Wild Camping

We had often talked of wild camping. To motorhome owners this is a foray into the savage, untamed wilds of lay-bys or car parks – without electric hookup! It is ridiculed by the macho backpackers who venture into the real wilderness….but hey ho, we can feel as though we are being brave in our metal tent if we are not safely tucked up in a certified, registered site. Yes, we have torches and blankets, gas fuelled cooking and heating, and a toilet….but it is still wild camping because we are not in a snug, numbered bay with a plug in supply of electric!
Soooo….   

Ignoring the perils, we turned to the lawless, wild side in Norfolk when we snuck into a little car park along the coast road after dark and parked up. It was quiet …the only wild aspect was the stormy weather…but we felt like naughty school kids and were perversely quite pleased when some early morning twitcher dobbed us in to the warden the next day. He politely reminded us that overnight parking was not encouraged – then chatted about his job and the local wildlife.
Nice guy.
He told us that their main objection was that motorhome owners had emptied their onboard chemical toilets into the grounds and watercourses of the nature reserve. We were slightly ashamed to be considered part of that group and assured him that we would not have even considered such a thing. Disgusting on several levels.
But – wild camping – we don’t think it is for us. We spent much of the day seeking a suitable place to park up and wasted what would have been tourist or walking and exploring time in the locality. We also wasted a lot of diesel and it would probably have been cheaper to have booked a pitch somewhere instead of stealing a piece of a free car park for a few hours.
Crime actually doesn’t pay. It amused us though.
Even travelling without a site booked in advance is fraught with little irritations – we have Google and club handbooks but no-one answers their damn phones so again, we waste time, roaming data and fuel seeking out a place to stop.
The main issue we had with becoming outlaws was using our toilet for…well…you know. It has been the final frontier for us…the step too far.
Until now.
Turning the little radio up as loud as we could, amid much encouragement and mirth, we were brave soldiers. Thus another taboo was broken. We were outlaws of the meanest, baddest kind …the sort who use their onboard loo for number two!!
Don’t mess with us!

Our tiny blue planet…

 

As  “Conscious Folk” we have considered our impact on this planet. This is not a “is global warming man-made” discussion….where I sit right now mammoths roamed in a tropical jungle and an ice age formed the landscape. This is just a tiny piece about how after all that, people are messing it up.
                        
On our travels, as I look through the glass of the van windscreen, I have become aware of the piles of discarded waste – be they in land fill sites, lay-bys or pieces of thrown litter with colours rivalling the hedgerow flowers.   We see oily films casting rainbows over water courses and bags waving gaily from tree branches.  Fridges and cookers stand in beautiful outdoor kitchens – miles from the nearest plug. Even if one has the weird sense of humour to see pretties, this is not doing the environment any good.
Ok, it is difficult to preach whilst driving around in a 3 ton, dirty-diesel guzzling VW CREE, but it isn’t going to stop me. Our excuse is that the vehicle already existed and the footprint of scrapping it may be bigger than the miles we cover.
And we can’t afford a new one.
To make up to Mother Nature for the diesel, we are trying to think how we can be more conscious of our impact and reduce it. Packaging is a good thing to rant about – the amount of plastic we use as a species is frightening, much of which is not recycled or even recyclable. Putting something in the recycle bin is not a guarantee of it not causing further damage. It isn’t even a guarantee of it being recycled apparently.
There are shampoo and conditioner bars which save the use of a bottle. Better NO bottle than a bottle to recycle.
Is there a bar for washing up? It would be a good idea.
Fruit and vegetables are often cheaper when packaged. Is this to allow the supermarkets to control the amount we buy maybe? Or because if buying loose fruit and veg, we reject the less than perfect ones?  Or maybe because people with a “cause” will pay more.
Beyond packaging, what about the phenomenon of the upgrade … how many cars and electrical items are sold daily when the old ones still perform well? Where do the discarded items end up? We are all encouraged to keep up with the latest fashion as this keeps the money rolling in.
I could go on, and often do,  but this is well researched and publicised territory….we all KNOW but do we act? What conscious efforts can we make?
I am a bit of a Womble in that I find a use for bits I pick up. I am not much like a Womble in looks – apart from the lack of height and an odd taste in hats perhaps. I try to reuse containers –  sometimes going a tad too far I am told. But tubs with lids are SO handy!  I donate clothing, books etc. to charity shops  and have been known use end-of-life clothing as dusters and floor cloths. Broken things often have a secondary use somehow. It is too easy to bin things rather than reuse or upcycle. I wish I had the time to make rag rugs, patchwork quilts and to grow our own food.
But we are thinking consciously. We are trying to use less electricity, eat locally produced food, and generally be mindful of what we are doing.
This rant is not to advise – I don’t have the expertise – it is more to ask for ideas. And if it makes one person think and react in one tiny way, then job done.
Our world can be changed for the better by one tiny action after another. Be part of the change.

