Friday, 25 June 2010

Do I blog it?

I've just enjoyed a three-week, non-commissioned HOLIDAY.

But the question remains, do I blog about it?

Rather than go into the tenuous detail, it's probably best to watch the video (bandwidth permitting) which you may see here:

Very deliberately, the beauty spots that I discovered in the vid are not named.

So why the reticence to blog?

Things were very different this year to last.

The attraction of this magical corner of the country is its isolation and wild, laid-back feel. Before, it was possible to camp near much anywhere as long as the country code and common sense were employed.

The trouble is, too many people have got wind of it. One or two camper vans and a little caravan anyone can overlook for a couple of nights. But lots and lots of overcab motorhomes, tents, and sometimes caravans would turn up, plonk themselves in a beauty spot, and stay put on a 'free' holiday for weeks at a time. Some of the campers didn't care. There was evidence of fires being lit on the ground in some places, and at two wild camping spots I spent the first half hour with a plastic sack cleaning up rubbish. If I didn't do it, the locals would see it, and another area would ban wild camping.

And so it is that in two areas, wild camping has now been as good as banned. Caravans and motorhomes have to pay £10 per night to stay on a croft with running cold water and no other facilities. On one island you must drive your loo waste a few miles to be rid of it. On another island, your stay is limited by your loo capacity because all chemical toilet waste must be removed from the island.

Basically, the magic is going. I still had the most amazing time, but the days of wild camping in Scotland are numbered.

When I returned to the mainland, I stumbled upon what I believe to be the cause.

There is a forum-style website dedicated to camping in the UK for free. On it, people share information about wild camping spots. And here I think lies the problem.

Put anything on the internet, and you have no control over who sees it and who acts upon it. It's a lot different to meeting a nice couple on your travels who lead a respectable life and use a respectable outfit, and then sharing any information with them on a personal basis.

Numpties have been publicising the wild camping spots to everyone. Absolutely everyone. Including the irresponsible.

As these places get saturated with blaggers and freebie-searchers (as opposed to those who wish to camp freely and responsibly and spend the money they save in the local economy), wild camping gets banned.

I can see that as wild camping becomes banned in more places, the 'takers' will spread like a fungus to the places where it is still allowed, where their numbers and behaviour will lead to further bans until there is nowhere left to go other than a croft or a site.

The internet is a wonderful tool if used correctly. It is also highly destructive if used without care. I can see that the wild camping forum will kill the golden goose for all of us.

It's very sad. Enjoy camping freedom while it lasts. It may not last much longer thanks to the well-meaning folk who have not thought through the consequences of their good intentions.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

A lesson learned

When I was about 19, I ran my first caravan rally, for the Thomson Owners Club. Most rallies were around the Midlands which was always a schlep for me, so I ran my own rally in Kent over the Whitsun week to make people's journeys worthwhile. Loads of people said they would come, so I counted on about 12-15 vans.

After a raft of non-bookings and cancellations, I think we ended up with about 5 vans. I was so disappointed, but mainly because people had indicated that they were coming, even when they had no intention of doing so.

And so it was that I committed to a rally with a 'new' (to me) club in May, and duly booked my place. My first rally! How exciting.

But then the Airstream Gathering came along on exactly the same weekend. Dash and blast it! Mindful of the fact that I would not cancel my outstanding commitment despite a better offer coming along, off I toddled to my booked rally. I was a bit nervous to be honest.

I was booked on the rally field, but had received no pre-arrival letter or email telling me where to go, so I went to the site office. There, the warden was confused too. Half of the 'ralliers' were on site, and half were on the 'rally field', which turned out to be a car park as the rally field had been double-booked with a music festival.

There was no meet & greet from the organiser, no central meeting point, no nothing. So I booked myself in on the site and went off to find a pitch. Thankfully I had a friend already on site.

