Saturday 27th August, 10:03pm
The first two nights on camp it rained and rained. There were breaks but when it came down, boy did it fall hard. From inside the tent it sounded as though it were hailing, and that first night it really unnerved me. As it suddenly thundered down I grabbed Rob’s arm and exclaimed in a small voice ‘I don’t like it!’. And this from someone who loves the rain – really loves it – as anyone who’s read my book will know. I like to sit inside, watching it hit the windows and the world outside, I even like to walk in it as it pelts down around me. But this rain sounded menacing as it hit the tent and the sound of this force intensified ten fold as it hit our polyester shelter. That, along with the pitch blackness outside, our location in the middle of the New Forest, and my first ever night sleeping in a tent, was the perfect mix to create irrational and unsubstantiated – but nevertheless very real – fear in me. But as quickly as it came it went, and I settled as best as I could – feeling a little calmer – under the netting inside our tent, which was actually very cosy and well made. The notion of camping that I had always disregarded had suddenly seemed exciting when Rob and I decided on this trip but now the reality hit me that I was inside a thin polyester pod in the middle of a field, situated in the heart of a forest, in the dead of a cold, wet night. I must have lost my senses.
At some point in the night I drifted into a somewhat restless sleep. The rain started again sometime around 2am, at a guess, and Poppy began moving about the tent, and she didn’t hesitate when we invited her to move from her spot at the end of our blow up, duvet-clad bed to the warmth between us underneath the duvet. There she stayed, snug and contented, all night long.
The second night was better – less of a climate shock – and by the third I was becoming used to temporary new home, and really enjoying it. Last night was the first which was completely dry. The afternoon had been bright, warm and sunny, and so we lit a barbecue in the evening and cooked chicken, sausages and burgers in the open air; now this was great!
P.S Poppy had the time of her life:
Come back soon for the final part!
Friday 26th August
I’m sitting cross legged in the middle of a wet field with nothing but my pyjama bottoms and a sheet of polyester between my bottom and the earth. The early morning dampness hangs in the air and the sun sits low in the sky. Across the field there are others like me; some sitting, some gently stretching their arms to the sky, some slowly walking over to the other side. I haven’t taken up yoga or eloped to join a cult, I’ve joined the millions who holiday under canvas or polyester every year; I’ve gone camping.
We arrived late on Wednesday evening, car packed to the brim – tent; gas lights; kettle; towels; pillows; blow-up bed; dog towels; travel crate; leads; dog bowls; dog food. The addition of Poppy, our 8 month old Springer Spaniel, was a last minute one, and one I still had reservations about as we drove off to the New Forest (Rob, me and a high-energy puppy, wet from running through the forest, all squashed into a tent was not a good thought). In fact, the whole trip was last minute and it showed in our disorganised packing and omission of essentials, forgotten or not thought of in our hurry. We have no sharp knife (cutting an onion with a plastic knife is a painfully slow business), no first aid kit, no compass. But we do have a box of paints, an electric toothbrush with no charger and anyway no means of charging it (let’s hope it lasts), and a corkscrew. Actually, you could argue that the last one is an essential, certainly for a thirty-something first-time camper like me, who’s more used to perfume and heels than insect repellent and wellies. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being at one with nature in the great outdoors, sleeping under the stars, cooking on an open flame, hiking through woodland. I just like my creature comforts – and they are very different to the comforts the creatures in this field enjoy. Hence the addition of a fluffy hot water bottle and bed socks in our luggage.
I look up from writing just now and realise I don’t know what the time is. I think it must be around lunchtime but is it before midday or after, and how far before or past? I haven’t a clue. I think to look for my watch to check and then stop myself – why do I need to know? I have no need to do anything, to be anywhere, no appointments to keep, no tasks to check off. I feel a little agitated for a minute; if I were at home right now or at work it would all be there needing to be done, to be worried about. But here, there’s nothing to be concerned with but keeping the tent leak-free and the insects out.
Saturday 27th August
The early mornings on camp are among the most peaceful I’ve ever known. Just sitting – being – outside in the open air, listening to a chorus of bird song and watching the sun slowly rise higher in the sky, is soul cleansing. Everything is still – most people still sleeping soundly in their tents – aside from the odd person here and there sitting reading in the morning light or lighting a stove for a brew, and the occasional swift flutter of a flock of birds, flying low and carefree in the morning sky. The sun shines on the grass, lighting up the dew, making the grass shimmer and sparkle like a field of diamonds.
This morning I was woken by a cow mooing proudly somewhere close by. Other campers told us on our first day that the herd of deer in the next field wander over to this one in the still of the night and often come so close to the tents that you can hear them graze. I haven’t heard them yet but when we unzipped our tent yesterday morning there they were at the end of the field, standing majestically with their tails swishing and their antlers held high, completely uninterested in the surprised and delighted campers looking on.
Look out for part two shortly…
Introducing my friend good friend Gene, check out his incredible photographs!
Take a look at his Flickr stream for more photos. To contact Gene email GeneWeatherleyPhotography@gmail.com