Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm is set on a Lake District campsite. I thought I’d share with you some of my own camping adventures – and misadventures!
My first experience of camping (other than sleeping in a tent in the back garden) came when I was in the Girl Guides, nearly forty years ago. Every summer my guide company went camping, and we were lucky that being so close to the North Yorkshire Moors we had easy access to a beautiful national park.
Camping with the guides was basic – really basic. Tents were heavy green canvas ones, with enormous wooden pegs, that took real effort and skill to pitch. Toilets were chemical buckets in smelly green toilet tents. Washing facilities consisted of a washing up bowl perched on a stand which we had to make ourselves out of branches. If you were good at knots, you had a neat little washroom in your wash tent. If you weren’t you had a washing up bowl on the floor. I don’t think we washed that much anyway!
Then there was the pit. All the waste went into a deep pit, which if we were lucky the farmer (in whose field we were camping) would have dug for us. If we were unlucky, the leaders ended up digging it. Worst job on the campsite was emptying the toilet buckets into the pit. We did have to work quite hard as well as having fun – we had rotas for cooking, cleaning and looking after the fires but I don’t remember anyone refusing to do their bit.
We cooked over a fire, which sounds idyllic but usually resulted in food which was burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. My particular favourite camping food was hedgehogs (not real hedgehogs, of course!) which consisted of meat balls with rice in them cooked in tomato soup. The rice was always crunchy, the meat was occasionally raw, and because us guides weren’t that good at chopping onion, there were usually huge chunks of it floating in the sauce.
We had treasure hunts and hikes, orienteering, bridge or raft building, and crafts in the tent if it rained. The thing I enjoyed most about guide camps was the campfires. Most nights we would sit around the fire (on ‘campfire mats’ which consisted of woven newspaper, decorated and put in a clear plastic bag to keep them waterproof) and we would sing together. On the last night of camp we would always sing ‘I want to linger’ which brought tears to my eyes because it meant that camp was over for another year.
Mm, I want to linger, Mm, a little longer, Mm, a little longer with you. Mm, it's such a perfect night, Mm, it doesn't seem quite right, Mm, that it should be my last with you. Mm, and come September, Mm, I will remember, Our camping days and friendships true. Mm, and as the years go by, Mm, I'll think of you and sigh, Mm, this is goodnight and not goodbye.