There’s nothing as good as true relaxation. Camping Carpenter Oak style, in a field with work colleagues may sound like some people’s worst nightmare. As I lie peacefully in the sun, under a large oak tree, it dawns on me how lucky I am. Surrounded by gifted, talented friends, in a camping field by the River Dart, it feels that life couldn’t be much more perfect.
The campfire burns throughout the day, a place to convene whenever it takes your fancy. Music spills from guitars, my toes tap unconsciously in the long grass that is tickling my feet. A constant breeze rustles through the leaves, circling round in varying crescendos before blowing up river.
Our, by now, slightly feral, children roam free, walking the hillside, taking mini adventures in the woods and fields. Some swing from a couple of rope swings suspended from another large oak. They swing in wide arcs over the river mud. A slackline is stretched between a small oak and part of a fallen tree. The children take it in turns to balance on the tight rope it creates.
I lie, with my daughter, on a picnic blanket. We share her colouring book. My son is hanging out with the other kids from the Carpenter Oak family, drifting between the rope swings and campfire.
At lunch time we head up river, a flotilla of canoes and rowing boats. In a happy twist of fate my brother and his family happen to be passing and join us all for lunch.
The children and Don brave the cold water, for a pub side swim, there are squeals, a mixture of delight and shock at the frigid water.
The tide turns, we head back down river to the camp and laze in the mid afternoon sun. Folk music travels from around our campfire, I wonder where the wind will carry it? Who else will share this part of our day?
Marshmallows are toasted, balls kicked, dogs lie in the long grass, blissed out by the warmth of the sun. Throughout the day more people arrive, glad that they have made the effort to escape for the day.
Barbeques are lit as the day draws on. We feast on burgers, falafels, sausages, veg and salad. The familiar smell of charcoal fills the air.
We lose the children (not literally) in the river, messing about in wetsuits and kayaks. A couple of Dads are launched to bring them safely back to shore.
The light lessens and the children are gradually coaxed into bed whilst the adults gather around the campfire. Stories are shared, laughter is carried away down the river. The smoke takes it in turns to sting people’s eyes. ‘White Rabbits’ are said to little avail but the wind soon drops and the smoke rises calmly. Home-made Apple Brandy is passed around as we absent-mindedly stare at the flickering flames and glowing embers.
Finally tiredness takes hold of me and I head off to the van where I drift effortlessly into sleep, the music once again travelling on the breeze…………………..well I would have, if they hadn’t started singing ‘Old Mac Donald’ curse the Apple Brandy and the drunken eejits!