‘Our campsite was an apocalyptic disaster scene’: readers’ summer camping stories

Cliff camping seemed like a great idea during the pandemic, when we were craving adventure. After a couple of hours spotting seals, abseiling and rock climbing with our very patient guide, we abseiled down to our bed for the night, and spent the next seven hours lying on a portable ledge above the crashing waves. I spent the night going from laughter to fear. There were some moments of calm however, and we even spotted a few shooting stars. It was the most unique place I’ve ever slept, and not a night I will ever forget. Hannah Mitchell, charity worker, West Midlands

I was helping on a Duke of Edinburgh award expedition this summer and one night saw the worst conditions I have ever experienced for midges. As you can see from the photo, I am wearing a midge net tucked into the neck of my top. I put up my tent, cooked my food, then ran around (to shake off the midges) before diving into my tent, closing the net zips behind me. Only then could I remove my midge net and eat. The next morning was wet and when I took down my tent the swarms were some of the worst I have ever seen, a bit like snow. There was no point eating, as that would mean removing my midge net, so I didn’t have breakfast until I had cycled out to a place with a breeze, and far fewer midges. Mary Higgins, teacher, North Berwick

In Julie, I set out to climb six Munros in Glenshee, Skotland, over two days, while solo camping. On the first evening, conscious of losing light, I aimed to camp before the third summit. I found a perfect, flat area overlooking one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Sitting in the incredible micro camping seat I found in Aldi, I admired two stags in the distance. I then ventured over the dip where I saw the pair to find 10 deer, which all turned around to look at me at the same time; I was in their territory. After a 10-second standoff, and fearing for my newly purchased tent and chair, I ran towards them and, thankfully, they ran away from me. I then heard an incredible noise. I went slightly further down the hill to find at least 50 meer, mostly male deer running down the glen in unison, antlers hitting each other in the rush. It was an amazing sight. I managed to get a decent sleep, but did wake up during the night to see a blood moon flanked by Saturn and Jupiter, both visible to the naked eye. A one-in-a-million evening. Scott Barrie, export manager, Dundee

We went on a four-day survival challenge course in late July, based in some woods near Haywards Heath. While Haywards Heath doesn’t sound very intimidating, we had to resist escaping to the nearby village and learn to survive by ourselves, which included foraging for our own food (we became very hungry), collecting our own water, and building and sleeping in our own shelters. The shelter was made from tree branches and “waterproofed” with bracken. It took us about half a day to make and we were proud of it – until we realised it wasn’t slug-proof. Every night we were attacked by large slugs, which got caught in our hair. The course was great, but I would not recommend sleeping in a homemade shelter over a tent. After three nights of slug slime and very little sleep, we were glad when it was over. Joanna and Andras, Cambridge

I’ve experienced extreme discomfort while camping in the past: body-numbing cold, subsiding tents and violent electric storms. But while these climatic experiences are common to intrepid campers, Storm Evert was something else. Ridiculously high winds, incessant torrential rain and flooding hit in late July, transforming our campsite in north Norfolk into an apocalyptic disaster scene, complete with soaking wet clothes and bedding, a collapsed tent, shattered tentpoles and floating air beds. We drove to the local Travelodge. But like a form of collective madness, we’ll be back next year. I can’t wait. Darren Lissaman, teacher, Leicester

My partner and I went wild camping on Arran in June, exploring the small but beautiful island by bike. Having arrived in Brodick via the ferry, we cycled up the north-east side of the island to Lochranza, where we found a beautiful camping spot in a small copse by a stream. We set up our tent and settled down for the night. I was woken up at 4am by a rustling noise outside our tent. Assuming it was an escaped sheep, we peeked outside. What we saw was a huge red stag, antlers and all, chewing the vegetation outside our tent. My partner and I looked at each other half-petrified, half in awe of its beauty. The stag continued to graze then calmly went on its way. Unpredictability is what makes wild camping in Scotland so special. Andrew, social worker and musician, Edinburgh

My fiancee Libby and I went camping in a 1981 VW camper van in the Yorkshire Dales for my 50th birthday in August. It started well, with a hike over the hills and into the next dale, passing through beautiful villages. As we returned to the campsite, I noticed Libby looking at her phone with an expression of shock. The campsite owner had messaged to tell her that our camper van had caught fire! It was a long walk back, and both of us were expecting a burnt-out shell, but fortunately we arrived to find it still in one piece. The campsite owner had made the quick decision to smash a window and extinguish the flames. The fire service said if he hadn’t acted so quickly, there’d have been nothing left of our van. Apparently it was caused by an electrical fault in the kitchen area, but the van was deemed to be safe to drive – except now it smelled of acrid smoke and was covered in dust from the extinguisher. We decided to drive home, clean it out and then return to finish the holiday. Andrew Hastings, tree surgeon, Warwick

In August, two friends and I camped at a campsite near Holt in Norfolk. We were the first people to use the site and so had a beautiful four-acre space to ourselves. We set up tarps, tents and bivvies, and prepared ourselves for two days of relaxing – chatting, drinking and cooking over a fire pit. We knew the weather was going to be “interesting”, but didn’t expect what followed. One afternoon, the skies bruised to dark purple and hours of torrential rain flooded down. Lightning flashed unnervingly close by, with deafening thunderclaps following a second later. Undeterred, we sat it out as rivers of rainwater poured off our shelter. Cars occasionally slowed to look at our pitch, perhaps wondering who the deranged campers were. Egter, the elemental beauty of the extreme weather was invigorating to us. We left feeling refreshed and glad of the experience. Sam Moore, teacher, Norfolk

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