urbanised.

0:02:580:03:01

A lot of people have decided, right, actually,

0:03:010:03:05

there is a way we can get out, even if it's just for a weekend.

0:03:050:03:09

It doesn't have to be for a week or two, even for a night.

0:03:090:03:13

And be out of the city, be out of your town

0:03:130:03:16

and actually enjoy the countryside.

0:03:160:03:19

In Britain we have some fantastic countryside.

0:03:190:03:22

And camping is a really cheap way of doing that.

0:03:220:03:24

We live lives surrounded by concrete and bricks and wallpaper and carpet,

0:03:260:03:32

and sometimes just leaving all that and just getting down and thinking,

0:03:320:03:37

"The grass smells really nice this morning,"

0:03:370:03:40

that sort of thing you don't get if you don't go camping.

0:03:400:03:43

Although we may take it for granted today,

0:03:530:03:56

camping for pleasure is relatively new in Britain.

0:03:560:04:00

For many years it was primarily only soldiers who slept under canvas,

0:04:010:04:07

as tents were simply a practical solution for armies on the move.

0:04:070:04:12

But in the late 19th century, the idea of camping for fun was born - on the back of a bicycle.

0:04:120:04:20

I think people often forget how revolutionary a technology the bicycle was.

0:04:330:04:38

The bicycle opens up the countryside

0:04:380:04:41

and also gives this sense of individual movement,

0:04:410:04:45

the ability to carry equipment with you,

0:04:450:04:47

the ability to explore and go wherever you want.

0:04:470:04:50

When the bike came along and suddenly allows more freedom to travel,

0:05:030:05:07

it was a logical progression to actually carry camping gear,

0:05:070:05:11

and, if you like, it was the time of the gentleman gypsy.

0:05:110:05:15

They could go exploring the countryside, you could escape

0:05:150:05:18

the grime of the cities and get out into the fresh air.

0:05:180:05:22

There was a natural movement going on in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

0:05:220:05:28

And cycle camping just appealed.

0:05:280:05:30

The man behind this quiet revolution was Thomas Hiram Holding,

0:05:330:05:39

a tailor from Shropshire, now regarded as the father of modern camping.

0:05:390:05:44

He moved around as a journeyman tailor.

0:05:440:05:48

And while he was at Cheltenham, he founded the bicycle club there.

0:05:480:05:54

And then he suggested that it would be a good idea

0:05:540:05:59

to start a club for cyclists.

0:05:590:06:01

Using his skills as a tailor, Holding developed a lightweight tent that could be carried on his bicycle

0:06:010:06:08

and a tweed suit practical for cycling and camping.

0:06:080:06:13

He was designing very, very small, lightweight equipment.

0:06:160:06:20

But in honesty, when you look at some of the tent designs

0:06:200:06:23

from the early 1900s, stand up to being compared with modern-day lightweight tents,

0:06:230:06:30

made out of modern synthetics.

0:06:300:06:33

Making full use of his own innovations,

0:06:350:06:37

in 1897, Holding set off to Connemara in the west of Ireland

0:06:370:06:42

and wrote about his experiences in his book, Cycle And Camp.

0:06:420:06:47

In the end of the book he wrote, anybody interested, he'd try and help them.

0:06:500:06:56

Later on, he had 12 names and he wrote to these people and founded the Association of Cycle Campers.

0:06:560:07:02

In 1901, Holding organised the association's first camp in a field in Oxfordshire.

0:07:040:07:11

Six middle-class professional men turned up, and from these humble beginnings a mass movement was born.

0:07:110:07:19

Over a century later, cycle camping still holds the same appeal

0:07:290:07:33

for people like 68-year-old Graham Lawrence from Yorkshire.

0:07:330:07:37

Every year he cycles thousands of miles and spends nearly a quarter of his time living in a tent.

0:07:390:07:46

I meet up with a lot of people when I'm camping.

0:07:480:07:52

It makes me happy.

0:07:520:07:54

With cycle camping, you can see things that you can't see in a car.

0:07:550:08:01

As long as you go for lightweight kit and not carry too much,

0:08:010:08:06

you can enjoy the cycling part of it.

0:08:060:08:09

Camping, yes, I enjoy being under my little tent.

0:08:090:08:13

It's warm, it's cosy and I can please myself what time I come in and what time I go out.

0:08:130:08:19

From the beginning, cycle campers were masters of invention and innovation,

0:08:220:08:27

making their own sleeping bags, rucksacks and, in some cases, even the tents themselves.

0:08:270:08:34

One such enthusiast was Stephen Hilhouse from Uxbridge in London.

0:08:380:08:44

He passed on his love of camping and the outdoors to his daughters

0:08:440:08:49

over 80 years ago.

0:08:490:08:51

Daddy invented the triangular piece of material

0:08:550:08:58

so you could have the doors out to shelter your stove, if you wanted to.

0:08:580:09:03

You could put things under the flysheet.

0:09:030:09:05

That was very good, very clever.

0:09:050:09:08

He was one of the founder members of the camping club.

0:09:160:09:19

I think he was member 33, or something like that.

0:09:190:09:21

He was right in the early days of the camping club

0:09:210:09:26

and he knew Mr Holding, who started the Association of Cycle Campers.

0:09:260:09:31

He loved it because it got him out from London,

0:09:310:09:35

where he lived, out into the country.

0:09:350:09:37

And he really did enjoy that.

0:09:370:09:39

And he loved exploring and he just loved the open air.

0:09:390:09:45

My father had this special camping cycle,

0:09:450:09:48

and it had brazed-on carriers, it had three brakes,

0:09:480:09:52

a milk bottle carrier, a stove carrier.

0:09:520:09:56

It had spring seat pillars, spring pole carrier,

0:09:560:09:59

and a Dursley Pedersen three-speed gear.

0:09:590:10:02

There's the Primus stove fitted in there.

0:10:020:10:05

And the milk bottle there.

0:10:050:10:08

And a special carrier on the front,

0:10:080:10:10

and another special carrier on the back, carrying the tent.

