Big Green Gathering '00

Believe it or not, I had absolutely no plans to go to the Millennium Big Green Gathering, held up on Lord's Hill in deepest Wiltshire, but when a lady called Bernadette came into the children's section of South Library asking what books her son still had out on her card one Saturday afternoon, and in passing asked me if I was reaching there myself to take some pics when I mentioned my webpage to her, I had a change of mind. I rang up my workplace a few days later to ask permission for some time off, and Moya (the librarian in charge the Saturday I'd have been there) said, "Sure Lawrence, you can have that day. I honestly can't remember the last time you had a holiday."
            Finding the official website for the event, I printed out an application form for a ticket, filled it in and sent if off (as I'd applied late, I found out from a call I got the following Sunday that my ticket was to be held for me at the site). I'd hoped to get a lift, but I had no luck on that front, so I thought I'd go by train and then cycle to the campsite where the festival was to be found from the nearest BR station, which was Warminster.
            Here below is the bike that got me all the way from Warminster to the campsite, a 1964 Moulton 'Deluxe' built in Kirkby, Liverpool which I've christened 'Red Neville', or 'Red Nev' for short (you'll find out how it got its name by clicking here). The previous day, it'd been in a shed at the bottom of my garden (having been out of use for some three months due to a dodgy front wheel, and some original slacker bike mechanics whom I won't shame up by naming them, that didn't even bother trying to repair it!), but now, here it was, fully laden with my tent, sleeping bag, mat to go under the sleeping bag on the rear carrier, and bags with clothes and toiletries, umbrella & hat on the front carrier (anything else I had was in the bag I was carrying) and of course, a new front wheel (complete with 'Dynohub' for the headlight on my bike) I'd bought from a bloke down in Chelsea who specialises in parts for bikes like mine two days earlier (thanks again Michael Woolf from Moulton Preservation!). My mother thought I was mad to pedal to work early on Thursday morning with "all that stuff" on my bike, but that's just what I did.

            I set off towards Lewis Carroll library first (getting more bits and pieces I knew I'd need along the way), then straight after work, I headed off for Paddington Station to get the train I had to take to Warminster. Unfortunately, I missed the train there, so I had a mad dash to Waterloo station to catch a train there instead (you try getting a fully laden bike up a crowded escalator - it's not easy, I can tell you!), only to find I'd missed that one too (how pissed off was I at this? A great deal!).
            My only real alternative (according to the station manager - a big, burly, bespectacled bloke who v. kindly rang up various stations asking for train times - thanks for your help!) was to take a train to Salisbury (the 22.35) and stay there until the first train to Warminster arrived at the station at 6.26 a.m. the next morning. "Just ask 'em if you can stay overnight in the station waiting room, I'm sure they'll let you," he said.
            My train to Salisbury arrived, and I spent the next 90-odd minutes fending off tiredness and boredom before reaching my destination, and sure enough, the bloke who locked up the station let me sleep over in the waiting room (I was locked in there for my own safety, but all I had to fear was a mad old lady wearing a beige plastic mac who strode up and down the platform for reasons that only she knew) and I unpacked my sleeping bag onto the nearest bench ready to sleep.
            I only had 2-3 hours sleep, and stretching myself awake, I took in my temporary surroundings while I lit a candle and read 'Tank Girl - The Odyssey' which I got from the library the previous day while I had some apple and mango herbal tea from my flask. No sooner had I finished reading while listening to BBC Radio 5 Live's 'Up All Night' show on my walkman, when the bloke with the keys came and unlocked the door. Despite being 5 a.m., it was still surprisingly warm, and I didn't have too long to wait before the South-West train to Warminster arrived.
            When the train finally arrived, it was a relatively short journey to Warminster and on getting off, I cycled around looking for someone to give me directions to the campsite. Stopping at a petrol station nearby, I asked the lady behind the counter how to get there. "Oh, it's easy to find," she said. "Just go down the road, turn left at the traffic lights and follow the road straight on up towards Lord's Hill. You can't miss it." I headed off, thinking to myself that the ride ahead would be a relatively pleasant one - how wrong I was!
            The first part of the ride was to begin with, pretty straightforward. The roads were empty, level and flat, the weather mild, and as it was early in the morning, there wasn't that much traffic to stress me. Pedalling along, I must have let complacency cloud my thoughts, because right at that moment, I came up to the first of many hills (Wiltshire's full of surprises like that!). I pedalled as far as I could up the hill before dismounting, knackered as I was from the train journey and not that much sleep. On top of that, I had to watch my back and my bike for tractors and juggernauts whizzing past me (too close for my liking at times, it seemed) on tight country lanes that barely managed to accommodate them. Whenever I heard them coming, I'd immediately pull over to the side and let them pass before pedalling or wheeling the bike up the hill again.
            This continued for quite a while, but I'd gotten as far as I had done, and I certainly wasn't going to turn back, was I? It was while I was halfway up a v. steep hill when I got my first view of the campsite on a hill in the distance to my right. I'd have loved to have taken a pic of all the tents, but hearing yet more oncoming traffic, I cancelled that thought as I wasn't looking to become some trucker's bumper mascot. 

