Having racked up six wild camps by the end of March this year – not to mention six rather cold nights over December and January – April and May had been bereft of any microadventure action as I focused on training for June’s South Downs Epic mtb ride (itself training for London to Brighton off-road in September).
And so I found myself with a Friday booked off work, the same Friday on which the rest of the U.K. would also wake up to the news that we had decided, just, that we wanted to leave Europe. I’d been up all night following the coverage so come morning I was somewhat sick of politics. Whether you “won” or “lost”, that amount of political coverage is no good for anyone. To rebalance myself, I loaded up my trusty hardtail and hit the trail.
The South East of England isn’t exactly blessed with wild camping spots, it’s busy, built up and doesn’t quite have the outdoor tolerance of places such as the Lake District or even the South Downs.
That’s not to say that you can’t find a spot – I’ve certainly found many a surprising wild place over the years and it feels all the more rewarding if you’ve worked for it – but it’s easy to get lazy, to stick with what you know, with what’s “safe”, relatively speaking!
Fortunately I’m lucky enough to work with a chap who has a similar passion for the outdoors and who, perhaps even more fortunately, knows someone who owns a small patch of woodland which they wouldn’t be using that particular weekend. This then would be less of a stealth camp but being a good 30 mile ride away and having never been there before, I wasn’t sure what I’d find on arrival so there was still a healthy sense of adventure!
What I found at the end of a rutted forest trail was a beautiful clearing, the late afternoon sun piercing through the tree canopy, no sounds other than the call of dozens of woodland birds and the sheep grazing nearby.
This place really was the perfect antidote to all the political noise of the last 24 hours.
I set up my hammock overlooking the clearing and quickly set about making a trail dinner using my new woodgas wood burning stove.
Maybe it had been too long since I’d channeled my inner Keith Flint, or perhaps it was just the stove itself but for some reason I couldn’t get the thing to take and so ended up eating a meal of lukewarm supernoodles spiced up with slices of Hungarian smoked sausage.
Frankly, I’m blaming the stove as in the morning I managed to get a proper open fire going!
Despite thunder storms the previous day and more of the same predicted later on Saturday, the forecast looked good for the night so I opted for just the mozzie net on the hammock and no tarp.
Thankfully the rain stayed away (tarp on hand if needed) and I drifted off to the sounds of owls and foxes going about their nocturnal business. Gently woken by the day shift of birds and sheep swapping with the night shift, I fixed myself a coffee over an open fire and reluctantly packed my gear onto the bike before heading homeward.
The ride each way was a solid 27 miles, mostly off road (north downs way/pilgrims way) and as well as being a great green corridor to and from my camp spot, having the bike fully loaded with camping gear was a good bit of extra training for L2B, win squared!
Rebalanced, I arrived home just before the predicted storm set in. Turns out this microadventure was perfectly timed, in more ways than one!