Spanner and screwdriver at the ready, today John and I put together the first of our five new fire pits destined for the private spaces outside our luxury camping pods on Boustagill Farm. We’ll be lighting a fire tonight after sundown, and we’re looking forward to seeing the glow through the cut-outs of moons and stars round the side of the bowl. The marshmallows and skewers are at the ready, and a glass of red wine will only add to the occasion.
Glamping in the UK has been rapidly on the rise over a few years as more and more people recognise the benefits of taking a break on our little island. A favourite part of the glamping experience is lighting a fire when the sun starts to fade, gathering round it with friends or family for food, drinks or a good chat.
Every year the nearby town of Grassington hosts Dickensian weekends on the run-up to Christmas, and my favourite memory of one visit was standing with friends around a tall, black fire basket, warming our hands in the December chill. What is it about fire pits that is so appealing to us, and why does its attraction span the generations from the very youngest to the oldest? I decided to find out where our love of an open flame comes from, and why we are so drawn to them.
Researchers at the University of Alabama believe that our love of a fire may be rooted in evolution, as the act of gathering around a fire dates back to prehistoric times. We’re basically getting in touch with our inner caveman.
The researchers, led by anthropologist Christopher Lynn, asked 226 adults to watch a video of a fireplace, and took their blood pressure before and after watching the video. Researchers found an average of a five percent decrease in blood pressure among participants who watched the fire with sound. The longer they watched the fire, the more relaxed they became. Among control groups who watched the fire with no sound and who viewed an upside-down picture of fire, blood pressure increased.
The researchers suggested that when we’re sitting fireside, all of our senses become absorbed in the experience. Having a calming focus of attention could also help to reduce anxiety. Lynn hypothesized that we may have evolved to enjoy being around fires because they were historically important means of fostering social cohesion. During the Stone Age, humans likely socialized around campfires, a place where they felt safe and warm.
“Archaeological evidence suggests ancestors probably started using fire thousands of years before they figured out how to start one,” Lynn explained. “Therefore, especially in the colder climates, sitting around a fire to keep it going would have been a very important job. Collecting kindling, keeping the fire going, cooking — all these things required cooperation, at least when conditions were poor. Those groups more successful at keeping the fire going would have had an advantage over groups that didn’t.”
Luckily, you won’t need to go foraging for kindling and wood to keep your fire going at Peaks and Pods. We have all you need right here, but you will be in charge of lighting it, putting enough logs on and making sure your marshmallows don’t drop into the fire!