            I cycled/wheeled my way some more before coming to a layoff where various trucks, converted ambulances, buses and other vehicles were parked. Standing next to an old, battered Citroen 2CV with her young daughter sitting inside was a lady who beamed a smile at me as I took yet another breather. "On yer way to the 'Green Gathering'?" she asked. "From the look of it, yeah," I replied, trying hard not to look too exhausted (despite being all sweaty from my morning cycle-cum-walk). "Ooh, just keep on going, y've not too far to go," she said, still smiling. "Somehow, I don't think I'll turning back now," I replied as I got back onto the seat of 'Red Nev' and pedalled the final stretch of hill towards the campsite.
            I knew I'd reached when I saw an orange sign saying, "Big Green Gathering - Turn Right". Doing so, I went along a gravelly path to the campsite entrance where the ticket booth was to be found. Showing the bloke in the booth some i.d., I got my ticket and here it is below.

Here's the first pic I took on the site, and it features some ladies doing taichi and yoga while one of them sang a Native American song. Unpacking my tent to put it up, I was v. kindly lent a hammer and holepunch spike by a bloke from Germany called Frank whose tent was near mine and had come to the site with some of his friends. I was pleased that he'd done so, as I would've probably bent most of my tent pegs in the near rock-hard ground. Having finally got my tent up (good thing I'd practiced beforehand in the garden down Tottenham way), I headed off towards where the showers were and had a lovely, refreshing wash (even though the pipes had an annoying knack of running low on water from time to time!).
           Coming from the showers to dry myself, two v.bold women and a little girl came into the men's showers to use them (it seemed that the ladies' showers were starting to get overcrowded, though a bloke I know, on recalling to him what happened a week or two later, told me that they "must have been checking out the talent" that morning - his words, not mine!). "You don't mind us using the showers here, do you?" asked one of the ladies to me, while her friend - a short, plump woman who I recognised from a t.v. documentary I saw some time ago boldly strode to the nearest available shower and washed herself . "Oh no," I replied, trying my best not to look embarrassed. "I've not got any problems at all with nudity - not that I'm an exhibitionist or anything, mind." Chuckling to herself, she and the little girl went into the showers while I dried and dressed.

This next snap was taken early in the afternoon and features someone who's v.cleverly disguised themself as a giraffe, along with some other people also disguised as crocodiles and ostriches amongst other things who were to perform later on that weekend. Just before I took this pic, I'd sat at one of the stones that made up the circle on the hill and had an odd conversation with a lady who'd met her husband through a psychic dating agency, amongst other things (it certainly beats humiliation on national t.v. by Cilla Black, I guess) and shortly afterwards, I did a bit of yoga before heading off and exploring the site.

I heard a booming sound coming behind me to my left. Turning around, I saw one of the amazing mobile sound systems made by the 'Rinky-Dink' crew (pedal and solar powered, but you probably knew that already anyway) that were v.popular with kids on the site (from working in the kids' section at both the South and Lewis Carroll Children's libraries, I know that anything bright, v.colourful and noisy nearly always draws children's attention almost instantly) as seen below.

I got this next pic while cycling past a tent and noticing some ladies having a belly dancing class. Leaving my bike where I could see it, I tiptoed my way through the mass of swivelling hips and arms held aloft before sitting down and getting this snap of the ladies going through their paces.

Here's their teacher showing how to do it. Did I have a go myself? Nah, I'm not that shameless, and besides, my hips are none too flexible for doing that sort of thing anyway.

For months now, the bracket that holds the dynamo light for my bike in place had gotten progressively weaker due to me using it as a holder for plastic bags when cycling home from the Tesco's on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park. Riding along a bumpy path, the old bracket finally failed on me, but today it seemed that my luck was well in abundance.   
            Spotting a nearby stall bearing the legend, 'KATE THE BLACKSMITH - LA FORGERONE', I wheeled 'Red Nev' up to it and asked the bloke there if he could braze my Moulton's broken light bracket. "Ooh, I don't think I can do that," he said. "But hold up, I may be able to secure the bracket in place with some wire if I can find a piece somewhere." He found a piece of sturdy wire, and with his bare hands secured 'Red Nev''s headlight bracket. Thanking him for fixing it, I asked if I could take a pic of him and Kate for my page. They were flattered that I would want to feature them, and here they are below.

Just who was that masked juggler?

Being an environmental festy, there was no way you could possibly get around by car or motorbike to all the various things going on, so you either cycled, went on foot, or you could turn all rustic and stuff, getting around by pony and trap as you can see below. Another v.popular mode of transport with kids at the campsite.

I had a peek inside what looked a canteen tent, and saw a folky quintet turning it out on a tiny stage. Maybe it's me, but there's always one person on the stage with a didgeridoo when a group like this perform. Once upon
a time, I guess it probably was a little exotic, but nowadays, it's become a bit of a cliche.


Go to the next page