As I drove around looking for a pitch, there were lots of little groups of ralliers all pointing and staring, but none actually saying Hello. My friend R helped me to pitch, and two guys flew over and spoke to him, not me, saying how I should pitch my trailer. Eventually I introduced myself because I could bear it no longer. One guy gave his name in return, but the other just said 'hello', followed by a long period of silence.

Chatty guy then realises who I am, and rather than make me feel welcome on my first rally decides to have a pop that my life is '…one long holiday'.

Timing here was pretty poor. I had just finished a week of getting up early, doing a car and caravan test, driving to Stafford more times than I would care to remember, and having to share a car with a driver with limited social skills and BO that could kill flies within a 10 metre radius. So I wasn't really in the mood to be told that I don't actually work for a living.

The evening's social was held inside under fluorescent lights as established groups sat around tables. Myself and R just stood there. The hosts at last introduced themselves, telling me off because I hadn't parked on the rally field as arranged. I retorted about the lack of pre-arrival info. To which I was snorted at that I should have seen the signs. This is of course on top of towing an Airstream in a busy town, obeying the road signs, watching the traffic, checking the SatNav, and following directions in the Sites Directory.

Later, a past chairman is sent over to talk AT me for an hour about how hard it is for the club to get publicity in magazines.

Next morning, I fled. Yes, there were some nice people there. But I knew what I was missing with the Airstreamers.

Pre-arrival info, hugs on arrival, a completely chilled ambience, lovely people who didn't talk about my job, and the evening social was a shared barbecue and sitting outside around the blazing fire pit chatting until 2am.


Airstream; flamingos

Airstream; Fire pit

What a difference.

High Onn Life!

After a few days at home in May doing admin, it was time to set off for the summer. First port of call was High Onn Caravan Club Site in Staffordshire to do a caravan review. By design, Airstreaming friends John and Carole were on site.

Wine-fuelled evenings followed, and John was highly impressed with my new wood gas stove.

Carole had even got wind of my cream tea weakness and laid on fantastic home-made scones.

It was so lovely indeed to have friends next door to enjoy the down time at the end of a working day.

Airstream,Airstream,Airstream,high onn,high onn,high onn

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Woodgas Stove

Mindful of the fact that I had run out of LPG in the Hebrides last year, I took delivery of a wood gas stove upon the recommendation of my dear friend and neighbour Mike.


Mike also made me a froe and a mallet, and I bought a bowsaw, so I can chop up wood to use as fuel. It also uses things like pine cones, twigs, grass etc. In the Hebrides I may even try it on peat.


It works by a little fan in the underside that circulates the air and makes the most of the gas that the wood gives off, making for a very hot and smoke-free fire.

woodgas stove

I got the XL model which is best for Airstreamers. Beats a gas barbie any day!

Purbeck Dreams

Since the last entry, so much Airstreaming has been done there just hasn't been the time to sit and write about it!

So let's try and catch up by heading back to Dorset, at the beginning of May. A lovely week was spent on the Isle of Purbeck, which isn't really an island at all.

My favourite site in the area was the Caravan Club affiliated site at Smedmore House, which resembles a large CL. Great views, and great walks down to the beach.


On my way to the beach, I stopped and acquainted myself with my new neighbours:


Nearby is the 'Lost Village' of Tyneham. Evacuated in 1943, the residents were promised by the British Government that they would return when hostilities ceased. The Government broke their promise. The villagers have never been allowed to go back.


From my second site, another Club Site, I took the Swanage Railway and was hauled behind the steam locomotive 'Manston'. A lovely nostalgic trip:

Swanage Railway

Destination of the day was Corfe Castle itself. Highlight of the day was the cream tea taken in the NT's very own sunny tea room garden, enjoying uninterrupted views of the castle:

Corfe Castle

Later in the day, I headed off to meet a friend for dinner in Poole. Rather than drive direct I went to see Studland Bay at sunset, and take the chain ferry over to Sandbanks. A bit expensive for a 3 minute ride, but it certainly added to the sense of travel and occasion.


All in all, a lovely break indeed.