WON14 – That’s What Friends Are For

Location: Plymouth Hoe

  • Date: Tuesday 11th April
  • OSGrid: SX476537 (E247645, N053747)
  • Travel: 15 minute walk
  • Style: Bivi bags & duvets

Introduction

When we started this project we had all sorts of ideas about what it would look like and how it would work. One of those founding inspirations was that we didn’t feel like we had enough time to spend time together as friends and wanted to make more of the week nights. As it turns out, between myself, Joe and Paul we’re quite busy all week round, not just at the weekends (hence our camps often happen on a Thursday)… there’s yoga, and football, and family time, and kayaking and Dungeons & Dragons… – and, on Tuesday the 11th of April, the first National Marine Aquarium open invite staff BBQ after work on The Hoe, our town centre seafront.

Here was an opportunity not to be missed – an opportunity to get two birds with one stone, as the saying goes… That morning I put a comment up on the event board, and by the time I got to work, not only had we freed up our Thursday nights for an extra adventure (in my case going to see a Ukelele band called Ukelele Vagabond), we had our first guest camper…

Facebook

Oleta joins the WON team

The Diary

Unfortunatley, because this was all a bit last minute Paul hadn’t been able to get his camping stuff together in time so needed to get back to his before going down to the BBQ. I on the other hand, had all my camping stuff with me but found myself in a frustrated, grumpy mood after a long and trying day at work. Paul needed a list to get his kit. I needed a rant. A mutually beneficial arrangement was reached quickly, and after an hour of nodding assuring and logistic support from the respective parties, we arrived at the BBQ calm, and with a full complement of quilts and blankets. That’s what friends are for 🙂

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Friends. Not just a 90’s sitcom

We’d brought Grill Sergeant Gibbs with us for the BBQ, but it’s fair to say it takes him a little while to warm up. In fact, by the time we got him fully fired up, we’d managed to cook about 90% of the food on other people’s disposable BBQs, but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for with style and endurance.

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Stu begins to fire up G.S. Gibbs to cook the last of the kebabs

A staff BBQ on The Hoe wouldn’t be complete without a swim in the sea. This was the first official staff BBQ, and the first official sea swim for the team, although on this occasion I suspect the swim was inspired as much by a lack of accessible public toilets as it was by any adherence to tradition!

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Spot the pee-er!

Back on land, the sun was starting to set, and we’d managed to recruit 6 people for the camp, counting Paul and myself. – Oleta (who had never been camping anywhere before!), Amber, JFK, and Jack, who had previously joined us at Creason Wood on WON08 – My Wildest Birthday.

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Sunset on the West side of Plymouth Hoe

Plymouth Hoe is a really gorgeous spot, we’re very lucky to live and work so close to it, and the seafront offers a multitude of potential camping spots. We’d had our BBQ on the West side, but decided our camp spot would be the old amphitheatre on the East side; it was darker over there and looked out over the sea really beautifully. Plus, we hoped, we’d get to see the moon over the water.

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The moon, low in the sky, and Smeaton’s Tower Lighthouse

A couple of the guys disappeared on the walk over, returning to nearby flats and apartments to grab whatever came to hand – sleeping bags, rolls mats, duvets, blankets, pillows, but before long we were all together down in the amphitheatre. Grill Sergeant Gibbs was glowing happily in the corner, whilst the six of us crowded round the stargazing spotters guide that’s becoming a regular form of entertainment on our One Nighters.

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Dark skies and low light – good for stars, not ideal for reading sky maps

We weren’t the only visitors to the Amphitheatre that night. It’s a truly scenic part of town, and on such a clam night it attracted a few different folk, from romantic couples to kids on bikes. No-one stayed long upon finding a group of us down there, but I did wonder if any of us would have felt so secure in such an isolated spot if we’d been homeless and alone. JFK and I were the last to bed, at around midnight. We stoked the BBQ ready for breakfast the next morning and turned in hoping the steady flow of visitors was over for the night.

The rest of the night passed without incident and we woke to calm flat water and clear skies. The BBQ was still just about hot. A lot of ash, but it was revivable, and meant we could cook scrambled eggs and veggie sausages for everyone as a special treat… a task we delegated to Paul whilst jack and I changed into wetsuits and tried our first triathlon training sea-swim.

We got out before the eggs were cooked, (a combination of dying embers and freezing sea temperatures?!) and took over kitchen duties so Paul could get his stuff from the car and head in to work. Having collected his stuff, Paul came back to return the car key but in his delight at finding cooked eggs, completely forgot to actually return the key, and dashed off to work for an early start.

Half an hour later we got the call: He was at work, and had just found the car key in his pocket at the start of what was undoubtedly going to be a long and trying day… and I was on the seafront, separated from the kit I needed, nodding and assuring him over the phone. Somehow, it all felt strangely familiar.

That’s what friends are for.

 

The Verdict

Stu. I started this project with the intentions of writing ‘An Adventure Travel blog without the Travelling’, and seeing old places in new ways. The best travelling experiences are as much about the people as they are the places though, and this WON wasn’t just about seeing old places in new ways, but old (and new!) friends too. A privilege.

Paul. Camping with friends always makes the night special. It was great to be so close and accessible too, camps don’t need to be in the middle of nowhere to be fun!

Amber. What a night! The Hoe was perfect for me- between the starfinding, waking up to lapping waves, and watching scrambled eggs take a half hour to cook, that one night finally convinced me to get my own camping stuff! Roll on future adventures!

JFK.

Oleta. I have never been camping before, never slept outside and not even seen enough stars to find anything but Orion’s Belt! This week’s camp was the perfect chance to push myself to out of my comfort zone. I’m happy I joined for this camp under the safety that if it was too much I could walk back home to bed. The best part of this camp was falling asleep to the beautiful moon and stars and waking up to the sound of the boats going out and the waves crashing on rocks just below us. Following tonight I think I might have to buy some camping gear!

Jack. Totally different from my last camp but equally wonderful! Hoping for many more nights of stargazing with Grill Sergeant Gibbs

 

 

Top tips from the trip

Take a friend, wherever you go, whatever you do. They rock

…but if you swim with them, don’t get too close

When camping in busy areas, choose somewhere discrete if you don’t want to have company

Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook to get next week’s report ahead of the curve, and see the bonus video from this week!


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