0:10:100:10:14

It had everything he needed.

0:10:140:10:16

This is a photograph of our family taken in our garden.

0:10:180:10:22

That's my father, there's my mother.

0:10:220:10:25

And this is my elder sister, Agnes.

0:10:250:10:28

That's me, and this is our friend, and this is Nan.

0:10:280:10:32

We were all babies when he took us camping.

0:10:340:10:37

I think I was three months old when I first went camping.

0:10:370:10:40

We went to Wales and this farmer's wife

0:10:400:10:42

was horrified to think this little baby

0:10:420:10:45

was going to be put in a tent and she insisted on our mother

0:10:450:10:48

taking me and my sister, Agnes, who was a bit older,

0:10:480:10:50

into the house while Daddy went and pitched the tent.

0:10:500:10:53

She wouldn't let him take us out

0:10:530:10:55

to the tent until it was all ready for us.

0:10:550:10:57

It was so exciting. Because I was the youngest anyway.

0:10:570:11:01

I don't know, I just loved it. We went to all these...

0:11:010:11:06

Especially to Ricky. We used to go to Rickmansworth

0:11:060:11:09

and they had a big campfire, and it was very exciting for a little girl.

0:11:090:11:14

Although leisure camping, with all its innovations,

0:11:180:11:22

was beginning to take hold in Britain, it was still perceived as

0:11:220:11:26

a gentleman's country sport, just like shooting and fishing,

0:11:260:11:29

and not deemed suitable for the working classes.

0:11:290:11:33

It was highly aspirational, in a sense, to go camping, right from the start.

0:11:370:11:42

It required you to be able afford to have

0:11:440:11:47

even two weeks off, or three weeks off,

0:11:470:11:49

something that most ordinary people would never have.

0:11:490:11:52

They would never have paid holidays or even holidays. They couldn't afford it.

0:11:520:11:56

When one looks at the early list of members, they've got clergymen,

0:11:580:12:04

doctors, lawyers and people from universities and that sort of thing.

0:12:040:12:10

So they were middle class, upper middle class.

0:12:100:12:13

Camping was something that was participated by quite wealthy people,

0:12:130:12:18

who had a network of perhaps friends and associates and landowners,

0:12:180:12:22

where they would have this allowable space that they could camp.

0:12:220:12:25

But most people would be seen as sort of indigenous peasants

0:12:250:12:30

or barred from actually having access to farmland and places to camp.

0:12:300:12:36

For its well-heeled enthusiasts, camping's promise of freedom and good clean air

0:12:360:12:44

was the perfect antidote to life in the growing towns and cities of Edwardian Britain.

0:12:440:12:49

One of the biggest drivers for the early campers was the need to get out

0:12:510:12:55

of the cities and to escape the factory or the mills,

0:12:550:12:59

where people living in cities were seen

0:12:590:13:02

quite often as being places where disease spread

0:13:020:13:06

and that they were unhealthy, they were smoky, smoggy

0:13:060:13:10

and just generally unpleasant.

0:13:100:13:13

I think of camping as being something that people in cities do.

0:13:130:13:17

In its history it's grown up as

0:13:170:13:20

away of people getting away from the industrial life,

0:13:200:13:24

which lay behind the formation of these large cities.

0:13:240:13:28

And to kind of explore their physical health a bit more.

0:13:280:13:33

This need for a healthier Britain was brought into sharper focus

0:13:340:13:38

after the devastation of the First World War.

0:13:380:13:41

Camping was no longer just a pleasant pastime

0:13:410:13:45

but at the heart of a social revolution

0:13:450:13:47

to improve the health of the nation.

0:13:470:13:49

One of the things which has always triggered concerns about health

0:13:550:14:00

and fitness in Britain is war.

0:14:000:14:02

The First World War simply adds another layer to that.

0:14:020:14:07

There are a lot of fears that the state of the nation

0:14:070:14:10

was in decline, the health and fitness of the nation was in decline.

0:14:100:14:14

There almost a rotten core of the Empire.

0:14:140:14:17

It's no coincidence that one of the leading figures in the camping movement after the First World War

0:14:180:14:23

was Lord Baden-Powell, who in the Edwardian period had set up the Scout movement,

0:14:230:14:27

and then the Guide movement had been a spin-off from that.

0:14:270:14:31

Baden-Powell, indeed, talked about camping with a purpose.

0:14:310:14:36

Which perfectly captures that idea

0:14:360:14:38

that something which might be seen as leisurely and almost indulgent

0:14:380:14:43

instead has a purpose and a focus and a goal.

0:14:430:14:47

# The sun has got his hat on Hip hip hip hooray.

0:14:470:14:51

# The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today. #

0:14:510:14:55

The idea of creating beautiful, healthy young bodies in a sense

0:14:550:15:00

was part of the reaction to the destruction of all those healthy, young bodies in World War One.

0:15:000:15:07

There was this huge popular uprising of people wanting to get out.

0:15:070:15:12

Better transport systems brings the ability for far more people to access the countryside.

0:15:120:15:19

The countryside was seen as being a place where people could rediscover

0:15:210:15:28

an essential part of what it was to be human.

0:15:280:15:32

This connection with nature.

0:15:320:15:34

It used to be described as people's natural rhythm.

0:15:340:15:38

If you took yourself off into the countryside, you would discover this and become a better person almost.

0:15:380:15:44

You would become physically fitter,

0:15:440:15:46

you would become spiritually more at peace with yourself and your place in the world.

0:15:460:15:51

# All the little boys excited All little girls delighted.

0:15:510:15:55

# What a lot of fun for everyone Sitting in the sun all day. #

0:15:550:15:59

This new enthusiasm for the outdoors was transforming the map of Britain.

0:16:010:16:06

Major cities like London were ringed by the country's first campsites,

0:16:080:16:13

where campers could enjoy a short break in the countryside

0:16:130:16:16

and a new sense of freedom.

0:16:160:16:19

In films of the time you see a classic transformation between a rather gloomy, grey,

0:16:210:16:27

perhaps smoky urban environment

0:16:270:16:29

and then the movement out to a much brighter, open air in the country.

