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Toby’s Tales Pt.5 - “Camping through an English summer”

I would describe myself as adventurous and “outdoorsy” although Ben keeps teasing me for my “city boy” wellies. I grew up in the countryside and have always enjoyed being outdoors, going for long walks and regular camping holidays. Although they’re quite a controversial topic, with many people turning their noses up at the high levels of discomfort and significant lack of sleep, I always seemed to enjoy them. I don’t mind the discomfort for a night or two and I find the whole thing quite exciting, as odd as that may make me seem, I like to lean into the occasion- I remember going on a camping holiday with my family a couple of years back and shaking my head at my parents as they loaded pillows into the car. Pillows! Bloody glampers…

I thought I was a confident camper. Well, I was a confident camper I suppose, my confidence was just misplaced. In the lead up to our first Pizza & Cocktail evening I agreed to camping over night without even the slightest hesitation- diving headfirst into the situation with as little thought as ever. Sure, no problem.

I have my own tent of course; you need your own space really when you’re in your early twenties and you’re on a camping trip with your family… I just needed to sort myself out a sleeping bag and a roll mat and I’d be good to go!

Buy cheap, buy twice- one of my dad’s favourite phrases, a phrase that has been used many times to describe my “city boy” wellies too…And the same is true of the camping equipment I selected. Being the fool that I am I opted for the cheapest roll mat in Devon- you know, one of those rubbish blue rolls of thin foam that would be more useful to write on than it is to sleep on and, of course, the cheapest sleeping bag I could find too. Mountain Warehouse have been playing fast a loose with the term “suitable for two seasons” let me tell you that- even so I would have hoped that one of those seasons was summer…clearly not. The fact that it is also described as “Regular length” too made me feel like a circus freak as it just about reached up to my stomach…a shivering circus freak.

After we’d finished service on that first Friday night I had my time to go and set up for the night. Ben pointed me in the general direction of where I could set up and for some strange reason I went in almost the exact opposite direction. I ended up in the orchard when I was meant to be at the other end of The Estate up by the entrance. I’m not sure how.

As I was setting up I was optimistic, picturing myself finishing work later that evening, gently strolling back along to the orchard, cider in hand, having a lie down in one of the hammocks just for a few moments under the stars before retreating to my tent before a cosy night’s sleep.

No, that is not how things panned out. Surprise surprise. It was pouring with rain as I ran back to the tent and it didn’t stop until Saturday lunchtime. Typical British summertime.

Character building- that’s the best way to look at it. It was a character-building experience. The rest of my camping experiences on those cocktail evenings were a very similar story, not all as wet though and some more challenging than others. A part of me did still enjoy it to an extent to be honest, even if it was chucking it down with rain and I was freezing cold. Maybe I didn’t think it at the time but it was an experience.

Don’t worry, we do have accommodation on The Estate and I can assure you it is lovely, luxury even…certainly compared to my tent!

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