THE POWER OF NOW….or later

NOW is no good to a story-teller or a poet….
How do you grow an imagined rhyme when all there is is present time?
NOW is not where  stories are born – NOW must be torn from the mind
To find that blurry-eyed state where the hero’s fate is written –
For heroes are not of NOW…how can NOW teach us? How would it reach us?
For as soon as it happened NOW has passed ….
Past….it is history
NOW holds no such mystery!
NOW is not where the Faeries play,
They are dancing away in daydreamed hours
Living in flowers and trees which NOW never sees,
Because NOW can’t step into that magical place where time is suspended –
Where the numbers don’t race and fall off the face of the clock
To the rock of the past which NOW has cast aside
In the all-flowing tide -one moment then another –
There is nothing else -so how can there be other?
No stories, no dreaming …NOW has no deeper meaning.
It’s there, it’s gone – doesn’t take long…
But NOW is happening , it’s bang on trend –
And NOW has finished …forever….
THE END

Sliding tyres, roads…and snakes.

Winnats Pass Derbyshire…the nice lady from Rowter Farm had said something about Winnats Pass and Sparrowfoot…. 

“Yeah yeah” we said, too excited about our break in Derbyshire to actually listen.

It was something about there being  one way to the camp site that we were not to attempt in a motorhome.

Especially an old motorhome.

Particularly OUR old motorhome….it didn’t take us long to realise that we were on our way up that very road with no chance of turning back.

Unless we didn’t make it up – and in that case the way down would not be pleasant.

That was almost the case….this poor old CREE almost breathed her last on that stairway to van-heaven. She doesn’t like hills in Suffolk let alone anything like this… 20% and counting! Labouring in first gear, wheels slipping on the Derbyshire rained on road, another fifty feet would have been forty nine too many. Not often the passenger stops talking but …..!!  Said passenger also tried to refuse to go down that treacherous Pass on the way home – but got ignored.  The brakes got warm. It was o.k. actually – the view is amazing – certainly takes your mind off the risk of impending death.

There used to be an alternative route – something more user-friendly. A mountainside road with a softer incline.       And it collapsed many years ago. The road just cracked and slid down the mountain.

Reassuring.

That road was built along the side of a mountain whose sides slip and slide. Eventually the authorities gave up repairing it.  Mam Tor has sides of shale and is known as the shivering or shimmering mountain due to the frequent land slides. Going up or down Winnats Pass in this vehicle also produces a sh** sensation.

We walked it and that was gruelling enough although worth every pained step.

We then travelled along Snake Pass. Stunning scenery – the heather blanketing the peaks as they dipped their foothills into the reservoir.  A glance in the side mirrors confirmed why it is called Snake Pass – our beast proudly headed a long snake of traffic.

We often have a bit of a following….we could refer to them as fans maybe. Or maybe we could not.

We are keen on designing a bumper sticker with the van’s amply proportioned bum on it and the encouraging logo  YOU COULD ALSO BE FOLLOWING US ON FACEBOOK. ….it will give a smile or add to their irritation. But at least they can voice their love of camper-vans to us on FACEBOOK. What better way to make friends and connect ?

Choosing a van…

Choosing a camper-van/motorhome is like choosing a family dog…so much depends on your lifestyle or personality.  And definitely on the depth of your purse.
Maybe you want a big butch beast of a van- one that scares the hell out of minis on the motorway. One that you can’t park within city walls due to its size but you love showing it off in a macho way. If you have the money to feed it then good on ya!
Maybe you like nippy terriers…small and fast.
Or pretty poodles – cute and fussy and prone to large vet bills.
Or a Labrador?  Family-friendly, comfortably-reliable but a little predictable.
Well…we chose a van which is big and cumbersome, with a low-slung solid body. A van with a few unexpected little habits and quirks. Not pretty to look at and never fast –  but once you know it, you can’t help but love it albeit  mostly in a “oh heavens, what now?” sort of way.  Oh…and it smells sometimes if you leave the plug out of the sink whilst travelling. A Basset Hound of a van!

 

 

 

Actually, we have sometimes wondered if the van chose us.
We looked at others but couldn’t take to them – they were cheaper, younger, cuter but not quite right. We read advice about buying, we learned what traits to look for, which makes to consider and what to avoid. And every time we turned round, this beast was there, kind of sulking. Like a stray dog, it just wouldn’t go away. Some of its poorer aspects were things we were advised against accepting: water ingress, damp, rot – these are the swear words of campsites. These are the expensive faults which you never, ever take on. But still it hung on in there, getting itself under our feet until we gave a resigned sigh and dived into the adventure – the three of us…Gav, me and a great big Cree.  Most of the original issues are sorted so to ensure the fun never ends, she chucks us a curved ball every so often – we have come to regard trips to the garage or caravan repairer as part of the adventure. Just as well really. 