0:16:290:16:36

That shift in environment goes along with a shift in appearance of the people involved,

0:16:360:16:42

a shift in their demeanour, from boredom to exhilaration,

0:16:420:16:46

or from wearing office clothing to wearing open-air shorts

0:16:460:16:50

and other kinds of equipment.

0:16:500:16:53

Both men and women were free to wear shorts from the 1920s onwards.

0:16:530:16:58

In the look at camping photos, within almost 20 years,

0:16:580:17:01

from the turn of the century to the 1920s,

0:17:010:17:05

suddenly you have got both men and women

0:17:050:17:08

wearing quite revealing clothing, loose clothing.

0:17:080:17:13

Shorts, no ties, no hats.

0:17:130:17:15

Clothing was not the only thing that was changing.

0:17:170:17:20

A thriving industry was developing around their needs,

0:17:200:17:22

with sleeping bags, rucksacks and a full range of gadgets,

0:17:220:17:28

from Primus stoves to hacksaws and coat-hangers.

0:17:280:17:31

These were becoming the must-have camping accessories.

0:17:310:17:34

And with its growing popularity, camping was changing how people spent their time in the countryside.

0:17:380:17:45

It was somewhere they could go to socialise

0:17:450:17:47

through organised activities such as canoeing, rambling and folk dancing.

0:17:470:17:53

But the expansion of camping brought with it new problems.

0:18:010:18:05

Not everyone welcomed the idea of hordes of city dwellers

0:18:050:18:09

descending upon the peaceful countryside and pitching their tents wherever they liked.

0:18:090:18:14

I think the fear was that as camping became more and more popular,

0:18:160:18:19

particularly amongst the working class population, was that there would be droves and droves

0:18:190:18:25

of people going into the countryside and behaving in a manner that was inappropriate.

0:18:250:18:29

At the beginning of the 1930s, some local councils used housing by-laws

0:18:310:18:36

to prevent the erection of any movable dwellings, including tents and caravans.

0:18:360:18:42

Where camping had started out as an expression of freedom,

0:18:420:18:45

it now found itself subject to the rules and regulations of the bureaucrats.

0:18:450:18:51

In the 1920s and 1930s there was a lot of legislation going through.

0:18:540:18:58

In fact, I believe in 1930 there were 100 bills going through Parliament

0:18:580:19:05

that would seriously restrict camping as a leisure industry.

0:19:050:19:09

The 1936 Public Health Act contained a raft of severe measures

0:19:110:19:16

aimed at controlling the conduct of campers.

0:19:160:19:19

They included a ban on the sale of bread, butter and milk on a campsite,

0:19:230:19:28

no more than one tent to be pitched per acre, and none to be erected within 20 feet of a hedge.

0:19:280:19:34

After a hard-fought campaign, the Camping Club gained exemption

0:19:360:19:39

from these restrictions, but only for members staying at its own official sites.

0:19:390:19:45

The club then set about presenting itself as a respectable organisation

0:19:480:19:52

with a strict code of conduct for all its members.

0:19:520:19:56

If you look at the camping literature and, indeed, the camping film of the time,

0:19:590:20:03

what you get is this a theme of respectability and good conduct.

0:20:030:20:09

It is also reinforcing that feeling that camping could be something which,

0:20:090:20:13

while slightly curious and for some people's eyes slightly strange, was essentially something respectable.

0:20:130:20:19

It had rules, it had certain codes and it had a purpose to it.

0:20:190:20:25

There were certain rules. One, you don't leave any litter around.

0:20:340:20:38

You always ask permission to camp, you never go and camp on common land or waste ground.

0:20:380:20:43

The idea is that literally, like Baden-Powell, you leave nothing but your thanks.

0:20:450:20:50

As camping in Britain was undergoing this transformation, some experienced enthusiasts

0:20:510:20:57

were already planning more adventurous trips

0:20:570:20:59

and to pitch their tents in foreign fields.

0:20:590:21:04

One such camper was 13-year-old Stephanie Hilhouse,

0:21:040:21:08

who, in 1937, set off on holiday with her parents

0:21:080:21:13

to attend an international camping rally in Germany.

0:21:130:21:17

I was at school and my parents then said we were going to go to Germany

0:21:170:21:22

for this international camp in the summer.

0:21:220:21:26

So it was very exciting.

0:21:260:21:28

I went with my elder sister and my parents to Wiesbaden. We went by car

0:21:280:21:34

and we went through Belgium, Holland and then to Germany

0:21:340:21:38

and we camped in Bonn and we camped in Wiesbaden. We went to this big international camp in Wiesbaden.

0:21:380:21:46

It was all very exciting because we had never done anything like that before.

0:21:520:21:56

But just occasionally you would get this feeling that something was going to happen.

0:21:560:22:04

Some people were worried about Hitler, definitely.

0:22:040:22:07

It was altogether rather exciting because there were so many people there.

0:22:170:22:22

When they had the grand opening, they had flagpoles up with all the different countries represented

0:22:220:22:27

by the different camping clubs and then there was one pole in the middle which was empty.

0:22:270:22:33

We thought, "What flag are they going to put up there? Are they going to put up an international flag?"

0:22:330:22:39

But instead of that, up went a great big swastika.

0:22:390:22:42

And my mother was standing with a whole lot of Germans, watching the opening ceremony.

0:22:490:22:54

They all put up their hands in a heil Hitler, and she was standing in the middle

0:22:540:22:59

feeling rather out of place because all these Germans were there with their heil-Hitlering.

0:22:590:23:04

And everywhere that you went, there would be a picture of Hitler. They had them all over the place.

0:23:110:23:16

And some of the people were extremely nice

0:23:160:23:19

and some of the people were rather harsh and not particularly nice.

0:23:190:23:25

Agnes and I made friends with a very lovely girl.

0:23:270:23:30

She was a sweet girl and we used to write to her when we got home.

0:23:300:23:35

And she died in the war in one of these camps, poor girl.

0:23:350:23:40

It was awful.

0:23:400:23:42

And I don't think, being so young, that I realised exactly what was going to happen until it did happen.

0:23:440:23:51

The 1930s had been a period of growth and innovation for the camping industry.

0:23:570:24:03

But by the end of the decade, the manufacturers switched to producing goods for the war effort.

0:24:030:24:08

As a much needed break from the country's bombed-out cities,

0:24:110:24:15

organised camping continued but on a greatly reduced scale.

0:24:150:24:19

Camping was restricted all along the east coast and the south coast.

0:24:210:24:26

Very restricted. Restricted near military installations.

0:24:260:24:30

A lot of people got together in their homes.

0:24:300:24:34

They would also help in the shelters, take their Primuses down

0:24:340:24:38

and make cups of tea in the underground shelters in London.

0:24:380:24:42

In the years after the war, camping struggled to regain its momentum.

0:24:430:24:48

But it was soon to receive a huge boost,

0:24:510:24:53

thanks to a man from the other side of the world and his exploits in the Himalayas.

0:24:530:24:59

On the 2nd June 1953, the day of Elizabeth II's Coronation,

0:25:050:25:10

news reached Britain that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

0:25:100:25:14

had reached the summit of Mount Everest.

0:25:140:25:17

The ascent of Everest had a major impact on the British outdoors, especially camping.

0:25:190:25:25

Not just in the fact that we have conquered the highest mountain in the world,

0:25:250:25:28

but it is the first time that people can actually see it.

0:25:280:25:32

It forced the development of the lighter weight gear, using lighter synthetic fabrics.

0:25:320:25:38

And there were major names coming to the fore.

0:25:380:25:42

We had people like Robert Saunders,

0:25:420:25:44

who was using lightweight spinnaker nylon to create ultra-light weight tents.

0:25:440:25:49

Robert Saunders from the East End of London was an innovator who helped transform the future of camping.

0:25:510:25:58

Traditionally, tents had been made out of natural materials such as canvas.

0:25:580:26:03

But Saunders produced the first tent made from synthetic materials,

0:26:030:26:08

fabrics that were associated with a very different kind of product.

0:26:080:26:14

You must know, if you have associated with the opposite sex at all,

0:26:180:26:23

that nylon is basically a feminine fabric.

0:26:230:26:26

It was used for ladies' underwear and all that sort of thing.

0:26:260:26:30

You could say that I cheated the system

0:26:310:26:35

and converted something that was feminine into something masculine.

0:26:350:26:40

Tents from a feminine fabric.

0:26:400:26:42

There were many objections to my tents in the beginning.

0:26:420:26:46

Resistance. I would travel the whole country trying to sell them,

0:26:460:26:50

but people wanted to stick to canvas.

0:26:500:26:53

Although Saunders' innovations were greeted with scepticism,

0:26:570:27:01

his use of manmade fabrics became the industry norm as increased lightness

0:27:010:27:05

and durability became selling points for the modern tent.

0:27:050:27:10

It opened up the world for a lot of people.

0:27:110:27:14

I can tell you that we still get tents back, 30 or 40 years old, for repair.

0:27:160:27:24

The new designs of tent manufacturers like Robert Saunders transformed camping.

0:27:270:27:32

It became accessible to ordinary British people

0:27:320:27:36

for whom camping wasn't a consuming passion but simply the means to a cheap family holiday.

0:27:360:27:41

# You need someone to lean on When you look there is no one there

0:27:410:27:47

# You're going to find me

0:27:470:27:50

# Out in the country

0:27:500:27:53

# You're going to find me Way out in the country. #

0:27:530:27:58

Ingenious innovations, such as the frame and Continental-style ridge tents,

0:27:580:28:04

with their extended living areas, also helped open camping up to this new mass market.

0:28:040:28:10

# In the country

0:28:100:28:14

# In the country. #

0:28:140:28:17

It attracted more families once the frame tents came out, definitely.

0:28:170:28:20

You could stand up in the frame tents,

0:28:200:28:23

you could have a big living area, and you could have separate bedrooms for Mum and Dad and the kids.

0:28:230:28:28

They became very, very popular.

0:28:280:28:30

# Out in the country! #

0:28:320:28:34

The idea that camping could be primarily a family pursuit

0:28:340:28:38

partly goes alongside the reinvention of the tent as a domestic space.

0:28:380:28:43

So partly in terms of design, in terms of quality of fabrics and so on.

0:28:430:28:48

But also the way in which you have tents with windows in them

0:28:480:28:52

and particular kinds of awnings that you can put on as extensions.

0:28:520:28:55

So the tent becomes a place which is at once completely different to home,

0:28:550:29:02

but also has a domestic quality in its own right.

0:29:020:29:05

Campsites could then be seen as spaces where lots of little homes were on, rather than necessarily

0:29:050:29:11

intrepid, adventurous youth roughing it for a couple of days.

0:29:110:29:16

Camping holidays proved ideal for young families in the 1950s.

0:29:180:29:24

They offered an enticing alternative to the restrictive rules and regulations of the guesthouses

0:29:240:29:29

that had dominated the British holiday landscape.

0:29:290:29:32

I think for many people the attractions of camping

0:29:360:29:39

far outweighed the attractions of the boarding house.

0:29:390:29:43

One of the main reasons given was that you were not under the watchful eye of the landlady.

0:29:430:29:48

You weren't subject to someone else's rules and relations, you could come and go as you pleased.

0:29:480:29:54

Working-class people did not like going to the boarding houses because the women who ran them

0:29:540:29:59

would often make them feel awkward about their manners or the behaviour of their children.

0:29:590:30:04

She would generally be upper working class or lower-middle-class.

0:30:040:30:07

She certainly would perceive herself as being a cut above them.

0:30:070:30:10

So they really took to camping as freeing them, I guess, from the dead hand of the middle classes.

0:30:100:30:17

But freedom was not the only appeal of camping.

0:30:190:30:23

For people like Alec Law from Woolwich in London, it offered the only affordable family holiday.

