Carry on camping

Going back to school for the holidays? It’s much more exciting than it sounds.

‘I do love the beginning of the summer hols. They always seem to stretch out ahead for ages and ages’ observed Julian; crime solver, adventurer, older brother of Anne and Dick and cousin to George. Eighty years have passed since Enid Blyton’s Famous Five turned detectives, but their sentiments about school holidays remain as relevant as ever.

For children, the summer holidays hold a magical quality. But for parents, the prospect of six, ten or even twelve weeks with no school can fill them with foreboding. A family holiday might occupy a week or two, but what about the rest? Step forward summer camps. From sports camps to revision camps, demand for residential and day camps for school-age children is soaring.

Many of these camps are held at boarding schools. A couple of decades ago the likes of Greshams and Repton would lie desolate during the summer, their splendid facilities unused. Now they bustle with local, national and international children, engaging in everything from pony riding and archery to science lessons and debating.

Apart from the obvious income from course fees or site hire, schools benefit from free advertising, with greater exposure to more children and their parents. ‘It was like Hogwarts—I wish I could have gone there,’ one teenager said after attending a camp at Brambletye in West Sussex. Some courses are only one or two days long, but others span 10 days or even two weeks. The combination of team activities and meals and sleeping in dormitories allows strong and often long-lasting friendships to be made. For many, summer camps can be the highlight of the holidays, an opportunity to meet like-minded children.

But schools aren’t the only places to host summer camps – and if your children want to try their hand at sleeping under canvas or in cabins, there are dozens of ‘proper’ camping experiences to choose from. Bonas MacFarlane’s very own Camp Bonas is held deep in the Somerset countryside at Outposts near Taunton, one of the world’s leading providers of adventure training for children. Tailored for children aged 8-13, Camp Bonas is a screen-free environment with the motto “rewild the mind.” Campers take part in professionally delivered adventure training, creative workshops and team-based activities inspired by stories such as Enid Blighton’s classics.

For those parents who wish they could be having as much fun, many places offer summer camps and courses for adults, often running them in tandem with children’s camps. From bridge and bird-watching to flower arranging, there is something for everyone. Summer camps and courses aren’t limited solely to activities and hobbies either. Revision and crammer courses are also popular, especially among sixth-form students and school leavers preparing for university.

The hardest task for parents is choosing which camp. Cricket or creative writing? Lacrosse or viola lessons? It’s tempting to do a different course each week. One thing is for sure—the summer holidays won’t seem nearly so long, for anyone, when days are spent riding, cycling, swimming, sailing, studying and writing. As Anne responded to Julian in Five Go Off in a Caravan: ‘They go so nice and slowly at first. Then they start to gallop.’

by Geoff Heath-Taylor, School Placement Consultant, Bonas MacFarlane Education