Ode to a Bell Tent – a Poem by Penelope Lewis

There's a lot more to life at Cool Camping HQ than visiting campsites, eating marshmallows and penning some prose about starry skies for the latest blog. The reality is sometimes a team of office cogs behind the coolcamping.com machine. What a joy it is, however, on sunny office days when we'd rather be out on the campsite, to hear from those of you who are busy pitching the tent, reaping the rewards and enjoying some much deserved down time enjoying nature.

Few e-mails compare to that of Penelope Lewis in France, who this week, after the long Easter holiday, brightened our Cool Camping inbox with praise of our website and recollections of her own camping experiences...

"[It] takes me back many years to my cliff-top experiences as a child camping on a farm in Pembrokeshire in the late 1950s. Our bell tent was bought from Simpers in Cambridge and it was at a time when they were scarcely seen as holiday tents."

Penelope had penned her very own ode to the bell tent, a poem of such joy we knew it needed to be shared with like-minded campers. She captures wellingtons and macintoshes, wooden pegs and billowing canvas and nights sleeping soundly in the bell tent of her youth. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did...

Home Safe to Bell


In wet Wales she stood magnificent
Stiff skirt encircling
Protection, affection, steaming vests
Strung to her central pole

Strong mast, painted green
Hauled by all. Hoisted straight, hoisted tall
Held fast the billowing canvas
In standard-issue cream

Until a perfect circle spun
All ropes lashed down
Socks elastic on wooden pegs
If forced to hold the storm

Braced she the winds that cliff-top raged
Tugging at her heart
Some days she danced
The Hover

Lower skirt edged with webbing,
Lifting, jigging
Brushing the wet pasture
Dotted with cow pats, dotted with dew

Primrose melamine and saucers too
Out of the trailer kitchen
With canopy and breakfast shelves
Tins, jars and a Primus stove

That hissed
And lit the cooking alcove
With purple flames and a glow
To warm bedraggled campers huddled round

Braced she the winds that cliff-top raged
Tugging at her heart
Some days she danced
The Hover

Open the duffle flaps
Tie back the cords
Wellingtons, macintoshes
Souwester helmets, to soften the blow

But there, look, on the 49th stair
Slants a sun salutation
Rabbit path descent on bended knees
Down to the beach, down to the sea

Race for the rocks
Bigger and bigger
Until caverns yawn and tight
Wedged fast, the floats adorn

Braced she the winds that cliff-top raged
Tugging at her heart
Some days she danced
The Hover

Green glass netted
Gently, so gently to the bag
Up we carry to the canvas queen
To her we lean

Fading daylight, sizzling pans
Check the tensions
Rope through hands
Pulling her upright, firm she stands

Over the sheep path, warm windows lure
Froth on beer with pickled eggs
Until, back through disgruntled rams
Home safe to Bell

Braced she the winds that cliff-top raged
Tugging at her heart
Some days she danced
The Hover

By Penelope Lewis

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