0:30:230:30:29

I had eight sons and to take eight sons on holiday anywhere

0:30:310:30:35

cost the earth.

0:30:350:30:37

But to take them into a field, to give them a tent,

0:30:370:30:40

and feed them on baked beans, fried eggs and bacon

0:30:400:30:44

don't cost a fortune.

0:30:440:30:47

I could not afford to go and put them in bed and breakfast somewhere.

0:30:470:30:51

I had to find a way of taking them away

0:30:510:30:54

or encouraging them to go and do something that would give them a holiday.

0:30:540:30:57

This passion for sleeping under the stars has been passed on through four generations of the Law family.

0:30:590:31:06

A love of the great outdoors has defined their leisure time

0:31:060:31:10

for over 50 years, for everyone except Alec's wife.

0:31:100:31:15

In the beginning, right when we first went camping, the wife came.

0:31:180:31:24

But one fateful night, we were camping

0:31:240:31:28

and a hedgehog got in the tent.

0:31:280:31:31

Well, my missus, she says she is 5ft, but she ain't really.

0:31:320:31:37

I thought she was going to go straight through the top of the tent!

0:31:390:31:43

She has never, ever come camping with me since.

0:31:430:31:46

She will come down and stay until 10 or 11 o'clock and then somebody will take her home, but she won't stay.

0:31:460:31:52

Now in his 80s, Alec still enjoys camping with his children,

0:31:530:31:58

grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

0:31:580:32:00

The campsite, more than anywhere else, is the place that bonds his family together.

0:32:000:32:07

I'll keep coming camping as long as they will bring me.

0:32:070:32:11

Because I like to come camping, and, luckily, my family like me to come.

0:32:110:32:16

I was asked if I want to come on this camp,

0:32:160:32:20

I didn't say, "I want to come."

0:32:200:32:22

They come and said, "Come on, Grandad, we're all going camping, want to come?"

0:32:220:32:28

I didn't need asking twice.

0:32:280:32:31

With its promise of a cheap family holiday, camping in Britain was booming.

0:32:330:32:38

During the 1950s,

0:32:380:32:41

membership of the Camping Club soared from 15,000 to 50,000.

0:32:410:32:46

Through District Associations and groups, the Camping Club provided a welcoming structure

0:32:500:32:56

and a cultural identity for its members, along with activities and entertainment to satisfy all tastes.

0:32:560:33:03

At the end of the camping season, the Camping Club had a big...

0:33:060:33:11

What they called the National Feast of Lanterns.

0:33:110:33:13

They would have sports things

0:33:150:33:17

or you would have these fancy-dress parades

0:33:170:33:19

and people would dress up in all sorts of different costumes.

0:33:190:33:22

You might be given a theme or you might just have a different costume and people would parade.

0:33:220:33:29

There was folk dancing that went on.

0:33:290:33:30

It was rather nice because you made friends with people

0:33:300:33:35

and you just get in touch with all these people. It was good.

0:33:350:33:39

There was a revival in the 1950s of a sense of pageants

0:33:440:33:48

and displays where people indulged in probably dress and behaviour

0:33:480:33:54

that was something quite different from what they would in normal, everyday life.

0:33:540:33:59

It was very much part of a tradition where people paraded through the streets dressed up,

0:33:590:34:04

often on Empire Day. And this tradition continued right through the 20th century.

0:34:040:34:10

There seems to have been a big revival in the 1950s and 1960s.

0:34:100:34:16

It was all part of camp life and camaraderie.

0:34:160:34:19

And camaraderie is a huge part of camping.

0:34:190:34:22

Now the very nature of camping was undergoing a transformation.

0:34:240:34:28

Once driven by a desire to escape to the peace and tranquillity of the countryside,

0:34:280:34:35

it was being fuelled by the desire to bond with other people, to have a sense of belonging.

0:34:350:34:40

Membership of a club was attractive to people

0:34:450:34:47

because you felt like you were part of a shared ethos.

0:34:470:34:53

Things like a regional meets, where people from a particular region

0:34:540:34:59

got together, or national meets, where people from across Britain

0:34:590:35:04

would come together for two to three days.

0:35:040:35:07

I think it was an opportunity to celebrate camping

0:35:070:35:12

with people who were like-minded.

0:35:120:35:16

Social developments in Britain were also contributing to the increasing popularity of camping.

0:35:190:35:26

Workers were enjoying improved terms for their holidays,

0:35:260:35:29

with over 90% of them now entitled to two weeks' paid leave per year.

0:35:290:35:33

British people were also becoming more mobile.

0:35:370:35:40

By 1960, one in ten people had their own car

0:35:400:35:44

and were able to take advantage of the country's improving road network.

0:35:440:35:49

Now, more than ever before, ordinary British families

0:35:530:35:57

could pack up their tent and escape to the countryside or coast.

0:35:570:36:02

Cars had an impact on camping

0:36:060:36:09

because it allowed people to carry heavier equipment, to take more equipment with them.

0:36:090:36:13

It also affected the places that people were able to access and to get to.

0:36:130:36:19

Places that were a bit more off the beaten track.

0:36:190:36:23

As more British families turned to camping holidays,

0:36:230:36:28

manufacturers responded to their demands for greater comfort and convenience.

0:36:280:36:32

They produced not only bigger tents,

0:36:320:36:35

but also ground-breaking alternatives such as the campervan and the trailer tent.

0:36:350:36:42

People were starting to use camping trailers and towing everything behind them.

0:36:420:36:48

It was a logical progression to actually fit the tent to the trailer.

0:36:480:36:53

And then have everything just expand out.

0:36:530:36:55

The canopy unfolds from its trailer to full size in a matter of seconds.

0:36:570:37:02

It comes complete with four beds and is particularly suitable for those with young families.

0:37:020:37:07

This tent, complete on its trailer, will cost you £255 to buy.

0:37:070:37:12

This was known as camping "light",

0:37:140:37:16

where holidaymakers could enjoy the experience of camping without all the hard work.

