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Saturday, 27 July 2013

One Girl and Two Dogs on the Bummel: sausage rolls, swans and a soaking.

School's out! Finally!

Instead of vegging on the sofa and wasting my holibobs with daytime TV I had resolved to head off as soon as possible and go on the Bummel. I'd never done it officially, but I suppose my whole life is one long bummel, so I thought it would be fun to try.

I had all the essentials: tent, sleeping bag, stove, books and flip-flops and a few non-essential nice things (hot water bottle, radio and biscuits) which I loaded into the car, along with my two faithful and very excited terriers. After a few false starts of going back for things I'd forgotten (hairbrush, raincoat, vinegar) Harvey, Alfie and I were finally ready to begin our adventure.

I told Gladys (my Sat-Nav) to take us in the general direction of Warwick, as I quite fancied visiting the castle, hit play on the CD player, and left Holbeach in a cloud of Radiohead with barely a backwards glance.

We tootled along the A14 merrily singing in the sunshine (Harvey harmonises beautifully) until my back began to ache and the boys began to fidget. As if by magic, there appeared a sign for Grafham Water- the perfect place to stop off and stretch our legs. I turned off quickly and followed the lanes to the helpfully-signposted visitors centre and parked up. A lovely lady gave me her ticket, so I didn't even have to pay! A marvellous start, as I love a freebie.

Second-hand ticket on the dashboard, the boys and I headed for the café to grab some lunch to eat on the bank. In the three minutes it took me to choose, queue and pay, Alfie (the little hairy monster)  slipped his harness and legged it through the café to join his very embarrassed Mummy. It was just lucky, I suppose, that his love of sausage rolls is greater than his love of biting bottoms, as there was a very tasty-looking Golden Retriever in his path who he thankfully ignored. Harvey, meanwhile, just rolled his eyes and played ignorant, though I'm sure Alfie can't slip that harness without help...

The three of us (four if you count the sausage roll, who had the boys walking to heel much better than I have ever managed) wandered down to the water for a picnic. I deliberately chose a spot with sun for me and shade for the boys- a choice which Harvey acknowledged but refused, choosing instead to lie in the full sun and pant pathetically. As often happens, a succession of passers- by commented on how it was "sweet" that I was sharing my lunch with the dogs; I didn't have the heart to tell them that actually it was the other way around and that they were letting me have a bit of their sausage roll. There is a very strict hierarchy when it comes to food, and I am usually at the bottom. It's the puppy-dog eyes I can't resist- and they do love sausages!

Brushing the crumbs off, we strolled anti-clockwise around the lake, avoiding other dogs and their bottoms wherever we could. Harvey and Alfie had a great time sniffing their way through the woodland and long grass, although I did have to step in when Alfie started eying up a swan... I wasn't fast enough to stop him rolling in sheep poo though! He's such a classy pup. We even managed a sneaky dip in the water to cool off; Harvey's never happier than when he's flat on his belly in something cold and preferably muddy! It was, I mused, a perfect start to our trip. The whole point of a bummel is to stop and explore whenever the fancy takes you, and make no hard-and-fast decisions in advance. Our little detour made me feel like my holiday had begun, even though I was only an hour or so up the road, and had nowhere to sleep tonight yet.

Back to the car and our bummel. Gladys, though a little miffed by the unscheduled stop, nevertheless performed her duties well and soon we were seeing signs for Warwick. But then... I started seeing signs for Stratford-upon-Avon too, the birthplace of Shakespeare and a legendary beautiful town in its own right. My knowledge of geography being so poor, I hadn't realised I was so close, and I did want to visit. So I upset Gladys again by pulling into the services and consulting my Big Sites Book for campsites near Stratford.

The site I chose was basic but beautiful: no toilets or showers, but it backed onto a stream and faced out onto fields. I chose a spot where I'd enjoy the evening sun and set about erecting my tent for the first time this year. The nice man in a caravan just along from me offered to help, but I was determined to do it on my own. I'm an independent self-sufficient woman! And a little pig-headed. The afternoon sunshine was glorious; the humidity- not so much. A storm was brewing, for sure. By the time I'd wrestled my tent into an upright position and had collected water, I was wringing and thinking that maybe a little help would have been useful. A shower would have been lovely. I laid flat out on the soft grass and wished the heavens would open to cool me down.

My wish was granted.

Like someone had flicked a switch, the wind picked up and the trees began to sway. In one movement, my neighbour and I leapt up and ran for cover. I ushered the dogs inside and zipped up the tent before grabbing the mallet and frantically pegging out guy ropes to stabilise my tent in the sudden monsoon. I was drenched in less than a minute, the rain falling so hard that it was like a power shower. Not entirely unpleasant, actually. Tent secure, I dived in and stripped off my wet clothes, stuffing them into my special waterproof bag (I love my camping gadgets) and putting on dry ones.

Rain of epic, biblical proportions lashed down on the polyester shell of the tent, but so far, so good. It was even quite cosy. The boys had curled up for a kip in their sleeping bags and I warmed up some tinned spaghetti hoops and sausages for tea, making a double-ration of Ovaltine to see me through. The boys joined me for dinner, though Harvey was a bit put-out that I'd eaten the sausages myself this time.  I left the washing up for tomorrow and curled up in my sleeping bag, cosy and warm with a dog on each side, and read by torchlight until I drifted off to sleep, the rain a rhythmic tattoo above my head...

At 1:30am I awoke to an additional sound, an ominous plopping that prevented me dropping peacefully back off to sleep. A heavy, fat dripping that had me hurrying out of my sleeping bag and fumbling for a torch in order to investigate.

Puddles. Everywhere. My tent was finally succumbing to the brutal onslaught of the rainstorm and, almost apologetically, was dribbling water like teardrops of shame onto the groundsheet. Thankfully, I'd had the sense to raise everything off the ground (just in case) so all that was sacrificed was the towel I'd used to dry the dogs' paws before bedtime. My sleeping area was mercifully dry, so far, so I snuggled back into my sleeping bag to await dawn. I fell asleep this time to "No Limits", courtesy of Global Gathering, which was in full swing up the road.

The bummel continues tomorrow...

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