#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.

Microadventure – Cobham Wood Bivvy

A busy weekend ahead with lots planned it looked like there would be no time for adventure. That’s where the ‘microadventure’ comes into its own, something easy and local.

Darnley mausoleum

I had a think and remembered a nice walk that Deborah and myself had done earlier this year through Cobham Wood to the Darnley Mausoleum. I planned to go by car and decided to park one village over, Sole Street and cycle in.

In my last two adventures i’ve had other people around but this time I fancied going solo. After an invigorating 30 minute cycle (viewing a wonderful sunset) I got to the mausoleum and found a quiet spot behind a tree and out of view.

Cobham Wood microadventure

Cobham wood micro adventure - sleeping out beneath the stars

My timing was near perfect in that I arrived when there was just enough time to get settled before the sun slowly disappeared. It really has surprised me though, quite how long the sun takes to set completely. Long after the met office ‘official’ sunset time of 1938 there was still plenty of light in the sky with lovely pink clouds. Also, much to my amazement and wonder I saw at least six bats (or possibly it was the same bat six times) and an enormous moth settled on my bag. You don’t get this at home watching the bake off!

Cobham Wood microadventure

Consistent with previous bivvy adventures, I’m really reluctant to actually go to sleep and I find myself resisting. I was very content to spend my evening seeing the stars emerge as well as the many planes flying over whilst listening to podcasts. I realise that having earphones in does mean that I miss some of the night noises but I enjoyed it none-the-less.

My sleeping spot had seemed perfect until I actually tried to sleep when I found the gentle slope I was on meant that I gradually slipped down and off my own sleeping mat. This and the early morning cold did mean that it wasn’t quite an uninterrupted night. It seems picky, but there was also the hum of the A2 just out of sight to remind me that civilization was still at hand.

It started to get noticeably light around 6am and as I was a bit chilly I decided not to hang about but to get up and make myself a hot drink and have a spot of brekkie. I was delighted to find that right next to the mausoleum were the resident (highland??) cows still sleeping or looking drowsy. None of them appeared to give me any notice.

Cobham Wood microadventure

As the sun properly came over the horizon in a wonderful, magical and uplifting sunrise I was already on my way cycling back to the car and then home. I even met an early rising mountain biker going the other way. This was a classic 6pm-8am (door-to-door) microadventure. I had missed a bit of telly but gained a brilliant experience of the outdoors – stars, bats, moths, cows, sunsets and sunrises. Ace.

Cobham Wood microadventure

Who’s up for the next one?