0:37:160:37:22

But despite the innovations that made life easier, it was still the fundamental freedom of camping

0:37:220:37:29

that appealed to people like Merseyside traffic warden Noel Aindow and his family.

0:37:290:37:35

We got a tent trailer,

0:37:360:37:39

which was better because you were off the ground.

0:37:390:37:42

Again, you did not have to worry about the weather the same, you knew the kids would be safer.

0:37:420:37:47

I think the first place we ever went to was North Wales.

0:37:560:38:00

You had the mountains around you.

0:38:000:38:02

As far as the kiddies were concerned, you were in another world.

0:38:020:38:05

You were just away from the normal town that you lived in.

0:38:050:38:08

It was just the scenery and the views they got.

0:38:080:38:11

We could not afford to go to hotels,

0:38:140:38:15

not with having three or four children.

0:38:150:38:18

It would have been far too expensive.

0:38:180:38:20

It would cost us a fortune if we were going to go to, say, Blackpool for the day.

0:38:200:38:23

Because of the rides and things. But if you go out in the wilderness,

0:38:230:38:27

everything is free.

0:38:270:38:29

For me, the most exciting part was knowing we were going.

0:38:320:38:38

I used to get really, really excited about it.

0:38:380:38:42

It was the freedom of it. The minute that you opened that tent in the morning,

0:38:420:38:45

as soon as you heard that zzzttt, you were off, you were out.

0:38:450:38:50

It was just the freedom for the children.

0:38:500:38:51

They could even go amongst the animals, there were sheep running around the fields. There were cows.

0:38:510:38:58

But then they also had the hills.

0:38:580:39:00

They loved to be up on the hills, and the freedom of running.

0:39:000:39:03

You were away from the traffic, you did not have to worry about roads.

0:39:030:39:08

Up there you would have the rocky hills and they'd climb up the little rocks.

0:39:110:39:15

You had the views, the climbing when we went up the mountains, or on the lake.

0:39:170:39:23

We thought, "What would the kiddies like to play with?"

0:39:230:39:26

They came up with their ideas, you know, "We would like a little dinghy."

0:39:260:39:29

The dinghy only cost us a few pounds, it wasn't expensive, the little oars.

0:39:290:39:34

They would play all day doing that.

0:39:340:39:37

There was so much that you could do. We would take the dinghy and spend hours and hours on the dinghy.

0:39:390:39:44

I can feel it now. I remember lying in it.

0:39:440:39:47

We all had goes, or we would share it.

0:39:470:39:51

Didn't we? The dinghy, yeah.

0:39:510:39:52

Looking back now at the camping holidays, the trips that we had,

0:40:000:40:03

absolutely fantastic memories, the best years of my life.

0:40:030:40:07

And I like to do it with my own children now

0:40:070:40:10

so they can feel how exciting it was, the feeling that we had.

0:40:100:40:14

I am glad that the children have kept on the idea of this camping.

0:40:160:40:21

All this natural thing, rather than jetting off here, there and everywhere.

0:40:210:40:26

We have got lovely country around us. It is all there.

0:40:260:40:30

But despite the attractions of our own countryside,

0:40:330:40:36

by the 1970s, many British campers were packing up and heading off to pastures new

0:40:360:40:42

on the other side of the English Channel.

0:40:420:40:45

And they did so in search of one thing a holiday at home could not guarantee - sunshine.

0:40:450:40:52

And once they got to popular destinations like the south of France,

0:40:520:40:55

many British campers enjoyed their first foreign holiday at a fraction of the cost of staying in a hotel.

0:40:550:41:02

For them, camping had opened up a whole new world.

0:41:020:41:07

Both my parents were from working-class families

0:41:070:41:10

and there was this real sense of, you know, "We can go to France!"

0:41:100:41:16

Our summer holidays camping in the south of France were a really big deal for my family.

0:41:410:41:45

My dad wouldn't take a lot of time off,

0:41:450:41:47

he would save all his time off into a three-week or four-week block

0:41:470:41:52

and then it was on.

0:41:520:41:54

The tent would be strapped to the top of the car

0:41:540:41:58

and we would drive from Liverpool in quite tense Dad silence.

0:41:580:42:03

The awfulness of the actual journey from home to the campsite

0:42:060:42:12

obviously depended on how far.

0:42:120:42:15

So if you are going to Normandy or Brittany, then it wasn't going to be that bad.

0:42:150:42:19

But if you were going all the way down to the south of France

0:42:190:42:22

or somewhere like that, it was going to be pretty much horrific.

0:42:220:42:25

One of my main memories is the trip. The 2,000 mile round trip from Liverpool.

0:42:270:42:31

It was a big factor in me not driving a car until I was 37.

0:42:310:42:35

The main thing I remember about French campsites in the '70s

0:42:480:42:52

was that there actually wasn't that much to do on them.

0:42:520:42:58

Apart from the toilet block, that was the entertainment.

0:42:580:43:03

The toilet block was the entertainment on camp.

0:43:030:43:06

French campsites were very large campsites.

0:43:120:43:15

There would always be a bar, pools, that I remember. A pizzeria maybe.

0:43:150:43:22

You would meet some English people.

0:43:220:43:24

Your parents would have a drink with them.

0:43:240:43:26

Sometimes they would have a drink a bit early and would nod off and forget where you were.

0:43:260:43:31

And then, of course, there was the beaches, which, when you were seven,

0:43:330:43:37

eight or nine, to see that many women without bikinis on

0:43:370:43:42

really did open my eyes to the potential of France.

0:43:420:43:46

I think it was all down to the book The Joy Of Sex coming out.

0:43:520:43:59

In comes the seventies, everyone takes everything off.

0:43:590:44:04

You know, from dawn to dusk, just wafting around in a bikini.

0:44:040:44:07

Wafting around in a very tight pair of Speedos

0:44:070:44:11

with your hands on your hips, wearing some flip-flops.

0:44:110:44:15

I once witnessed six men in very tight Speedos

0:44:180:44:22

trying to get car out of a ditch.

0:44:220:44:25

It was sensational!

