A Field North Of Scunthorpe 2016
Ride Date 8 - 9 Oct
By Ren Withnell
I don't know about you dear reader but events in my life are like buses - nothing happens for quite some time then all of a sudden I'm going here, there and everywhere! Sharon and I haven't done much camping at all this year save for our Dutch foray and Ledbury. Then last weekend we spent the evening in Hawes and now this weekend we've been invited to Scunthorpe!
Scunthorpe? Scunthorpe is not a name synonymous with mountainous beauty, sunkist beaches or stunning architecture so why on earth would we want to go there? We have been invited to join - ahem - The Yorvik Vikings Triumph Owners Club for an evening of frivolity, merriment, quaffing and camping to mark the end of summer. Make of that what you will but it's an excuse to pitch up, drink, socialise and have a laugh. I can't think of any good reason why we should not go, so we're off!
A field in Scunthorpe?
I've studied the maps. We could go over the Snake Pass then Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster would rather spoil the ride. I'd just end up terribly lost if I try to go through Huddersfield and Barnsley. No, sorry but today I'm taking the easy option, the road more travelled, the route of the unimaginative, the motorway. I'm a rebel, rebelling against the rebellious that's what I am! You can lie to yourself and I often do.
We're cruising at 60 to 65 mph. Sharon would go faster, I can see that as she's hovering around my tail willing my to speed up. I however prefer a gentle and sedate pace, I like to relax and flow gently along. I can take in my surroundings and meditate on life without fear of losing my licence. My engine is working enough to warm it up although it's not begging for mercy. I am calm and serene. My head is pondering what a photon of light "experiences". If it is travelling at the speed of light it experiences no time. As such it pops out of the sun and immediately arrives in my eye from its perspective. In our universe it took 8 minutes. There's something in that...and the double slit experiment...where's that lorry going?
After a while I pull off the M62 into Ferrybridge Services. Well, er, erm, not quite. You see it's like this. As you enter the services there's a sign, cars this way, lorries that way. By the time the sign is in view unless you're prepared for a sharp left you're heading towards the lorry car park. Dammit! No problem, I'll ride around and try again. Only this time I take the wrong exit on the roundabout, we're off to Knottingley. I find my way back and finally get onto the car park. It takes another age to get back out onto the motorway once more. I now list Ferrybridge Moto as the UK's most confusing and poorly designed motorway services.
She's only smiling because I've finally managed to calm down.
Luckily finding our venue for the evening is much much simpler. Off the end of the M181 we follow the A1077 into the rural land north of Scunthorpe. I'm pleasantly surprised. It is quite flat here with big skies and the Humber Bridge pops into view from time to time. We circle around Scunthorpe and see nothing of the town save for a shopping centre and the back of a housing estate then we're deep into the farmland and small villages. We turn down a side road, into a narrow lane then along a short dirt track into a field. Easy.
A field? Our hosts for the evening, Vic and Polly, own this field. Not a farm, not a selection of fields, just this ordinary regular football pitch sized field. Why? Because they can, because it was cheap back in the day, because it's an investment, because they like to sit outside their shed some evenings with a drink to relax, because they can do random things like host social events. That's it, I want my own field now.
What a fabulous set up in a delighful place.
We make camp among those already here and those still arriving. By the time the barbecue is lit I'd say there's 10 or 15 tents and perhaps 20 to 30 people. These numbers feel spot on, not too many, not too few. We know Vic and Polly through various adventure motorcycling connections, they've put some serious miles under their wheels over the years. We're joined by Bernard Smith who we also know for similar reasons. The Triumph owners are mostly mature folks who still tease each other like kids but without the tantrums. There's a handful of Vic and Polly's family and friends who add spice to the mix. Sharon and I are quite relaxed here.
We're just chilling and chatting.
