It was a few minutes after 10am when I arrived at the site and quite coincidentally the song playing on my cd was Mungo Jerry's 'In The Summertime' from 1971, so on the spur of the moment I wound the window down and turned the volume up to signal my arrival - well you've got to get into the spirit of things haven't you?! - though I did turn it down again after a couple of minutes. I'd originally been given a hard standing pitch to accommodate my van and awning but had taken my small tent instead, and when I saw that the pitch was well away from the rest of the group I changed my mind about using it and decided to go on the grass nearer to everyone else, using the same pitch I'd had four weeks previously which fortunately was quite dry. It didn't take long to put the tent up, and with not much equipment to put in it I soon had everything sorted and the kettle on for a brew.
A chat with various other group members followed then a dog walk up to the village shop and back, and as it was too nice a day to waste I decided to go to Bolton Abbey and seek out some photographic opportunities. It only took about twenty minutes to get there and I parked in the first of the three car parks then walked a hundred yards or so across the road to where there was a 'hole' in the wall allowing access to the countryside around the abbey. Although I'd been there before on a few occasions I'd never walked along the far side of the river so I decided that's what I would do - cross the bridge near the stepping stones, walk up as far as the bridge near the cafe then cross back and walk down the near side. And photography-wise I couldn't have picked a better day for it; the river was a really deep blue, reflected from the sky above, and the sun shining on the trees really showed up the autumn colours of the leaves.
Once I'd got back almost to my starting point I spent twenty minutes or so wandering round the abbey ruins before returning to the car park to retrieve the van; the £6 car park fee was for the use of all three car parks so I drove up to the next one then I could leave the dogs in the van while I went in the cafe - it may have been a nice day but unfortunately the outside tables were in the shade so I preferred to sit in rather than out. It seemed that since my last time there, about four years ago, the cafe had changed to self-service for everything except hot meals so as I was only having coffee and cake I didn't need to queue at the counter; there was quite a good selection of cakes available so I was rather spoilt for choice, though I eventually opted for a slice of the coffee and walnut cake, and very good it was too.
With the coffee and cake finished I went for a quick look round the nearby gift shop then made my way back to the van; there was nowhere else I particularly wanted to go to and though it was still only mid afternoon I set off back to the camp site as I wanted plenty of time to chill out before the evening fun began. When I arrived back at my pitch I found various campers in the process of sorting out the party tent and setting out the tables for the food and drink, and though I went over to offer my help it seemed that everything was under control so I went back to my own tent to relax for a while. When I ventured out again it was to find the party tent decorated with various palm trees, monkeys, beach balls, bananas, pineapples and paper lanterns and heaven knows what else, and there were flower garlands twined round the guy lines and hanging from windbreaks and various other points.
The fires were lit as the daylight faded, the music went on and gradually all the nutters started to congregate. There were some very weird and wonderful outfits to be seen too - there was Neil in shorts and football t-shirt with the traditional British knotted hanky on his head, Fiona wearing a coloured sarong with a bikini top made out of plastic coconut shells, Matt and James with flourescent green mankinis over their outdoor clothes, various swimsuits, grass skirts and pairs of shorts worn over t-shirts, leggings and jackets, Andy wearing a grass skirt and a stetson, and Billy with his multi-coloured Hawaiian shirt, matching grass skirt and huge bright yellow sunglasses with green palm trees sticking up from the top rims. And me? A blue and gold swimsuit over my tracksuit, with my red and white sarong on top and a flower garland round my neck. Even Sophie and Sugar were dressed for the occasion in pink and black t-shirts.
Later in the evening, as yet another train went past on the nearby track, it crossed my mind that any passengers who happened to see us might wonder what the heck was going on - we were the only ones on the site and with the bright lights in and around the party tent we were lit up like a Christmas tree. Needless to say, it was a great night and a lot of fun was had by everyone; it was gone midnight when I finally said goodnight and after a quick dog walk round the site I went back to my own tent. As I snuggled into my bed a while afterwards I could still hear faint music and the occasional burst of laughter from the die-hards of the group but it wasn't enough to be disturbing, and after reading only one short chapter of my book I felt myself drifting off to sleep.