Thursday, August 28

Wild Camp - As old as the hills : Hill Wisdom

Eric Hemery's 'Wilderness Camping in Britain', has been the well-spring from which many of today's thoughts dribbled. For the modern day wildcamper it is an interesting snapshot of wilderness camping 1970s style.

The content was meant for a family based wildcamping experience, and so much of the information now seems out dated, out moded, or at times just plain wrong for a modern sensibility (brushwood open fire, digging a rubbish pit/latrine, water channeling around a tent)

But amongst considerations such as the advantage of 8 or 12oz cotton duck tentage, the enduring spirit of the wildcamper remains audible, nearly forty years after it first appeared; As the preceding posts indicate.

Before returning Hemery's work to the bookshelf, I'd be remiss without summarising a key basic wildcamping skill. It's one that I don't recall seeing in print. One that many of us have come to understand the true benefit of through personal experience.

(Breaking the rules)

Where to pitch the tent:
  • Sun: Do not pitch in a north facing valley; South for warmth, ideally pitching slightly east of south to break prevailing rain force and leave the rear of the tent to stand against the wind/rain's force
  • Rain: Site in the lee of a hill; If impracticable align ESE-WNW
  • Water: Spring water is the most desirable for a supply; Other sources- check before use and be wary of pollutants, usually animal based. But beware stupid humans
  • Flooding: Pitch at least 2m above normal water level, where apparent (tidemark/dead vegetation) and allow ample space for drainage water to channel, including that from the tent roof
  • Escape Route: Have one. Don't rely on a river ford or a sunken tree lined lane for a return to civilisation; It may not be quite what you expect after a period of heavy rain
  • Tent Pitch: Level. Stay out of a depression which holds water during wet weather and excludes a cooling breeze during hot. Only exception - ridge camping during a heatwave when a dip may be the only wind shelter you're likely to get
  • Trees: Avoid. Branches drop on an incautious head at the most inconvenient time, especially during a storm. A tendency to continue to drip, long after the rain ceased. Bird droppings will play havoc with tent proofing. Conifers attract horrible small flying bitey things. Wood has a tendency to catch fire far too easily via careless cooking escapades. Especially when its your sole ground covering
  • Rocks: Beware pitching where they may fall. Worse case, try to ensure there is some form of overhang protection. But expect to get wet in heavy rain when the water finds its quickest way down the rock face. Via your idyllic spot at the foot of a steep cliff
  • View: Have a good one, or the best you can get in the circumstances
  • Experience: Use; Benefit; Make mistakes; But above all - reflect and learn
(Balance: View v Discomfort?)

Mr H - thank you for the timeless reminders, wherever you are wildcamping these days.

For us all, lessons to heed that perhaps some of those things that are sometimes taken for granted. Or just not said out loud as much as they should be?

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View - and a good air pad to make it comfy.
And a good dram to help the dream-fairies weave their magic spells.
And don't forget the Beanfeast and Smash, of course.

I've enjoyed these excerpts, John. Thanks for posting them.
A a breeze to keep the midges at bay. Good posting John, fascinating reading. By the by, my first tent was Egyptian cotton.
I well remember reading this book in the early(?) to mid '70's. It, along with books by Peter Lumley, Derek Booth, John Hillaby and (probably the best in my opinion) - Colin Fletcher, influenced my backpacking more than any others since.
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