As a group, we are very fortunate in our friends.
Because so many of us have moved around in the different circles of outdoor life like Bushcraft and Re-enactment for so many years we have developed a good reputation that sometimes precedes us and leads to opportunities that might not otherwise have come our way.
Early in 2020 Roger Harrington contacted me about the Wilderness Gathering, a long established event run by and for outdoor enthusiasts.
Roger and I have moved in slightly different orbits, knowing about each other but not really getting the opportunity to meet up but he had been impressed by some of the pictures he had seen of what we do.
He wanted to expand the “Retro Camping” aspect of the Gathering and thought we might fit in very well.
After a quick phone call, we had some ideas put together and then someone ate an under cooked bat or something in China and everything got put on hold. Who says one man cannot change the world?
As things started to level back out, Roger contacted me again to see if we would still be up for doing something. I checked with Steve and Colin, veterans of the Blists Hill expedition, and we decided to see what we could do.
This would be a public event, quite different from what we normally do and we needed to fit ourselves into a limited space while putting on a good show.
Unlike The Town that Never Was, which was a Steampunk event, this would be full of people that were more interested in camping and outdoor life rather than guesthouses and promenading in costumes.
The area we were given was a prime spot, right on the main path from the camp site to the main arena providing a level of footfall that must have been the envy of many of the traders.
As is not unusual for us, the preparation of good food formed an important part of our display.
The meat turning on the bottle jack, lamb on Friday, beef for Saturday, with excellent fondant/roast potatoes provided by Colin and peach cobbler and pear crumble made by Steve, a pot of gravy each day was my humble contribution.
It’s so tough getting by on camping rations...
There were a good variety of traders, demonstrators and people running workshops at the event and at first I think people were not quite sure how we fitted into that mix.
One of the most common questions we were asked was “how much is that?”, while pointing at some interesting object or piece of equipment.
We could probably sold the contents of the camp several times over and certainly have taken dinner reservations .
The cooking even attracted the attention of a well known food Vlogger who was delighted to be recognised by Steve, who regularly follows her channel.
Once people understood that we were not trying to sell them anything, most were fascinated by what they could see with a good few enquiring about where they could learn more.
Time will tell of course but I suspect we may well see some new members as a result.
Not all of our visitors were human, situated next to the lake as we were, we had expected to be eaten alive by mozzies but an active squadron of dragonflies seemed to keep the bloodsuckers at bay. I think only one of us, Steve, had a bite in the end and that was not too bad.
The bargeware that I worked on near the beginning of lockdown was very popular. Provoking many of the “How much?” questions mentioned earlier.
Once I had explained that they were not for sale but easy to paint, we even had a few people hurrying off to buy lanterns for themselves on the stalls that were selling them.
Our main objective of course, apart from enjoying the event, was to promote what we are up to and in that respect we had a very successful weekend.
Roger came to us on Saturday night and commented that he had received nothing but good feedback about our display and would we be interested in doing it again next year.
Our response was a hearty yes.
The question now is how do we up our game. Plans are, as always, afoot.