What happened when we decided to spend a year living in a tent with our two small children

Was it the right decision? “There was no point when I regretted anything. We were in it together, with the two of us working as a team.” As their designated wild year drew to a close, however, the question of what to do next loomed large. They didn’t find a permanent bricks-and-mortar home until the following spring of 2016. “Autumn came around again, and the second winter was really difficult. We weren’t on a cool challenge any more. We were just camping and couch-surfing to get through it. Thankfully, we were writing a book for the National Trust about family adventures, which was the saving grace of that winter.

“It’s hard to be a guest in someone else’s home for too long with two kids, but with our financial history, it was impossible to get a mortgage or even to rent a house with credit checks and so on. Eventually, we found a private landlord back in the Cotswolds who would take us. The kids, who are now seven and 10, were born here and we felt a strong tie to this area. There’s a mix of nature and access to the outdoors, with community, convenience and playgrounds. I’m not a big fan of driving, and we don’t have to do too much of it here. Life is different to what it was before. It’s every­thing I wanted it to be. It’s still financially tricky, as it is for many people, but we’re working for ourselves, together, and living wholeheartedly and authentically.

“Our wild year showed us that there’s always a way forward. Each and every moment during that year required us to do what we could right there and then, and trusting that it would work out in the long run.”

Would they ever do it again? “It is something we’ve thought about, given the cost of living crisis and rents going up. If our work ever came to a halt, then absolutely, we’d consider it again. Although we might go somewhere warmer.”

Jen and Sim’s favourite campsites from their wild year

Cloud Farm, Devon

“So idyllic. It’s near the coast and on the edge of Exmoor, with a river on its doorstep. You can base yourself there without needing to use a car very much, which we tend to look for in a campsite.”

Hook Farm, Dorset

“Just above Lyme Regis, it’s a mile’s walk to the sea. The site is glorious out of season, when it’s really quiet.”

North Lees, Peak District

“This is where we came up with our crazy idea in the first place, and we went back to it during our wild year. You can walk to Hathersage for coffee and cake one day, and walk the other way to the top of the moorlands at Stanage Edge, where we saw barn owls.”

Great Langdale, Lake District

“Great Langdale is surrounded by beautiful mountainous scenery, with the Langdale Pikes above it.”

Eskdale National Trust Campsite, Lake District

“Also in the Lake District, but very different, it’s set in eight acres of meadow grassland. You can catch a tiny train on the heritage Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway to the coast.”


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