Kate Humble: Bank Holiday camping? Find a friend with an Aga
Wild camping seems to be rather frowned upon these days
Sunday 29 April 2012
Everyone's talking about the weather. We have gone from drought to deluge, from the driest winter to the wettest April – and there are gloomy predictions that this May will be the coldest in 100 years. Great: just as a Bank Holiday bonanza is about to start.
We live in a part of the world that ensures our weather is famously changeable, but does that make us more resilient to it? I'm ashamed to admit that I am anything but stoical in bad weather. Not long after I married my husband Ludo we went to Africa and lived out of the back of a Ford Cortina van for several months. It was a climate that was for the most part warm and dry, and I loved it, and hankered for van-living ever after.
A couple of years ago, Ludo relented. "But we're not having one of those vintage things painted to look like a child's bedroom. We'll spend the rest of our lives on the hard shoulder waiting for a tow truck." So we got a modern VW camper van, with a pop-up roof and fantastically efficient, German-designed storage. We took possession of it on a beautiful sunny day, loaded it up and drove west into the heart of Wales.
The skies darkened. Heavy rain drops began to fall with the slow intensity that warns of a thorough, unremitting drenching. We parked the camper on the edge of a wood; a hidden spot looking out over a lake, trees and distant hills. Wild camping seems to be rather frowned upon these days, and certainly not encouraged, yet I always feel that the spirit of freedom and adventure dwindles somewhat when you find yourself parked in a campsite's concrete bay next to another camper van, the smoke from your neighbour's charred chops drifting through the windows.
The downside of wild camping is the lack of a hot shower. It's fine if it is warm; not so fine when you are cold and wet and have just discovered that the only socks you brought with you are the ones hanging dripping over the wing mirrors.
"Let's phone Richard!" I suggested. Richard and his wife Flavia are old friends who live barely an hour's drive from our camping spot.
"Can we come and see you?" I yelled to Richard, over the sound of the rain thundering down on the van roof. "Don't worry about a bed. We can bring that. We've even got food for supper."
We parked right outside their front door, and unrolled the canopy attached to the side of the van so it joined with the porch and we could walk from camper to house without getting wet. Their downstairs shower room was as good as an en suite. "This is the perfect way to camp in the rain," I observed, as we sat in their warm, dry kitchen with a bottle of wine, our socks steaming gently on the Aga.
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