Our Lake District wild wood yurt experience was far from ideal.
As well as constant rain, Pancosmic Pyromantics, voodoo/wicker man effigies and quicklime pits we had another life form to deal with.
The first indication of potential danger lurking was on the public health information posters in the yurt toilets warning that Lyme Disease is rife in the Lake District.
Lyme Disease is a really nasty disease which can cause chronic, debilitating neurological, joint and heart problems. The bacteria that cause it, Borrelia burgdorferi, are transmitted by ticks. Guess where those disease bearing ticks LOVE living?
Yes, you guessed it… they love living in the Lake District. Ticks adore wet undergrowth, woods, forest, bracken and long wet grass. Cumbrian vegetation. Our yurt was slap bang in the middle of prime tick habitat.
The ticks that carry the bacteria that cause Lyme Disease have a long life cycle with four separate stages. They feed on small mammals and birds – fill themselves up with lethal bacteria, then lurk in the greenery waiting for larger mammals including human prey.
Ticks are more sophisticated than you’d think. They can detect carbon dioxide from large mammals, rush into questing position with their front sharp legs sticking out waiting to hook a poor unsuspecting tourist. When the victim brushes past, or sits picnicking a little too long they stick their nasty, sharp front legs out like nasty hooks and cling on for dear life.
If they like what they’ve landed on they can crawl over human flesh, for hours pulling themselves over hair and crags seeking a moist protected deep, dark skin fold where they can settle to suck blood. They aim straight for the groin, belly button, arm pits and backs of knees.
The poor unsuspecting victim feels nothing at all. The ticks anaesthetise the skin before they burrow in and lock their jaws on the blood supply. Then those nasty bast ticks exude an anti-coagulant and stay attached for up to three weeks while their bodies slowly swell into nasty little plump juicy “berries” of blood.
Our lovely yurt we’ve been looking forward to relaxing in all year in our precious week of summer holiday was nestled in top quality tick habitat. Those cute little Disney bunnies hopping all around our yurt were lethal disease carriers threatening us.
I took the public health warning to heart. We covered up. Socks tucked into trousers, long sleeves, fleeces, cagoules boots. Layer upon tick-proof layer. The foul weather made it an easy job. We bought tick repellent spray but failed to use it.
Ticks can’t jump, only get smeared off vegetation so I thought we were not at any real risk. We inspected ourselves and each other.
The appealing activities we’d planned, fires in our fire pit and lazing out under the stars, outdoor lounging in a hammock under the trees or on the grass suddenly seemed like high risk activities. Al fresco wees for a three-year old turned into an aerial acrobatic exercise. The vile weather made them all completely impossible anyway. Does anyone like lying on grass under bracken in driving rain at 8 degrees c?
We saw the public heath information posters everywhere. I grilled an unsuspecting shop assistant about his tick history – he’d had one and his dog three in ten years. He kept them at bay with garlic. Nevertheless I made a purchase of a tick remover, just in case.
Fast forward 4 days.
We’d arrived home, found out that son no. one (19), home alone for a week, had washed up, shut all doors and windows on exit, not lost my front door key and had not damaged anything – brilliant and the first time ever!!
I was lying on the sofa stretching out and noticed a … you know what’s coming and it wasn’t a bit of fluff – a huge rubbery, dark, grey, firmly attached, completely REVOLTING tick protruding from my belly button.
Within a minute my tick remover had been efficiently employed to remove it and it had been sealed in a pot. It had one more bid for freedom when I tried to have a closer look, spent several days alive in the pot and is now in the freezer in case we need to have it analysed.
I had a frantic night Googling Lyme Disease. The people at Lyme Disease Action were really helpful. My first GP treated me like an imbecile. Seven hours and one GP later I got what I wanted and was prescribed doxycycline antibiotics which will knock it on the head before it can get to grips and cause devastation.
In the UK 3000 people a year are diagnosed with Lyme Disease in the UK. The charity Lyme Disease Action think the figure is closer to 15,000 but it is under diagnosed.
If you’re outside in woods, parks or any vegetation please be tick aware and check yourself and your clothes for ticks. Lyme Disease is the most common vector borne disease in the UK. More of that later but, I’m not going to the Lake District again – unless I’m wearing a white Teflon body stocking…
The yurt nestling in its undergrowth.
The tick remover.