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.



Tent at Sheldon


We bought our tent last year, to go to the Greenbelt festival.  Having spent the money, this summer we went proper camping – well, proper with facilities.   We had a couple of days in the New Forest, then after an indoor break at my parents’ in Dorset, we went to our annual ‘Clergy Family Holiday’ at Sheldon, in Devon.  The photo shows our campsite.  We had the field to ourselves, which was as fantastic as having the camping toilets to ourselves – everyone else stayed indoors.

I had forgotten how camping puts you in closer touch with nature.  You notice the rain (boy, do you notice the rain), you notice the sun, you can feel if it’s a cloudy or clear night by how many blankets you need.  We were kept awake by owls.  One morning we tried switching off a vibrating alarm, only to discover it was a nearby cow with a regular moo.

I’m probably too much of a city boy to enjoy really proper camping – collecting water from a stream, digging a latrine, cooking on a fire of scavenged wood.   I do like a flush toilet.   But this was fun.  I hope we will keep it up.

My daughter took some lovely photos of the view from the tent, one early morning:

Mist at sunrise



Sheldon sunrise