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
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.