Saturday, September 27

Dorset BackPacking Club Meet

"Hell is other people" Jean-Paul Sartre - No Exit

Whoops, I bet you're already wondering where this one's going! Not the most positive sounding start I've offered up, but if you know the reference, the initial bleakness belies a wealth of hidden meaning. Deep chappies those fag smoking frenchie philosopher types. Or maybe just intelligible?

But nevertheless the quotation that I had running through my head on the trip back home from the Dorset Backpackers Club meet this weekend.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here - back to the beginning of the trip.

Battling Friday rush hour traffic, a delayed end to a busy working week, was not the way this weekend was intended to start. Add in emergency home repairs completed earlier that afternoon. As a result that evening found me in a frazzled state as I finally arrived at Tom's Field Campsite high on the Isle of Purbeck, near Swanage.

I'd anticipated a quiet corner, some gentle backpacking chat with other Dorset members and a little shop talk with fellow Blogger Darren. But as a late arrival at this particular party the scene was already set with tents piled deeply around the field nearest the toilets & shop.

And also the site's entrance, whose pertinence will become clear as this tale unfolds.

Shoe horning the Akto in alongside Darren's Hex tepee my practiced settling in was quickly sorted, and then to the traditional first brew of the weekend as my reward.

(pass the tin-opener)

But whats this? Already the sunny day is fading, as lengthening shadows cool the air, a call to switch to warmer clothing. What had happened to the day?

Barely time for a quick 'Hi' to the BPC members pitched several tents along the row, and to Darren alongside. All muttered against a backdrop of a screaming toddler somewhere amongst the nearby tents. Looking around I could see that this particular camping field already seemed to be filled to a rather high capacity. A mix of BPC members, young family groups, motor homes and lads-on-the-razz. Hmm an incendiary mix? Potentially.

Time for the pub. Reasonable food & beer and a friendly welcome. But as a local of these parts that irritating recognition that the food prices seemed to have been set mindful of the captive market from the two local camp sites, punters likely to pay-up without too much fuss. With the alternative pub dejectedly displaying a "For Sale" sign above its dark closed doorway we campers had a very limited choice. Market forces I believe it's called.

Trevor, the Dorset BPC rep kindly searched out Darren and myself, with an invite to join the other BPC members, unaware we were already working our way down our last beer, both happy to turn in early. But appreciative of the offer, and not wishing to abuse this friendly overture we sat and chatted for a short while with the other members before tendering our early excuses for the night. No slight intended to those we met, but we were more tired, rather than our normal scintillating company that evening. The BPC made us feel most welcome.

Head torchs slicing the darkness we crossed the field back to the site and our sleeping bags. Early at 9pm, but definitely needy of some shut eye.

Back to that campsite entrance now. Its proximity meant a steady stream of jolly pub returnees & and late arrivals to the campsite. As a result the hours onto midnight were regularly punctuated with car headlights illuminating the tent, the sound of car diesel motors passing close to the tent, and irregular outbreaks of happy campers on a night out.

None of these, I hasten to add, anything exceptional taken in isolation. But as a recurrent backdrop something that I'd rather not have around me.

As I reflected to Darren earlier in the evening, after catching myself once again whinging 'God, I hate campsites' my problem was not the site, but my reaction to it. I’d had a similar reaction during the BPC meet back in April (with
rather more cause on that occasion)

And as for Swanage steam engine line. Which idiot thinks it makes for a happy experience to sound that bleedin' train whistle so late at night? And so repeatedly?

Have I finally morphed into a Grumpy Old Sod? (Mrs JH is not allowed an answer at this point. She's biased; And I know what her answer is without asking)

Far from it. Its more that after my wildcamping trips, mostly solo, and always far from the (for me) maddening crowds, these days I seem to have an aversion to the Happy Camper Syndrome - A cheap week of Outdoor Fun with BBQs, Beer, & Bitching. The group experience can work, as experienced on the Blogger meet-ups, out in the wild places, far from the towns.

Perhaps that reflects the attitude and expectations Joe Public Camper, compared to those whom I believe carry a deeper affinity for fitting in amongst natural surroundings. Not this scribe's arrogance I hope. Just mindful of some tactful re-education amongst the less experienced campers. But not a topic high on my agenda at 11:30 pm.

An observation reinforced early Saturday morning as I discovered an overnight arrival had pitched their tent so close to mine that I had to be wary opening my car door, in case I ripped their flysheet. Hmm, now that’s what I call tightly packed. And certainly an unintended slight I'm sure.

Out of the sleeping bag. Coffee bump start, cereal bar breakfast, and nicotine fix satiated I burst forth into ……….clag. Deep, wet and humid. Hopefully only sea mist following yesterday's heat, but for the moment a chilly start.

(A Purbeck clag greeting)
Darren's grinning report of his early success with bacon, eggs, frying pan and his Bush Buddy helped cheer me up. Well sort of - the swine. And on the plus side I got an extra hours sleep instead.

A chat shared with the BPC crew with some of their feedback on the Furtech Sleeping Bag which they were able to look over. The bag was this weekend's test kit, but despite my original intention wasn’t used Friday night (The reason for which will become apparent when I come to write that kit report)

(A subject of some discussion)
Bloggers Go To The Seaside? Well more like Darren and me off to the flesh pots of Swanage. Coffee & cakes. And sunshine - hurrah! For Darren a chance find of a new iPood (don’t ask - other people buy postcards or sticks of rock at the seaside, but nothing as predictable for our Darren)
(The World in Stone - Durlston Head)
A detour to the imaginative stone work on
Durlston Head, and then back to a lazy afternoon playing with the sun whilst waiting for my tent to dry-off before finally departing homeward. Unfortunately the thought of a repeat of the previous night proving too much of a detraction I'm afraid.

No slur intended either on the campsite or the people I met, and especially no criticism of the Dorset BPC event.

More a personal recognition as to where my pleasure lies these days; Or more specifically, as I'm coming to realise, where it doesn't.
And that seems to be anywhere near organised camping facilities.

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moan, moan, moan

The thing about these meets is that ... well, no-one forces anyone to go to them, and it isn't as if the nature of the campsite will come as a surprise. Just doesn't mean that you have to like it, and at least have the honesty to grin and bear it.

Or at least bear it ;-)
Tom's field does have a reputation as a noisy site. Most times I've been there, the DOE have been there to :-(

The camping near the shop and entrance can be pretty bad, sometimes best to go further up the site.
I'm glad someone else suffers from the "I see a tent so, I'll pitch as close as I can to yours" syndrome. I've been on camp sites with a handful of tents with plenty of room and returned to find a pavillion pitched next to me. On one occasion, I pointedly re-pitched my tent 50 metres away from the offender. Noise, don't get me on that. I always take ear plugs and pray for rain in the evening. The best time on campsite is when it's wet and windy. Give me wild camping, anytime!
You have my sympathy John. Wild camps, out of sight, out of mind are my preference. Camp sites are suffered as a last resort. Mind, I am anti social.
I'll need to remember that next weekend, Dawn ;-)
It is ok Duncan, I only bite ankles on a full moon. Oh, and have the occasional howl at the said full moon. That is only natural though! well, surely it is!!!???
No problem with the site or the meet. Just my lurking feeling of knowing just how good it could have been away from the populus
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