At four months old the new born fog of Hedgehog is almost lifted, so we are celebrating with a trip to The New Forest. We are staying in my mum’s (aka Granny and Graham’s) donated caravan. This is my safeguarding to camping after the last traumatic experience, when our tent blew down in a hail storm. The caravan has heating, proper beds and an en-suite bathroom, essential when there are babies involved.
Mum (aka Granny) has lovingly made a black out curtain to cordon off Mole and Hedgehog’s sleeping quarters at one end of the caravan. This is my wild hope that they will sleep through the night, together. Ha.
On our first night we put them to bed at seven pm, watch them sleeping like cherubs and listen to the beautiful silence. I sit in our awning and enjoy a bottle of wine, reading Tom Hodgkinson’s ‘The Idle Parent’. My false sense of security is short lived. At around ten o’clock Hedgehog wakes up and refuses to be put back down. Thus begins another night of co-sleeping. She settles into her rightful place in our bed, sandwiched between us like a mini sardine. Every hour she wakes from her slumber to take another nibble at the twenty four hour gourmet milk restaurant. Mr M&H says he doesn’t notice this, but then he’s not the one feeding the Hedgehog. At six o’clock sharp Mole comes in to join us, bouncing Hedgehog out of the way in a ‘I’m the real queen bee’ kind of way.
Despite being hung over from another night of broken sleep, plus two nauseatingly bright and sparkly babies, the morning is glorious with sunshine. After breakfast, we sit in our canvas chairs donning sunglasses and soaking up the rays, while Mole runs round with the water pistol, pretending to be ‘Elf man’. Hedgehog is lying on the rug contemplating the sky and as Mole runs past she thoughtfully tips a full glass of orange juice into Hedgehog’s face. Welcome to sisterhood.
The campsite is basic, a secluded field with one other caravan pitched up. On one side there is woodland, on the other side a house where the lady who owns the campsite lives, and a red brick wall containing the swimming pool. Inspired by the heat of the sun we get into swimming gear and test the pool. It is arctic. ever determind to make use of the facilities, I dive in and do a couple of lengths and try to give Mole a piggy back. She is not impressed. Neither is Mr M&H, judging from his huffing, puffing and horrified expression as he swims up and down.
The old lady owner toddles out to meet us by the pool’s edge, makes a few remarks about the weather and toddles away again. I wonder what her life story is. I want to invite myself into her living room and have a good chat over some tea.
We go walking in the woodland behind the campsite most evenings. Hedgehog is in the sling, sleeping anywhere and not minding much where she is, while Mole ambles along at a snail’s pace, hitching a lift with daddy when she feels like it and stopping every couple of paces to exclaim “Stick” or “Grass”.
The week is characterised by morning drives out across heathland, enjoying views and stopping to admire the ponies, pushing the double buggy around pretty market towns, before refuelling at one of hundreds of tea and cake shops. We live on tea, cake and jacket potatoes for most of the week, the lunch part of it anyway. By mid-afternoon we are back at the campsite to crash and snooze together. Then a leisurely dinner in the caravan followed by sitting in the sun drinking wine, while Mole blows bubbles around the campsite and we try to stop Hedgehog from being trodden on. The perfect routine really.
On one such day we attempt an actual walk across open heathland, taking a picnic and parking in one of the road side car parks on the high ground. We don’t have anything as organised as a map, but I pick out an attractive looking bridleway track that wends its way over the hills, that other walkers are disappearing down and into the distance. I carry Hedgehog in the sling, while Mole insists on walking. Now that she weighs over two stone, Mr M&H is not mad about carrying her anyway. I don’t hold any ambitions for how far we may get at the pace of a one year old, but I was at least hoping to round the first hill. We stop for our picnic about five hundred yards from the car, when it is just out of sight behind a bush. We may as well have stayed in the car park.
After the picnic we make slow progress up the hill, and it is out of a sense of frustration and the wild landscape inspiring me to make a break for freedom that I ‘accidentally get lost’ from Mole and Mr M&H, to explore down an inviting looking pathway that leads away through the heather. My first aim is just to see round the first bend and then turn back, but every turn of the path invites me on a little further, until I’m heading down a steep ravine and into a valley, now losing any sense of direction and getting more aware of the wrath awaiting my return.
It dawns on me that I’m lost and alone in The New Forest with a four month old, on a hot day, without a sun hat or any water, oh dear. Hedgehog is sleeping and so far oblivious to any cause for alarm. I keep walking and eventually spot the road on the skyline, get my direction again, and veer back towards the track we had left. I get some phone reception and talk to a very disgruntled Mr M&H, arranging to meet them back at the car. By the time I get back there, the novelty of the wild landscape has worn off, I glug a pint of water and have to sit in the car for ten minutes to recover.
Mr M&H is in a similar state after carrying Mole for most of the way. We come to the conclusion that walks of any kind are not happening for the next five years. We can drive to a beauty spot and sit while Mole and Hedgehog run around us, fine. But walking from A to B with a little person? No.
At length the week comes to an end and Granny & Graham arrive to fetch the caravan. We don’t want to leave. The weather has been amazing, the caravan has been warm at night and we’ve spent nearly every waking moment outdoors. This is the answer to family holidays! I’m thinking for the next five years anyway, until Mole and Hedgehog get too big to fit in bed with us. After that we may need a bigger boat.