Beach Camp (again)

I’ve posted so many bloody camping on beach photos, but hey

Great night.

Stunning beautiful sunset. Stars. Clear moon. Sea swimming.

A young couple had also set up a tent a few dunes down a little while after I had set up my spot . Brief chat about wild camping (actually I was checking they didn’t have a sound system and 2 crates of beer).  It  seemed like they’d be quiet so I stayed put.

Slept well, considering I had parked bivvy mat on slightly sloping sand dune, dreamt I was on a park slide

Traumatic morning though, as I had forgotten lighter for my hobo stove. I sat in stunned shocked silence as I realised I may not be able to have coffee on the beach. Resorted to looking in dunes for any discarded lighters, but beach too posh for that, not even a beer bottle. Only a Boden plimsoll.

Can’t make fire, and not sure the means to do so lay on this beach anyway!

Considered waking couple as I saw them smoking the night before, but thought 6 am probably too early.

Few dog walkers around, but all looked too healthy and lively to be lighter carriers.

Had to pack up and cycle back to car (without coffee!!!!) to buy lighter, then go to next beach to make coffee there
Oh and thousands of thrips legging it about when I arrived, seems they love fluorescent micro fibre towels.

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My Solo Mojo

I was beginning to fear failing on the wild camping front this month.
I’ve not done a proper solo wild camp for ages. I decided I must last week, biked out somewhere local, took forever finding a spot, then felt creeped out, and cycled home again.
I realised location is especially key for me when wild camping alone. I prefer being more in the open ( but not overlooked). I need to be by the sea. Infact, even with company, I prefer to see the sea or be right beside it. I feel so much safer that way. Maybe I should blame those fairy stories I read as a kid, bad things always happened in the woods!
I decided I had to try again this week. I drove to the coast ( not yet fit enough to bike to coast, but I did take bike to find my spot once there, and to carry my stuff!)
I arrived just in time to see the sun disappearing behind the rooftops and the red sky was possibly the most amazing I’ve ever seen ( but I do always say that), I took photographs, but actually reduced the colour because I worried it looked fake. It was that red sky that you look away from for a few seconds only to return your gaze to discover it’s redder still. As I trudged along the path, I wondered if the people in their houses were looking at the sky through their windows.
A man passed me, walking his dog along the shingle. He smiled and nodded, but I could see he was curious about me, wandering to apparently nowhere when it was getting dark. His dog’s ears told me he was curious too!
I wondered whether he was going to be returning the same way, I decided to go a fair way up from the footpath just incase, didn’t want to be spotted laying out a bed on the beach.
I reached a spot that felt right. Some grasses to hide the bike against, the sea in front, a flat area well above the apparent high tide marks, and behind the shingle a marshy pond. It felt perfect and beautiful and though the sun was long gone, the red glow remained, turning everything pink and orange.
As I made my bed, I started to itch and scratch around my face and hands. And then I realised. It was muggy and warm. Very warm. I was near marshes. Midges were everywhere. I considered moving, but I realised I’d have to move a long way to get away from them, so I decided I just had to stick it out with hand flapping.
I lit a small fire, but actually, though it was comforting, it was too hot! First wild camp this year where I found myself feeling too warm! My bivvy bag has an insect face guard that zips shut. I decided to go to bed early.
Realised of course, that insect coverings probably only work if you don’t take the bugs into bed with you. But how do you avoid that?!
I climbed into my bedding, zipping it all shut. I checked the time on my phone and suddenly 3 midges landed on it, attracted by the light. I amused myself for the next half hour, waiting for midges to land on my phone so that I could smudge them to death with my finger. Like a real life wildlife app.
I fell asleep eventually, because I woke at 1 am and realised I wasn’t itching anymore. I remember thinking “do midges go to bed?”, the sort of half dreaming bonkers thoughts you get in watchful sleep. As I type now, I pause every few minutes to scratch two bites on my fingers.
I lay awake, staring through the insect net at a few stars ahead. And a regular beam of light in the distance from the lighthouse
I slept fairly well from then on, the sea was a comfort to hear. Was woken by raindrops at 5.30, but I was so warm and snug and dry that I just turned over and enjoyed the sound. Gentle rain. And the odd seagull.
I discovered another big advantage to bivvy over tent, that on waking, it doesn’t feel too urgent to pack away before being seen. Just roll it into a pile and sit on it while you make coffee! As I made my coffee with my makeshift wood stove, a woman went past with her dog. Again curious, again too polite to ask.
I took my time. It wasn’t cold. I enjoyed sitting in the rain ( yes really). Coffee helped. Two coffees helped more.
I packed up bike after an hour or so, and headed back. Halfway along, I noticed another path and wondered where it led. I asked an elderly man walking nearby. Assuming I needed serious guidance, he asked where I needed to get, my reply “nowhere really” baffled him. He asked then where I’d come from. I simply glanced towards the sea on our right and said “the beach”. He looked me up and down. Perhaps he thought I was a mermaid. He then went on to tell me he wasn’t sure where the path went. As I carried on, I looked back and caught him looking back at me.

