Having spent the last few months hunched over the laptop until my hands resembled claws and my pallor turned the sickly yellow of Birds Custard I stepped blinking and squinting into the sunshine and decided to go camping. A writing research trip. I promise. Tent - check. Sleeping bag - check. Cool box crammed with chocolate and beers - check.
We are working our way through the Cool Camping book, a brilliant compilation of the most exciting camping locations throughout the UK, including yurts, pods and teepee sites. And we’ve made a commitment, that I think we are soon to break, never to go back to the same place until we’ve tried them all.
This time we found ourselves at Syke Farm in Buttermere, Cumbria. It is testament to the fact that I’ve spent too much time online recently, because it was a real stumbling block not to read Syke Farm as Skype Farm. This in itself was reason enough to go. And secretly, I was hoping it would inspire some fresh story ideas.
By some fluke of nature the weather was incredible. Hot sun, very light breeze – exactly what you would book for camping if you had access to climatic authorities. The Syke Farm camp site nestles along the Newlands Valley. A little stream babbles agreeably through the camp site. It is surrounded by a horseshoe of trees that in the daytime twitter and rattle with chaffinches and woodpeckers and at dusk releases skitters of pipistrelles.
A walk around Buttermere felt worthy and challenging enough to justify sitting with a beer afterwards before a brief stroll down to the pub.
I included a visit to Keswick Museum and The Theatre on the Lake Matinee for cultural content. More on those in future posts.
So this trip, with its spectacular scenery and glorious weather quickly stirred a few story ideas. Definitely a setting to inspire some late summer, or autumn themed stories, which is what the women’s magazines are buying at the moment.
But then, as I walked back to the tent one afternoon, feeling sun soaked and peaceful and like the world was a good place to be, I found a poster for a missing dog. He had disappeared whilst he and his owners were walking the fells the day before. The dog in the photo was handsomely shaggy and black, with heartmelting eyes. “He’s probably fallen and impaled himself on a cliff branch or something,” husband helpfully said. I shook my head and glanced up the valley, hoping to see a blur of black bounding over the bracken. I tried not to cry. I will probably never find out if he made it home or not. So this will be the story I will write next. Written in that dog's honour. And I don’t care if you think it’s unrealistic, but it will have a happy ending. If I'd wanted to write factually I would have gone into journalism... Then again...