First family camping trip.. marred by another group.

(55 Posts)
CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 16:04:20

Okay, apologies for the massive essay but I didn't want to dripfeed and at least I'm using paragraphs grin

I haven't camped as a family or for years, but since DC4 arrived a few months ago, we've decided to start doing family camping as we love the outdoors and enjoyed camping in the past as a couple and before we met.

We picked a campsite that promised privacy and seclusion and indeed the owner's replies to reviews on websites talked about how he separates families with children away from all adult groups etc. It was not the cheapest campsite ever (far, far from it) but we were happy to pay the premium for the privacy as we weren't sure how well things would go putting up a massive new tent for the first time and wanted space to screw up in peace!! And for the DC, who might be nervous as it's their first time, to not be disturbed by rowdy adults right next to us and to have space to play near us. The owner himself told us he only allows 30 tents on the fields when in theory he could fit 300 because he wants people to feel they have space.

We picked a nice clearly defined "nook" some distance from the only other two tents in the "families with small children" field as the owner described it to us. There were two other fields, one for "teenagers" and one for "adults only" groups which sounded so sensible and fair. He continued to extol the benefits of lots of space and pointed out that the only reason the other two tents were relatively close together was because they were a group. Perfect!

Set up the tent, spent the night, went out for the day and returned about 7.30ish. Only to discover that there was a massive tent pitched about 5 metres from ours. So close that we would not have been able to pitch our awning without the guyropes getting intermingled. No other tents for huge distances and masses of other nooks available, including one a few metres behind them (so parallel to ours) where they could have pitched. But no, they pitched right in front of ours, annoyingly taking up the space where our three older DC (who are aged 3, 5, 7) had been playing as the main open field bit was too far away for us to keep a decent eye on them and there was a felled tree blocking our vision too.

I stuck a very basic not to scale diagram on the next comment in case it's not very clear!

This was bad enough, but it turned out to be a group of 6-8 teenage girls. Quite why they weren't in the field the owner designated as for teenage groups I have no idea at all. And the single woman supervising them had her tent about 30m away in the distance. And then 2-3 other tents in the rest of the field, all at least 50m or more apart with dozens of free "nooks". A casual observer would have assumed the teenage girls were with us. But they refused to even make eye contact with us - whether they were shy or unfriendly, who knows.

We were prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt given they'd pitched so close to somebody else, but they're teenage girls on a camping trip. I would have been the same at their age - whooping, swearing and shouting well past 10pm at which point DH went to the woman's tent and complained. She told them to keep it down and the volume went down a bit, but at gone midnight they were still talking, not particularly quietly, and as they were literally metres away it was like they were in the tent with us. I guess it would not be considered loud for the 11pm curfew but when they're right in your face it was as disruptive as a theoretical party the other end of the field. DH complained to the woman again, getting her up and out of bed, ha. After that they talked a little quieter and finally went to sleep around 1am.

Sadly the DC slept in later than they did which ruined our plans to have the children shrieking outside their tent before they got up!

I don't even know why they picked that pitch as it can't have been for the view as we never saw them outside the tent - they could have been pitched in the middle of an industrial estate as far as they were concerned.

We complained to the owner about it the next day when we finally saw him, and he just shrugged and said "I don't understand it either, what are people like, eh?" - quite clearly not wanting to claim any responsibility even though they'd clearly been camping in the wrong field entirely according to his "rules" let alone right in our faces. They never apologised to us or offered any sort of explanation, not that we asked, but still.

Thing is, we paid above the odds in the hope we'd get some segregated-by-camper-type spacious privacy, and we didn't. We'd not have been nearly so precious if they'd pitched up in the spacious nook adjacent to ours instead of between the two nooks, or if it was a busy and crowded campsite, or we hadn't paid so much in the hope of getting a bit of space. It was just the sheer audacity of their pitch location got my blood boiling which made me a lot more sensitive to their noise and made me far less inclined to live and let live. My upset over it basically ruined our evening. Luckily the DC were oblivious aside from complaining that their "play area" had been pitched on leaving them with only a small section of grass next to a stream with steep banks to play on where we could see them as the main open field was too far away.

It was a done deal by the time we got back from going out as it was too close to dark to ask them to move and it was too late for us to try and move too, although we shouldn't have had to. They should have been advised not to pitch so close in the first place. We were given clear advice on where to pitch, why weren't they? The campsite rules also stated that a responsible adult must be in the same "unit" as any groups all under 21.. there wasn't.