I was back at my car by 8, a bit damp, grubby from wood smoke, and probably littered by the corpses of midges. Solo wild camps have a very different quality to camping with others. I feel glad to know I can still do both

Sunset. Pub. Fire. Sleep

Decided to upload a naff video of this adventure with Anita and her dog Mocha! A drive to the coast, an amazing sunset, a couple of handy huts for perching and sleeping ( left exactly as found of course), a visit to a pub, and a good nights sleep ( in wild camp terms anyway!). Huts weren’t as sheltered as we hoped, because wind decided to blow some rain at us at 5am, but we stayed dry in our bivvies. Poor Mocha would like a proper dog coat next time please, as he didn’t grasp snuggling in sleeping bags, it was tricky explaining that he needed to reverse in.

Microadventure, featuring slightly sporty action and poncy time lapse sunset from Microtart on Vimeo.

Bedrock

Emily posted on our Norfolk Microadventures page, she lives in Wales and is coming to Norfolk for a course and can anyone recommend any good spots to wildcamp? Several of us shared ideas, I messaged her a few good spots I knew. After some conversation, we decided we’d go together. And so we did, on Wednesday evening
It was a cold night forecast. 0 degrees. Dry though, at least till 6am, said the forecast. So we chose a beach spot, on a small hill. Turned out to be the most exposed spot possible. Which afforded great views, but left us with no natural shelter. We decided to tent instead of bivvy for this.
A hurried meet in a local seaside town after Emily had driven for 7 hours…we wanted to try to arrive with some light. I’d brought hot soup in a flask and bread that we shared. Emily bought soup to stove cook.
We just missed the sunset, it was happening as we drove the short way down the coast road to our spot. The red sky lit the sea and marshes to the right of the winding road ( very winding, so must not be too distracted by the beauty!).
After we parked and carried our packs to the hill, the red sky remained, and ducks were beautiful silhouettes on the tide ponds. The sounds of the sea birds, distinctive and so completely different to the garden birds at home.
A gritting lorry passed by the road in the distance. Noted.
Otherwise silent. Not a soul.
We pitched as quickly as possible, and popped up the tarp for sheltering packs and coffee making if it did rain early next morning.
It was a small stony clamber to the pebble beach to make a fire. At first inconvenient, until we discovered that sliding down it was fun. Especially after wine. We ended up almost fighting over who needed to go back up the hill to fetch something we’d forgotten. This kept us as warm as the fire!
I warmed a large rock by the fire to take to my sleeping bag, having heard they hold heat for hours. This and some disposable handwarmers were my hope of a comfortable night.
We went to sleep by 9pm. I popped the warm rock at the bottom of my sleeping bag, put on fresh warm socks, scattered 4 handwarmers in the bag and snuggled down, determined that my bladder would HAVE to last till morning.
I took a good long while to switch off and go to sleep. But I was warm. It was very quiet, no noises to fret about.
Vague awakenings in the night, vivid dreams, slightly disoriented moments of trying to figure out where I was. But generally a good sleep and at 5 am, I realised the bedrock was cold, though the handwarmers were still hot. I wanted it to be the other way round. Wanted the rock to have beaten a chemical process, but hey.
I got up just after 5, a psychological and physical challenge to get out of sleeping bag, but did so quickly and walked in search of wood for a morning fire.
We realised that Emily had forgotten her coffee cup. She used her near empty milk carton, added hot coffee, shook it and called it a latte. It worked and she only slightly worried that the plastic got a bit melty at the base.
And then on cue, the rain came. My disappointment at this was kind of overridden by a delight that the forecast was right. I’m not sure if it’s my age, but I do get disproportionately alarmed if weather forecasts are wrong.
We walked back, with rustling waterproofs, sounding like one of those radio 4 nature documentaries, berating Alastair Humphries for not showing microadventure videos of people walking back in rain and wind, looking exhausted, red faced and a bit stressed.
I discovered that my camera refuses, on any setting, to take photographs of stars. So, you’ll have to imagine it. And the moon, it wouldn’t photograph that either. But it was beautiful.
And tonight, I’m going out again. With Anita, my other local microadventuring friend.

