Hello daddy, hello mummy. Life at summer camp is scrummy

An old US institution immortalised in song is now fashionable in Britain, reports Susie Currie

Something is happening in Middle England this summer. Parents who used to be nervous about letting little Timmy go away on school trips are sending him on week-long activity holidays, where Timmy learns anything from windsurfing to trampolining.

Other parents are taking the opportunity to have a holiday away from their children, where before they would not have dreamed of leaving them behind. This year, thousands of British youngsters are opting out of the family holiday and choosing instead to spend a week or more abseiling and quad-biking in the British countryside. Sending the kids to American- style summer camp is in fashion.

Camp Beaumont, a family firm which has run camp holidays for six to 18-year-olds for the past 17 years, says that the number at its summer camps has nearly trebled since 1987, to 16,000 this year, while PGL, the biggest and oldest operator, reports that it will be host to 18,000 children at its 30 activity centres during the summer, an increase of 50 per cent on its 1992 figures.

Superchoice (owned by Scottish & Newcastle, which also runs Centreparcs and Pontins) started in 1995 with a single residential centre on the Isle of Wight, and recently opened its second centre at Osmington Bay in Dorset. The company has invested pounds 1.75m in customising its camps for children, which are fully booked with 2,000 this year. Some parents are trying to reserve places more than a year in advance.

The "character-building" aspects of camp have created a fashion for them: in June, Harpers & Queen featured a long article about them, and the camp directors report a fair number of parents dropping their children off from Mercedes and BMWs.

Summer camp doesn't come cheap. Although day camps in London cost the same as a registered childminder, the current fashion is for residential camps lasting a week or more, which cost about pounds 280 per child per week. Sending two children for a fortnight costs the same as if the whole family were to go to Spain.

Both the parents and children think it's worth it. At Superchoice's Osmington Bay Centre, Dana and Kylie, both aged nine, are back for their second year at camp. They saved up out of their pocket money to help pay the cost of their two-week holiday. "Mum's on her honeymoon at the moment, and Kylie's Mum is in Rhodes," said Dana. "We arranged camp first though. We want to come for three weeks next year!"

For parents working full-time and with short holidays, summer camp is a solution to the problem of keeping the children busy during the long summer break. They come home having tried out new activities and made new friends, including some from abroad.

Julien, 16, from Orleans in France, said his favourite activity was power- boating. He came to Osmington Bay with his penfriend from England, and ended up staying an extra week.

Safety has always been a big concern for parents, particularly since the 1993 Lyme Regis disaster in which four teenagers drowned while canoeing. Now companies take extra care to train instructors and carers and check their qualifications, and invite parents to examine camp safety precautions for themselves. A new camp-accreditation body has started inspections to ensure that companies are following safety guidelines.

A lot of new business is coming through the children themselves. Lee, nine, is at Osmington Bay Centre for the second year running, but this time his friend Daniel, also nine, has come with him. When school resumes they will tell their friends what they did during the summer, and their friends may well ask their parents if they can all go together next year. Parents who know someone whose children have been to camp before are less wary, and often let a younger child go too, or the same children go back and stay an extra week.

In the US the children's summer camp has long been a flourishing institution, and in 1963 the American comedian Allan Sherman had an enormous hit on both sides of the Atlantic with his letter home from a less-than-happy young inmate. It went:

Hello, muddah.

Hello, faddah.

Here I am at

Camp Granada.

Camp is very

Entertaining

And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining...

Then, the record was a chance for the British to laugh at an American pastime they knew little about. If it's raining this summer in the British equivalent of Camp Granada, an increasing number will know about it for themselves.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition