Monday, 11 October 2010

Gordale Scar, Art & the Dukes of Hazzard!

Some years ago as an errant and clueless art student, I remember being bowled over by James Ward’s magnificent depiction of Gordale Scar.  In excess of fourteen feet in height, and by far the largest canvas in Tate Britain (then simply the Tate Gallery), it caught my eye.  I must have lingered for half an hour or so.  Marveling in its size, I was transported back to Yorkshire, back to the ‘Gateway to the dales’, a stones throw from where I grew up.  Ward completed the work around 1814 and judging by the looming tempest depicted high above the jagged limestone cliffs, the artist didn’t get as lucky with the weather as we were last weekend.  Come to think of it, he probably wouldn’t have had the pleasure of staying on the campsite at the mouth of the scar.  Who knows?

Gordale Scar Campsite is without doubt one of the most striking sites in England.  The current owner appears to be a bit of an artist himself, more Tracey Emin than James Ward.  The fellah has an amazing collection of used foil tray barbeques, empty plastic water containers and knackered fold out camp chairs, all neatly stacked in piles awaiting a nomination for the Turner prize.  From the looks on the faces of folks milling around the toilet and washing block, I guess the majority of campers thought the old guy must be slowly loosing it.  But we ex-art students, we know the truth!


Art aside, I was there to see my pals, some of whom, I’d last clapped eyes on nearly twenty years ago!  And what a pleasure it was.  It’s amazing how camping can bring folks together.  We were surrounded and outnumbered by young candidates for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a couple of whom had the pluck to request that we keep the noise down as they were up at five the next morning.  Ok, our party was more Dukes of Hazard than Dukes of Edinburgh, but for Pete’s sake, I hadn’t even got my tent pitched at that stage!  An evening in the Lister’s Arms would surely keep us out of trouble.

We awoke in the morning with sore heads and more than a little confusion.  So what exactly is a Duke of Edinburgh? We mused.  Well, we all agreed, it’s probably a bit like a Prince Albert, but only more painful!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A book review of sorts

As far as I'm concerned, camping & cooking is easy. Well the cooking bit is easy and let's face it it doesn't really matter if it all goes wrong, so long as you haven't burned the bejeezus out of it you can still eat it. The camping bit is always more tricky. Finding a good campsite can make or break your stay and is probably why I end up going back to the same few sites i've visited over the years. So when I was asked to do a review of a camping guide, I jumped at the chance to go somewhere new! Book reviews are new to me, but i'll give anything a go.

You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it out for a spin, well I did actually – a Dodge Dart ‘Swinger’ and it got me safely from New Hampshire to California, where I sold it for a profit! But that’s another story.  A bloke from Alan Rogers Guides emailed me and asked if I would review their latest edition of The Best Campsites in Britain & Ireland, I’m glad he did!  Using the old ‘test drive theory’ I picked a site on the shores of Llyn Tegid (lake Bala) in North Wales.  Arriving at dusk with the light failing rapidly, my worries about finding a flat pitch for the campervan were assuaged by the fact that the whole site was as flat as a pancake.  It was a combination of the Alan Rogers guide and OS Landranger series, Sheet number 125, which lead us to our caravansary for the evening.

I awoke to the murmurings of a babbling brook and the sunlight shining in through the curtains.  Alan had served me well, the site was splendid, and what’s more, strictly adhering to the brief description on page 238.  Well served with hot showers etc etc.  Maybe it was beginners luck, but I’m starting to like this guide.  With over 600 sites between the covers, it would take a hell of a lot of petrol and more ‘wife miles’ than I could muster to put the whole book to the test.  Ok it lacks the ‘coffee table’ appeal of the Cool Camping guides, and would definitely be improved with actual photos from some of the sites it details rather than using stock photos, but it’s easy to use and appears to do what it says on the tin.