 

SITES

This was written in an ECO campsite. What makes a camp site into an ECO campsite ? Maybe not allowing dirty diesels in would be a start….we half expected to be met by placard waving save-the-earth types as we chugged our way along the backwoods, dirt track lane. No, we were met by a delightful chuck wagon which serves as RECEPTION. As a receptionist, we have encountered worse – cute enough to be allowed a degree of scruffiness and easy-to-understand enough to be acceptable as low tech (except for a surveillance camera!) . Certainly more polite than most doctor’s receptionists!! All the necessary instructions were there – we felt welcomed in a remote, trusted sort of way.
Like grown ups. We then found our allotted spot which was basically “where you like in your field”.  All laid back – like a different world.  We had a wander, found the toilets and water point and spoke to a guy on a bicycle – turns out he is the owner. What a brilliant place – full of reclaimed stuff which other sites would have binned or burned. We love reusing stuff – although one of us is over enthusiastic in her “might come in handy” collection she is told!

Wandering around the site, we found two Yurts set up for visitors that evening and had a sneaky look in – they are every little girl’s dream of a fairy palace. Well….how THIS little girl would have pictured it anyway. Kinda natural with comfy bits and a slight hint of sparkle – if the little lights work.

Not the sort of site to come to if you want shiny floors and precision planting …this has nettles because they are a “complete ecosystem” for some creatures, no bingo or snazzy bars. We saw a heron alighting from a pond, we heard a woodpecker, we saw dragonflies, we watched bats beginning their evening frenzied feeding, and listened to the mournful twilight hoots of a tawny owl from his perch in the crack willows. It was almost an Eco-crime to have asked for electric hookup. But we did.
And we were under the flight path of both Mildenhall and Lakenheath bases- we saw the huge cargo planes heading for the former and heard the smaller beasts buzzing to the latter. Not “ECO” but exciting!

At a different campsite, Gav bought a pile of dirty books. No, seriously, grubby. Historical novels and reference books which needed a wipe.
This site was quiet…eerily so as there were ten other units in the field. The facilities and pitches were spotless – one got the impression that the plants had a measured distance between them and any with an odd number of flowers were promptly corrected. The pedantic grammar police were delighted to see real filth however: TOILET’S and SHOWER’S as well as a misspelling of their own name – ewwwwwwww! But that is our particular soap box to stand on – we do so with glee (and a wary eye on our own scribblings!). The site was beautifully run, organised and the welcome was comfortingly and efficiently warm like a new blanket which smells of shop rather than home.
All types of site have their place in society. We are accepting of most – every site has a reviewer’s vision of lofty summit and death’s dark vale – it depends on what one is seeking and on one’s emotional eyesight as to what one notices the most each time.

Waves and flashes…in Wales

En route to Wales, we invented a new game: we like to wave at other vans/motorhomes – we like it better when they return our cheery salutation. So, we began counting.
It went poorly to begin with.  Then we decided that if a fellow “house-on-back” traveller waves first, it counts as two points. We were around 8-4 in front when we found that on the motorways, no-one notices other vehicles unless they are trying to get past them. And that happens a lot with motorhomes…other vehicles trying to get past I mean. We were getting a drubbing – one of us is an Ipswich Town fan and was getting that sinking feeling so we gave up.
Until that is, we got onto a Welsh coastal road and employed some gamesmanship by flashing the headlights and waving madly at oncoming vans – we scored 8 – 3 on one stretch…easy easy!!

A little playlet was composed as follows:

Gaff-the-driver was despondent that no-one would return his cheery waved greeting as he drove his old motorhome around the Welsh hills and valleys.            Trudi-the-talker encouraged him…”flash them dear, flash them!”        Before you could say “Roberts-the-exhibitionist” , Gaff-the-driver had his skinny arse waggling out the window with a beaming smile.   No mean feat whilst negotiating his way around the A493 Machynlleth to Dolgellau coast road. He got plenty of waves that day…good of the local constabulary to join in!    

 

  

What’s the worst that can happen…

We always try to brush off minor worries with a cheery - and brave if a little trepidatious - "what's the worst that can happen?".

Dear Traveller, one of the worst things that can happen whilst being away in the van is finding that also sharing the journey, sitting grinning inanely out of the windscreen, is a diarrhoea and vomiting bug.
Murderous! 
Especially if there are no toilets nearby!!  
See, we have an agreement....no solids in the van toilet. Not that diarrhoea is solid but....you get the idea.  How many holes can one dig without leaving the area looking like a mole army battleground? A toxic mole army battleground at that.  

The dreaded D/V struck us both whilst we were enjoying a peaceful weekend in the Suffolk countryside in an orderly and pristine campsite. Just making it outside at dark-o-clock to throw up right outside the van door is not conducive to a romantic break. Nor does it endear one to one's fellow field-sharers.  Then there is the hurried trot (sorry!) to the camp toilet block ....again and again. Probably leaving a well-worn trail in the camp site's beautifully manicured grass. Never mind what we left in the impossibly clean facilities. 
Well....we came home. Having invented a new high number on the Bristol Stool chart, we did not want to share our new found infamy.