It sounds strange. Yet why not? How very British and eccentric to find a camel trekking centre nestled in the lush hills of the West Country. You've certainly freaked out everyone else on the bridleway that day, including shying ponies, barking dogs and open-mouthed children, as you made your stately way along the track to the open moor. For camels are nothing if not dignified, responding not to kicks of the heels, nor even to pleading entreaty as they go at their own pace, thank you very much, (adrenaline junkies might get a little frustrated on a camel trek) but they get you there and can cover more ground in a day than any other trekking animal. Why take a camel trek in Britain? Apart from the sheer surrealness of it (as good a reason as any, let's face it), camels do offer a very different perspective on a landscape. You are much, much higher than you would be on a horse and sit far above hedgerow, and sometimes even tree height. You always have a commanding view, whether into someone's back garden ("Mummy, it's those camel people again") or out over the green patchwork of the countryside. The beasts themselves are also charming, despite their reputation for kicking and biting. They graciously consent to let you on their backs by kneeling down for you to clamber on, they will not, like horses, shy at plastic bags and run away from imaginary ghosts in the gorse.
The Bridgwater Camel Company, which operates from a farm at the foot of the Quantocks in Somerset, offers guided camel rides by the hour, half- day, day or overnight treks sleeping under canvas, the camels forming a protective ring around your tents. You have to supply a sleeping-bag, sleeping-mat, clothes and toiletries, but food and other equipment are provided.
Pretty much anyone can take a camel trek; there are even opportunities for disabled people. But if you've got a bad back don't try it, and if heights scare you, give this one a miss. You are seated way up high, are precariously balanced and there is much swaying into the bargain.
If you have a decent sense of balance, however, you'll enjoy the strange motion, as it is very much like being on a boat in a strong, but steady swell. But best of all is the dinner-party mileage it gives: "Do anything last weekend?"
"Oh not much, just trekked through Somerset on a camel; nice creature ate a rambler's woolly hat; would keep groaning at night though ...."
camel trekKing Fact file
Camel Trekking, the Bridgwater Camel Company, Orchard Farm, Plainsfield, Over Stowey, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA5 1HH. Tel: 01278 733 186.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Camping or, if bad weather, in an old chapel. Full board provided.
Children over three welcome.
Some disabled people can be accommodated, ring the company to discuss possibilities.
Riders should provide their own holiday insurance.
Somerset Tourist Board.
Hour's ride, pounds 10 adult or child; half-day ride, pounds 36 adult, pounds 18 child; full day's ride, pounds 69 adult, pounds 35 child; overnight ride, pounds 120 adult, pounds 50 child including lunch, dinner and breakfast, as well as tent.
pounds 10 deposit for each person, for any type of ride.
Between Minehead and Taunton in Somerset. From the M5, exit at Junction 23 (the Bridgwater exit), then go north to the A39 to Cottage Inn and follow the sign for Taunton. After two miles you'll come to the hamlet of Plainsfield, where Orchard Farm, the camel centre, is located.Reuse content