There are people who I’ve met on my journey who have needed very little explanation as to the whys and wherefores behind it.
Take Jan and Colin for instance. It was over a year ago when I met them in a pub in Lundin Links, a small village on the east coast.
Colin had given up the chance to see his football team, Cowdenbeath, battle in the local derby against Raith Rovers just to ensure that the wandering lunatic his partner was meeting up with wasn’t an axe wielding maniac as well.
They have continued to follow me – so I was rather excited when Jan got in touch to say they could walk a few miles with me and offer me a place to stay too.
Like all good friendships it felt like we’d parted mid sentence only to pick up again exactly where we’d left off.
I walked into Port Glasgow and, in true walk a mile style, they blagged a lift from where they’d dropped their car to come and meet me.
We walked, we talked, when we met people on the cycle path Jan and Colin spoke my language…
They fed me…gave me hospitality back in Glasgow and gave me the train fair to pick up again where I’d left off.
My experience at Battery Park, a public recreation ground between Greenock and Gourock was altogether different.
Heavy rain was forecast. Hey, it’s Scotland, of course…
Anyway, I was still moisturely challenged from the previous day’s deluge – I felt that putting the tent up before things got really bad would be wise.
So, I set up home next to a tree and bush combination – my belief being that they would protect me from the gathering storm.
I was lying in my tent listening to the rhythm of the falling rain (The Cascades, 1962 – ask your parents) when I heard the driver of the municipal mower come up with the time honoured introduction, “Er, excuse me…”
Craig, for that was his name, informed me that camping was not allowed in the park.
I explained the Right to Roam legislation…
– you can read about it here if you have the urge
…and he went away happily with one of my non-business cards in his possession.
He came back an hour later,”Er, could you tell my boss what you told me…?”
His boss had an office at the far end of the field – it was now pishing it down (that’s Scottish parlance for pishing it down) so I got very wet on my little trip over to see him.
The boss was very hospitable. He welcomed me in, made me a cup of sugary milky tea and told me that he didn’t want to be the first person to get in the way of my journey.
By which he meant…
He told me that it was park policy to not allow camping…citing things like “this could be the thin end of the wedge,” and, “complaints from residents…” who had presumably bought their properties in the full knowledge that there was a great big park next to their homes.
I explained my right to roam. Which includes a right to camp in his great big playing field.
He explained there was a less conspicuous park a few miles down the road where I could camp…
I explained my right to roam.
He told me they would involve the police.
I said,”Great – hopefully they’ll be familiar with the legislation…”
It was all very British. We fought over a tiny, meaningless piece of land while I sipped sweet milky tea.
“It’s Local Authority policy,” he reiterated.
I explained I’d worked for local authorities for about 20 years, and that very often local policies weren’t necessarily in keeping with the laws if the land.
I then filled the silence with a number of stories from my journey that illustrated just how kind, generous and hospitable the people of Scotland had been.
He cracked, “Well, you see…really it’s my boss who…if you don’t hear from me after 5 or so (it was 4.30) then we can just assume it’s all ok…”
We shook hands warmly and off I went into the rain.
A couple if hours later the storm arrived with thunder and lightning (my first whilst out in my tent, under a tree in the middle of a park) for added effect.
I had clearly angered the local government gods.
All’s well that ends…
Walk a Mile