Went camping to Shell Island on the last Bank Holiday weekend with a bunch of guys from work. It was a blast.
There were some worries to begin with as we did not know if they were going to let us in or not (we’d pre-booked and the only reason they seemed to let us in is because we’d “been last year”, even though apart from one of the group, none of us had!), as they’re pretty strict on no groups, they want families and couples only, we were kind of a group I guess. It kind of felt like a nightclub, right down to there being bouncers patrolling in 4x4s! Still, I suppose it is a lot better than the nastier campsites further South, where you *have* to stay awake until 3am because the Brummie or Scouser family of 16 year old mums and dads with their babies are bawling out the latest hits or talking about how preggers Charlene is and what brand names she can name the kid after while around a fire while downing litre bottles of cider they’d nicked from the offy and you are afraid that if you go to sleep they’ll probably steal your things, having many nice things about me this is a worry I have.
The only other negative was the lack of facilities. The facilities they do have are great; clean and useful, however there is only one block across the entire site for showers and washing. It is madness! It is an SSSI I suppose but there must be an environmentally friendly and also fitting way to build at least a northern and southern block for this, and throw in some toilets; the only toilet option for most were unlit portaloos (regularly cleaned but still). Apart from those issues, the time we had was brilliant!
We arrived around 10:00am on a Friday morning, beating all the traffic, and zoomed to a spot one of us knew of; a small flat area at the top of a slope, Behind it, the sea. This left us pretty isolated, and out of earshot of families with kids; the only people who came near had a camper van and violated the 20 metre rule, so anything they heard is their own fault! During tent erection, I suffered a long splinter from a carbon pole, I was feeding it into the tent fabric at some speed when a long splinter entered the side of my thumb and came out the other side. I hadn’t realised until I was pulling it out how long it was, the pain was nothing and they were such small wounds they didn’t bleed for long, but my thumb was sore in the days afterward. Once the monumental task of getting both tents up, a large tunnel tent with massive living space and my dad’s much small Halfords value pack tent was finished, I had to return to Wrexham to get Nick and Ash and bring them back to Shell Island, as they could not both get time off the same time as others in the company.
Unfortunately I had forgotten to remove the beers from the boot, and Nick’s massive double bed and duvet had trouble getting in, as well as all the shopping we’d stashed at Ash’s house. However we crammed it all in. After the long trip back, the repacking of the car, and the long, arduous time myself and Nick had waiting for Ash’s mum to iron his trousers, we were finally on the road.
This is when Ash decided to crack open the beers. By the time we got to Bala, he was bursting for a piss. So using my awesome navigational mind, I remembered where the Bala public loos were, and it was at this point that I decided to take the car and hide from Ash behind a camper van. Unfortunately hiding a car is not as easy as car adverts make it out to be and he found us straight away.
Eventually we got back to the site, and through the multiple security checks (consisting of a barrier). We all reunited, and then got to drinking and relaxing. Ash, being the best chef in the group, was our main cooking guy, and he made some awesome food. We bantered and drank into the night, without a care in the world. Of course, being in full view of the sea at the top of the hill left us really exposed, and the wind battered us badly; occasionally I checked on my cheapo tent to make sure it was still there, as the thing had the wind resistance of a sail. Around 11:30pm, I checked again and to my horror, it was no longer upright, but flat. We all mobilised to see what could be done, but it was too late; the first night I lost my tent, when the corners ripped right off the poles in the gale.
We quickly moved sleeping equipment, such as my folding bed and sleeping bag to the big tent and I slept in the main living area with Ash who slept on the hard floor and did nothing but complain how hard the floor was. We jammed the tent remains in Verity’s car and called it a night.
I woke to the sounds of wind rattling the tent; it hadn’t gone away. Mark had just gotten up and gone for a walk to see how many tent collapses there had been; this is what had stirred me. I felt damp, so I looked down and felt my sleeping bag. It was also wet, I thought I had managed to somehow piss myself? I started blaming it on the coldness, it must have an effect, or maybe Ash’s cooking. Fortunately I realised it smelled of cider; it appears in the night a half drunk glass of Magners abandoned in the shenanigans fell over, and onto my bag and me! Unfortunately I now smelt strongly of cider; more so than the park drunk.
