Camping in the 1970's - Part 1 (or 10 examples of why it's a miracle I'm still here)

My youngest child is going on a Bushcraft trip next weekend. As I looked at the massive Yurt and spangly campsite on the Bushcraft website I can't help but think how different her experience will be to my camping experiences.

My Mum was *Queen of the Guides. So, before I was old enough to join the Brownies, or even walk, I was camping.

Mum is 7th in at the back from the left and I am 4th in the second row from the right, you can't see my face, just lots of hair.
Now there were two types of 1970s tent time. Type A; was with the guides. Type B; was family holidays.

You’d think Mum wouldn’t want to go camping on a holiday, but no, not only did we camp with the guides come sun, rain and snow, but also on our summer holidays.... obvs.

First, in the form of a list, I shall cover Type A camping (Type B will follow shortly).

  1. Pegs were made of wood, that had mashed up tops from being hit by wooden mallets. Today, you have metal pegs and rubber headed mallets.
  2. There were a thousand guide ropes attached to the wooden pegs (not Guide as in 'the Guides' but guide as in, I guided the tent into standing up with these million ropes). These ropes were a health and safety nightmare and you could guarantee that during your camping trip, you would trip on one of these ropes and skin your shin on a wooden peg. Standard.
  3. All tents were made of canvas (heavy cotton). They were not, I repeat not, waterproof. You would be told not to touch the inside of a rained-on tent. Why? Because, and we all did it, the minute you touched it the water dripped through. Fun.
  4. There was no bottom to the tent, so you had a triangle of moist mildew smelling canvas above you and grass (and stones) beneath. On the grass, you put a ground sheet. A ground sheet was basically a tarpaulin, with no protection from the bumps and lumps. You would wake up with new bruises most days.
  5.  There were no squidgy soft yoga rolls, you had a ground sheet and a sleeping bag. If you were lucky you brought a pillow with you. (My Mum said you had to roll up clothes to make a pillow. Bringing a pillow wasn’t ‘proper’ camping….I know, right!)
  6. There were no pop-up tents. Putting up a tent could take anywhere up to 3 hours if you had no idea what you were doing, and sometimes even if you did.
  7.  There were a lot of open fires made for cooking, particularly with the Guides. You would cook all your food on the open fire. Everything and everybody smelt of smoke. A lot of people got 1st – 3rd-degree burns. When that happened, one of the Guiders would slap some Savlon on and send you back to carry on cooking. Parents weren't called, the 'incident' wasn't written up, everything ended with Savlon.
    Apologies for the poor quality of this photo but this clearly demonstrates cooking on an open fire with no gloves or health and safety equipment. I am at a safe distance, left to the standing person, kneeling.
  8.  Toilets. Well, we dug a hole. Seriously. People think I’m joking when I tell them this. The only luxury was a seat with a hole in it. When that hole below got full, you fill it in and dug another one. This was probably my least favourite Guide/Brownie/small child duty. There was no hand washing facilities apart from the nearby stream.
  9.  Now, of course, we weren’t heathens we were well bought up young ladies, so we were taught how to make a table out of sticks and string. This table had a place for a bowl so we could wash up our plates etc, it also had a place for our plates to drip dry.
  10. There was no risk of a parent suing the Guiders and limited safety instruction. Similarly, there was no alcohol antiseptic hand gel and everyone had at least one pen knife. I think I had my first pen knife at five. Kids ran free and were encouraged to learn by themselves and be independent. As a result we jumped in streams, built rope bridges, climbed trees, went on massive treks, got blisters and callouses, sang songs around open fires, cooked sausages on sticks on the same fire, dropped sausages into fire, then pulled them out again and ate them. I know it’s a miracle I’m still here. 
        * A Queen's guide is a guide who has got all their badges. My Mum not only had all her badges, but was  a Guider, commissioner for the County and something of a BigWig in the guide community. I was a bit of a guide disappointment. 
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