Last weekend I went to the Brighthelm Camp.  It started off as the church’s youth club camp in the 1920s, and those who go today are mostly the descendants of earlier generations of campers (or married to them).  There was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere and I was made to feel extremely welcome.

The camp takes place in a farmer’s field in West Sussex.  The only facility provided is a water pipe coming across the field from the farm.  One of the first tasks on Saturday was to dig some pits, the largest being for the waste from the latrines.  I helped make a gentleman’s ‘pissoirre’, which consisted of a piece of hessian cloth hung from 4 poles, to hide a shallow pit and the men urinating into it.

Over the years, the campers have learned ways for a hundred people to live happily in a field for a week.  This is the water boiler.  It’s wood fired and constantly topped up from the water pipe via a ball valve.  The tarp behind it shelters the fire pit, over which much of the cooking is done.

Camp boiler

This is a plate rack, hand carved years ago.  The plates are washed and rinsed in galvanised baths, then put in the rack to drip and be dried by the air and the sun, or further rinsed by the rain.

Camp plate rack

My favourite feature was the shower.  First I collected half a bucket of hot water from the boiler and half a bucket of cold water from the tap.  I carried these to the shower tent and poured them into a galvanised bucket which I raised up a pole with a rope and pulley.  Then I turned on the little tap linking the bucket to a watering-can rose and had a lovely shower!

Who needs the latest mod cons?  Life can be simple – all you need is some imagination and the will to choose a different way.


4 thoughts on “Camp

  1. What a great post! I just returned from two weeks camping in a tent in North Truro (on Cape Cod).

    I find camping to be a terrific reminder of so many important things — how little water one needs to wash dishes, for example. The campground where my partner and his/our family stay each summer has toilets and showers, but the sinks have taps which automatically shut off after about three seconds (a simple, powerful reminder to use water more mindfully), and the showers are activated by quarters (25 cents for about three minutes of hot water).

    We had no radio, no TV, and no internet. We awoke early (often due to birds singing their morning songs) and went to bed early, too.

    I happily assumed the role of dish/pot/mug/pan washer during our two week stay — and I deeply admire (and am trying hard not to covet) the wonderful dish drying rack at the gathering you attended.

    The most poignant part of camping for me, however, is watching the adjoining camp sites fill up with new arrivals and then empty out. It becomes very similar to the tide flowing in and out, sweeping the ocean shore clean of footprints twice a day — and a very organic reminder of my own mortality.

    Similarly, I am guessing that after your wonderful, week-long gathering of a hundred human beings, the field where it was held returned to being…a field — which had been enriched but not damaged by your respectful visit.

    1. That sounds wonderful. I love the idea of watching people coming and going being like the tide & a reminder of mortality. Low-impact camping could be a good way in for reflecting about low-impact living & all the traces I’m leaving behind me on the earth for others to have to deal with

      1. I may never meet you in person, but I want you to know how reassured and inspired I am to know that there are other human beings who are reflecting upon the impact each one of us makes on planet earth…and even making changes to simplify and lighten their lives/lifestyles. Hurrah for awareness.

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