Tales from the Campsite, 5

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!

Fire, Wind and Water.

None of the above are exactly what you want to encounter in a campsite. I have to say that over the years, I’ve experienced all three. Sometimes I wonder why I still own a tent!


I’ve finally left behind the tales of my camping days with the Girl Guides. I’m a few years older, and I’m a student now, and I’ve moved on to festival camping and modern nylon tents instead of huge canvas things. I say ‘festival camping’ as if I was ever some cool young thing who went to Glasto. Nope, I was a very nerdy student who went to folk festivals.

I think this was the first time I had camped by myself, though I was with some friends from my local folk club who had given me a lift to the festival, and were camping next to me. I had a small, second hand brown nylon tent which was big enough for myself, an air bed and not much else, which as it turned out was quite lucky.

The festival campsite had been carefully chosen in a sheltered location down in the valley. My friends told me that this was because a previous cliff-top site was decimated by a bad storm a few years previously – my money is on that storm being Hurricane Charley! I nod wisely. I know all about the perils of camping in a storm. So the new site was tucked away between the railway and the river, on a nice, flat, lush green field, and I feel nice and safe there. Sheltered, even.

So, there I am, tucked up in my sleeping bag. It’s the middle of the final night of the festival and I hear shouting. I turn over and pull my sleeping bag over my head. Somebody’s come back to the site late and drunk after a few too many choruses of Wild Mountain Thyme. It happens. Ignore them and go back to sleep.

But now there are more voices. There are car engines too, and people moving about. A lot of people seem to be shouting about the water, but although it rained a lot yesterday it’s been mainly dry today and it certainly isn’t raining now. And then I hear my friends in the next tent are shouting my name. I open the zip of my tent and look out. It’s a strange sight – all around me, car headlights are on, illuminating the site, and people are taking their tents down. Why? It’s not even nearly dawn yet!

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

And then I look behind me, towards the river, to see a little wave of water moving inexorably across the field, illuminated by the beams of light from several pairs of headlights. It’s only an inch or so deep, but it’s going to be at my tent in a matter of minutes, and the tents nearer the river are already under several inches of water. The spring tide has combined with all that rain we had the day before coming down off the moors, and the tide is rising in the campsite. I just have time to put my wellies and my waterproof coat on over my pyjamas. I get my clothes into the back of my friends’ car, but it’s too late for the airbed, the sleeping bag and the tent, as the water is now lapping around my feet. My friends are moving the car, while they still can, to the higher part of the campsite, and I follow, dragging my soggy tent behind me.

I learnt a lesson that day too – lush, flat, green fields by the river might look tempting to camp in, but they’re probably water meadows! I don’t think anybody has written a folk song about it yet, though. As I camped out one midsummer morning, I saw the tide wash away my tent …

This incident didn’t make it into Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm although at one point I was tempted to make the beck break its banks during the storm that brings the story to its conclusion, but I thought that was a little bit too much drama to throw at poor Amy. It is her very first camping trip, after all …

Tales from the Campsite, 3

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!


Every campsite has one. Some campsites have several. Toilet blocks? Water points? Spiders? No, unsupervised children who just hang around the campsite all day, now known in our house as ASBs. This stands for ‘Annoying Small Boy’. They aren’t all boys, of course, it was just that the first one we encountered was a boy and the name (and the abbreviation) stuck. You see, a lot of kids don’t actually find camping that entertaining. And when they get bored on a campsite …

Image by sabinamajoor from Pixabay

It goes like this. You arrive at the campsite and start to pitch your tent. The next thing you know, there’s a child, standing at a short distance away, watching you intently.

Judging you.

“My Mum and Dad’s tent is better than this one.” ASB might then tell you, pointing at the biggest tent on the campsite. “That’s theirs.” Their tent is, indeed, impressive, but of Mum and Dad there will be no sign. They’re probably hiding from ASB somewhere.

Chances are that ASB has a ball, or another piece of play equipment, banned from the camping area, which they are playing with very close to where you are trying to set up your camp kitchen. “Is your kid going to play with me?” they ask. Of course, anything seems better to my kids than helping to pitch the tent, so …

So you end up at the play area, where, of course, the ASB will insist on playing on the one piece of equipment that your child has chosen, in order to force your child to play with them. I always seemed to end up trying to supervise an uneasy truce between my child (who will inevitably be significantly older or younger than the ASB and quickly decides that they don’t want to play with them) and the ASB. It won’t be a happy truce for anyone. Especially me.

Image by Vlad Vasnetsov from Pixabay

The other territory of the ASB, when they’ve done with the playground, is the toilet block.

I don’t know why this should be the case. I mean, if you tried to suggest to a child anywhere other than a campsite that they should play in the toilets they’d think you were mad – especially when said campsite has an expensive outdoor play area, a stream, trees to climb and an indoor play area with a pool table in case of rain. But no. All this is ignored in favour of formica cubicles, a few sinks, and a door which slams loudly whenever you go in and out. ASBs will head straight for the toilets where they will lurk, all day, ready to entrap the unwary camper, usually only with embarrassing questions about what you are doing at the toilet block. However that’s still better than the time that a whole gang of them started lurking outside the toilets with water pistols.

Of course, I realise that there’s another side to the existence of ASBs. They are bored children, hanging round the campsite all day with nothing to do, and adults who aren’t interacting with them. They’re making their own entertainment, I suppose! But I couldn’t write a novel about a campsite without an ASB in it – so the character of Ty was born. He makes a fleeting appearance to contrast with the two boys at the heart of the story, and he cuts rather more of a sad figure than an annoying one.

But he does have cool Spiderman pyjamas!

New Directions

Lake District weather …

I’ve finished another book. This time I think it might be commercial enough to tempt a publisher (none of my usual black comedy and awkward characters) so wish me luck with the book currently known as “Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm”.

It features a remote and beautiful campsite, a single mum and a widowed dad, two mischievous boys and a deflated air mattress. Oh, and lots of rain.

I bet you can’t guess where it is set!