We Pitched Our Tents in the Purple Hills
* (The Purple Hills - a poetic name for Scotland, after the purple colour of heather.)
The best camping holiday we ever had was entirely unplanned and unprepared for in any way. Two weeks holidays suddenly popped up and at a day's notice we took off for- Scotland. We left London at six in the morning, the two boys being barely awake. We were early enough to get well clear of the London traffic and made good progress. We had a long lunch break just after Scotch Corner* and were over the Border** by 5 o'clock. By extraordinary luck the first farmer we talked to was as affable as they come and we pitched our two tents and were eating our supper by seven.
* (Scotch Corner - a point on the Great North Road (the road between London and Newscastle).)
** (the Border - boundary and adjoining districts between England and Scotland; the Border Country is normally on the Scottish side; the Border Regiment in the Army is a Scottish Lowlands Regiment.)
That year Scotland was at its most beautiful. The bell heather was in full bloom and the hills had that lovely purple sheen. We took the travelling easily, making our way north through Perthshire toward Fort William.Most nights we camped in the wildest country without a soul around, sometimes on the heather or on the edge of a pine wood. I suppose it was the unplanned nature of the holiday and the-sense of freedom of the whole expedition that made it so memorable. Of course the weather was good.
Camping has always had this particular attraction for us and although in more populous areas you may have to book your camping site, or do more advance planning, it is easily the most open and flexible way to organize a holiday, particularly in places like Scotland.
Our boys (9 and 11) are experienced campers and know the jobs they have to do when we pitch tents. They are city boys, but I think they will grow up with a real love of the countryside and nature, and this we count as of some importance in this day and age.
We have always found that buying cheap equipment for camping is a doubtful proposition, and though the most expensive is beyond our reach, good quality tents, medium-priced Terylene* sleeping bags and sturdy cooking equipment are essential.
* (Terylene - synthetic fibre.)
It's a good idea if you do a lot of camping to belong to one of the campers' clubs. There is an excellent monthly journal, Camping and Outdoor Life, which is full of ideas, information and news of other people's experiences. There is great emphasis placed these days on good camping - and this means paying attention to other campers, not being noisy at nights, paying due regard to cleanliness and questions of sanitation and so on.
Life in most towns gets increasingly hectic, noisy and unpleasant. But they need not be prisons. It is remarkable how even near such big cities as London, in between the great arterial roads and motorways, there are whole areas of beautiful, quiet and unspoiled countryside. Most Londoners have no idea of these quiet villages and lovely countryside that can be found within 30 miles of Charing Cross, and often much less.
The weather, of course, is a problem. Nobody cares much for camping in heavy, driving rain. But it is often possible to have a weekend camp in spring and summer and to feel all the better for it during the coming week.
And for summer holidays - well, what's to beat it?
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