Mark returned with the news that many tents were flattened or simply gone! Ash rustled us up some breakfast; sausages and bacon and hash browns! Luckily his griddle pan was the perfect fit for the cooker. Unfortunately it had grease running down the back. As usual though, it was brilliant!
Later in the day we needed supplies, knives from Tesco and a new tent from Porthmadog. So myself and nick ventured North. I picked up an Orion 3 tent and also some things from Tesco.
When we got back the others had gone to the camp pub and the store to buy a brazier and wood for a fire, so me and Nick put up the new tent. This took less than 10 mins and was really easy! As it is a three man tent it was perfect for my clothes and my bed with plenty more room. Only worry was that the legs of the bed may damage the floor. The poles are aluminium; doing away with horrible carbon fibre poles that splinter innocent thumbs. The tent even has a porch area outside the internal area to cook on a small hob or watch the rain. The pack when it is rolled away into it is also really small and light; this was the best £130 purchase I’d ever spontaneously spent.
We then walked down to watch the big football match; however the place was ridiculously crowded and I lost everyone; looking at my phone to text someone it ran out of power, so I walked back to the tent in a huff and started recharging it in the car. Not long afterwards Verity and Ash returned, followed by Nick and Mark.
Instead we ate, drank and bantered into the night. I learned that a friend of Mark’s while at Shell Island in previous years had to go to hospital after she’d been struck in the face by a loose pole on a windbreak (This is relevant, I swear). I retired to the new tent and it provided a good nights sleep, and didn’t move much in the wind.
I was rudely awaken on Sunday morning at around 6am by shouts from Mark. The wind had gotten the worst it had, and Mark’s tunnel tent was showing signs of strain and possible collapse, facing the wind. After quickly pulling on my boots I shifted over to the site and helped peg down the back better, pulling the material taught and reducing the strain.
At this point I noticed the wind had also snapped one of the windbreak poles and it was waving near my car. I moved to take out the errant pole; suddenly flashing back to Mark’s friend and having images of having half my face removed by polewhip. Fortunately the pole was replaced with ease and the guy ropes re-pegged for strength.
After this was done we all went back to sleep. We spent most of the day in the tent, and I proved myself as the TRUE FRUSTRATION CHAMPION. That night, the last night, we set up the brazier and lit the fire. At this point it threatened to rain but held off long enough for us to use all the wood, and have a good time. We drank long into the night, threatening to finish off the Budweiser, but a couple of crates eluded us. As the fire burned out, some commotion started off down the hill; a Rover 25 or MG ZR was speeding away from the wardens in a 4×4. He eventually stopped and the wardens got him, and pulled him out of the car quite violently as it seems he didn’t want to leave. Then a group of girls caught up on foot and started screaming at the wardens, and then the police turned up and escorted away the driver! It was strange that suddenly everyone was “going for a walk” in the vicinity to catch the happenings!
After another awesome sleep in the brilliant tent it was quitting time, and we had to go home. We had booked another night but nobody could get the time off the next day apart from me; and I wasn’t taking down the tents alone!
I never liked taking down tents. On the dozens of occasions I’ve done it before it seems so depressing, everything must be put away and loads of effort expended just so you can go home and back to the droll of work.
Thankfully there were now four of us and not two like there were putting them up (sorry Verity, holding the guidelines is not putting up a tent!), so it was quicker than it could have been. The worst parts were cleaning the pots and pans, and wiping grease off the cooker.
Eventually we got everything in the cars so went down to the facilities to play some pool. Turns out that if Ash can’t play pool once every three days then through the most mystic and arcane magics he is only able to continually complain about how he hasn’t and must play pool. We also had some chips, and then got on the road home.
The journey home is always a tiring one.
Camping is awesome. Never mind that you have to drive to the shower and that there’s no electricity, the experience is still an awesome one. That is why this weekend we’re doing it all again.
For the full set of photos of this awesome weekend. please click here to browse or use the photo tab above..