This week I went on my first lone camping trip. I’d been threatening my Taller Half that I would buy my own tent all summer. I haven’t made good on that threat yet, but my new bigger and better backpack means I can now carry all my gear, including the tent and stove, on my own.
Well, I tell a small lie. Back in the days of slave labour when I worked for a miniature horse stud I spent two nights in a tent, inside a temporary stable, with my (expensive) charges next door and a lunatic 17 hand horse kicking the shit out of his stable behind me all night. Oh, those were the days!
Anyway, back to my camping trip. It was really really good. I chose Haltwhistle as it’s easy to get to from Durham and I haven’t been up on the Wall for a while. The campsite is only two miles from the train station, and is one I’d previously only walked past.
In two miles I saw two buzzards, a kestrel, some very nice arab horses, a bemused stoat, a herd of belted galloway cattle and a harris hawk. And lots of sheep. It’s especially nice to see buzzards, as they don’t seem to do too well in the North East – not compared to similar terrain in Wales and Scotland, anyway. The harris hawk was a bit of a surprise. Accompanied by two men and a gun dog, I assume they were hunting rabbits, although the hawk didn’t seem too interested in getting its own dinner.
I pitched up without any problems, and took myself off for a walk on Hadrian’s Wall. The weather for the last day of August was fabulous (note to the weather god: can August be mostly like this next year?). I got as far as Sycamore Gap before turning round. The walk back was very special, as for two hours I faced a double sundog.
A sundog is a spot of light on one or both sides of the sun. Good ones are rainbow coloured and they occur with cirrus clouds, which are made up of ice crystals and refract the light of the sun in the same way that raindrops create rainbows. This sundog was exceptionally long lasting, but I don’t seem to have mastered the technique of photographing them yet!
I’ve already told you about my nocturnal visitors. Other than my noisy hedgehogs I had a relaxing night’s sleep and got up at 6.00am – very early for me. It looked like a beautiful day and the campsite slowly woke up to swallows, sparrows, wagtails and starlings. By about 7.00am however a thick fog had descended.
The fog didn’t lift until I got to Cawfield Quarry. If you haven’t walked this part of the Wall, the quarry is a beautiful spot until you realise that the Victorians took out a massive chunk of Hadrian’s Wall to create it. I met a lovely old man here by the name of Billy, with his elderly and reluctant Alsatian, and I now know where to go for mushrooms and Roe deer, and the name of a local B&B to try. Thanks Billy!
I headed back to the campsite, unpitched (in five minutes!) and reluctantly headed back to Haltwhistle and home. It’s nice to have company while camping, but I’ve realised I also quite enjoy going it alone!