Camping in the UK was always on our bucket list, but we postponed it every time due to bad weather or lack of equipment. Last week we decided that despite what would happen we would do it the coming weekend (August’s first weekend).
On Wednesday evening, we went to the city centre (London) and bought two sleeping bags, but we couldn’t find a suitable tent in the outdoor shops. We had to buy the tent and didn’t have much time. So, when we arrived home, I’ve done some online research and found a lightweight 2-man backpacking tent on Amazon UK. We didn’t only order it, but also paid for a one-day delivery, which meant the delivery was due on Friday.
August is the busiest month for UK’s campsites, so we wanted to book a pitch in advance, but we couldn’t do it, since without a tent camping would be impossible. We waited the whole day on Friday, and eventually, our tent arrived in the evening, then we started to search for a campsite not too far from London so that we could cycle to it. According to their websites, they were all fully booked. We didn’t give up. On Saturday morning, we started calling some campsites. All the answers were the same “we are fully booked for all the weekends until the end of August”. It seemed that we would have had to try it another time, but I was not ready to give up. Around 10 am, when I lost my hope I called a campsite in Surrey and asked if there was any pitch available for a night. It took her a while to say “Yes”.
We were so excited and packed our stuff as fast as we could and started our ride bike towards the Horsley Camping and Caravanning Club Site. We cycled next to the Thames river. It was a sunny Saturday, which means many Londoners were out enjoying the sun.
The crowds around the Richmond area slowed us down quite a lot. We had to zigzag most of the time. We stopped at Jackson and Rey, an American restaurant, facing the water. There wasn’t a parking for bikes, so we carefully locked our bike to a pole and kept our eyes on them while we were eating. We became a bit paranoid since the two weeks before that my previous bike was stolen. Bruno had fish and chips and I went for a salad with chicken. The portions were quite big and the food was good but not very cheap.
We continued on the Thames path as far as we could. Our route took us on some roads and then some off-road paths with a beautiful scenery. The path was hilly and some parts were quite sandy. We were cycling a steep hill when I noticed my pedals were stuck and I couldn’t push them anymore. We had to stop to check my bike, but we couldn’t fix it, the chain was stuck between the gear disk and the frame. We were in the middle of a wood and according to Google, an hour walk away from the nearest bike shop. It was 4:15 pm on Saturday, and usually all shops close down around 4 or 5 pm in the UK. We had to follow our route as fast as we could, because the campsite wouldn’t accept any check-in after 8 pm.
I had to push my bike, Bruno did the same as a sympathy, but when it was downhill we could at least ride our bikes without pushing the pedals. It was a few minutes after 5 when we reached a small town named Cobham. When I asked a female cyclist if there was any bike shop around, she gave us some directions to one place. We were not sure is the shop was still open or not, but we didn’t have any choice and we ran to check. Fortunately, the shop was still open. The guy fixed the problem, but told us that it was temporary, and I should have given my bike back where I bought it after the trip. To avoid another breakage I had to avoid changing the left gear, and by doing so we arrived at the campsite at around 6 pm.
The campsite was pretty with a small lake in the middle surrounded by caravans and tents. We pitched our tent on grass, and our tent was the smallest one in the campsite. Probably, because we were the only bikers and we were just a couple. We had dinner in the only cafe of the campsite, where we fed some hungry ducks . Back at our tent, we played cards and read a book until we fell asleep.
We woke up by the sound of rain in the early morning. I tried to get to sleep again, but Bruno was completely awake and wanted to talk. It was too early for the campsite cafe to be open, so we took a shower and packed our stuff. We cycled to the same town where I fixed my bike and had breakfast there. After breakfast, we cycled back to London without stopping. It was quite early to go home on a Sunday and we were not that tired, so we decided to have a bike ride around Richmond park and have lunch there, then off towards home to get ready for the start of another week.
This piece has been written by Mansoureh Farahani, Founder of Travel With Mansoureh