The owner was really friendly and helpful otherwise so I feel bad complaining about what is basically another customer's bad manners. But on the other hand we chose this campsite and paid the premium because we were expecting space and privacy as advertised.

Two questions then!

1) Is this sort of thing par for the course? It's really putting me off camping. Were we just incredibly unlucky or do people do this all the time? (why?!!!!!) As newbies to family camping we weren't sure enough on the etiquette of tackling them. Should we have told them to clear off and pitch somewhere else even though it was quite late when we got back? Were we right to repeatedly complain to the adult over the noise in what was designated a "children with young families" field, or should we have just put up with it?

please tell me we've just been really really unlucky <sob>

2) Is it worth an email to the owner expressing how much this affected our stay? And to suggest he make more of an effort to check that an adult is in the same tent as large groups of children, and to more strongly encourage people not to pitch right in the face of other people's tents on a site that advertises privacy, peace and space? Or are we sounding precious?

Like I said - we wouldn't normally be this precious over somebody pitched so close, but it's the equivalent of somebody parking over the line into your bay in an otherwise nearly deserted car park where you've paid a premium for extra wide spaces! And it was our first ever camping trip as a family and supposed to be extra special which is why we picked somewhere expensive and apparently spacious.

I need to let my anger go on this which is why I'm venting here I guess wine

CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 16:04:43

Rough layout (not that much to scale, but you get the idea!)

LEMmingaround Sun 15-Jun-14 16:15:45

Do you feel better now??

Clarinet9 Sun 15-Jun-14 16:15:56

In my experience yes it is but my experience is limited.

there is something similar about car parks isn;t there, you can go into a mainly empty car park drive over to the far side away from everyone and the door to IKEA/shops/cinema whatever and when you get back in a car park still mainly empty someone will have parked next to you.

they will do it even while you are still in your car.

We once went to a open air concert in some national trust type place (Jools Holland) and it was hideous we sat down in a wee gap and someone came up and asked us to move (just move because they wanted the patch of grass where we were sitting) then the group behind us kept walking out through our picnic, we were 2 people sitting about 6 inches apart yet they would still step over us and onto the coat we were sitting on rather than the far emptier way behind where they were sitting, they were pissed but not pissed enough to excuse it. Basically they were just complete morons and the whole thing was just hideous!!

As to emailing depends on the manner of the farmer, do you think he would welcome feedback and find it useful, sounds like not much, however if you can phrase it right might make him realise it is not a good way to attract repeat custom. Do you think you would want to go there again?

LiberalLibertine Sun 15-Jun-14 16:22:31

Errrm, you were really unlucky.

But in general, you can't guarantee how much space you'll have around you, or who your neighbours will be.

What about a family only site?

jessabell Sun 15-Jun-14 16:27:48

We not had problems but we look for small sites. With pitches already laid out. Look on uk campsite website gives reviews on sites as well.

MrsMaturin Sun 15-Jun-14 16:33:02

I suspect they had been there before and the woman was narked she couldn't have the set up she'd planned so pitched them close to drive you out. I think this is exceptionally unfortunate but yes I would let the owners know they need to do more to regulate how people are pitching. Not everybody will put up with as much annoyance as you did.

CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 16:34:35

LEMingaround - a little! grin

Clarinet9 - so true, it is always, always the way. I do wonder how these people's brains are wired up. It's particularly annoying when it happens in car parks and the main reason you've parked so far away is so you can get space to open the doors properly to get carseats or my fat pregnant belly out!!

The owner seems oddly defensive in his replies to reviews online which is partly what makes me reluctant. He's invested so much emotionally in making his campsite a "perfect" campsite that I suspect he does not feel that open to criticism, especially when it's other customers' irrational behaviour that has caused the problem. He shouldn't really have to tell every customer not to camp right up in other people's faces when there's an entire field to choose from, and he might be legitimately concerned he'd be annoying people by stating the obvious. And he probably didn't want to alienate a bunch of paying customers by asking them to move their tent once they'd pitched up either. It's a tough call for him. So you're right, maybe there is little to gain by contacting him. Not sure if we will go there again though.

LiberalLibertine - You're absolutely right of course, there are no guarantees at all. I just hoped by carefully choosing a campsite which made a point of selling itself on its space we'd have better luck! And indeed everyone else on the campsite had just that.. lots of lovely space and privacy!

Will definitely look out for family-only sites next time.

