Carry on camping, or not?

Camping

FOR many people the thought of camping creates a very personal Marmite moment. They either love it or they loathe it; although the latter occasionally try it under duress but they have to bring as many home comforts as possible; and that means they need a family tent to house it all in.

This can only spell trouble for anyone having to share a campsite with them because they will also bring chairs, tables, a barbecue and booze. And then the partying begins.

Nothing wrong with that; it’s when the party goes on and on with complete disregard to their neighbours, and I don’t necessarily mean their fellow campers.

My latest camping trip was to Dent, in the Yorkshire Dales, the birthplace of the father of modern geology Adam Sedgwick and the current home of folk musician and broadcaster Mike Harding.

I was staying there the night before the Three Peaks Fell Race and intended to walk up Whernside the next morning to watch the runners pass-by, but it wasn’t to be as I ended up driving home at half-one in the morning.

Earlier that evening I’d pitched my tent at High Laning Camping & Caravan Park and then went to the George & Dragon, the Dent Brewery tap, for a couple of pints. I was back in my tent at 11:30pm and 15 minutes later my neighbours returned (presumably also from the pub) to drink more beer, shout, scream and swear. Even with ear plugs in I could hear them.

I went and told them to shut up; they calmed down for a few minutes and then piped up again oblivious to the campsite’s 11pm curfew or the fact that a few yards across the road from them were houses, with people in them trying to sleep.

This was not an isolated incident and has happened more than once at, possibly, my favourite campsite, Beinglas Farm, in Inverarnon, on the A82 a couple of miles before Loch Lomond.

Be warned, this place can be a nightmare at weekends. It’s only 50 miles from the centre of Glasgow and as well as land for tents there are log cabins and igloos which attract stag, hen, birthday, anniversary and wedding parties.

The curfew is 10am, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference; drunken people walking into your tent at one in the morning doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep.

I mentioned my non-night in Dent to friends and it looks like everyone has a similar tale to tell; families in St Ives, in Cornwall, down the local social club at 4pm with their children and back at closing time for all hell let loose; yoofs doughnutting their Vauxhall Corsa in Appletreewick.

It’s not all bad though, for every grim night on a campsite I’ve enjoyed numerous great ones; Faichemard Farm Campsite at Invergarry, and the Great Langdale National Trust site being among them.

Two years ago when I arrived in Milngavie to begin the West Highland Way (WHW) I was told that wild camping on the shores of Loch Lomond had been banned. This proved to be something of a problem as I had planned to camp at Rowardennan.

The WHW office in Milngavie informed me that if I walked half a mile from the shore I was free to pitch my tent. From memory this would mean walking uphill through pine trees.

And it would have meant collecting my 70-litre rucksack from Rowardennan Youth Hostel, where the bag carrying service was to have dropped it, and then lugging it and my day bag into uncharted territory.

As it turned out the final few miles of that day’s leg were in heavy rain so when I got to the Youth Hostel to collect my bag I asked if they had any beds left. I was lucky, only two remaining.

£8 (or thereabouts) for a campsite; £20 a youth hostel; it was well worth the extra money. I stayed in a couple more hostels, private ones, on that trip and really enjoyed them, and after my latest camping shenanigans I think I’ll be staying in few more from now on.

As for the camping ban at Loch Lomond that was introduced as a reaction to “irresponsible camping” and anti-social behaviour; which translates as groups of people partying on the shoreline and leaving mountains of rubbish. I’ve witnessed it myself including, once, a burnt-out car.

So thanks for that, thanks for littering our beauty spots; you know who you are. Unfortunately it means that those of us who cherish such places are the ones that get punished.

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