Duntisbourne Abbots was not the first place I experienced the icy delights of a Great British spring time.
A few days later I arrived in Bath, ready to swoon over my first spa town – complete with hot steamy Roman baths. Even the Youth Hostel there is an Italian-style mansion made of the same yellowy gold limestone that all buildings in Bath are renowned for. Sadly, that night there was no room at the inn, yet camping was allowed in the grounds.
The weather had cleared a little since coming down the M4 to Bath, and the sun had shone that day, so I thought that it ought to be alright to camp out that night. So I pitched my tent on the lawn and settled in for the night. Around 11pm the temperature dropped drastically and I heard stirrings from other campers near by and a lot of rustling.
I looked out to see small flakes of snow falling.
Not to be caught out weather-wise again however, I had bought a four seasons sleeping bag to replace the single light one that I had brought with me from Australia. So I thought huddling up in that with my socks on would be enough to get me through the night.
Whatta mistaka to maka! (which is meant to be Italian-style English)
As the night went on, I found myself putting on half my clothes and pulling the hood of my sleeping bag tight around me. I managed to make it through OK to 6am when I knew the kitchen would be open again – but then when I went to try and open the zip to the tent I found that it was frozen solid.
In fact, so was the tent itself. What I hadn’t allowed for was the frost that had also decided to show its hand that night as well – freezing me into the equivalent of a tent sarcophagus. So what in Mattinkhamun’s name was I going to do?
Fortunately, I had the idea of using the solid rubber heel of my heavy walking boots to bash against the side of the tent – and, then, combined with using matches to warm up the zipper (which in hindsight was probably not a good idea) – I was able to break free and find my way into the kitchen.
Never has a hob seemed so good to warm one’s hands on – and someone had kindly left Ovaltine as part of the spare food supplies, allowing me to make a cup of Great British cocoa drink. It almost felt good to be alive!
About 7am or so that day, one of the YHA managers came in and asked me whose tent that was on the lawn. When I told him it was mine his jaw dropped:
“We thought we’d told everyone to come in last night and we’d find them a bed – as there was a high risk of hyperthermia for anyone staying out there. It was minus ten last night!”
“‘Sno kidding”, I replied, “I did think it was a little chilly”
Kiwi under-statement we call that…