0:44:270:44:29

Although British families were setting off in their droves to camp in France and elsewhere in Europe,

0:44:310:44:37

their sense of adventure reached a cultural cul-de-sac when it came to dinner time.

0:44:370:44:43

My mum would buy everything beforehand in catering quantities.

0:44:430:44:48

In fact, for many years, the children were told that French ice-cream was poison.

0:44:480:44:55

A friend of my father's called Dave Nash had told him,

0:44:550:44:59

in no uncertain terms, that you seriously couldn't eat any food in France.

0:44:590:45:06

That it was actually dangerous to eat.

0:45:090:45:13

And my father believed him, so he had just stockpiled tins of Spam and corned beef.

0:45:130:45:20

It was so grim, and he would just turn out that evening's Spam.

0:45:200:45:25

And we would just sit there saying nothing while we ate it.

0:45:250:45:29

And French people would walk past and go, "Bon appetit!"

0:45:290:45:33

Even with the sunshine, the campsite facilities

0:45:390:45:42

and the tinned food from home, these holidays still felt like too much work for many British holidaymakers.

0:45:420:45:50

Especially as the success of the new package holiday offered a cheap and very easy alternative.

0:45:500:45:56

The holidays in the Eighties reflected what was going on in a social and economic context, really.

0:45:560:46:04

So people wanted to go, you know, to Greece and wanted to go to America

0:46:040:46:08

and people wanted to be a little bit flash about their holidays.

0:46:080:46:13

Camping didn't sit well with any of that.

0:46:130:46:17

By the 1980s, camping was losing its popular appeal with the wider British public.

0:46:220:46:27

What had once been valued as a cheap holiday was now seen as decidedly downmarket.

0:46:270:46:33

Camping did suffer an image problem.

0:46:360:46:38

It was seen as almost roughing it.

0:46:380:46:41

You were likely to get wet and have to sleep in bedding that was damp.

0:46:410:46:47

That would have put an awful lot of people off, I think.

0:46:470:46:50

Particularly when they could go abroad and get top-notch modern conveniences.

0:46:500:46:56

With many families deciding they had better things to do with their summer holidays than stay at home

0:46:570:47:03

and be at the mercy of the weather, camping in Britain continued to decline during the 1980s.

0:47:030:47:11

But for many of today's enthusiasts, there is a renewed interest

0:47:110:47:15

in the original ideals of camping, of getting away from the pressures of modern life.

0:47:150:47:20

And for that luxury, putting up with the British weather is, they believe, a small price to pay.

0:47:200:47:28

Complaining about the rain when you're camping

0:47:280:47:30

is like complaining about the traffic when you're driving in central London.

0:47:300:47:34

It's gonna happen, it's a fact of life.

0:47:340:47:37

You gotta be hardy about these things, you got to face up that things aren't going to be perfect

0:47:370:47:42

and you'll have to improvise your way through them.

0:47:420:47:44

That's kind of one of the great benefits of camping.

0:47:440:47:47

But if it rains a lot, even I wouldn't say you are having a good time.

0:47:490:47:54

Seven days and seven nights of rain can strip a man of reason.

0:47:540:47:58

For Dixe Wills and Carl Palmer, not even sub-zero temperatures

0:48:040:48:09

in the Welsh mountains is enough to strip them of their reason.

0:48:090:48:13

For these so-called "wild campers",

0:48:130:48:16

an escape into the wilderness, whatever the weather, is at the heart of their love of camping.

0:48:160:48:21

It's even better than being on a campsite because you are very much,

0:48:260:48:31

not at one with nature exactly,

0:48:310:48:32

because you have got a tent and you have got your gear

0:48:320:48:35

and all that stuff, you're not just lying here.

0:48:350:48:37

But you are up close with nature.

0:48:370:48:39

You quite often get rabbits or whatever come up to you.

0:48:390:48:42

I have had horses wandering up my tent in the morning.

0:48:420:48:45

You hear a lot of the wildlife that you wouldn't hear,

0:48:450:48:50

especially if you were in a hotel. You know, the dawn chorus.

0:48:500:48:54

We've done this for four years now. Every year, we've had snow.

0:48:540:48:58

Which means that you get that whole layer of extra experience on top of it.

0:48:580:49:02

But there are, again, very few people around.

0:49:020:49:06

You get the odd dog walker, the odd hiker,

0:49:060:49:09

but, as you can see, in this valley, there's almost no life whatsoever.

0:49:090:49:14

You kind of have it to yourself.

0:49:140:49:16

It seems mad because people think it is really, really cold.

0:49:210:49:25

As long as you can keep warm at night, that is the main thing.

0:49:250:49:27

Yes, because it is a bit miserable

0:49:270:49:29

if you are lying awake all night, shivering.

0:49:290:49:31

But that hasn't happened for, well, a night now, has it?!

0:49:310:49:34

We've got the pegs battened down with a few rocks there, so that they hold in the snow.

0:49:380:49:44

OK, Carl is making some dinner, which is very nice.

0:49:440:49:47

He is also making some hot chocolate.

0:49:470:49:49

I expect we will probably both have quite a good night's sleep.

0:49:490:49:52

We might wake up on once or twice in the night, because you're lying a bit awkwardly or something.

0:49:520:49:57

Or Carl has slipped down and off the mountain...

0:49:570:50:00

But, no, I expect we will actually both sleep quite well.

0:50:000:50:02

The great thing is when you wake up in the morning, and you look out your tent, you think, "Yes! We're here."

0:50:020:50:08

-Ah! Carl, I think it snowed in the night.

-A bit of snow.

0:50:270:50:34

A bit of snow.

0:50:340:50:37

Yeah, anything up to a foot of snow, actually.

0:50:370:50:40

Despite my predictions that I would have quite a pleasant night's sleep,

0:50:420:50:47

I have to say I had a warm night's sleep

0:50:470:50:51

because I've got a nice sleeping bag in here,

0:50:510:50:55

so that was fine. But it did snow all night.

0:50:550:50:57

It gives you something to remember.

