A Strange Encounter with a Fun Sponge


I’m in the Lake District at the moment. I’m collecting our daughter’s gear from university on Tuesday, so I thought I’d steal a few days backpacking. Unfortunately the weather looks awful tomorrow, so I had to reduce a three day backpacking trip to two days. I’ve not been in the Northern Fells for a while so I decided to re-visit Wiley Gill where I knew there was a good place to camp.

I arrived at Wiley Gill at about 2:30pm and was pleased that no one else had chosen to do the same thing, especially as it was Saturday and even the Northern Fells were quite busy with hikers and bikers. What followed was one of the most extraordinary incidents in my forty five years of backpacking. 

After putting the tent up, collecting some water and sorting out my gear, I was standing outside my tent in glorious sunshine. A couple of walkers passed close by on the path and I shouted “good afternoon”. The woman turned to me and demanded to know whether I was wild camping. “Yes”, I replied. She told me in no uncertain terms that it was far too early to be wild camping (it was 3:15). Then she started berating me that wild camping was a blot on the landscape, which was a bit ironic as I had camped in possibly one of the most inconspicuous places in the fells (in a sheepfold and largely hidden from the path). 

At this point I was a bit nonplussed. I thought about giving her the Agincourt salute and an Anglo-Saxon instruction. However, I decided she wasn’t worth it, turned my back on her and went inside my tent, leaving her to climb the path, chuntering away before, mercifully, she passed out of earshot and sight. 

As David Coleman might have said “quite remarkable!” 

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10 thoughts on “A Strange Encounter with a Fun Sponge”

  1. It’s a difficult one Robin. I suppose she is technically correct. Best wild camping practice is to set up after the day walkers have left the area and pack up before they return. This usually means making and breaking camp at around sunset/sunrise. But if you are in a quiet area then I guess there is little harm in setting up earlier. It’s just unfortunate that you came accross a stickler for ‘rules’. I’ve seen plenty of folk pitched up in early summer afternoons by busy tarns (Sprinkling Tarn anyone?) which I really don’t like as it does create a blot on the otherwise stunning landscape. The problem is trying to impose best practice on an activity which I’d technically ilegal, and everyone’s threshold for what is ‘right’ will be somewhat different. Like I said though, it’s a difficult one.

    1. Hmmm. Wild camping is not illegal. It is only illegal not to move on if you are asked to do so by the land owner. In mid summer, the dawn dusk “rule” is almost impossible as true night is only about six hours. TBH, you’d think people had got better things to do, but I guess there’s some odd people in the world.

  2. Takes all sorts. I suspect if you’d been part of a group of teenage males wild camping with a stereo blaring she wouldn’t have expressed her opinions!

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