In early 2014 I was invited out for a wild camp by Chrissie, a retired walker from the Peak District on Twitter, but this trip didn’t go well. After a winter which was largely spent indoors supporting my father, I was a bit out of condition, but I didn’t see it as a competition. I joined the walker (her partner Geoff, briefly, and their dogs) at their motorhome in Jedburgh at the start of April 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 the other walker 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 unwell to walk. I finally decided to call the hotel we had passed earlier in the day. The owner (who has since retired) 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.
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. I am also aware of how and why they occurred on that trip, and how to prevent them on future trips. When I reached the hotel Chrissie was criticised by the people there at the time for not coming with me. Her 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 better than they do and to spread malicious gossip about me within the outdoor community while I was doing my course.
I don’t tend to gossip and I didn’t know how to respond to any of this unpleasantness after my course, but I have been advised to point out that I write this blog 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 was 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 (and another inside), 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.
Postscript. March 2017.
Since finally writing about this trip at the end of last year, I have taken advice regarding the people involved and reported the problems I have been having. 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. One piece of advice I have received is that something cannot be libellous or slanderous if it is true which it is, and so.
To return to the much more interesting present, the main reasons that I haven’t wild camped again until recently are:
I have been completing my studies.
I have been trying to support my elderly father
I have had no access to a car until I recently joined a car club
I am an assault survivor so I find certain situations make me afraid
I was really put off wild camping for a while after the trip I have just described.
Thanks very much to the people who stopped by when I originally published a post about this in December 2016. It really does mean a great deal to me.