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MicroAdventure #3 – MY FIRST SOLO WILD CAMPING EXPERIENCE!

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Time Taken: 1 night

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Location: Northants, Knightley Way

Gear Taken: Full winter camping gear

Enjoyment Level: Very peaceful. Stunning sunrise

The Adventure Begins

A package arrived for me on Friday. My new ultra-light down sleeping bag and down booties! They actually arrived three weeks earlier than expected as I’d received a message from the suppliers to say there was a delay in shipping due to the Chinese New Year so you can imagine my delight when a Chinese looking parcel was found hidden behind my blue wheelie bin!

Throughout Friday afternoon I was planning a micro adventure in my head. I needed to test my gear and, I had only ever erected my 3F UL Gear tent once before (in my garden, and I’m sure that doesn’t count!).  I had an internal battle with myself that went a bit like this:-

Julia: Yey! Let’s have an adventure

Charlie (my internal conscience): You do know it’s February? You live in the UK and it’s freezing out there?

Julia: Yep, but life is there for living! Let’s go to Cheshire and walk the Gritstone Trail!

Charlie: You haven’t yet used your tent, you could get hypothermia.  Julia, your idea of camping usually involves a portable heater, and electric hook up (even in the summer), and a 4 man air tent with camp beds! If you really have to go on an adventure, why not try one nearer to home?

Julia: But near home is boring?

Charlie: Remember the Supermoon Walkthrough Badby/Fawsley? You could camp up there. Then if something goes wrong or if it’s too cold then you are not far away from the car.

Julia: Deal! We can do the Cheshire walk another time.

My Husband Thinks I'm Mad!

That was yesterday! Today I finished the housework and approached my husband cautiously. “Do we have any plans tonight?” I asked. “Nope, why, do you?” He replied (he knows me so well). This was my opportunity to tell him that I was thinking of spending the night on a hill near some woods, in a tent, on my own. We have been married for nearly 20 years and he knows me well enough to know that if I’ve got something on my mind it’s best to let me get on with it. There is no point in arguing and pointing out the obvious. “You are mad, but as long as I know where you are that’s fine. I’ll see you tomorrow, be safe” he said. I kissed him goodbye and shouted up to my daughter Rachel saying “I’ll see you tomorrow”.

I'm on my way

So that was it. I was on my way. I parked at the entrance to Badby Woods and before I even left the car park I experienced my first problem. I got stuck in the kissing gate! I couldn’t move left or right. My backpack (Nellie) and I were wedged solid! I eventually broke free and fell backwards into the car park where I had just started from. I giggled to myself realising how incredibly ridiculous that must have looked. Why don’t they make kissing gates big enough for people wearing backpacks?  If I can’t go through it, then I needed to go over it (we are going on a bear hunt, springs to mind). I clamber over the gate and jump down the other side. And now I on my way.

Badby Woods was a little bit muddy, but I enjoyed the walk. I had my Nordic poles which helped me up the hills. I trundled my way happily through the woods and stopped to chat to a middle-aged couple who were walking their black Labrador. They enquired what I was training for and I just couldn’t find it in my heart to say “I’m not training, I just fancied sleeping in a tent tonight in the freezing cold”. What came out of my mouth was “I’m training for a trip across the Pyrenees”. This wasn’t a lie as I am going to the Pyrenees in May, but it certainly wasn’t really a training walk!

After just three miles I find a good place to camp for the night. It’s a bit windy so I’m tucked away behind a bush. Have you ever tried erecting a tent in the wind? It’s like fighting with a kite that has a mind of its own! But, I did it in the end and I was very proud of my work.

Now the tent was up it was time to convert it into a little home for the night. It was now 4 pm and I kept hearing loud shotguns going off that scared the life out of me. The sun is starting to go to bed and the sky is turning a mix of pinks and oranges. This is a beautiful spot.

Time to set up my little home

I unpack my Exped AirPad. This is super light and has a high “R” value of 4.9 (which means it is suitable for winter camping and extremely warm). It is full of duck down for insulation and comes with its own little built-in pump. I lay it out in my tent, fix the pump and start CPR on the airpad. It was inflated within a few mins and my little home is starting to come together nicely.

