Tag Archives: woods

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

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. 

Nothing else matters 

“You’re a bit of an escapist”,                 a work colleague stated one wintry Monday morning after I had finished regaling the office with stories of my weekend spent camping & cooking in the woods. “I guess so” I offered in return, not sure at that point quite what I made of the notion. 

Fast forward to spring & I awake in my hammock, surrounded by towering trees, bird song rings out, it’s sweet melody pulsing through the woods, a call to prayer in natures temple. 

Hiding, unseen, amongst the leaves, the choir of Angels resonates like the Dolby surround sound system in the home of an old girlfriend from a well to do family. 

  

Tendrils of smoke from last nights fire provide a cinematic atmosphere and I know at that moment the answer I should have given – I don’t go to the woods to escape, I go to connect. 

To connect with life, real life. The life of the earth. Not of man and machine and industry, that is life for sure but this, this rhythm, this beat of nature, this is life. When the days goals are one of survival – arise, eat, avoid being eaten, drink and if you’re lucky, procreate. Live. 

We all have to make a living, it’s a fact of modern life – buy, sell, get a job, get a mortgage but so often it seems to me at least, jobs are jobs for jobs sake. 

A generation of men and women working in call centres, customer service, client relations. That’s not to say these jobs aren’t important, that you can’t get job satisfaction but at the end of the day, in the hunter gatherer, animalistic nature of humans, what have we actually done? What have we produced? 

More than likely just a pile of paperwork. It’s never ending. Yet if you didn’t do it, what would happen? Not much in all likelihood, the world certainly wouldn’t stop turning. You wouldn’t go hungry, or at least you wouldn’t until you got fired. 

So yes, at the end of a busy week pushing paper from one pile into another, I head for the woods. Not to escape but to connect, to connect with what was once important, with what once mattered and although for humans at least what matters may have changed, amongst the chatter of birds and rustling of leaves, surrounded at that particular instant by real life, nothing else matters.