Sunrise: 08.17 Sunset: 04.00
“I’ve met you here before,” I said – trying to keep my voice upbeat and friendly.
“I remember a night a few years ago, and a Welshman,” he muttered without enthusiasm. “Are you going to ask me to leave?”
“Not right now,” I said, “but I have wondered about you.”
He looked up quizzically, “Really! What is it about me that interests you?”
“Well, for one thing, how do you manage to survive the cold nights out here in the open year after year?”
I stumbled upon this tramp four years ago; he was camped alongside North Pond, on a very cold January night. In fact, I wrote a post about it http://thewildenmarshblog.com/2011/03/02/wilden-marsh-march-in-hoo-wood-and-wilden-marsh-nature-reserve-part-1/. Since that night I have often wondered about this unusual man and whether he is still alive.
Tonight he camps on the foundations of an old brick building hidden away within a willow thicket. A fish is cooking on a spit over a wood fire burning steadily in a large tin can. The light from the flames isn’t great, but it’s enough to see he is dressed in a long woollen trench coat, a heavy-duty wide-brimmed hat and wellies – similar to his attire back in 2011. It was the smell of cooking that gave this man away then, too.
“I manage,” he said.
“I can see that you mange quite well, but why do you do it?” I asked, hoping he is in a mood to talk.
“Are you planning to write my life story?” he asks, with a little more sarcasm than I am comfortable with.
“No, I’m not planning to write your life story, but I am interested in your unusual lifestyle,” I say, trying to appear non-threatening and casual.
“You know nothing about me or my lifestyle and, frankly, I don’t think it’s any of your business,” he replies curtly.
“I’m not being funny,” I say firmly,” but you are camping on private property, and I just want to know something about you.”
The old man’s dark eyes look up at me, he turns his fish on the spit, lights his pipe, and asks grudgingly what it is I would like to know. It’s too late in the day to send him on his way and, if past experience is anything to go by, he is unlikely to leave any evidence that he has camped here. For all I know, this person has camped here regularly, so it is a good idea that I find out as much as I can about him.
If any reader has an interest in the life of this old tramp, I will post again in the near future.