It was early summer and the three of us had a whole week off from work but very little money to actually do anything. Since we were determined to do something other than sit around the house all day it was decided that going camping would be a nice cheap alternative, Stanhope was not too far away and had all the appropriate facilities (nice food, nice pub, a giant fossil tree and a lapidary) so it was the obvious choice.
The first half of the week went really well as the sun was shining and we spent most of the time wandering off to the surrounding towns or sunbathing, however midway through the week the weather turned quite nasty, and even with everyone crowded into one pup tent for heat there could be no doubt that it was both cold, wet and miserable of an evening. Spending more time indoors and travelling to places by car meant we were spending more money than we wanted so my friends decided it was time to call it a day and head home.
Being a more hardy sort (and since we had already paid in advance for the whole week) I still wanted to stay around in case the weather changed, so after breakfast that morning I helped them pack up their things and waved goodbye. In truth I expected to follow them home the next day but there were a few things I still wanted to do, and I had agreed to go hiking with a group we had met on the site.
By the time I joined the hiking group the weather had actually eased off and shockingly the sun was out again, so while I still packed my waterproofs it seemed that trousers and a t-shirt would be suitable attire for the day. The group was going to hike along the river towards Tunstall Reservoir, stopping in Wolsingham for a light snack; we walked at a leisurely pace stopping whenever something interesting turned up. While the weather was now warm the ground could only be described as a quagmire, even before I slipped over for the first time I was caked in mud from the knees down.
Thankfully I was not alone in this predicament and by the time we arrived in Wolsingham you would have been hard pushed to identify the colour of anyone’s clothing or skin for that matter. Despite this we were enjoying ourselves and even when the heavens opened once more as we reached the reservoir we were not dispirited. However with the changing weather the journey back was very hard work and after our last scramble up a muddy riverbank as part of a shortcut into the camp site we may as well have been wearing gilly suits.
Even the hikers were thinking of calling it a day once they had cleaned up so we said out goodbyes and headed off to our tents. Along the way to my tent I used a standing tap to wash some of the mud off my hands and face; it took a good few minutes before the water ran clear. By the time I reached the tent it was fairly obvious that if I entered in my current condition everything would be coated in rather fragrant river mud which would not endear me to my friends on their return.
After staring at the entrance to the tent for about 5 minutes I dug through my bag trying to keep as much mud out as possible while finding the car keys. I collected a flannel, chair, washing bowl, bucket and the 8L collapsible water bottle from the boot, placed the bowl on the deck chair with the bucket beside it then finally went off to fill the bottle at a standing tap.
Once I returned I used the bottle to fill up the bowl and bucket then tipped just enough over my boots so I could actually find the laces to untie them. Sitting on the ground as I removed my boots it seemed that several people who found themselves tent and caravan bound on this day had found something else to keep their attention for a short while.
At this point my only real concern was to get rid of the mud so I could get into my tent and change into something warm before driving to the nearest fire with the promise of a hot meal that did not involve a heating a tin over a primus. However I decided to make the best of the situation, since the odds were that I would be following my friends home by the end of the day.
So I started off my removing my waterproofs (some good they had been) and hanging them over the makeshift washing line by the tent. I could feel that little anxiety starting to build in my chest now, that little tightness that says you can always stop doing this… despite the cold I could feel myself warming up and my heart beating faster I pulled my t-shirt over my head and dropped it into the bucket.
Swirling the water round to prolong the moment and get some of the mud out of the shirt, I stood up again then undid my belt pulling my bottoms down to the ground before stepping carefully out of them. Though standing in my underwear so much mud had seeped through you would be hard put to say where the mud began and the underwear began. Looking down at myself I really had not expected to be this bad, so I dropped the trousers into the bucket and gave them a quick rinse while considering my next move.
It had only been my intention to strip down this far but if I wanted to go any further I needed to at least pretend I had some modesty. So I moved the chair and wash basin back a little then opened one of the car doors to provide a little privacy, which basically meant that everyone could still see me but it looked as though I thought they could not.
Standing behind the car door I removed my underwear and dropped them into the bucket, finally there was some skin on show which could be described as greyish rather than peat black. While I did not look at the windows of the surrounding campers it was fairly obvious that any family card games were now well and truly over. Wetting the flannel I started at the top and worked my way down sluicing off the mud as I went, the light rain actually helping to remove the mud now it was not quite so thick.
It was almost painful as I washed the mud off my breasts since being freezing cold and a little aroused is not exactly a comfortable situation, the flannel became mud bound by the time I reached my legs so I washed the last of the mud off by hand. While it had only taken 5 minutes or so to clean off the worst of the mud it had felt like much longer, my heart was still beating very fast and I was starting shiver so I knew this had to end quickly. Still I’m sure my audience appreciated the transformation to say the least.
Looking down I could see that despite having got most of the mud off I was still a light grey colour, so really I would need to get showered properly. It would in hindsight have been sensible to get a towel out of the boot beforehand but hindsight is always 20/20. So still hiding behind the door I looked over the top as though making sure nobody was watching then reached round to pull the car keys out of the door and taking a deep breath quickly closed the door (the slamming no doubt catching the attention of anyone who had not been watching) then streaked round to the boot giving them a clear view both my front and back. As soon as the boot was opened I grabbed a towel then wrapped it round me so I looked quite decent again.
I really needed a warm so I squatted down to pull my purse out of the bag (which was funny as I could see out the corner of my eye someone desperately trying to angle their head to see up my towel, given they had just seen everything I had already), dropped the bag and boots into a bin-liner in the car then jogged along the grass to the shower block at the other side of the campsite.
After almost a pounds worth of change spent on a several hot showers I finally felt warmed through and ready to return to my tent. When I left the shower block the rain had now stopped but it was still bitterly cold and I was probably feeling it a lot more because of being nice and toasty from my shower. So I sprinted barefoot along the grass back to my tent with one arm across my chest holding the towel in place, not worrying if it flapped up a little behind me (that is one of the reasons I chose this particular towel).
On arriving I could see that some people had clearly been awaiting my return to see what would happen next so it would have been rude of me to disappoint. Kneeling down in a ladylike fashion in front of my tent ensuring the towel was firmly in position I undid the toggles and unzipped the entrance. Then once it was open I turned round to face the entrance letting my knees fall just inside the tent and slowly crawled inside giving everyone their last clear view of my bottom. As a little bit of a tease once I was inside barring my feet I turned onto my back, removed the towel and used it to clean off the dirt acquired on the way back.
Sitting up I manoeuvred to the front of the tent again offering one last flash as the zipper was pulled down while I got changed into some well deserved warm clothing. This done I think people were disappointed when I emerged fully clothed 10 minutes later to tip out the washing water and place the clothing from the bucket onto the line.
I drove off into the village for something to eat and it remained sunny for the rest of the day, by the time I got back the tent was nicely dried out and there as a note pegged to my guide line from the hiking group. They had decided to leave early and warned that the weather forecast was one of torrential rains. Taking their advice I packed up the tent and headed home, having no doubt cheered up what would have been an otherwise dull or miserable holiday for those around me.