I’ve never actually been to the site of Wye Crown (a large chalk “crown” carved into the hillside above Wye village to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902) despite having ridden within mere meters of it on numerous occasions and spied it from afar when traversing the Stour Valley.
Perhaps not so surprising given the Crown sits squarely on one of the many sections of the North Downs Way not technically accessible to cyclists. Sure, a bicycle can facilitate much more rapid coverage of ground compared to walking but perhaps – in England at least – two feet, rather than two wheels, can allow a much more thorough exploration of the landscape. Or perhaps I’m just lazy and could never be bothered to hike my rig over the fence to go and take a peak but with the Crown marking the site where the North Downs Way trail officially opened back in 1978 and with many of my adventures centered around this magnificent yet flawed (from a cyclists perspective) trail, it was high time I hopped that fence.
I often have a slight nagging worry that I won’t find a suitable spot to hunker down for the night when heading off to wild camp somewhere new. In reality, it’s rarely an issue when hammocking (although I have on occasion struggled to find two suitable trees!) and a bivvy bag opens up pretty much any field, woodland, hedgerow or even motorway underpass but on this occasion, with heavy rain forecast, I’d opted for the Taga1 tent.
An (almost) ultralight one man tent, the Taga has a very small footprint but even so I wanted peace of mind that I’d find a comfortable pitch. The internet is a wonderful resource for such things and having stumbled across the Tom Outdoors channel on YouTube and in particular his own wild camp on top of the Crown, I knew there was suitable ground for a night’s tenting.
The ride out was pleasant, loamy trails, plenty of puddles but not too muddy considering the recent volume of rain over the last week. I settled into a steady rhythm on the bike – no need to rush with plenty of daylight left in the day – enjoying hugely the fact I had managed to load all my kit on the Longitude and ride free of a sweaty backpack!
Arriving to a deserted hill, I did a few test “lays” to find the perfect pitch for the tent then waited out the last of the days light, enjoying a pizza (pre-cooked), a spicy Old Jamaica ginger beer and a few chapters of Leon McCarron’s “The Road Headed West” until the sky was dark enough to pitch the little Taga.
Despite earlier efforts, I still managed to find myself on a slight sideways slope but such is life when camping away from manicured (and expensive) campsites. I watched the flashing blue lights of emergency vehicles threading their way between the pretty village of Wye beneath me and the bright glow of the ever expanding Ashford away to the South. Clearly, more eventful Friday Nights were being had elsewhere.
The only drama up here was the persistent wind whipping up from the coast which I tried to ignore as I drifted off to sleep, leaving the tent door wide open in the hope of awaking to a magnificent view and sunrise.
Alas, that wasn’t to be and aside from a sliver of skyfire to the east around 5am, daybreak was a largely drab affair. Nonetheless, the view from my vantage point wasn’t at all bad and I took a moment to enjoy the scenery, extra strong double coffee in hand, before the forecast rain set in.
And boy did it set in, the trails slick with mud in a matter of minutes, mud which my 3 inch wide WTB tyres deposited generously all over my bike, my bags and of course me (yea I know, mudguards, but they look so crap!). I largely retraced my outbound route to get home, skipping one particular Byway which I knew would be pretty muddy by the time I got to it. Naturally, as soon as I got home the rain vanished, par for the course in the UK.
So that’s wild camp number four in the bag for 2021, the little Naturehike Taga1 is growing on me – no condensation on the last two trips now but I still can’t quite convince myself that a single wall tent is the best approach for UK conditions. At least not one so small where the limited space virtually guarantees you will come into contact with the walls at some point in the night.
I’ve got some carbon poles on order from AliExpress for the 3F ULGear Lanshan 2 Pro that I picked up last year but haven’t yet used in anger. Still single wall but the Lanshan is a little more spacious than the Taga and the poles will be easier to stash on the bike (compared to trekking poles) so I’ll be giving that a run out when (if!) the poles arrive from China.