Tag Archives: microadventure

A wild school night 

If you’re anything like me, a serious lack of organisation and procrastination , not to mention the usual excuses (family, friends, work, tv, comfy bed and other such commitments!) can be a big barrier to getting out for a little adventure, especially when it comes to adventuring on a school night.

Despite the very essence of Microadventures being to keep it simple and maximise those hours of freedom between the end of one working day and the start of the next, I’d not managed a midweek wild camp for over three years but with a small window of opportunity presenting itself this week, I was determined to jump through it head first and grab myself a little hump day treat… 

good to go


I’d spotted my intended camp – a former quarry now reclaimed by a beautiful wood – whilst out on the bike recently and having packed and loaded the bike the night before, I was quickly changed out of my suit and on the trails within an hour of getting home from work. 

hitting the trail


Keeping it simple I packed only the essentials – hammock, down jacket, buff, waterproofs (you never know in Britain), water, bike spares and of course some Peroni 😉 

bear essentials…


The wood in question was only about 5 miles away (something my hips were grateful for) and I took my time, just enjoying being outdoors on my bike, no need to rush. 
I had the woods all to myself, save for a few noisy badgers, foxes and owls who made an appearance once darkness enveloped the trees. 

alone in the woods?


I love the transition of life and noise in a woodland environment, the day crew eventually settling in for a good nights kip at sundown, only to be replaced by the denizens of the night, scurrying and scuttling and screaming (blimmin foxes!) around their darkened playground. 


But even the night owls have to get some shut eye and there’s often a moment of quiet tranquility that descends upon any woodland. This moment usually happens at about 3am when you suddenly need to clamber out of your cosy hammock to answer the call of nature but it’s a beautiful moment to witness, if only until it’s shattered as you curse and swear and shuffle yourself back into the hammock. 

do i have to get out?


Awoken by sunrise and the dawn chorus (is there a better alarm clock?), I was packed up and back at my desk bang on 9am, perhaps looking a little dishevelled, a little wild but certainly feeling more alive. 

Advertisements

Life’s a beach 

Two hours since returning home and I’m still sluicing sand out of places best not described in public – a gritty reminder of last nights beach bivvy. 

this way


After my not particularly successful adventure earlier in the week, it was back to basics last night: bivvy bag, beach, beers and a fire. 

fast food


Dinner was taken care of courtesy of the local chippy, leaving us to carry just the essentials. 

The long walk to the beach was backdropped by a beautiful sunset smouldering away behind us and we arrived just as the light was fading. A few Saturday beach goers were scattered along the shore but they soon disappeared along with the fading sun, leaving us with just the constant crashing of waves for company. 

bliss


Bivvy spot chosen, we set about replacing day light with firelight, making the most of an abundance of driftwood scattered amongst the seaweed. 


There’s something about a beach fire that makes it different from a fire in woodland, the exposed nature of the beach and the swirling wind combining to make a more vibrant and energetic burn. 

Whether set in a forest or on a beach, all fires burn out eventually and we drifted off to the crackling embers, only to be awoken by a somewhat larger fire blazing away on the horizon. Nights are short at this time of year and Microadventures arent particularly conducive to a lazy Sunday lay in. 


As tempting as it would have been to linger, the ever increasing light prompted action before we were joined by the morning dog walkers. 


My new Koro stove got to earn it’s keep, getting a moka pot brew fired up before trudging back homeward. 


  

So now, just over 12 hours later, I’m tired and looking somewhat dishevelled but feeling like I’ve made up for my birthday misadventures, a good end to the week! 

homeward bound

Better a bad day on the bike than a good day in the office 

It’s my birthday, it’s the middle of summer, I’ve got a new bike and a day off work. Time to gear up for a microadventure, or so I thought… 

I’d not been on the bike for a week owing to an annoying flair up in my left leg which left me with tight hamstrings and twingy horrible business in hips and adductors. Plenty of stretching, resting and pill popping and I was good (ish) to go. 


Having a birthday day off work in August should be a guaranteed day of blistering heat but this being a British Summer my new Alpkit Kanaga harness was loaded up with waterproofs rather than sun cream, a constant deluge of rain accompanying my morning packing. 

Now, I’m not afraid of a bit of rain (no such thing as bad weather and all that) but today wasn’t even summer rain, in fact it looked like winter outside and as I headed out the door my mood matched the sky – grey. 

Grey turned to black as my route selection failed epically. Just a few miles into the ride I was scything my way through vicious stinging nettles and forests of giant hogweed. My legs are still on fire now! 


A cut through via a small woodland which would have bypassed a busy dual carriageway turned out to be impassable and saw me heading back roughly towards where I had started. I decided to abandon the original destination and instead look for a quiet spot to hang my hammock in a small woods not far from home. 

The woods I’d chosen were heavily coppiced and I spent an hour or so trying to find just two trees thick enough to hold a hammock, turning up nothing suitable. 

bit close to the path


It was at this point that I took stock of the situation. It was raining and the forecast was not looking any better. I couldn’t find anywhere decent to set up the hammock and I’d ridden about 15 miles yet was just a mile or so from where I’d started. I’m not ashamed to say that less than twenty minutes later I was home and waiting for a birthday Chinese to arrive. 


Ultimately Microadventures should be fun. Sure, sometimes you’ve gotta be prepared to rough it a bit but it shouldn’t all be a sufferfest. So I’m gonna draw a line under this particular escapade, take the lessons (perhaps hammocks aren’t quite so versatile, pay better attention to route planning) and move on to the next adventure, the weekend’s not that far away after all… 

Nature is a place politics can’t touch – a referendum microadventure 

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! 

see I can do it!


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. 

can’t i stay forever?


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! 

it wasn’t all easy riding


Rebalanced, I arrived home just before the predicted storm set in. Turns out this microadventure was perfectly timed, in more ways than one! 

Gambling with the weather 

Notched up wild camp number three of 2016 last night. 

Armed with a decent weather forecast (well decent for January) I decided to forgo setting up a tarp and instead just hung my hammock. 

  
Risky for sure but it paid off – the skies were clear and the rain held off until morning, giving me a night spent gazing up through the trees at a beautiful star filled sky. 

  
Awoke gently at 7am to a private showing of this woods’ version of a dawn chorus and the first few drops of rain – exactly as forecast – prompting action at a speed I don’t usually achieve in the morning! 

The full deluge held off just long enough to stash my down sleeping bag before it got soaked and to brew up a fresh moka pot of coffee – I’ve yet to discover a better start to the day than waking up in an English wood and brewing coffee on a stove, or better yet an open fire. 

  
Now back home, sat typing this as I gaze out the window at the constant drizzle, I’d say my gamble paid off. 

Bikepacking 

“So it was always at night, like a werewolf, that I would take the thing out for an honest run down the coast. I would start in Golden Gate Park, thinking only to run a few long curves to clear my head…

There was no helmet on those nights, no speed limit, and no cooling it down on the curves. 

Bent forward, far back on the seat, and a rigid grip on the handlebars as the bike starts jumping and wavering in the wind.

…wind-burned eyeballs strain to see down the centerline, trying to provide a margin for reflexes.

…and that’s when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see… the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. 

…letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge…”

Hunter Thompson may have been writing about motorcycles but the principal is the same, two wheels -whether powered by an engine or a pair of legs – are a great way to get around. 
  
Whilst the motorbike may be able to go faster, the bicycle offers a return on investment far outstripping any other mode of transport. No sooner have you set off and the miles simply melt away behind you, covering ground at a rate of knots far quicker than walking, far more comfortable than running and far more in touch with nature and your surroundings than a motorbike or car.

  
Even slogging up hills is rewarded (eventually) with the freewheeling joys of the downhill, the effort of the climb a distant memory as you hurtle along, no input required save for a dab of brakes and a touch of lean to keep you heading in the right direction.

And so, with all this in mind I loaded up my mountain bike and set out for a bikepacking microadventure this past weekend.

  
Admittedly the first couple of miles were a hellish nightmare, navigating first into, then out of my local town, the roads snarling with post-Christmas shoppers looking for a January sales bargain.

I’m sure a few of them tried to kill me but I’m equally sure it was nothing personal… 😉 

But never mind all that for I was on a bike and it wasn’t long before I escaped the clutches of town, the drab grey concrete reluctantly giving way to the green of the North Downs.

  
The North Downs are about as wild as it gets in Kent which is to say they are not really that wild at all but to give them their due they put up a good fight, providing some challenging hills (certainly for me in my current unfit state), some excellent bivvy spots with great views below and all this whilst for the most part being sandwiched between two motorways.

  
Having traipsed through the muddy trails and found a quiet spot, I watched the sun set over my home town, that wry smile that so often finds its way onto my face whilst out adventuring slowly appeared as I thought about what everyone else would be doing on a Saturday night – X Factor, The Voice, takeaways, pubs and clubs. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not adverse to a curry and a pint or two but not tonight. Tonight dinner would be two packs of 15p Tesco noodles and some venison sausages, drinks would be provided by my trusty Camelbak (ok ok and a bottle of Czech lager…) and entertainment would be provided by real stars, you know, the ones up in the sky.

  
Fed and watered I turned in for the night, the forecast was for minus 1 but even so I was still somewhat surprised to be awoken to what felt like very gentle and very cold rain on my face – yes it was actually snowing!

  
I pulled my bivvy bag up closer around and over my head, trying to minimise the gaps where snow could get it, I succeeded for the most part but every now and then a few flakes would creep in, a small price to pay though for waking up in the middle of a blanket of fresh snow all around me.

  
It wasn’t much but it was enough – I’d bivvied in the snow! A few “hero” pics, a quick brew of coffee and I was off, threading my way through the snow and ice, back towards home and a welcome blast of central heating.

 


Best laid plans 

It’s dark, there’s rain in the air and my path is blocked by a ten foot high wall. Time for plan b. 

Or was it plan c? My original plan for the first microadventure of 2016 was a two day kayak trip down the river Medway, from Tonbridge to Maidstone. Kit packed, kayak ready, I awoke early feeling decidedly worse for wear, perhaps still suffering from New Year’s Eve antics the previous night? 

 

best laid plans…

 
A mid afternoon power nap and I was feeling ready to head out on a scaled down trip. I’d keep to the river theme and camp by some local woods nestled on the banks of the river just outside of Maidstone. 

I’d read about the path closure along the river whilst planning for the kayaking decent but had failed to note that it was already in place, so upon reaching the closure, I decided to detour via the local chippy and took shelter in a bus stop whilst I weighed up my options. 

 

pit stop

 
Refuelled, I decided to make my way back to the river but head upstream, now to see if I could find a quiet spot to camp. 

 

half expecting to see Col. Kurtz

 
Wanting to be as close to the river as possible in lieu of actually being on it in my kayak, I pitched my tarp on a small fishermans slip, a tiny peninsula jutting out into the muddy brown river. 

Turns out the slip was just as muddy as the river and before long tarp, clothes and well, everything really was caked in mud. 

  
Still, it was pleasant enough drifting off to sleep listening to the river busily rushing down to the tidal parts at Allington and eventually the English Channel. The only other sounds being that of a nearby owl and a shrieking fox. 

So, not the start to adventuring in 2016 that I had in mind but a start and considering the first few months of last year were spent recovering from surgery, with no wild camps until April I’m already ahead of the game.