The Camper’s and Tramper’s Week-End Book by Showell Styles is one of those lovely books about walking in the countryside that appeared in the 1950s – in a world free of horrid words relating to walking such as stakeholder, Lycra, recreational paths etc.
Its author, Showell “Pip” Styles, was one of those walking and climbing phenomenons who’ve sadly gone out of fashion in this tiresome 21st century. He wrote a huge number of books on the outdoors, plus novels, and a great deal of walking and climbing journalism.
As the title implies, this is a book to dip into. I can promise you that once you start dipping it’s impossible to stop. Showell Styles had a wonderful way of getting the joys of walking across to the reader. You’ll feel so enthused that you’ll be aching to get out there and camp or tramp.
Part of the book deals with the outdoor life without a tent – true tramping (in modern parlance we’d call it bivvying) where you seek shelter where and when you can. Here are the evocative chapters with titles such as Beds, Barns and Billets, The Roadside Fire, Feats and Follies and some advice on how to become a Tramp Royal (one of my ambitions, never quite achieved!)
The second section deals with more legitimate camping, with chapters on life under canvas, mountain camping, camp cookery and the highest camps.
The third portion of the book is a Vagabond’s Anthology: a splendid collection of poems, prose and songs to see you on the way – and yes! I am old enough to remember sing-songs in Youth Hostel Common Rooms, in those happier days before they were invaded by booze and WiFi. I still have my YHA song book…
I was given a copy of Showell Styles’ book when I was a child and it’s been by my side ever since. It inspired and gave a practicality to my own long tramps around the British countryside, when I spent many a night in barns, billets, rough shelters, caves, hollows in rocks and amongst sheltering trees.
Well worth seeking out – it’s out of print, but you see it sometimes in second-hand bookshops and online book dealers.
Showell Styles wrote a pleasant companion volume too, The Mountaineer’s Weekend Book. Lovers of the outdoors should seek out both.