0:51:040:51:08

I mean, when I'm on my deathbed I am not going to wish that

0:51:080:51:12

I had spent more time indoors, watching the telly or something.

0:51:120:51:15

Whereas I might look back and think,

0:51:150:51:17

actually I've had some pretty good times in Britain

0:51:170:51:20

in unusual months of the year, and in unusual circumstances

0:51:200:51:25

and in what, for Britain, is quite unusual weather too.

0:51:250:51:29

The whole of Britain is under snow.

0:51:390:51:41

Who would have believed it? And here we are, halfway up a Welsh mountain.

0:51:410:51:46

I guess most people would just think we are absolutely mad.

0:51:460:51:50

They probably don't know where we are or what we are doing because we've got no signal on the phone.

0:51:500:51:56

But it's great. You wouldn't get a view like that in London.

0:51:560:51:59

Wild camping may not be to everyone's taste.

0:52:090:52:12

But after many years in the doldrums, camping, in all its forms, has enjoyed a surge in popularity,

0:52:120:52:19

with membership of the Camping and Caravan Club soaring to nearly half a million people.

0:52:190:52:26

If you go to a campsite today,

0:52:280:52:31

you'll find all kinds of people there, like literally...

0:52:310:52:36

Teenagers, groups of 20 to thirtysomething friends,

0:52:360:52:39

families, retired people, all classes, all demographics.

0:52:390:52:45

There really is no set type of person that goes camping these days.

0:52:450:52:49

And I think that is due to the fact that it has become so mainstream.

0:52:490:52:55

One key factor in camping's renaissance in Britain,

0:52:590:53:02

particularly among the young, has been the growing popularity of outdoor music festivals.

0:53:020:53:09

My generation went away to Glastonbury,

0:53:160:53:20

which had a great resurgence in the nineties, and had an amazing time there.

0:53:200:53:24

But came away thinking that maybe the best bit

0:53:240:53:27

was where they were sitting around with all their friends around the tents.

0:53:270:53:31

Music festivals played a big part in introducing camping to a whole new audience.

0:53:330:53:39

People go to these festivals and they buy a tent specifically for that event.

0:53:390:53:44

And they go with their mates and they have a great time.

0:53:440:53:46

And they are like, well, we have got a tent now, so let's go camping.

0:53:460:53:50

But while camping has become cool for a new generation of young people,

0:53:570:54:02

it is the emphasis on comfort that has led to the recent phenomenon of "glamping",

0:54:020:54:08

as so-called glamorous camping has become known.

0:54:080:54:11

At sites such as this one in Lincolnshire,

0:54:150:54:17

families can indulge in an eco-friendly holiday under canvas,

0:54:170:54:23

and one that comes complete with double beds, wood-burning stoves and hot showers.

0:54:230:54:29

They've got what called a cupboard bed over here, which the children love.

0:54:310:54:35

It's a really cosy little den for them to sleep in.

0:54:350:54:39

And then through there is a double bed and through there is a couple of bunk beds as well.

0:54:390:54:44

They've all got mattresses, duvets, feather pillows and all that.

0:54:440:54:49

And in the corner there, a flushing loo.

0:54:490:54:51

I mean, it's luxurious camping and I think it's been coined glamping for that very reason.

0:54:510:54:57

But it's actually quite a warm, dry and comfortable camping experience.

0:54:570:55:04

95% of our guests are families, young families, with children at primary school.

0:55:040:55:10

Everyone has children of a similar age, so they just all suddenly become a big gang.

0:55:100:55:14

Everyone loves going to get fresh eggs from the hens

0:55:140:55:17

and everyone is interested to learn about what is really going on on the yard.

0:55:170:55:21

And what we're really growing in the fields.

0:55:210:55:23

I think it appeals to quite a wide audience, actually.

0:55:230:55:28

I think the great thing about glamping is that, for people that haven't been camping before,

0:55:300:55:35

it's easing them into the idea of it quite gently.

0:55:350:55:40

And I think what glamping has done is precisely that,

0:55:400:55:42

it has introduced people to the idea of camping

0:55:420:55:46

and they might spend a week in one of these fancy lodges or yurts or tipis.

0:55:460:55:52

And from there, they might go on to try other kinds of camping.

0:55:520:55:56

With its ability to cater to all tastes, at a time of recession

0:56:050:56:09

and environmental concerns about air travel,

0:56:090:56:13

camping in Britain has never been so popular as it is today.

0:56:130:56:18

And while some of the ways in which we camp may have changed,

0:56:180:56:21

the motivation for doing so has remained the same.

0:56:210:56:25

I think the reasons that people go camping now

0:56:280:56:30

aren't that dissimilar from the reasons why people used to go camping when the movement was in its infancy.

0:56:300:56:38

I think this idea of escape

0:56:400:56:43

and the opportunity to live an unfettered lifestyle almost,

0:56:430:56:48

a chance to get away from all the demands on our attention

0:56:480:56:53

that we have in our everyday lives.

0:56:530:56:56

This need to escape, to feel at one with nature and to rediscover the British countryside,

0:56:560:57:02

drives on the campers of today,

0:57:020:57:05

just as it inspired the pioneers of a hundred years ago.

0:57:050:57:09

And as long as that need is there,

0:57:090:57:11

Britain's love affair with camping looks set to continue.

0:57:110:57:15

I think that the British will always embrace camping.

0:57:180:57:23

I think it is just our can-do spirit and determination to enjoy ourselves at all costs.

0:57:240:57:32

And for those people who have yet to embrace camping,

0:57:340:57:37

perhaps the time has come to pitch that tent and give it a go.

0:57:370:57:43

If you've never been camping, you're missing something.

0:57:430:57:47

Try it, you might just like it.

0:57:470:57:52

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:000:58:03

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:030:58:06

Featuring the evocative memories and unseen archive of generations of enthusiasts, a documentary which tells the intriguing story of how sleeping under canvas evolved from a leisure activity for a handful of adventurous Edwardian gents to the quintessentially British family pastime that it is today.


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS