Monday, April 28

Backpackers Club AGM Meet - Trip Report

What then to say about the Backpackers Club AGM/Camp weekend? As a member of only a couple of years this was the first event I'd gone to. With a round trip drive of approx 9 hours I'd say the expense and time was worth the effort on this occasion. Initial feelings on hitting the campsite were mixed. With around 40 tents pitched by Friday afternoon it was clearly a popular get together. But as I walked through the area set aside for the BPC members I couldn't help a feeling of a 'cliqueyness' a feeling that never quite deserted me during the weekend.
Friday night - early arrivals

Now please don't take that the wrong way. The people I spoke with were friendly with our shared appreciation of backpacking/camping. But one clear message that I took away with me was that of those attending the average age looked to be somewhere in the mid 50. Many of those I spoke to had been members for many years, some dating back to the club's formation back in the 70s. And with shared experiences over that length of time it can be daunting for a new & solo walker to wander into their midst. I'd guess that's why the BPC organises Newbie meets, to try to overcome this for those perhaps less gregarious than myself.

One question that remained nagging at me as I drove southwards on Sunday - where are the younger members, the ones that the club must have to remain viable into the future? Raising it with one committee member we discussed the life pattern of potential members. Interested in 'packing when young, possibly as part of a group of friends. In the late 20s onwards family and work commitments mean other interests take priority, and its only as the mid 40s hit, and family responsibilities recede, that the old pleasure are revisited. But by then the old social groups have gone their separate ways, and so the BPC will potentially picks up a new member. Lets face it, the pleasure to be found in outdoor/backpacking/wildcamping is not something that is easily shared with the majority of our friends and social acquaintances on the whole. If indeed they even really understand what is involved.

The demographic reality is a difficult obstacle to overcome for the present committee, but it's a key challenge if the club is to prosper in future decades.

On a positive note it was welcoming to see many folk in their 60s and 70s bounding around during the weekend putting paid to any view that with age comes automatic decrepitude. A token lesson in how to grow old (relatively) disgracefully. Not a zimmer frame in sight for these OAPs (lol)

So a few jottings taken at random during the weekend. Not necessarily reflective in themselves of the weekend as a whole, but something that felt relevant at the time:

By Saturday afternoon there were approx 140 -150 tents in an area possibly only ever intended for 100 maximum. As a result wandering back through the campsite in the dark made for an interesting trip. Quite literally at times.

A rather perverse situation really considering the majority of attendees like nothing more than to get to some remote site to camp in peace and quiet. At one with nature. Both nights saw their fair share of snorers to the right of me, snorers to the left, despite taking the precaution of camping on the outskirts of the site. And then there was the noise of the A6 passing nearby. Not my usual wildcamping experience on this occasion!

Just how big is his backpack?

The gear show, judging by comments from those around me, was substantially down on the number of stands, stock & bargains compared to last year's Bellingham event. Talking to Podcast Bob & Rose on the Backpackinglight stand, those exhibitors that did attend had tried to vary the gear they brought, but inevitably some duplication was going to be inevitable.

On a sad note I heard tell some stock was stolen from one stand. Not something you'd ever expect at such an event, and I'd like to think nothing to do with any BPC members. But for one exhibitor probably not a persuasive reason to return next year without some guarantee from the club on this matter. As a free show it was open to any passer-by. And there were a lot of day walkers wandering past throughout the day.

Finally getting my hands on Go-Lite and OMM sacks I was seriously tempted by a Go-Lite Quest, but demonstrating that great self-control that comes with years of tantric self-abuse, I refrained. Similarly I spotted the Go-Lite Shangri-La 2 - a 2 man tarp tent at a show price of £99, weighing in at 708g.

Its the first time I've seen something rising from the ultralight tarp sector that I'd seriously consider as suitable for UK hill conditions. The 1 man model wasn't on display but coming in at 538g I'm going to have to search out one of these in the flesh.

I was looking for a new sleeping bag, but those on offer just couldn't match the pack down volume of my Vango 225; And to be honest the prices were huge compared to its original cost. It definitely impressed someone else as I was offered a substantial sum to sell it, despite my explanation I had been sleeping in it the previous night (or perhaps it was the allure of Eau-de-Blogger)

The Show/AGM location, Ashford in the Water, is a small village a couple of miles west of Bakewell. Surprisingly it has managed to retain two pubs and one small general store despite its size. I can vote for the village shop, but the pubs were dire.

In particular the one opposite the show, The Ashford Arms, seemed overwhelmed by the request for lunchtime food. To queue for 20 minutes (and a small queue at that) only to be told they couldn't handle food orders, with a restaurant area half empty, meant any further trade that weekend walked out the door and didn't return. As for the other pub - the sight of £4 for a soup meant a quick about turn.

As a result the village shop's willing ability to turn out sandwiches and teas with a smile, despite a busy shop, was most welcome, and hopefully it turned into a profitable day for them.

Matlock's a pretty town, with the Peli Deli cafe a real find located on the main roundabout by the bridge. A friendly owner (busily planning his Coast To Coast next year) who was happy to serve, chat and leave me to read the morning newspaper as I sat basking in the hot morning sunshine. If I ever own a coffee bar, it would have to be run with the level of friendliness and easy going good humour I found here. Highly recommended if you're in the area.

The view from Matlock to the hills

As is our want some UK Outdoor Bloggers managed our usual get together - so plenty of catching up with

London Backpacker, dropping in during his Peak District tour, Darren, Dawn and LiteHiker amongst many other on-line acquaintances.

The view from my tent after inviting Darren to pitch nearby (He's a very literal man) Next time we share my tent - lol

'Berk of The BPC Meet' Award goes to the owner of this tent.
Were you on the receiving end of several late night Saturday requests to keep the noise down (a radio for gawd sake!) Or to stop repeatedly flashing your torches across nearby tents as you chatted loudly to your two visitors (not staying on the site)?

If so please don't hesitate to take to heart the lessons we may have offered at the time. Contrary to the opinion you may have formed we are friendly folk, but you have a lot to learn when camping near others trying to sleep for an early start the next morning.

You will never know how close you came to waking in the early hours to a bright starlight night, and the realisation your tent was no longer there. Dickhead.

That apart the feeling when I woke early on Sunday morning to rain, with a couple of 2008 outdoor nights under my belt, reminded me just why I enjoy doing this So Damned Much. A timely reminder to get my trips sorted out for the coming good weather.

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Nice report, John. More enema than catalyst, I think!
Nice to meet up with you John. Maybe see you around again sometime. Goog write up. Dawn.
John, can you delete the first posting above? It may be from the noisy b*****r in the grey tent. Clicking on the link in his posting brings up something very suspect.
Guess who got the ex display model shangri la? No, I cannot afford it, but sacrificies had to be made. it is a pound lighter than the hex. Dawn
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