Vic is creating a massive paella on a vast frying pan while Polly produces burgers and sausages in abundance. There's a large teepee filled with buns, sauces, crisps, dips, cakes and various delights. I was expecting a few hot dogs and maybe a pan of beans not a full on all singing all dancing fantasia of food. We tuck in heartily and swill it all down with hot tea also available from a pot on a stove. Of course everyone else is drinking from bottles and tins but that's not my thing and Sharon seldom drinks alcohol.
As if things couldn't be better there's the hulk of an old boat in the middle of the field. It's been decorated with fake Viking shields and filled with waste wood. The idea is to set it all alight with flaming arrows, Viking Burial style, to signify the end of summer. 2 ladies start beating out tribal rhythms on African drums, not quite Viking perhaps but it certainly creates an ambiance. You would not believe how hard it is to get a flaming arrow to actually land in a small boat and catch alight. It becomes farcical but hey! No one's bothered, we all laugh as each arrow either hits a shield or flies away across the field. Someone gives a burning arrow a helping hand into the boat.
Fantastic! Warmth and fascinating flames to hypnotise us.
Good job too, the evening is dry but this being October means it is cold. There's plenty of garden and folding chairs for everyone and as the fire dies down we gradually move closer and closer to the warmth. Beer is being consumed, everyone is chatting, I'm eating the last of the crisps and chocolates and all is well. Sharon looks at me, her face all aglow from the flames and says "I'm really glad we came." Yeah, that sums up my feelings too.
Mid Life Maturity.
I'm one of the first up this morning. The toilet comprises of a shed with a loo seat fitted over a deep deep pit. I fear using it because the idea of a pit toilet is abhorrent to my pampered westernised namby pamby mind. It comes as a great relief (sic) to find it is clean and well aired with plenty of loo paper, wet wipes and sanitising hand gel. Damn! It's better appointed than my loo at home and less whiffy too. Gotta hand it to Vic and Polly, they run a tight ship.
Over by the shed there's running water to rinse my hands and to fill the kettle. Aaaaah tea, sweet hot tea, what would life be without a cup of tea? I'm joined by a fellow camper and we talk Triumph as the sun climbs above the hedgerows to warm the fields and dry the heavy dew off the tents. My new friend and I sit by the embers of the fire and I learn he's new to motorcycling and new to camping too. He's loving the biking, I suspect the camping aspect isn't quite to his liking but he had a great time last night so it was worth it.
That was a boat last night.
The field is a bit of a mess this morning with empty bottles, cans, paper plates and half eaten burgers spread around between the tables and chairs. Not to worry, as more and more people appear from their tents the tidying begins and after just 20 minutes it's looking a lot better. For the rest of the morning I notice every now and then people will stoop down and collect a bottle top or crisp and place it in one of the bins.
The massive paella pan is being used to fry eggs and bacon, the smell of which entices Sharon out of the tent. We stand patiently, bun in hand as Vic dishes out the fried food. Oh dear, deary me, bacon and egg barms for breakfast is rather too nice. I could do this every day, luckily I'm too lazy to make a cooked breakfast otherwise the 125 would not be able to drag my lardy ass around.
Breakfast! Mmmm tasty.
When it's time to leave we say a heartfelt thank you to Vic and Polly, they sure know how to throw a party!
I make a futile attempt to find a more interesting road home. The A18 is pleasing enough, flowing well through small villages to Thorne. I somehow end up on the outskirts of Doncaster which looks like every other town I've accidentally stumbled into. By the time we get to Wakefield we're ready for a brew and a chillout. That, well that doesn't go as well as we might have hoped. I'm not going to explain here, I'll publish my letter of complaint to Trinity Walk instead. We hop on the motorway and get back home, we've had enough of towns.
Regular readers will know just how often my expectations and reality are seldom the same. I didn't know what to expect this weekend. Perhaps, hopefully, I expected nothing and as such I was open to all the possibilities. So we've camped in a field, sat around a fire, chatted with some folks and had a ride out, nothing spectacular there surely?. What made this weekend special are two things. Firstly the generosity and energy of Vic and Polly, our hosts with the mosts. Secondly I think I'm getting old. I never used to be able to sit still and relax for long, I was always doing, always looking for the next thing, always bored.
