Day 0: We "slept" in a public park

With our respective workdays over, my buddy Matt and I stuffed our camping kit (and my filming/photography equipment) in his car, and departed for The Bushcraft Show.

This was Thursday evening, around 7pm, and we both knew that we would eventually be looking for a place to “stealth camp” for the night.

The journey went remarkably smoothly, one of the busiest roads along our route bizarrely free from congestion, making steady progress with the cruise control set and – compared to our typical road trips – remaining consistently on for mile upon mile.

We stopped briefly along the way for a meal at Edd’s Diner, situated on the grounds of Peterborough’s A1(M) services, as well as one of their famous Butterscotch Milkshakes.

Matt couldn’t resist the opportunity to pose with an American-style cut-out of what I can only presume would be his “dream gal,” were it not for the fact that his wife would beat him to death with his own hands.

Food eaten, bladders filled, we got back in the car and continued on for Beehive Farms.

When we eventually reached the area, we were slightly baffled by what I can only presume was a prank from one or more of the locals; with Bushcraft Show signs pointing the wrong way, one sign directing us to another, which in turn directed us back to the first.

Eventually, we decided to head for the main entrance; but by this time it was 1AM.

With no signs of life anywhere near the main entrance, we decided not to disturb organizers already sleeping by driving in and pitching up, and so instead began hunting a place to put our heads down for the remainder of the night.

Easier said than done!

It would seem as though the local farmers have gotten wise to people parking up and camping on their bordering woodlands, as every single viable place we found to park was obstructed by gates or rough-cut tree trunks.

We searched for a couple of hours.

By this point it’s almost 3AM. We’ve been driving for hours, with countless ideal-looking places to camp, yet with nowhere even remotely close to park the car.

Our concern wasn’t about having to hike some distance to pitch up for the night, rather the risk of leaving all of out equipment in the car and the possibility of it being stolen.

Randomly, we happened to drive down a main road, and noticed an open gate leading into a public car park.

We backed up and stopped, checked the sign, saw no sign prohibiting overnight parking or camping, and so decided that this would be our camp ground for the night.

Sleeping bags only. Quicker to pack down.

With a seemingly endless swarm of bugs taking bites out of us both, we decided to pitch up the DD Hammocks A-Frame Mesh Tent, since there was no chance of any rain, and we needed only to keep the bugs off for a few hours.

Camping on a public park isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, especially when you realize just how visible you are to others.

Approximately 5AM, we were awoken by a group of ladies jogging around the park. They didn’t complain that we were there, but we knew it was time to pack down.

One night on rock solid, uneven ground and already my back was set to give me an uncomfortable time for much of the show. I wish I’d taken the extra time to set up the inflating mat.

Day 1: Pitch, pitch, pitch again.

We arrived back at the main entrance somewhere between 05:30 and 06:00, with the organizers getting ready for their morning briefing, some of the vendors setting up their stands, and the sun already beaming overhead.

A beautiful morning.

With Matt desperate to grab a shower, I took a walk around the almost-empty showground, taking photographs of everything before other vendors, demonstrators, and visitors arrived.

In just a few short hours, the whole place would be packed.

So with Matt’s shower over, we were invited by one of the organizers (Richard) to camp with the staff in the area of woodland they had reserved. Incidentally, this was the area where I had camped for the two previous shows.

We took the car down to the area in which the staff were camped, and – with a little bit of manoeuvring – Matt managed to park with enough room for vehicles to pass.

This would be the downside of driving a large saloon car.

Our spot put us a mere 30 second walk from the main showground, ideal for me carting a pack full of camera gear around with me everywhere.

So, for the first time on Day 1, we pitched up the two superlight tents we would be using for the weekend.

The good thing about these superlight tents is that they take only a minute to pitch, about 2 minutes to pack down. This, as it turns out, would be particularly handy on Day 1.

The Pyramid Mesh Tent we pitched up ready for our buddy, Brian, due to arrive on Day 2 (the Saturday) and possibly Tim, due to arrive later on Day 1, if he didn’t like his new hammock setup.

The A-Frame Mesh Tent was for Matt and me.

With the tents pitched, the gear unpacked, and having not yet had any breakfast; we put a piece of slate on top of Matt’s gas stove (we would light our fire later when we weren’t going to be leaving camp) and grilled some bacon.

Bacon sandwiches for breakfast. Yum!

Delicious bacon consumed, we ventured back out onto the showground, where Lynne and her husband, Tony, had brought the owls out on their perches.

Their avian sanctuary has become an annual fixture at The Bushcraft Show, and their rescue owls are always lovely to see and have an opportunity to stroke.

This is where I started to wish I had brought my 300mm tele-zoom lens. Fortunately, I knew I’d get more photos of the owls from much closer-up at some point during the show.

We went to wish the vendors that were present a good morning, then took a walk around the camp grounds.

On the nearest campground, we saw a single – but highly impressive – pitch taking shape.

We had a conversation with the man setting it up, an official from the War & Peace Show, which explains the signals vehicle parked at his pitch.

We were rapidly approaching 11AM by this point, so people had started to arrive in larger numbers. It was nice to see someone pitched up and ready so early in the first day.

Wouldn’t be long before the field would become filled with tents.

What happened next led me to put my camera away for the remainder of Friday.

When we returned to our own pitch, a couple of staff approached us, informing us that we should go and pick up our neck lanyards so that we wouldn’t be constantly questioned as-to whether or not we were permitted to be camped in the staff area.

It made sense, given that they’d already moved several people on for attempting to set up camp in the cordoned area, and so we set off to see one of the main organizers and receive the lanyards.

We were then told that some 20 or so more volunteers would be arriving later on Friday and through Saturday morning, and that we needed to move out of the staff area.

More than a little annoying, to be honest, as we’d set up all of our gear already, had virtually no sleep on the Thursday night – or, rather, early hours of Friday morning – and would now have to pack everything back in the car to be moved to the public woodland camping area.

About an hour later, we found a spot on a patch of grass at the extreme opposite end of the venue from the showground, and so – exhausted – we pitched both mesh tents once again, both crawled onto our respective camp beds, and took a nap.

A few hours later, our buddy Tim arrived, and so I got up and went to meet him by the side of the lake on the edge of the showground.

As Tim and I were walking back to where Matt and I had pitched up, Tim and I – mostly Tim, to be fair – spotted a better area in which to set up. This mattered because Tim intended to hammock, and the area Matt and I had chosen did not have any suitably-spaced trees between which to pitch a hammock.

So, as Tim went to fetch his car closer to our third pitch site of the day, Matt and I once again set about packing down all of our gear, loading it into Matt’s car, and moved to pitch number 3.

We unpacked the car and set up for the third and final time, then the rest of the day was spent exhaustedly socializing, with the occasional camera-free trip to the showground to say hello to more of the vendors and demonstrators, busily setting up their stalls and exhibitions.

Indeed, Matt and I were both too exhausted to even attend the Friday evening shows down at the main exhibition area on the showground. We desperately needed some proper sleep.

To be continued...

In part two, we’ll pick up with the start of Saturday, where things went a lot smoother, and we didn’t have to pack down or re-pitch at any point.

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