Camping in Britain. There’s a right way…and a wrong way.
So here’s both.
Spoil Ye Not
Look for pitching sites that have already been used – but not overused.
Aim for the ones that have already been churned into a quagmire, or are so spectacularly well-kept that they can only be bowling greens or prized lawns. Why do this? Because it’s funny.
Cook lots of sumptuous food that smells heavenly, and allow the aroma to waft hither and thither. When your neighbours look interested, holler that there’s plenty to go round if they’d like some themselves. This is the best way to make new friends – even better than offering them cash. It’s one of the most powerful social bonding rituals at your disposal (archaeologists call it “feasting”). Just make sure your food is terrific. And if you’re barbecuing next to vegetarians, don’t expect them to offer to take a bullet for you anytime soon.
Kippers at 5am. Tripe patties, anytime. Reeking, poor-quality takeaway food that smells like a very old cat was involved somewhere down the line. Just as aromatic good food brings people together, stinkingly crappy food will drive them away faster than almost anything else (barring noise). So engage in a bit of nasal terrorism.
The Mutt’s Nuts
If you’ve brought dogs – and why not? – then keep them under control. Everyone will forgive barking as long as it’s immediately shushed. Over-excited dogs are normally forgiven if they’re followed by a firm manner and an apologetic word. And carry those little poop-bags at all times – when they’re camping, people often go barefoot. ‘Nuff said.
Just because you love boisterous dogs, surely everyone else does as well. If your mutt knocks someone over, shout “good BOY“. If he tries to have sex with someone’s tent, cheer him on, or lay bets on how long before the guy-ropes explode. Throw dog chews into people’s tents like a real-world version of Paperboy.
Hear No Evil
Obey the unspoken Noise Watershed: 9pm if families about; 10pm if it’s adults. It’s not like being at home – the walls of your tent won’t stop any noise you make. So whatever you’re doing (and I’ve no wish to pry) – keep it down.
You’re camping – so it’s time to PARRTAAY! Have a few lively games of Stereo Wars (“Only One Can Be Loudest”). Why not share your love of classic music – like this? Or everybody, hands in the air for a singalong of Eiffel 65’s I’m Blue (Gargle Pee Barbie Die). It may be 3am, but good music is timeless.
If your campsite allows, what could be more toe-wigglingly inviting than a blazing fire? Potatoes baked in tin-foil in the ashes, marshmallows on sticks, the firelight in the eyes of your other half – what’s not to love? So build yourself a safe, well-constructed firepit, skewer some goodies and get crackling.
Overhanging branches? Nah, they’ll be fine – it’s green wood, innit? And no need to worry about lining the edges with stones, runaway fires are easy enough to stamp out – so keep chucking wood on, I want this baby to be a pillar of flame that can be seen from space! Leave it roaring while we get beer. Hey – can you smell something?
(Don’t) Chop Chop
If you’re collecting wood for your safe, neighbour-friendly campfire, check with the campsite owners about where’s good to forage. (If you flutter your eyelashes and play the newbie, they might even chip in).
Pull out a machete and start hacking the life out of nearby trees. Grab overhanging branches and pull with all your weight until they r-r-rip away from the trunk. Kill kill kill.
Ooh, We’ve Got Some Lovely Filth Over ‘Ere
It’s unavoidable that you’re going to create rubbish. So make provisions. It’d be lovely if your campsite was kitted out with recycling bins – wouldn’t that be nice? You could mention it to someone.
If it’s food waste, it’ll rot. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a landfill or in the bushes – and the bushes are nearer. Also, it doesn’t matter if the campsite rubbish skip is full – because you’re perfectly within your rights to either pile your junk on top of it, or shove it half-under the lid so it scatters everywhere when the skip is opened. They just love that.
Featherplucking Bar Stewards
Family campsites have families in them. That’s easy to forget when you accidentally mallet your thumb instead of a tent-peg, or discover an adventurous slug in one of your shoes. Try to filter your language. However, let’s face it – sometimes particular words will punch their way out of you and there’s just no stopping them….
…but that’s different to listing your partner’s faults at 30 potty-mouthed decibels, and having them reply in kind. That’s excruciatingly different. Remember, nothing breaks the ice faster than a public tantrum.
Games People Play
Over here, son, on me ‘ead! Camping is the perfect time to spark up impromptu sporting bouts – cricket, softball tennis, football, running around aimlessly like the clappers – keep the noise down, stick to communal ground, and it’s all good family-friendly fun.
Skeet shooting! Or car rallying. I’ve also seen that noblest of sporting endeavors, Tent Hurdles, where the contestants try to lap the campsite by diving over all the tents, tearing out guy-ropes and terrifying occupants. (This is exactly why I never go camping without my trusty antique cavalry sword).
Put That Caravan The Right Way Up Or There’ll Be TROUBLE
Children should be seen and not heard? Well, kinda – because giggling kids can transform a glumly quiet campsite. Kids are also a great way to meet the parents – in the neighbourly fashion, not in the “I found him hotwiring my car, is he yours?” way.
Teach your kids to hotwire cars. Or rifle tents for cash. Or form militias that go round collecting protection money. But above all those things – and mean this deeply and sincerely – allow their musical talents to flourish. Because something like this might happen.
Respect the unofficial, unspoken zones of residential influence. Invade these personal spaces, and you risk people getting shirty – even if they don’t quite know why. (A good demonstration at a personal level: have a meal with someone, and throughout the meal, oh-so-slowly, move your plate, wine glass, cutlery and chair closer and closer to them. If you’re careful enough, they won’t know why they’re feeling so deeply twitchy).
Striding between vehicle and tent, singing rousing camping songs like “Blood For The Blood God” or that old fireside classic “Killing in the Name“. Leaning against vehicles and tents, reading Mein Kampf and shouting at people when they emerge. Moving their tents and their vehicles to give yours more room. Using their tents and vehicles as pieces in an enormous campsite-wide game of Monopoly. The possibilities are endless…
…but there’s a good reason this one is last in the list.
You can set dogs and children on British campers. You can swear at them, throw rubbish at them and insult them with inedible filth. You can terrorise them with fire and song.
But if you invade their personal space…that’s the limit.
By morning, expect to be staked out spreadeagle in a field (using tentpegs), surrounded by curious cows and the smashed, tattered remnants of your possessions.
Because there’s a reason we choose to live on an island, you know.