Physically getting old sucks. Everything aches, things take longer to heal and nothing works as well as it once did. Mentally though I'm finding maturity suiting me well so far.
Ian Soady said :-
Just wait, youngster!
I must say I've never really understood the rally thing. Camping in a cold wet field with a bunch of unknown people who may well be very nice but may equally well be drug crazed axe maniacs doesn't seem very attractive to me - but then as you may have gathered I like my creature comforts. I also consider myself to be fairly unsociable, never having enjoyed riding with other people (who're invariably either doddery slowcoaches who shouldn't be allowed on the road or speed crazy lunatics who equally shouldn't be allowed out).
I do however enjoy chance encounters with ex- or current- riders safe in the knowledge that the relationship will be fleeting and I'm not stuck with them for the whole weekend. Mind you, I'm always the one at parties who's sitting in the corner with a good book - which I generally bring with me as so many people have such awful taste in reading material.
Still I'm glad you both enjoyed it. As someone once said, chacun à son goût.
17/10//2016 2:22:26 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ian - you go "camping" in your caravan. While I'll admit it is considerably more luxurious than our little tent you're still in a random field filled with strangers, surely? The caravan offers more protection than the tent but I doubt it would stop a drug crazed axe wielding maniac.
Trust. You have to trust that as you walk through the streets of your local town that the person walking towards you isn't going to pull out a knife, stab you and steal your wallet. It happens, we can only hope it doesn't happen to us.
I have been on a campsite in France when a group of Germans had their tents slashed open and their valuables taken as they slept. I have heard there's been spate of robberies on several motorcycle rallies recently - employing the same method. I do what I can to keep my valuables close and I suspect my not drinking helps keep me more alert. I can't however just stay at home frightened and fearful. I guess I enjoy the events enough to take the risks, much as you enjoy riding motorcycles enough to take the risks.
Riding with others does require a great deal of patience. Some are way too fast, others way to slow. I choose to tolerate it in return for the company, friendship and shared experience of riding together and the places you visit. My riding style is very flexible, I can dawdle and saunter, soaking in the surroundings or I can blast and whizz and be thrilled by the speed.
Sharon loves a good book, she is a librarian by trade. Myself? I rarely read, I actually prefer to write than read. I don't know why, I suspect it's because I'm a control freak and prefer to create the story myself rather than be follow someone else's.
17/10//2016 3:23:04 PM UTC
Bob said :-
I've not been to a rally for a couple of years now. I used to do many of the MAG big rallies, Farmyard Party, Into the Valley etc.
To be honest the biggest problem with camping, not just motorcycle camping, is the other campers! If I could be assured that everyone else on the site will shut the ***k up and go to bed at 23:00ish then it'd be fine, but invariably I find that not to be the case. Particularly at the big rallies, there seems to be a competition to stay up as late as possible and make as much noise as possible. I link most of the problems to consumption of alcohol and as non-drinker (Caveman) I often find the behaviour of the alcohol consuming section of society to be selfish and non more so than on a campsite at 03:00!
I've been thinking recently about Scotland, their rules on wild camping appeal - riding a trail bike I wonder if you could get some way "off the beaten track" and find a quiet isolated spot for the night?
Security isn't really a concern for me although I admit that if I wasn't the size that I am I may feel differently.
When it all comes together though and I've found a nice quiet spot for the night and wake up at dawn with a clear head, pack the bike and away before most people are out of bed, riding in the cool morning air on empty roads in a place I haven't been before, it is sublime.
18/10//2016 11:41:40 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
My comments re axe wielding maniacs were somewhat tongue in cheek. However, on the campsites we frequent we have the choice - whether to interact with others or maintain a steely indifference.
It seems to me that much of the point of rallies is actually to "join in" (although I confess to never having attended one). Your little gathering does sound quite pleasant but it could have ended up with you stuck in a soggy field with horizontal rain being harangued by some obsessive who didn't like your choice of bike / luggage / partner. And nowhere to escape to......