TheBogQueen Sun 15-Jun-14 16:37:17

That sounds a bit unfortunate.

The thing is that camping is very much a random experience and in spire if site owners' efforts people will just do what they want.

We have had some years where it has been quiet and relaxed and others where people have brought along generators, microwave ovens, televisions, spent all day drinking, kept us awake with threats to the children: "if you don't get in your fucking bed you'll feel the back of my hand " etc etc

It's just really hard to have control unless you come to Scotland and do wild camping!

CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 16:39:58

jessabell - Definitely been a learning experience (although that was the point of the trip, just didn't expect it to be such a harsh one!) and one of the big lessons we've learned is to go for places with laid out pitches next time. Otherwise we'll be worrying the whole time we're away from the site in case some idiot has done this again! The reviews on pitchup and ukcampsite were all great and talked of the privacy and space which is why we picked it, but you can't pick the other campers..

MrsMaturin - I think you're probably right. It's a nice spot, although not necessarily any nicer than any of the others but perhaps there's something about it she really likes. Kind of like when you park in a residential street with no parking restrictions and come back to find another car sitting on your bumper because you're parked outside their house and they want to make some stupid territorial "point" even though you've done nothing wrong in any sense.

ThirteenHorses Sun 15-Jun-14 16:42:16

That sounds grim. I have tackled similar problems by fighting fire with fire - a family camped stupidly close to us, so I moved our camping chairs even closer to them, until we were sat in a more or less in the doorway of their tent, smiling blandly and watching their every move in an interested manner.

They moved grin

CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 16:45:14

TheBogQueen - it certainly does seem the way that it's random! Sounds like you've had some horrible experiences along the way. Perhaps I'd have been a lot more "ah well" about it if it hadn't been the very first time and I'd have had other, happier experiences to compare it to. The overall average is not looking bright right now!

We're not deterred, we'll try somewhere else in a few weeks and hope for a better time smile

Wild camping in Scotland sounds amazing actually, and is something I would love to do.

hz Sun 15-Jun-14 16:46:38

Seriously unlucky I would say. I think I would have tried to speak to the owner when I saw how close they were. In future a good trick is to mark your pitch with table, chairs etc. I always fretting about this happening as we are in a campervan so when we are out for the day it is possible for someone to encroach on your space. We are expert at leaving table and chairs, sack of firewood, etc to show were we are! This way you could have saved the space in front of your tent, although there are clearly limits to how far its acceptable to go with this!

Perhaps try a site with allocated pitches to calm your nerves next time, personally I tend to use campsites which allow campfires, they tend to have more space and if they have set fire pits that will also dictate where people pitch - not infallible though!

Don't be put off though, what area of UK are you living in? Post on here and you will get some good recommendations for campsites where you can hope for a better experience. Happy camping!

Mintyy Sun 15-Jun-14 16:49:01

I read half of it, but there was just no need to make it so long, even without drip feeding. I'm just amazed you have the time, especially when you have a few months old baby and three other children!

TheBogQueen Sun 15-Jun-14 16:51:43

What I find is that the more remote sites are generally much quieter.

In Scotkand you can stay in places where people are drinking 24/7 and it's noisy - but people are on holiday and that's how they like to relax.

But other places attract serious walkers, kayakers, climbers and families who like outdoor life. There are lovely sites on the isle of mull including wild camping areas. Also Arisaig - fabulous.

But it does sound like the people on your field were particularly selfish.

CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 16:55:35

ThirteenHorses - we really considered doing that, but they were inside their tent the whole time so the point would have been missed! The previous day we'd been very strict about not letting the children play near other tents or be too unpleasantly noisy, but we decided to pretty much let them do whatever yesterday evening. Figured we'd let them think they'd pitched up next to a "noisy" family of six and regret it.

Sadly they actually played quite nicely in the space that was left, and wouldn't have needed telling off anyway. Guess they'd learned from our instructions the previous day for once!!

RiverTam Sun 15-Jun-14 17:06:00

jeez, what an essay, get an editor next time grin.

I would have been livid, I never get that so many MNers seem to think that you just have to suck up this kind of thing. I would have kicked off to both the woman in 'charge' of the girls, and the owner ' 'what can you do?' - well, you can enforce your own rules, for a start! And I would have asked the woman a) why they hadn't camped in the teenagers bit and b) why they felt the need to camp so close to another tent, completely uneccessarily. I would then have offered to help them shift to a more suitable spot.

But I'm like that.

CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 17:10:49

hz - Good idea, we'll definitely do that next time and leave our table and stuff out in the way. I don't know how much it would have helped this time as these people seemed determined, but it might make more reasonable people think! And yes to laid out pitches.

We're just north of London, and camped fairly local this time as it was just a trial and we needed to be able to get home in a hurry if we forgot something vital or the tent didn't work! In the future though we'll probably camp all over.

Mintyy - Thanks for your comment(!) As it happens we're just chilling at home before unpacking whilst the older three play together and DC4 is breastfeeding so I couldn't leave my chair anyway.. and I wanted to get it off my chest.

TheBogQueen - Definitely sounds like decent research will bring up the right sort of places. We do lots of walking and hiking (the three older DC can go for miles, we have them well-trained!) and indeed that will probably be the main point of most of our camping trips. Thanks for the recommendations, I will look into them!

CrispyFB Sun 15-Jun-14 17:21:50

RiverTam - Yeah, I should probably have edited it more. In my defence I do usually, but I'm quite badly sleep deprived even more so than usual (due to DC4!) from spending most of the night scratching my midge bites (put the repellent on too late!) so I'm not really with it today. I can spew text out but haven't got the brain power today to be concise or edit ;-)

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought it was really unreasonable. I do think if we'd had more camping experience I'd have felt more justified in asking them to move but I just wasn't sure on the etiquette. We were newbies and didn't have much confidence in expectations. Offering to help them is not a bad idea, and one to remember for the future, but we had nobody to spare as I was watching the DC (and feeding DC4) and DH was cooking our dinner!

I can't tell you how RELIEVED I am.

DH and DD1 went on a father-daughter camping trip this weekend with 35 other dads-and-daughters. Year 5 girls so 9-10 year olds. Running around shrieking and hollering like something out of Lord of the Flies, if DH is to be believed grin - I so thought this thread would be about them.

Sorry OP, your experience sounds grim though.

this would annoy me too. but given it sounds like it was only one night I think you need to just get over it.

you can get a bad night in a hotel too remember.

Keepcalmanddrinkwine Sun 15-Jun-14 21:27:50

We had similar last year. DH and I had a rare night without kids and went to a small site we've used before. Pitched our tent and sat down for a beer. A big noisy group with 2 tents, lots of kids came and pitched right next to us although the field was almost empty. I'm afraid we unpicked our pegs and lifted our tent as it was, moving it away from them.

Onykahonie Sun 15-Jun-14 21:53:18

I haven't read all the other replies, but yes, you were unlucky.

I would complain to the owners, asking for at least some of your money back, leave an honest review on Ukcampsite...and never return to that site again!

CampingClaire Mon 16-Jun-14 09:33:37

Think you were unlucky. I agree with Onykahonie...it's what I would do! I do like to feel i've got value for money!!
This has happened once to us. In France we asked for a quiet and large pitch (which we got). Huge space...almost a field with room for four large well-spaced pitches. We went to one corner, leaving the rest of the 1/3rd acre I guess, free. Returned to our tent later in the day to find someone had pitched their tent so close that their guys were pegged amongst our kids bikes/badminton net etc!!
Noisy small children who screamed at each other and a mother who felt the need to talk to them in that 'calm but ineffective way'. You know the type...explains loudly what she's doing so that other parents can hear how superior and advanced her children are?! The father was completely useless and we never heard him even talk to the kids (or his wife) in three days!! After one night of next to no sleep as the kids were beside themselves with excitement...(and I don't blame them...if they hadn't pitched on top of us I wouldn't have minded) I talked to the mum and discovered it was their first ever camping trip. She really didn't have a clue what was expected and had obviously spent an absolute fortune on kit etc but hadn't thought about the fact that canvas isn't soundproofed and that people generally go camping for the peace and quiet...
I subtly (or I think I was subtle) pointed out a few camping etiquette tips (told them to watch the Dutch families...they play with their kids all day and then as soon as it's dark you don't hear a peep from them) and the kids were then much quieter. There wasn't a lot we could do about the pitching...they were in a bell tent and that's a lot of pegs to undo. We were leaving the next day so we just put up with it but had we been staying longer...I'd have asked them to move...if nothing else but for the safety.
Our favourite site in Scotland stipulates 6m from other tents guys!!

hillbilly Mon 16-Jun-14 10:59:55

Very unlucky, but I would have spoken to the campsite owner immediately and refer to the email communication you had had with them, and politely insisted that the ask the group to move.

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