I always carry a group shelter if we are somewhere remote or exposed to the weather. In winter, this means I sometimes take a shelter on what might be considered benign adventures. Usually, the shelter isn’t needed and, although it doesn’t weigh much, a niggling feeling of carrying unnecessary kit begins to take hold. But every now and then, something happens that proves just how useful a group shelter can be…
On this particular day, it was really, really windy, but the children were desperately keen to go to the nice sandy beach about a mile away. I was desperately keen to get them out in the fresh air: they needed to expend some energy. A mile wasn’t very far, but walking to the sandy beach along the foreshore would extend the walk by a further half-mile. The total distance (there-and-back) of three miles would be a nice distance for Little Sister.
We set off along the rocky foreshore. There were lots of interesting stones, shells, seaweed, pools, and streams. It was fascinating, but slow-going, and the rough ground and wind slowed progress even more. It took about an hour to reach the sandy beach, by which time, everyone was ready for a snack and some hot chocolate.
But the beach was wild and windswept, with sand blowing around like spindrift. Little Sister, only 3 feet tall, complained of sand in her eyes and up her nose. If we were going to keep the sand away from our snacks and our hot chocolate, then we would need to get out of the wind. I pulled out the shelter…
‘Oooh! The orange tent!’ ‘Are we having the hot chocolate in there?’ ‘Yippee!’ ‘Can I get in first?’ The five of us scrambled inside and were soon enjoying a sand-free snack and some sand-free hot chocolate. ‘Wow, Mummy, this is so cool!’ It’s amazing how much excitement and interest can be aroused by what is simply an igloo-shaped piece of orange nylon.
Suddenly, there came a voice from outside: ‘Is that you in there?’ Some friends had come to find us. Space was hastily made for two more people, who were given a thorough briefing on the workings and benefits of group shelters. Once refuelled, the shelter was stowed, and attention turned to digging, rockpooling, scrambling, and admiring the swirling patterns in the windblown sand. We then retraced our steps along the foreshore.
Later, I reflected that while we could certainly have managed without a group shelter, having one had made the whole experience much more comfortable, and had added some novelty and fun. Shelters are useful in so many outdoors scenarios: in the early years when you have a baby to feed and change; when you have a toddler and are at risk of the sudden onset of ‘Tired Legs Syndrome’; and when your children are a bit older and the adventures become more objectively serious. I thought of the many times over the years when this particular shelter had provided protection and warmth, and reminded myself what a good thing it was to have in my pack.
About the Author
About Me & Mine
Hi there! Helen and Ian here from the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border! We have two boys who love everything in the Great Outdoors (especially sticks), and a border collie who also loves everything in the Great Outdoors (especially tennis balls). We also have a toddler daughter who is fiercely independent and proving to be just as intrepid as her brothers.
Favourite place in the world:
A difficult one... There are so many wonderful places to choose from... But it has to be Sandwood Bay in the far north-west of Scotland which can only be reached by a 4-mile walk. Last time we went it was a full-on winter mountaineering experience (with ice axe and crampons!) just to get there. Wild and windswept, it's totally unspoilt.
Favourite things to do outdoors:
Enjoy beaches, woods, and coastal paths; explore waterways in our open canoe; go for a big day out on a small hill; go rock climbing; collect sticks, conkers, and acorns; investigate puddles and rockpools; ride our tandem; fly a kite against a clear blue sky.