History of recreational camping in Britain and elsewhere.
Camping as a recreational activity entered into popular society over 100 years ago. It is widely accepted that Thomas Hiram Holding was one of the first proponents of the activity, which is gaining in popularity every year and will continue to do so, through the effects of the current economic climate. There are currently over 1.2 million people who use camping as their main holiday within the UK and this is set to grow in my opinion.
Holding wrote the first Camper's Handbook in 1908. This book described to people, for the first time, the basics of camping. The knowledge required to write this book he learnt whilst traveling with a wagon train across the prairies of America. The journey, taken with his family in 1853 at the age of 9, was 1200 miles long, we can only marvel at the experiences he must have had.
In 1887 he visited the highlands of Scotland whilst on a cruise and decided to camp from his canoe. Holding was also a keen cyclist and it was after a conversation with a friend he later embarked on what could have been the first bicycle camping trip which they took in Ireland. For this trip, Holding designed some easily portable camping equipment, embarking with 4 friends in the late 1800s. He wrote a book about this experience entitled 'Cycle and Camp in Connemara' (1898), the book has an open invitation for fellow enthusiasts to contact him, which led to the formation of Association of Cycle Campers in 1901.
This group, originally formed of 13 members held it's first meeting in Wantage in 1901 with only 6 people in attendance. It is this group though that made up the beginnings of the Camping and Caravanning Club, which has now grown in popularity to well over a third of a million members, as more and more people take up the activity, It is important to note here some of the famous and influential people who have acted as it's head. The first of which being Captain Robert Falcon-Scott who later became known as 'Scott of the Antarctic'. He held the post from 1909 until his death 3 years later. The next notable member was Sir Robert Baden-Powell who went on to form the scouting movement. This trend has continued over the following years with the current incumbent being Dr David Bellamy OBE the famous Naturalist.
One of the first campsites was on the Isle of Mann which is believed to have opened it's fields in 1894. It opened for the summer season and expanded continuously in terms of size and visits over the over the following decade, indeed, by the end of the 1800s it was attracting over 600 people per week, In 1904 another 4 acres of land was purchased in order that an additional 1500 tents could be erected, alongside this a huge marquee was pitched to act as a dining hall.
The growth of recreational camping continued unbounded over the following years, apart from a slight decline in numbers during the first world war, until in 1932 the first international camping organisation was founded the Fédération Internationale de Camping et de Caravanning (FICC).
The next major shift in recreational camping,came about due to people wanting a more formidable shell between themslves and the elements. Caravans were starting to become popular by the end of the 1930s, companies starting springing up offering different types and some people even started building their own!!
During the 1960s there was a seismic change in the way people went on holiday in the UK. People started to notice the benefits of camping rather than staying in a boarding house which had always been more popular before. Some of the reasons for this were that camping was far cheaper, the price and quality of camping goods was improving and whilst camping you didn't have to adhere to the stricter rules of boarding houses.
Festival camping started to grow in popularity around this period also. Camping has allowed people to stay within close proximity to the actual proceedings of the festivals. Most festivals now offer simple camping facilities.
The popularity of camping grew over the next decades until nowadays there are 1.2 million people who choose camping as there holiday in Britain each year. Efforts have been made to increase the popularity of camping in the UK with initiatives such as National Camping and Caravanning Week which attempts to break the record each year for the amount of people camping at one specific time. The highest figure recorded was on May24th 2003 when 92,435 people camped simultaneously.
Camping started to become popular in America in the mid to late 1800s when organised camps started being set up. However It was not until after World War ll, when the growth in numbers of motorised vehicles enabled people to travel further with their camping equipment that camping really started to increase in popularity.
Most people in America tend to belong to local clubs where as campers in Australasia tend to camp individually as there aren't as many organised sites available. Camping is growing in popularity in Africa and also in Asia.