This weekend we headed off into the frozen wastes of Wiltshire to set up a rough shelter amongst the converted barns, Range Rovers and tweed-clad organic hemp farmers. It was cold! Apparently it got down to -4C during the night, though I slept like a warm, cosy and pleasantly drunk log in the back of The Duke.
On the way there we took in a few choice green lanes. This included one of the most challenging we’ve been on to date. After taking us through some woods – the map lead us to believe – the lane would join a track which would in turn take us back to society. As we entered the woods we hit a very muddy incline which tested the ‘drovers mud plugging abilities and gave Dr J and I a chance to try and remember anything we may have known about off-road driving. Clearly somebody had been up the slippy hill on a quad bike recently, but as we trundled further into the woods we started to get the impression that this was not a well-worn lane in any way. The woods were clearly used for hunting, with a multitude of grouse feeders, shooting hides and even a pair of snapped-off deer shins to prove it. These sorts of places don’t like green laners, they have guns and they are apparently willing to rip the forelegs off a woodland creature. So by unspoken agreement we got a wiggle on and made for the exit. Of course the track-to-freedom was little more than a narrow, impassable footpath. We made our way out of the woods by retracing our steps like city-slickers out of deliverance-country; beating a hasty retreat to the Kennet and Avon for a bowl of chilli, over which we vowed never to return.
We arrived at the camp site just before dark, pitching tents and erecting what can only be described as a “rude shelter” by stringing a giant oil stained tarp between the Land Rovers. We broke out the camping chairs and began the complex procedure of lighting my portable barbecue and emptying a few cans of ale.
I suspect Dr Johnson snorted a wrap of organic speed before we went to the pub. Either that or the warmth made him loose his mind a little bit. The beer was nice, the food overcooked, the other patrons were probably offended by our avant garde humour and the logs were plastic – or at least that’s what Dr Johnson thought. An antique spanking paddle found on the shelf helped to keep the conversation flowing.
On arrival back at the gypsy encampment I set about boiling bottle after bottle of water in my Kelly kettle and poking them between the duvets in my drover-bed. I slept very warmly and very well, awakening to an icy ceiling and the pleasing sight of a frost covered field glistening beneath the tentative caress of a December dawn. It would have been more pleasing if I didn’t have a headache.
After a traditional breakfast we went for a nice walk and then headed home. On the way back home something nasty happened in The Duke’s gearbox. I haven’t had time to work out the cause, but he’s having some issues with gear selection which make me very nervous indeed. Expect a detailed report on my findings soon!