In an attempt to escape dubious English climes, I’m trying my luck across the Channel and whisking the family away for some weekend camping in Picardy, on France’s northern coast. France has been our favoured holiday hotspot for the last few years, where we’ve decamped to the sunnier, southern départements of the Dordogne and Aquitaine.
I pick the kids up from school on Friday and head to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone. My children – Angus, 11, and twins Nancy and Lola, seven – are delighted to be off ‘on holiday’ at such short notice, and are eager to see the train that goes under the sea. ‘Where are the fishes?’ asks Lola, staring out of the window into murky darkness.
As a family, we’re not shy of camping – however, when an opportunity to cut corners arises, I’m the first to buckle. We’ve treated ourselves to a ready-made tent, courtesy of Eurocamp at Domaine de Drancourt, a family-friendly campsite in the grounds of a château in St Valéry, close to Somme Bay. It’s taken little over four hours to get here from our home in Brighton, quicker than driving to the Cotswolds.
Even by my lackadaisical standards we’ve arrived remarkably unprepared. Thankfully, we ordered a welcome pack, which, along with the basics (tea, coffee and a tea towel), has crisps, some jam and two mini bottles of wine.
And, even with divine intervention, this will not feed five of us, so we head into the nearby town of St Valéry-sur-Somme to seek further sustenance. We pull up outside a buzzing brasserie on the waterfront and, within moments, my husband Antony and I have a glass of beer in hand and we’re tucking into moules-frites, while the kids feast on steak-haché and bottles of Orangina. After ice cream, crêpes and a bottle of Côte du Rhône to go, we follow a sweep of twinkling stars back to the campsite.
The next morning, overcome by an urgent need for pain au chocolat, I pull on my jeans and head to the nearby supermarket where I stock up on supplies and return armed with fresh baguettes, sausages, local cherries and hunks of soft, fragrant cheese for breakfast.
Despite temptation, we don’t try to cram a week’s worth of sightseeing into one day. But, keen to see the sea, we head 30 minutes east to Fort-Mahon-Plage. We bounce around in the sand dunes for an hour before heading back to the campsite to make the most of the rare sunshine with an afternoon by the pool.
On Sunday morning, over a lazy breakfast, Lola announces she loves camping in France because it’s like living in the actual countryside. And I’m tempted to agree.
On the way back to the Eurostar, stop by St Valery-sur-Somme, where the tiny seaside town has heaps of medieval history a brilliant Sunday morning market. You can also take a ride on Chemin de Fer de la Bair de Somme, a beautiful old steam train the follows the coast of the Somme Bay around to Cayeau-sur-Mer.
Getting there: Eurotunnel goes from Folkestone to Calais. Summer fares from £53 per car (up to nine passengers). DFDS Seaways sails from Dover to Calais, from £38 return per car. St Valéry-sur-Somme and Domaine de Drancourt are about an hour west on the A16 motorway. Le Touquet is about halfway – and just 30 minutes from the tunnel.
Where to stay: Eurocamp in Domain de Drancourt, St Valéry-sur-Somme, Picardy. From £40 for two nights in a six-person tent.Picardy