From declaring in 1901 that camping was ‘a most wholesome occupation’, the paper has reported on everything from new tent designs, bizarre outdoor movements, the sanitary arrangements on continental campsites, fire-making, to where to find the most authentic ‘glamping’ experience.
The very best of these articles has been brought together in The Guardian Under Canvas, a new ebook that offers a unique history of camping in Britain.
The story begins in the early 20th century with the emergence of the cycle-campers, a band of mainly middle-class men led by Shropshire tailor, Thomas Hiram Holding. After the first world war, a more diverse group began to sample the joys of the outdoor life and during the 1930s camping clubs and sites began to appear all over the country. In the decades following 1945, the paper reflected the fact that more and more of its readers were forsaking their beloved Lake District for the more exotic France, while in the 1980s many were opting for the easier life offered by readymade campsites such as Eurocamp. The growth in recent years of outdoor music festivals, environmental concerns, combined with the appearance of very cheap tents and equipment, has led to the current boom in popularity of camping.
|David Lloyd George, British chancellor of the exchequer (later PM) camping in North Wales. The Manchester Guardian, 29 August 1913|
This though is very much in keeping with the Manchester Guardian’s (Manchester was dropped from the title in 1959) historic interest in the great outdoors. The early growth in camping went hand in hand with a general concern for health and wellbeing, it being considered good for the nation’s health to escape the industrialised cities once in awhile. This was very much the view of the paper, which championed the outdoor movement and the need for all members of society to enjoy a holiday. As such, the paper promoted recreational camping from the very beginning and has continued to do so ever since - whether it's discussing the relative merits of the yurt or the teepee, or urging readers to try wildcamping.