Many of the endurance athletes I respect have managed to cover long distances by camping in farms and gardens or using bothies, rescue huts, hostels and bunkhouses. In spite of this, wild camping seems to have become a by-word for outdoor proficiency. Listening to discussions, I have realised that some women share my apprehension about wild camping. It has been a relief to hear this discussed by people with amazing achievements under their belts.
I backpacked the Pennine Way in 2013, staying in some very small campsites, on farms and in gardens, and my first wild camp was with a group of people in the Peak District, shortly afterwards. On the whole this was a fairly good humoured introduction to wild camping. I learned a lot by simply watching what was going on around me and left feeling encouraged.
About 6 months later I was pleased to be invited out for a second wild camp by Chrissie, a retired woman from the Peak District on Twitter. This trip didn’t go so well. After a winter which was largely spent indoors supporting my father, I was a bit out of condition, but I didn’t regard it as a competition. I joined the other walker (and her partner Geoff briefly) at their motorhome at Jedburgh for a bright and sunny day of walking on the St Cuthbert’s Way, which I had walked once before using hostels and B&Bs.
Unfortunately by the time we pitched our tents, the invisible enemies of dehydration and heat exhaustion were causing me to feel very unwell. I had a throbbing headache, my head was spinning, I felt sick and a bit delirious. Whatever assessment Chrissie claims to have made of my condition was made from zipped inside her tent.
Most rescue people advise that if you don’t feel well you should turn back, and that is what I did. In retrospect I think this was the right decision.
I packed up and left Chrissie, who had refused (from inside her tent) to make a call out or come with me, but by the time I reached the road in the dark, I was feeling too sick to walk. I finally decided to call the hotel we had passed earlier in the day. The owner heroically came out in his car to pluck me up from the side of the road in the dark and take me back to the hotel where I was given tea and a much needed room for the night. The people at the hotel were critical of Chrissie’s decision not to come with me.
I mentioned some of this in an online review of the hotel made at the time in early 2014, and I have not seen either of the people involved since that time. A month or so later I discovered that I had been blocked by the couple on Twitter, so I emailed Chrissie again to apologise and reiterate that I had had too much sun.
I may be useless at some things, but I can recognise the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration, having suffered from both before. Chrissie’s decision left me quite hurt but, because she had offered to take me out, I spared her blushes by not discussing what had happened on social media for over two years. Sadly I now realise that saying nothing has given this couple the opportunity to claim that they know me far better than they do and to spread malicious untruths about me within the outdoor community while I was doing my M.A.
I don’t tend to gossip and I didn’t know how to respond to any of this unpleasantness after my course. I have been advised to point out that I began writing this blog, which is dedicated to my mum, for pleasure, and at the time of writing this is still being marred by the online hate campaign which began after this trip. So reader beware of apparently kind offers from strangers on Twitter which can turn toxic.
My own appraisal of the day.
For what it’s worth, my own appraisal of that day is that I was affected by the sun because it was a bright & sunny day and I had been indoors all winter. I had not taken a sunhat as I thought it was too early in the year to need one, but this was the wrong decision. I had also recently abandoned my rucksack hydration system with a hose because several had leaked whilst I was camping. Instead I had put a 1.5L plastic bottle of water in the back pocket of my rucksack, which meant that I had to stop and take my rucksack off whenever I wanted a drink. During the course of that day I only did this once or twice at the most which caused me to become dehydrated.
I have since taken advice regarding the problems I have been having with this couple and reported them. When I tried to post a link to this post on Geoff’s blog, it was deleted and I was threatened with legal action for slander and libel. The advice I have been given is that something cannot be libellous or slanderous if it is true which it is, and so.
Anyway, to return to the much more interesting present, and to answer some questions, the main reasons that I haven’t wild camped again until recently are:
- I have been completing an M.A. for the last year
- I have been trying to support my father
- I have no car
- I am an assault survivor which still makes me afraid of some situations.
- I was really put off wild camping after the trip I have just described
Apologies to my readers for having to use my blog to counter gossip rather than just write about the outdoors which is all I really want to do on here. Thanks very much to the people who have stopped by since I first published this post in December of 2016. It really does mean a huge amount to me.
NB In February 2020 I finally listened to advice and came off Twitter completely and have never looked back.