July 2006 - Mousehole

Last night I was perhaps the most scared I have ever been. I found an ideal wild camping spot. Flat ground, sheltered by a large hedge and out of sight from all neighbouring houses. I have been laid down in my tent, messaging friends on my phone for over two hours, when I heard the shuddering of a cars engine in the distance. Having wild camp alone more than 10 times now my journey, I have learned to be more relaxed about the many suspects noises you here during the night. So as the shadow of the engine through gradually louder I did not falter. It continued to grow louder and louder, I sat up to better listen. As it sped through the gate and into the field I knew it was just over the hedge from me. I clenched my fists and braced my body praying that it would pass by and zoom off into the distance. I relaxed slightly as it quickly moved away until suddenly turned at the bottom of the hedge. In a moment of unbelievably extreme panic its head lights illuminated my tent and its engine roared as it accelerated up the hill. I realise straightaway that it was still accelerating a great speed is directly towards my heavily camouflaged tent. I reached for my boots but in the split second it to take me to even raise my hand the roaring had got louder and closer, and raced incredibly close to my tent and off into the fields behind me. I scrabbles to get on my boots as I heard it move off. Had it not seen me? My question was quickly answered when I heard it looping and turning round to accelerate back towards me. I had only managed to slip into one boots when I heard it slowed to a proud as it pulled up next to my tent. I was panicked. In such a rush to get out and face my creditor. To explain that I didn't mean any harm and would happily pack up and move on if requested. Before I could unzip the porch of my tent, the engine roared its most almighty roar yet, like a warning cry from a ferocious predator of the night, and sped at what must have been at least 40 mph to the bottom of the field. I finally scrabbled out of the tents just in time to see it daemonic red brake lights flash as it turned around the hedge and lead off into the distance. Silence fell. What's happened over the next 10 minutes is unclear, my memory goes blank here. Having grown up watching Crimewatch and various other survival programs, I knew that I needed to work out the time of the incident. By looking at the time of the last message I sent to my friend I managed to estimate the time of the incident as around 7:25 PM. For the next hour I still alone, still in the field waiting from my adversary to return. I stood still, unable to move. My sweaty hand clutching my pocket knife deep in my trousers. My feet in agony inside my wet boots amongst the frosty grass. My thoughts were locked on my tormentor. Was it he? She? Them? What did they want? It couldn't be the farmer himself, he surely would have stopped to challenge me. It was someone else. And unknown. One of the unwritten rules of wild camping is, a bit like the code for borrowers in Mary Norton's classic book: don't get seen! I had been seen. Who was this person who would see me? Who was this single and elusive character who knew my exact position on the planet? What worried me more was what they were going to do with that information. Perhaps they had gone to get the farmer. Maybe the farmer's friend who he allowed to drive around his field that night. But no, I considered the way that they had driven so recklessly around the field, the way that after slowing next to me they had sped off so suddenly when I had started to unzip my tent, almost as if they were running from me. Like they too were not supposed to be there. A boy racer perhaps? Who was now driving off into the distance just as worried about the fact that they too had been seen? I wanted to believe this, tried desperately to believe it. But still I waited ready to stand trial, ready to answer to my judge. I looked at the time, 832, I've been stood there alone in the field for over an hour now. I had them approaching once again. My heart began to beat harder and faster than I had ever felt before. Like it was so desperate to escape from this place that it was prepared to rip through my rib cage and off into the night. The sound moved away. I was mistaken. In my need for comfort I imagined my good friends Nathanial. I could see him standing next to me, the same fear in his eyes. We hugged. I whispered to him and aloud in the fields, "what shall we do?". Why in my moment of terror my body had chosen Nathanial I am not sure. In hindsight I know that I have long admired his bravery in difficult situations. The clock of the last churchtower about 200 yards away rang nine times. I knew that the more time the past, the less likely it was my captor would return. I decided it was now safe enough, so with hand still shaking, I climbed back into my tent. The next four hours were long and dark. For the 90 minutes or so after my attack, adrenaline had kept me warm. But now, lying down in my tent, the cold Cornish night found me. I didn't dare take off my clothes, through fear that I might once more be summoned into the night by that predators roar. I packed my bag as best I could, ready to make a quick dash into the nearby woods if I needed to. It was there alone, that the real torture began. The slightest sound in the distance cause my body to jolt up right, and listen intently until it fizzled out. My sense of distance in hearing became distorted as even the faintest noise could be a threat. I started to wonder if it had really happened. If I had made up this mysterious happening. I knew my physical state of terror was too real for this to be true. It was during this agonising four hours before I finally fell asleep that I was able to console myself with the idea of this piece of writing. I imagined myself sat in the lovely harbour cafe in Mousehole that I'd been to hours earlier, with a mug of the luscious hot chocolate, a view of the sunlit harbour in front of which I could recant my terrifying tale. Indeed many of the phrases written here above were worked over and through countless times in my mind is during my sleepless night. And now here I am, safe in the utopian With its own so interested in my travels. And a view of the idyllic Mousehole let by the sun to soothe my mind after as most haunted of nights. My hope is that my adversary was merely a young boy showing off to an attractive young girl by zooming through the fields beneath a romantic full moon as I had done many times years ago. Unaware of the terror he would cause me. And I hope for my sake, she was impressed! Tom Vinall

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