Deb I only contacted you after much toing and froing as I am a wild camper and quite well known in some circles,they didn’t call it ‘wild’ camping back when I started as a boy, it was just a night off the farm in those days, my Family ran a beef and dairy farm and it was long hours for not much pay. We always had food and plenty to barter with but ready cash was always in short supply. In the countryside people hunt their food still and back then it was more prevalent, pigeon, duck, rabbit and hare were a welcome catch. Now it’s frowned upon by some, but I was brought up alongside nature and one day I will return to it. It’s all just a circle. I would go off with my Brothers or my Friends from around the area, we would head up on the Peaks and Down around the Reservoir where there was always animal sign and the stream was well stocked so we never went hungry. Some of the lads tailed off and stopped coming altogether, some I still see for the odd pint now and then, but sleeping wild never left me, it’s my one place I feel like ‘me’ It frees me and I often use it as food for the soul
I’m known as a primitive tool maker and I usually show people how to camp in a primitive way without the use of modern tools, but sometimes even I like a few of home comforts. In 2014 I was suffering with a chest infection and had been cooped up at home for weeks. It was Autumn but the weather was warm enough to get in one more camp before Winter and I could test and clean out my camping supplies and get that long awaited job done and pack away my light gear till the warmer months next year, the fresh air would do my chest the world of good.
So I set off for one of my more sedentary spots, it’s set within an orchard not too far from the farm and with easy parking and access from the road. The farmer is a decent guy and always has a wander over and a chin wag when I pop in. We went to school together and as most family’s here will attest we all know each other by one relative or another. I’m not going to tell you the area as I don’t want it spoiled in any way and after what happened I’m not too sure people should be heading that way either.
The Orchard was full of different kinds of Apples, Hazel and Walnuts. I set up my gear and with a cold this bad I had a full kit, sleeping back, tarp and tent. I got the fire going and a brew on and the farmer wandered over for a chat. He asked me if I had seen any strange cars or vehicles on my way in. It was around 7am and I had arrived about 6.15 am and I told him “No” I had not passed any people or vehicles on the way in.
He went on to explain that for a few weeks now a number of chickens, eggs and feed had been taken and he thought it was some wandering tramp or one of the farm hands who were brought in by picking teams who had felt the need to steal from him, if not he would suggest a dog or cat of some kind but his barley and wheat bins had been raided which would be very hard on your average dog or cat, and with so many protein sources available why would they take feed? I told him I would be there for about 30 hrs or so as I had a job to do on the following Wednesday, so I would keep an eye out tonight, as my tent was tucked under the trees and with the grass so high they may not see me hidden away in there. I said if I heard anything I would start blowing my whistle loudly and alert him. We agreed on a plan and left it at that.
I had a bobbin rod with me so the day was spent foraging and catching dinner and evening meal, the odd snooze and a wander along the river there. It was a good day and everything I needed. I had a small rocket stove with me and I made a cup of tea as dusk arrived. It wasn’t too cold either and I went to bed with a good sleepy head on me, all thought of this morning agreement completely forgotten. I must have nodded off quick as I awoke with a start, I had no idea of the time, but it was much darker outside but the moon was out so I could see shadows of the trees and bushes. I listened, trying to work out what had woken me, but I heard nothing, I realised I needed to pee, and that was what had woken me, I unzipped tent and fly and nipped over to the nearest apple tree.
I had my head torch on my head and I switched it on without thinking, as I was worried about peeing on my boots, I looked down at my aim when this feeling hit me all at once. Utter dread, I felt like I was suddenly in the middle of a war and I could not see any of the enemy, I knew they were there watching and they could see my every move but I could not see them. Hundreds of eyes watching me from within the trees, I looked up quickly and saw eyeshine, this eyeshine dropped to the floor and vanished. I was back in that tent like lightening and was stuck between staying and packing up when I remembered the farmer and that I was supposed to be acting as night watchman not quivering in my sleeping bag. I lay there and caught my breath slowed my breathing right down and made the decision to listen. If I heard anything I would blow the whistle loud, but nothing happened, I lay there for what felt like an eternity in silence, I slowly slid my hand into my kit bag and got a hold of the whistle, just in case.
As the minutes ticked by I started to feel stupid, I had heard the odd rustle of grass but that could be any animal or bird known to man. I didn’t hear anything else for a long time so I decided to try and sleep. As I was drifting back off, suddenly from nowhere that feeling was back, I felt frozen and scared out of my wits. I felt a movement to the side of my hip and to my horror I felt something forcibly pushed under the tarp under my tent and under me, It felt like a huge arm, thick with muscle and hard and I screamed like a banshee. The arm shot from under me and I kept screaming until the farmer nearly caused his own death by opening my tent. I screamed in his face like a man possessed.
When he calmed me down and I explained what had happened I don’t think he believed me, I saw his quick glance at the miniature rum bottle beside me, but I had filled it with linctus for my chest and now it looked suspiciously like Sloe Gin. He was a bit annoyed to say the least that I had awoken him and he had come running in the hopes of solving his chicken thief mystery. I excused myself, lit all my torches and lights and packed up as fast as I have every packed up a tent. I was camping close to Scar fell once when the bad winds happened in 87/88 and that was terrifying. But this was like nothing I could explain. How on earth can an arm that thick and full of muscle not only pick me up like I weighed nothing but also get right up to me without me hearing a thing.