Microadventure: Box Hill Awesome Campout

Encouraged by all the super feedback that I got from the pre-christmas microadventure at Coombe Hill I had to do more. An Awesome January Campout just had to happen. I made a Facebook event and advertised it on the “Project Awesome’ and ‘Yes Tribe’ groups and waited to see the response. Well blow me if the numbers weren’t fairly amazing, and to be very honest, a bit scary. At one point I had 73 ‘interested’ and 35 ‘Going’ for a bivvy out in WINTER! [Note: The reality of what folk mean by ‘interested’ and ‘going’ on Facebook would make an interesting study].

Awesome January campout

The meet-up on this one was a bit more chaotic than I would have hoped. I met some folk at Waterloo, others were joining us at Box Hill station and yet more were going to join us on the hill. I was able to lead the main group from the station and then up the steep and muddy path until we got to the clearing behind the Solomon Memorial. It was a cold (5C) night but beautifully clear with superb views of the stars and moon. How cool!

Box hill campout

With a few late arrivals we ultimately had 27 campers out which is incredible for January. I know I’m a nutter, but this many crazies in one place is surely not good? What I mean is that it was amazing to meet such a brilliant bunch of adventurers. With this many folks, there were quite a few groups talking and more than one stove used to mull some wine. I did my best to stay up and talk but I’m not a late nighter and retreated to my bivvy fairly early on.

Box Hill awesome campout

Despite it being actually warmer than last week, I felt colder and didn’t sleep as well. It was more than worth it though to see a shooting star in the night and to experience the most amazing dawn.

Box hill

Box Hill awesome campout

I’ve only seen a couple of cloud inversions so to get one here in Surrey seems quite special. We didn’t wait too long before packing up (never takes too long when bivving) and headed down the hill in search of breakfast.

Box Hill awesome campout

Fortyfied with egg, bacon or sausage baps it was time to head off back to our homes. A good number were straight off to the Adventure Travel Show in Olympia, literally smelling of ‘adventure’. What more authentic way to go.

A terrific microadventure and the first of many ‘Awesome Campouts’ this year!

#16in16 Awesome Campouts

As another year comes around, what challenges am I going to set myself this time? It needs to be difficult, yet achievable. Additionally I’m inspired by Adam Sultan’s ‘Life Years‘ idea of 16 things in 2016 (he ran 15 marathons in 2015).

Marathons are clearly SO last year (I even did one myself) so it had to be something else – my new passion for camping out, sans tent, microadventure style. Sixteen of them in twelve months. #16in16 if you will.

On a bit of a whim before Christmas I put the word out for people to join me on a pre-Christmas campout at Coombe Hill near Wendover and was amazed that 15 people joined me. Enthused by this and all the people that asked if I was doing any more I sort of undertook to do one a month into 2016.

My super-talented wife Deborah even did this wonderful graphic to use on the Facebook event page. Lucky me!

Sketch 2015-12-13 22_14_03

I’m not sure if I’ll manage to organise group campouts every month this year, but I’ll certainly arrange a few for the first half of 2016. It is especially lovely if I’m helping some people go on their first outing.

So all I have to do is one microadventure a month plus four ‘bonus’ campouts. Seems pretty doable, especially in summer when the weather is likely to be enticing. Stealing away for a night on my holidays is also something I have pencilled in.

It is tempting to try and keep the ‘awesome campouts’ simple (simple is really good) but I have a few ideas that might help theme them or make them stand out a bit. I’m going to be asking for ideas and i’m sure there will be a few more but here is a start.

  • Mid-week campout – the classic 5-9 microadventure – go somewhere awesome but close to a station after work, get back to the desk by 9am the next day
  • Bushcraft theme – light a fire, make a beer can stove, learn some essential knots, build a shelter, basics of navigation and map-reading (and more?)
  • Cliff-top bivvy – Thinking beachy head (seven sisters)
  • Cycle bivvy – I particularly fancy a cycle to Ditchling Beacon, get to the top and campout there (go into brighton the next day).
  • Storytelling – Ask a professional storyteller along to give us an amazing atmospheric story on a suitable hilltop or in a wood. Small charge (£5 each) for the storyteller.
  • Swim Bivvy – find a spot near some relatively safe water and all have a dip before bed.
  • Beach Bivvy – Sleeping on a beach (preferably a remote one) is on my tick list

Sounds like a lot of fun!

Microadventure: Box Hill Recce

I’m due to be organising a group campout in a week’s time in an area that I only have a little familiarity so a recce camp seemed like a good idea. An even better reason might be that snow was due and it’s a definite tick list item to say that i’ve camped out and woken up to a white blanket of snow.