Madness, only two days after the first. But bugger it, why not? She only asked me last night, so this is almost spontaneous, and I’m not usually that without notice.

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March Onwards

So, I meant to begin this blogging lark a while ago. My first wild camp was last summer when I placed myself in a bivvy on a beach, worried my way through the night and felt dead proud of myself in the morning. I’m 43, have rheumatoid arthritis, am not v fit, love sitting down….but I also love getting away and breaking rules. I like the forbidden element of wild camping, the freedom of being able to spend a night almost anywhere, knowing that someone else may well think you shouldn’t ( even though I leave no trace and take only photographs)

Then I wild camped many more times, sometimes dragging along some bewildered but interested friends.

Stopped in the winter for some reason, then realised there was no need! Alastair Humphreys encouraged a whole lot of regional #microadventurer groups to begin and I promptly discovered many more hobo ish types. I met a local woman for coffee, we both wanted to see if either of us had axe murderer vibes. It felt ok, we were both satifsfied that our use of the butter knife in the cafe had no sinister overtones. So we went out in Feb and slept in freezing temperatures in bivvy bags. Not much sleep was had, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel my feet again. But it was wonderful

 

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So, March came and although I have two later plans in mind this month, a post came up on our group page, discussing any plans for this weekend. I wanted to go out, fancied a wood, but didn’t fancy a lone wood camp. A man on our page talked of taking a bunch of people he knew out to discover microadventures. I messaged, wondering about tagging along. Internet safely crossed my mind, I don’t completely know him, or his friends. In my mind, I could see lots of proper grown ups tutting at me. He talked about his friends, couple of guys from work, a female friend, a man with his young son. The female friend had just joined our group, so it felt ok. But I made sure someone knew where I was going.

All I had was a google pin and darkness as I set off. I arrived early, and sat in a side road by a forest. Absolute pitch black. I locked the car doors from inside and sat. And sat. And wondered about every car passing.

Finally, I texted to say I was here. Got a reply to say they are parked further up the road than they planned. When I found them, it was just one black car. One black car, with two men stood in camo clothing and army rucksacks. I wondered if I should get out of the car. It wasn’t the image I expected. I expected a small slightly colourful group,  looking reassuringly chaotic. This looked organised, this looked military. And sort of serious.

I did get out of car, wondering about what excuse I could make, when a small boy ( just 6 ) appeared from behind his dad, delighted smile “I’ve got a head torch!!!” …..” And a knife!”. Ok, if the men had said that, my microadventure would have been a high speed dash out of there, but this kid was clearly Bear Grylls’ Number One Fan.

I asked about the others, particularly the female that had added a dash of “safe” to my thoughts about this meet up. Working late they said. Couldn’t make it after all.

I reasoned with myself that if they were planning to capture and kill a lone female, they’d hardly have brought a 6 yr old boy. Would they? Of course not. But still, the tutts from sensible careful people in armchairs at home were getting louder. Shaking of heads “she’s going into the woods with men she’s met on the Internet!”

My fear lasted precisely 45 seconds.

As we clambered over heath and heather to find a clearing, they were as slightly clueless as me about where we should go and where the road was. And as sweet small boy ( now known as SSB) became sweet scared boy, and started voicing his fears, his dad reassured him gently and firmly. Somehow that helped me too!

We set up camp. I admit I was trying to be super cool efficient. As I watched them make a proper fire the ( almost) proper bushcraft way, I kept my firelighters and dry kindling wood out of the way. SSB called it my “cheating wood”.

SSB queried strange noises, sort of ate a burger, very much ate marshmallows and only whimpered briefly for mummy just before bed. I went to sleep only just after him, leaving the camo guys with their “pirate rum”.

But not before standing, aghast, between tall trees, looking up at the amazing stars. Feeling like the clouds had cleared just for me. This is why we do this.

I expected a 5am alarm call from SSB. Instead I woke at 6.23 after a fairly good nights sleep ( hadn’t noted when “quickly and efficiently” pitching my one man, that I had pitched it on a v large bump) to find another fire going and SSB still snoozing in his bag like an angelic caterpillar.

I shamelessly made my coffee in my ikea hobo stove, with firelighters and cheating wood, while they cooked beans, bacon and sausages in mess tins that SSB ( sort of) ate a bit later.

So, I didn’t get horribly murdered. Instead I enjoyed watching a small boy discover that darkness and outside are safe, that fear doesn’t kill you, and that waking after knowing each of these things is a feeling of pride like no other! Some of us didn’t discover this until much much later.

 

 

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