Forgewood is a large campsite that permits campfires, and these provided the focal point all weekend. Having pitched our tents in a sizeable corner of a field, we adults set up a fire for the first evening's barbeque. The men were proud as punch of their fire-making skills and reckoned the kids would be drawn like moths to a flame. But the kids preferred to establish their own fire right next to the extensive woodland (with only a little adult supervision). The fire was sustained by a band of mini-people marching to and from the woods like an army of ants carrying little sticks for fuel. The older children gratefully received the fuel, dispatched the army again, and kept guard to prevent any of them falling into the fire. They were probably far more effectively responsible than any of the adults after a few beers.
As the weekend wore on, the children's faces took on a grubby, muddy, slightly feral and very happy look. They quickly mastered the pathways through the ancient woodland. Stumped by a rudimentary map at the end of a long walk, we adults paused for breath. Not so the children - they knew EXACTLY where we were and led us (and the dogs) deftly and sometimes too swiftly (GASP!) past dense clumps of trees, leaping down and across deep ditches, narrowly missing brambles and bushes and we emerged from the dim woodland to the exact corner we temporarily called "home"!
The second barbeque of the weekend was a camping chef's dream. The dogs loved it too. The main campfire worked hard through the spitting rain, producing kebab after kebab, sausage after chicken leg, burger after burger, and the ultimate delicious delight, blackened marshmallows on whittled sticks. Wash this down with a couple of red wines and great chunks of chocolate, and sitting in the chilly drizzle suddenly doesn't feel quite so bad.
After a wet and windy night we woke to a sunny dawn. The remnants of the previous night's feasting huddled soggily under a canopy, wine-stained cups filled with rainwater, waterlogged bread mixed with sodden lettuce leaves and soft crisps. Slowly we packed away, and soon all that was left was a large patch of green with a few flattened tent-shaped areas and the ashes of the adults' fire. But holding fast to their own fire by the woods were the children, sitting on long logs, staring tiredly but contentedly into the flames, unwilling to depart.
And us? We were all desperate for a good night's sleep and a lovely hot shower. Sleeping on a poorly inflated mattress situated on a slope with a fleece for a pillow is not perfect....BUT (and it is a big "but") the kids had woodland and fire, were in charge of 2 dogs and each other. They were completely absorbed all weekend and had no disputes. Perhaps a few more nights might have descended into Lord of the Flies territory but at the point we left it was pretty perfect.