Box hill Microadventure. Before the snow!

My day was pretty busy with various things but luckily it doesn’t take long to put my microadventure bag together and I was out the door in good time. It is an hour’s drive to Box Hill for me and I arrived at around 2030.

It was pitch dark, chilly and with a few flakes of snow falling so with a tiny bit of trepidation I set off. Overcoming the fear gets a bit easier each time I do a solo trip so I only had to give myself a little bit of a talking to. The walk starts immediately with a bit of a stiff old climb and I’m glad that i’d intentionally only worn a couple of layers.

View from box hill

I did a fair bit of wandering around, trying to get a handle on where a good campout spot might be both for myself right now and the group next week. Not that easy in the dark with just my headtorch! I eventually settled in a wooded area near the highest point at the base of a tree.

Box hill Microadventure. Before the snow!

On settling down, there were still only a few odd flakes of snow so I decided not to bother with a shelter. Sadly no stars to watch. During the night, however, the snow fell onto my face, giving me a bit of a tickle (which kept waking me up). I don’t have mega expensive uber gear but I was happy to wear my coat and stuff my spare down jacket by my feet. I wasn’t quite toasty, but neither was I ever really that cold. All-in-all a relief given that it was a zero degree night. I heard a couple of animal calls and the odd car but mostly it was fairly quiet.

There is nothing quite like waking up covered in snow!

My alarm went off at 6.45 which I thought should be early daylight but it still seemed very dark. What I was slow to realise was the complete blanket of snow. I got up and packed my (pretty wet) gear, put on my spare down jacket over everything else and set off. I’d originally planned to do some more wandering in daylight but with the continued snowfall I was happy just to head back to the car.

Wonderful night for a campout! #snow

The winter wonderland that I found on my way back down was fantastic and magical and everything I’d hoped for. I’ve now bivvyed out in snow! What beautiful madness.

Annual Report 2015

Since 2009 I have been keeping a record of certain things in my life. Here is a roundup of 2015.

Over the last few years I’ve been increasing the amount of fitness activities that I do. To get logged it must involve a change of clothes/footwear. I tend to log minutes of activity rather than distance as it is a lot easier.

  • Running (in a year I did the marathon) – 3251 mins or 54.2 hours (2014 – 1130 mins)
  • Swimming – 175 mins or 2.9 hours (2014 – 0 mins)
  • Circuit training (BMF and Project Awesome) – 4565 mins or 76 hours (2014 – 6050 mins)
  • Cycling (mostly off-road) – 385 mins or 6.4 hours (2014 – 105 mins)
  • Kayaking – 160 mins or 2.6 hours (2014 – 0 mins)
  • Walking (hills/mountains) – 2800 mins or 46.6 hours (2014 – 900 mins)

321.6 hours of exercise! Not bad eh?

Given that I love films and going to the movies I have seen a paltry eight films this year. Exercise and TV at home have muscled their way in!

‘Inside Out’ was easily my favourite, not least because I was crying like a baby from the warm up short ‘Lava’ and blubbing and hugging my daughter by the end of the main feature. I also found Jurassic World quite a guilty pleasure.

Movies at home
I saw 69 movies in the comfort of my own home this year, down marginally from 71 last year. The pick of the bunch from new films that I saw was probably The Raid 2 on Netflix. Absolutely jaw-dropping fight scenes.

TV shows
I watched what looks like a lot of telly this year, something like 289 hours of it! This looks like a massive number but it does boil down to only 5.6 hours a week which isn’t even an hour a day. This encompasses over 50 series (seasons) of various lengths.

The highlight was re-watching the entire five series of Breaking Bad (still one of the finest things ever on telly). This was closely followed by series 3 of House of Cards which has managed to keep up the exceptionally high standards of the first two. I also have a big soft spot for the legal drama ‘Suits’, now in series 3.

On the low point I started watching ‘Sons of Anarchy’ but it wasn’t grabbing me and I found the gender politics pretty irredeemable.

I managed to finish 20 books this year which seems to be about my average. The theme seems to have been that I’ve re-read a number of books in 2015 including all the Hornblower series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and one of my favourite books ‘The Right Stuff’ by Tom Wolfe.

Of the new books, reading ‘Fatal Passage’ by Ken McCoogan on my arctic explorer hero Dr John Rae is the highlight. I’m sure i’ll be re-reading this at some time.

View (and comment) on the 2015 Annual Report spreadsheet for the full details.