I am at an age where some people would say its time to put my feet up and relax! So why do I still persist in pushing myself and having adventures in the great outdoors? Excluding the obvious health advantages of exercise and fresh air, what is it that drives me on and has driven me on for 50 + years? The answer can be found in a 10 hour period of my life 51 years ago!
It was one Friday night in May 1966 in a field at Yeovil Marsh, Somerset. The time was about 10pm and I was snuggled up in my sleeping bag surrounded by good friends. We were talking and laughing and had been told on numerous occasions that evening to be quiet and go to sleep. Then it happened, the start of one of the most influential 10 hours of my life.
With a bright flash the sky lite up and out tent glowed green – the colour of the canvas. Then came the loudest crash I had heard up to that point in my life, followed by screams and shouts. But before we realised what had happened and other flash illuminated the tent and a further crash within a second. The thunder-storm was directly overhead and the rain was torrential.
We huddled together in the centre of the tent holding up the ground sheet to keep everything dry from the river that was now flowing through half of our tent. Then someone started…….. every time there was a flash this was followed by a boo and then a cheer with each clap of thunder. Before long we were all doing the same oblivious of the leaders working in the pouring ran to dig channels around the tents and make sure we were all OK.
Eventually the storm passed and faded out and one by one we all fell fast asleep exhausted from this nighttime sojourn into our own fantasies. I have no recollection of the time but sleep came easily and lasted the night through. Then, it happened – that smell, the one that still takes me back to that campsite every time it enters my nostrils.
Wood smoke pervaded my senses coupled with the distinctive smell of bacon cooking over the fire. Struggling into my wellies I ventured out into the early morning sunshine, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and clearing the sleep from my eyes I was welcomed by the site of ‘Skip’ sat by the fire with two of the biggest cast iron frying pans imaginable cooking bacon and eggs.
And so I started my first full day at Cub camp.
Ten hours had passed that would change my life for ever – I had discovered an affinity with the great outdoors which lead onto a life of adventure – walking, climbing, caving and of course camping. Even to this day the smell of wood smoke and bacon cooking takes me back that fateful day in 1966.