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Sharing the summertime

Miriam Richardson

I was incredibly lucky to be invited to visit at a ‘permanent’ summer camp run by a 4WD club, several summers ago.

A large field bounded by a stream and its fringe of willows, well out of sight of the road — room for everyone to have their own relatively private campsite. There is a central arena, with space for kids on bikes, and a New Year bonfire. They have shared long drops and hot showers — throw a log in the shower boiler whenever you walk past on the way to the loos.

The land is leased over the summer period, and each spring group members head out to see what havoc the winter wove. They tidy up and or repair their camp sites, trim the trees, set up the long drops, digging new holes with their handy post-hole digger, chop fire wood for the boiler, set up the showers and tame the grass.

Weekends begin the season, then the long summer break when families come and stay for weeks. When work calls, some families stay on, welcoming the workers back for weekends; then school goes back, and camping is a weekend affair again, until the final tidy up — filling in the long drop holes, securing the toilets and showers for the winter, packing down the camping gear and kitchens and taking stuff home.

The camp setups are as varied as the people. There are buses, caravans, tents, and mixtures and variations of them. There are day rooms, keeping the sun and rain off. Some families share a kitchen and living area and have their family tents as bedrooms. Some use a totally portable kitchen, others, like the one pictured, have a more permanent kitchen setup, repaired or adapted, as required, each year. This kitchen even has herbs.

This kind of ‘permanent’ camping, families sharing the summertime year to year, differs from a regular campground experience. Though it does remind me of my uncle’s camping in the 1960s— at a campground, but each summer the same site, the same set of families: lives from quite different places, sharing just the summer holiday.

Perhaps if freedom camping becomes more difficult we will create more of these shared spaces for our summering.n

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