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April 2019 Vol. 15 No. 1

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Patricia Prime

New Forest Camping

I was always pleased when asked to go camping with friends. My fiancé had been a boy scout and knew all about flora and fauna, cooking on a campfire and where it was safe to swim. One holiday weekend a group of us drove to the New Forest to camp for a couple of days. We had an old Ford whose passenger door kept falling off and eventually we had to tie it in place with string.

Setting up camp at nightfall, in soft rain, we were disturbed in the night by noises in the forest. We had pitched our tent across the path wild ponies took to the river to drink. Then, travelling to a pub for lunch, the car got stranded in a creek and we were there for hours while the boys figured how to get the car out of the mud – our length of string was no help! Finally, another group of people came along and managed to haul the car out. Another day we came across an old woman dressed in black robes collecting firewood. We thought she might be a witch, but she was kind to us and invited us to her cottage for tea. There she showed us a marvellous musical box, her china plates and ornaments, swans and ballerinas made of pipe cleaners, lace and tulle and mysterious plants and herbs growing in her garden. She sang lustily to her guitar old songs like “Oh, my Papa, to me you are so wonderful,” “How much is that doggy in the window?” and “Frère Jacques.”

lulled by the sun
a heady scent of mushrooms
in forest mulch

When it was warm enough, we swam in the river, cooked sausages on the primus stove or played cards. We spent one night at a local pub so that we could take a bath and have a decent meal. That evening we played darts and bar billiards with some of the locals. They won.

heading for home
tyres on the gravel
leave a trail