Woodland Wild Camp: January 2017

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Barney Rubble

Sep 16, 2013
Rochester, Kent
Hi all,

I've just posted a new trip report on my blog (link below), I thought I’d post the write up here, but please feel free to click onto the link to see the photos (there's no advertising or marketing rubbish on my blog!)

It typically begins about two or three weeks prior to my camping trip. I dwell on what I want to take camping, what to eat, what shelter option, what’s the weather forecast, do I have enough room for a couple of beers! I scribble down a kit list (I like lists) and before I know it the time has come and I need to get the backpack loaded up and ready to go. Sad though it sounds, that’s one of the weird things I like about wild camping, I’ll probably have packed and re-packed the rucksack several times before I head out.

Cometh the hour, cometh the stupid bloke with a fully laden backpack…..and there I am at 6am on Saturday morning walking up into my local woodland, my first camp of 2017. It was the first time that I’ve needed a torch to walk in to the campsite. What a pleasure it was though, there’s a certain eeriness to a woodland at night, the Owls were still hooting, Foxes making their strange shrieking noises and, even though I know the woods like the back of my hand, darkness made it a bit more of a challenge to navigate off the beaten track.

It was forecast to be a fairly dry and mild winters day, so when my camp buddy and I arrived at our spot we didn’t rush to set-up camp. It was nice to simply stop, take in the surroundings and consider our options. I was however thirsty and looking forward to a cup of tea, the first job therefore was to gather wood and get a fire going. It wasn’t the easiest of tasks when it’s still dark but we gathered enough wood, mostly dead-standing, to get things going and get the kettle on.

It didn’t take long for the sun to break cover and shroud the woodland in glorious sunlight. The local wildlife was, as ever, quite active. The night shift; represented by the Owls and Foxes tucked themselves into bed and handed over to the day shift. Robins, Blackbirds and Woodpeckers started calling out, saying hello and making it all too clear whose patch it was!

With the fire going and a cup of tea brewed, my attention switched to bacon. Using some hazel, I opted to set-up a rack alongside the fire from which I could hang the bacon and let it cook slowly. I also built a tripod so that I could hang my billy can over the fire.

While I was doing this, my camp mate, Des was busy gathering wood to build a raised bed. He first of all constructed a platform and then overlayed it with small sticks and leaf litter to provide insulation. When complete, I have to admit that it was pretty comfortable and was left somewhat envious of Des’ bushcrafting prowess (a dip of the cap to you sir!!).

I opted to sleep in my hammock and got my shelter sorted out later in the morning. It took a little while for me to get into hammocking but I have to admit that it’s always a pleasure. When compared with bivvying, the hammock kit seems to take a bit more room in my rucksack and weigh a little more, but the pay-off is that you enjoy a very comfortable nights sleep.

As the day progressed, we were joined by more friends, we kept the fire ticking over, ensured there was enough wood for the evening and we relaxed. I had a go at whittling an Owl pendant. It’s not the best of carvings but it’s almost recognisable as an owl, more practice is need!

Dusk soon approached and I headed out of the woods to a nearby field and enjoyed watching the sunset. I had also hoped to see some Owls out hunting over the grassland, but no such luck. There was however a Buzzard circling high in the sky no doubt scanning the ground for prey. It never ceases to amaze me how good their eye-sight must be to enable them to fly so high yet see the smallest of critters running around on the ground.

Some people can be put off from camping in the colder months, but, provding you’re suitably equipped with the appropriate knowledge, kit and enthusiasm. Then there really is no reason why you can’t enjoy an equally comfortable night outdoors. The fire is perhaps the one feature which embodies your winter camp, more so than at any other time in the year. It keeps you warm, it cooks your dinner and it’s the centre piece of your evening entertainment. I’ve spent many an hour staring into the golden glow of the fire talking rubbish with my camp mates.

The skies cleared in the evening and presented us with a wonderful sky full of stars glistening through the tree canopy. I couldn't help but walk back out to the field for a better look. I could have stared at the starry sky for ages, but for the chill of the cold air which soon beckoned me back to the warmth of the fire. I also wanted another cup of tea!

Happily, the night wasn't too cold for this time of year, I came prepared with warm clothing and sleeping gear to ensure a comfortable sleep. A nip of brandy also helps keep the chill at bay (or so they say!).

Another downside of hammock camping is the performance of getting ready to go to bed. I call it the hammock dance, you have to get into the sleeping bag standing up, get into the hammock and then wriggle about until you find the sweet spot and are comfortable. I did the hammock dance, found my sweet spot, drifted off to sleep and was rudely awoken 30 mins later by the sound of my snoring and the unwelcome urge to go for another wee!!

I still maintain though that the hammock makes for an amazing nights sleep. I awoke the next morning well rested and all I had to do was reach to my trangia stove on the ground, light it up and put the kettle on so I can enjoy some breakfast from the hammock.

As always, when wild camping, I packed up my gear and my rubbish ensuring that I left no trace and headed home contemplating my plans for the next adventure.

Thanks for reading.

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