I went for a walk to explore the area before returning to my tent (I need to think of a name for my tent. 3F UL Gear is such a mouthful!).

I’m enjoying a cold Southern Comfort and lemonade from a can and listening to the birds outside. They are really loud! I have no idea what type of birds are and it’s too dark outside to take a video.

The wind has died down now and I feel completely relaxed. The shotgun noises have stopped and I’ve not seen a soul for the last few hours. The naughty feeling of “I’m camping in the wild and I shouldn’t really be here” has gone and I’m just at one with nature. Nature is noisy!

Time for dinner!

6 pm and time for some dinner.

Oh..  just heard an owl! 🦉!! How cool is that?

Focus Julia, and get that Jet Boil going!

I assemble my little cooking stove and pour the contents of the Heinz Chicken and Vegetable Big Soup into the pot. Cans are quite heavy to carry in a rucksack but I knew I wasn’t going far and it was just one night. Big Soup reminds me of my childhood and it's good comfort food. As the soup came to the boil, the aroma flooded my tent. Yum! I devoured the soup and soaked up the excess with the fresh Warburton’s roll.  With a full belly, I then realised that I had no way of washing up the pot. I didn’t bring a dishcloth so we had to improvise! I grabbed a clean pair of socks (yep, you know what’s coming), and splashed it with water to rinse out the pot. I always bring too many socks anyway! Now my coffee in the morning won’t taste if chicken soup (I hope!).

My next job was to tear open five of the hand warmers and place them strategically in my sleeping bag and my new down booties. Job done, now what shall I do?

Night night, sleep tight.  Don't let the bed bugs bite.

OMG! The owl is back and it sounds like it is right outside my tent.  I really want to go outside and shine my torch at it but I don’t want to scare it (actually, I think it’s more the other way around!).

By 9 pm I had fallen asleep and then by 10pm, I needed the loo. It’s very windy outside and my Nordic poles are starting to slip off their axis point on my tent. Decision made.. a quick wee, then a bit of tent Maintenence!

It’s now 00.43 and I’m wide awake. My phone has a full charge so decide to watch a film. I click Amazon Prime and the only film I have that is downloaded to my phone is Bill Bryson “A Walk in the woods”. This is a story about an elderly guy and a mate who decided to walk the Appalachian Trail as part of a midlife crisis. I saw the irony of the situation as I clicked play. I doubt I’ll get to see it all but it will be a good distraction for a while.

I eventually became accustomed to the noise of my tent flapping in the wind and drifted off to sleep.

6.30am - (late for me!).  I was woken by the sound of crows squawking above me. Who’s idea was it to camp under a tree? I’m wide awake so decide to make coffee before I venture outside.

A hot black coffee in my hand and I unzip the side door of my tent. I poked my head out and the scene that unfolded before me was spectacular! The sun was rising over the horizon and there was a low mist on the ground. I could see the historic building of Fawsley Manor in the distance and I just soaked it all in. Ten mins later I thought... I need to get this on film, so I nipped back to my tent to grab my Osmo Pocket.

It wasn’t cold, but I did feel a bit grubby. I’m not used to sleeping in my clothes. Is that something that you get used to when on a long hike?  In July I will be walking the South West Coastal Path, which includes wild camping most nights, so this is all good practice!

I sat on a log and just absorbed my surroundings for a good 20 mins or so whilst drinking my coffee.  I returned to my tent and started the process of packing it all away. Taking the tent down and packing it away didn't take long, but all the other little stuff took me ages!  40 mins later or so I was on my way back towards the woods.  A MacDonalds breakfast was calling.  Just before I turned into the woods I took one last look over the vista and the sun was just making an appearance.  Wow!

I had a hop in my step as I made my descent through the woods and eventually back to the car.

SUMMARY

I knew I would either love wild camping or hate it.  In my mind, I was worried about being too cold, but that wasn't really a problem.  The only thing that kept me awake was a noisy owl, the bright moonlight and the hash wind against my tent.  If I can enjoy this experience in the UK winter, then surely it will be amazing in the summer.   I need a few more experiences under my belt, but for now, wild camping is in my list of "fantastic experiences".

 

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