18/10//2016 2:31:00 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Firstly I'd like to clear up one thing - this event wasn't a rally, just a small gathering of folks in a field. Not that it matters I just don't want Vic and Polly being asked to host next year's UK version of Daytona!
I've done a few rallies back in the day. I learnt very quickly that I much prefer the smaller rallies to the large affairs. I reckon a maximum for my taste is 200-300, any more than that and I feel somewhat overwhelmed. Bob, you are so very right. Alcohol fuelled selfishness really is annoying. If you look way back through the travel stories you'll find my tale of Faro back in 2005. My enduring memory is of lying in the tent listening to countless engines being bounced off the limiter against this distant "thud thud thud" of the music all at 0400. I would do the journey again, but not the rally.
Yes Ian there's little point attending a rally unless you plan to join in. There is always the risk that you'll be cornered by the motorcycle nerd or perhaps the drunken guy who's just been dumped. I have spent an evening in a soggy field being told by a big hairy biker that his soon to be ex wife is the lowest form of life to ever crawl the land. Escape came when he finally passed out thankfully.
Bob, I am reliably informed that you may put your tent up somewhere wild, remote and hopefully peaceful. Sharon and I stumbled upon this tent on the quiet peninsula near Gairloch. Beware the sheep though, they'll give you a darn good bleating.
18/10//2016 4:03:50 PM UTC
Sharon said :-
I have met some lovely people through camping. The grumps are in fact a rarity.
Yes hotels are warm and dry but you don't get other people stopping in the hallways for a chat or wanting to share their cakes with you.
Campers in general, as far as I have experienced, are a friendly lot. Those in caravans can see you looking like drowned rats while putting up your tent and then kindly invite you in their camper for hot tea and cake.
Sat in a field people tend to relax and find time to be still enough to chat. Maybe about their camping gear or places they have visited or life in general. You even get invites sometimes to visit them in their homes at a future date.
I guess by being a camper you have to be a trusting person and therefore possibly more open minded and relaxed. Maybe this helps us get along that bit better with each other because we share a similar outlook?
It not all the salts of the earths on every campsite. I have met a miserable, miserly German who did not want to share even his key to turn a water tap on. But usually I am greeted by warm handshakes and big smiles. I have had people share their food, their plastic sheets to help keep my own gear dry, their hard earned life lessons and advice and most importantly their time and smiles.
We seem sadly short of smiles in our everyday life these days. I usually find them in abundance on campsites. Maybe its a shared smile we pass on because we are grateful to meet another human as crazy or as poor as we are. Who knows? But I know I like it.
I also like the beautiful places many campsites are situated in. How wonderful to stare in the evening at a starlit sky. To wake in the morning and unzip your tent and be greeted by the beauty of nature. It grounds you and makes you feel alive and a for a short time at one with the world. Maybe that is why we have smiles to share, yes maybe we find peace and happiness in a field and that radiates out into a smile.
18/10//2016 4:23:41 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
It wasn't camping as such, rather the rally thing that I am not keen on - although my views may have been coloured by various reports of unsavoury goings on in the 70s. We have spent many years happily camping (and more lately caravanning) in the UK and the rest of Europe and never experienced any unpleasantness at all. I agree about the location of many campsites, particularly in France. We often sit outside the caravan enjoying a view that you'd never get from a hotel room.
I do have enormous respect for people who brave the Dragon, Elefantreffen and similar events....
I wasn't suggesting that people on campsites in general are untrustworthy or unpleasant - but then on a normal campsite you can interact or not as the mood takes you. A bike rally would probably be seen as a social event....
Lovely photo by the way.
19/10//2016 10:14:50 AM UTC
vic oliver said :-
Glad you guys enjoyed the party, your write up is great Ren, it captures the feel and atmosphere spot on. Mates round a fire in a field with a beer and good grub, you can't beat it.
13/11//2016 1:19:09 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Sure had a good weekend Vic, big thanks.
14/11//2016 7:52:26 AM UTC
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