Katy Hill is best known as a BAFTA Award winning TV Presenter, award winning writer and lifestyle blogger and host of Heart Breakfast every morning. She can also be regularly seen on ITV’s This Morning and lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, Trey Farley and two children. And, to cap it all, she loves family camping…
What memorable moments have you enjoyed in your outdoor career and what is your favourite?
We LOVE camping as a family! Nothing comes close to the bonding that happens when you’re sleeping under the stars as a family. All that fresh air, all that quality family time − it’s magical. Last year we headed to an incredible eco campsite only 20 minutes from our house and had the best time with friends. We were all pitched around a central camp fire and evenings sat in our awesome moon chairs with best friends were pretty special. The only downside? The Outwell moon chairs we have were the biggest around the campfire so everyone gravitated to ours! But, when I did eventually get into one of our chairs, sitting toasting marshmallows, with one of the kids snuggled up to me under a blanket on the chair, stars above us, was pretty spectacular.
In my childhood, my family used to borrow friends motorhomes for holidays and I always loved the campsite experience. The excitement of arriving, setting up the motorhome or tent and exploring was just magical. Back in my Blue Peter days I lived with a family in a yurt in Mongolia for a week. It was one of my highlights of my time on the show and I went a long way to cementing my love of life under canvas.
What benefits do you think families can draw from outdoor life?
It’s like nothing else. There’s no other experience that lets you bond on quite such a deep level. Camping just chills everyone out. Even better if I don’t have a signal on my phone. There’s just something about being back to nature and under the stars. It’s bonding on a scale unlike any other. Everyone sleeps really well, everyone is up with the lark and the kids put their wellies on and play outside from dawn till dusk − it’s enriching on every level. I also love watching the kids getting back to nature. By the end of the experience they’ve virtually turned feral − in the best way! Just watching them be free is the best feeling as a parent and I live for our trips.
Where is your favourite area in the UK for camping?
It depends what we’re after. We’ve done Camp Bestival for three years in a row and we LOVE LOVE LOVE the place! It’s the perfect mix of music, back to nature and hippy − even if last time we did head for the section with ‘posh’ loos and showers. Makes so much difference… But it’s great getting back to nature in such stunning surroundings with like-minded families. I also love watching the kids get absorbed in everything Camp Bestival has to offer. It truly ends up being a magical few days! My family are from the West Country so it’s always lovely being in that part of the world and Corfe Castle is a breathtaking backdrop.
What do you look for in a campsite and have you any favourite sites?
It needs to be relaxing and clean. I prefer sites with a minimum on offer when it comes to entertainment. A swimming pool at most but, preferably, not too much because that way it’s a more relaxed experience all around. I don’t go to a campsite to listen to arcade games all day or have that pressure to keep up with the entertainment schedule. For me, it’s all about sitting in a chair and watching my kids basking in the freedom of being outdoors for days on end.
What is your best family camp/camping experience to date?
Last year we went to Northmoor Paddocks in Oxfordshire with friends and it was awesome − a long weekend of eco camping. I find the whole eco element means you’re surrounded by like minded people who are all there for the positive and relaxed vibe but who are great at respecting each other’s privacy and quiet.
What is your favourite camping pastime and why?
Sitting around a campfire at night, toasting marshmallows and snuggling my kids under cosy blankets. HEAVEN! We also take our bikes so we can explore the local area.
What are your considerations when choosing gear?
It needs to be easy to put up − and light. The first time we indulged in festival camping we took the biggest tent and had to wait about two hours to borrow a wagon just to get it to the site. It was a nightmare. These days, it’s all about keeping our kit as streamlined as possible, whilst indulging in a few creature comforts.
What cannot you do without when camping?
For me, our kitchen unit is a major consideration. Not only does it elevate our cooker to make for a safer cooking experience but it gives us somewhere to store our food and kitchenware which seems to help keep sanity levels all around. I also love our camp beds which keep us warmer because we’re not on the ground plus, with the elevation, we can store bags underneath. For me to relax and enjoy the experience I need a tidy tent so I’m all about the storage solutions.
What is your family luxury?
Our own pillows. It makes such a difference to our sleeping and makes the car ride more cosy. No matter where you are in the world, everyone sleeps better with the smell and familiarity of something from home.
What do your children enjoy most about outdoor life and camping?
We always go armed with gymnastic ribbons, hoops and outdoor games, for the full hippy experience. I think they just love the amount of time they get to spend outside. Plus the level of quality time we end up having as a family is like nothing else. Through my blog we’re lucky to get to road test some phenomenal family holidays but the kids always cite our camping trips as among their favourite holidays.
What advice would you offer other family campers?
Be realistic about where you’re camping. If you’re camping in the UK make sure you have enough space in your tent to live if (and when) the heavens open. If you’ve never been before, I’d suggest starting with a spot of glamping. We go to the Safari Tents at Gullivers sometimes when I’m combining presenting Heart Breakfast with school holidays. Being near the studio is key for me and having a proper bed ahead of a 4am start is quite helpful.
My other tips would be if you’re camping at a festival be sure to hoist a flag high above your tent on an aerial to help you find your way ‘home’ in the crowds. Solar lighting always helps you spot your tent while getting admiring looks from passersby. ‘Tent Pimping’, as I call it, seems to be a bit of a thing so make sure you're representing your gang well. And, finally, a toilet to have in your tent for child emergencies is a MUST! Trust me − at midnight you’ll be grateful!
You can follow Katy’s adventures on her Blog at: katyhilglsblog.com, on Twitter at: @KatyHillTV and on Instagram at: @KatyHillTV