Tuesday, June 24

Wildcamping E-Petition: A heartfelt response

Somehow it seemed only fitting to mark the government's official response to the petition with a suitable gesture:

21:00 I'm writing this somewhere in the New Forest. In the distance I can hear occasional traffic from one foe the National Park's main A roads. By my side a day sack to carry the bare essentials for the night. Cooking gear, brew, food, sleeping and bivy bag.

Laid out before me a small flood valley with a strongly flowing stream, my water for the evening, running from left to right.

The small flies are currently trying to work out quite what I am. Possibly nouvelle cuisine for the evening? Hopefully not as I've set-up far enough away from the water to avoid too much of their attention.

To the west the sun is slowly setting behind the trees on the far horizon.

Before me a large herd of deer, around 20 or so, are peacefully grazing. One magnificent stag occasionally raising his head to check that my presence is not a threat.


21:15 A text message from out of the blue.
A miracle really as I'm only getting one bar signal strength on my mobile. And that whilst lying flat on the ground with my spork raised on high in my left hand.
It's from Darren. I'm considering checking my clothing for more bugs. Of the surveillance type this time.

But talking of bugs........ the midges seem to find my flavour interesting, but not too tasty. All the more reason to roll up another half ounce of old shag smoking tobacco to deter them

21:30 The deer have worked their way quietly back into the edges of the woodland opposite. I'm tempted to get up and track them for a while, but decide not to. After all I'm the visitor in their home. So it would seem impolite to intrude.


21:40 The distinctive sound of a nightjar. A noise unlike anything I've heard before. And incredibly loud. It cuts through the gathering darkness like a knife. Quite a noisy bugger really.

21:50 A couple of deer wander pass about 75 m away as the last of the daytime birds settle down for the night, passing the baton over to a trainee owl, trying out its hoot. And not very well. I've no doubt with some night time practice it will get more fluent.

The nightjar kicks off again to show how it should be done. He's got to go. He's bringing his mates in to compete as well.

22:05 The light is getting too dim to write. Time for the final brew of the night, and then into the bivy bag, sensibly laid out whilst it was still light.



06:00 There is nothing more welcoming in life than waking up early on a cold but sunny morning. Watching the last of the mist hanging over the wetland slowly dissipate. And then lazily removing one arm from the sleeping bag to get the first brew of the day underway.
Now this is what I call breakfast in bed. And I even get to smoke as well.

The night passed mostly uneventful.

For some reason the ponies (of which there are many hereabouts) decided to hold their own dusk chorus. A loud whinnie would come from the distance. To be followed by others from all around the area. A state of affairs that carried on until after 00:30.

That I could live with. But then two of them decided to splash loudly through the stream and then canter within 20 metres of my resting place. A Very Heavy Canter when your head is lying on the ground nearby. It was a little unnerving despite having looked over my immediate surroundings earlier to check out nearby tracks for just this sort of eventuality. But thankfully I'm besides a few stout trees to deter the unexpected 'hoof on the head' situation.

Quite why horses would decide to go for a run in the dark is beyond me!

Pre the dawn chorus most of the owls in the area took it in turns to sound off from their respective territories, before handing over to the day shift. A couple of times during the night I thought I'd heard the yell of a fox deep in the woodland opposite.

07:00 Its too early to find a local hostelry for breakfast. So loading up my pack, I carefully bag all my rubbish, and start walking back towards my car in the strengthening sunlight. As I leave this night's spot I turn to check that all is it should be. Good - no sign of my presence having been there in any way at all.

I pick my way across the boggy grass, slightly surprising the horses as I pass amongst them. Beneath a tree several sunbathing deer, previously unseen, decide to stand, working out whether to move away. I tactfully change my direction to give them some respite before the myriad of tourists arrive later in the day.

People who may never really appreciating just what pleasure there is in settling down to be an integral and accepted part of a natural place. Their loss.

Epilogue:
I'm told my night out was possibly illegal. And almost certainly contrary to whatever draconian laws the newly invest New Forest National Park Authority have drawn up as part of their monopoly.

That's assuming of course that the above is not a fanciful tissue of lies.

So exactly what harm or damage has been done; And who has suffered loss?

Certainly not me, despite the night chorus and equine sleep walking.

The land I shared has already shrugged off my presence.

I drive home peacefully, at one with the world. Watching the grim faced commuters hurrying off to fulfil their personal sense of duty and lawful activity.

So who's the fool here then?

(P.S. This entry also counts as the opening shot in the 2008 Hip-Pack Competition, despite my pack weight being based on whatever I chucked in the pack at short notice)

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Comments:
Nice piece John

I think we should call the rozzers to let them know that an unspeakably unlawful act has just taken place, so that you can be clapped in irons forthwith!
 
catch me if you can (but wear gore-tex)
;-)
 
Nice piece, with a political sting in the tail. Good. That kind of camping is what it's all about.
 
John, I have been meaning to ask you but I cannot becasue of the legal issues.As a recidvist wild camper, how would I get on if I went for a wander in the New Forest and suddenly became benighted? A woman all alone in that huge big forest, 'ooohhh your honour, it was not wild campng or anything. I was just sort of overcome!' Oh and please can you take another thousand and more in to consideration' it is something I am toying with. Dawn
 
What a wonderful description of a night out in the forest, which after all is what rambling/backpacking is all about.

Thanks
 
Dawn - I think somehow you;d survive - but leave that axe of yours at home. And definitely watch out for those pesky ponies in the dark.
NB - thanks I'm glad it rang true. Gonzo tao. Sort of.
 
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