It was a simple enough idea; pack a bivvy bag, warm fleece and a toothbrush, meet friends in a Dales pub then camp out nearby. What could be more liberating than packing light and camping out underneath the stars? But like most things it wasn’t that simple. We took weeks finding a suitable date for a group of us to meet, then on the date we’d finally picked the weather forecasters were giving out for heavy rain. With childcare plans falling through and the likelihood of sleeping under a downpour some of us were having second thoughts. In the week before the microadventure it was on, then off, then, after persuading ourselves that it’s not an adventure unless there is some sort of challenge, we committed to do it, and taking the kids too.
So out went packing light and in came the a checklist of sleeping bags, sleeping mats, spare clothes and all the gubbins that goes with going anywhere with children, plus bags full of food and cooking stuff as we weren’t going to be able to eat in the pub. After faffing about trying to get kit together, a drive up there in drizzling rain, then traipsing across a field laden down with bags on every arm I wondered what had happened to the dream of a spontaneous adventure, and was it all worth it for one night outdoors?
Leaving the pub an hour or so later, the clouds had cleared and the low evening sun was casting a golden light on the dale, highlighting the contrasts in the limestone landscape. Whether it was the unexpected sunshine, the glorious Yorkshire Dales or the beer, our spirits were lifted. We were camping on a spot on my sister’s farm where we often go as a family to picnic and swim, but I’d never stayed overnight there, nor slept out without a tent so perhaps more than our first two outings, this classed as the real thing in our Year of Microadventures.
The great thing about camping with fellow forest school practitioners is that everyone knows what to do outdoors. Wood was gathered, the fire was lit and tea was cooking in a matter of minutes, leaving us to the relaxing business of listening to the birds, toasting haloumi and marshmallows and chatting away about this and that whilst the kids ran around and swung from the trees. Before long it was time for bed and, after tucking the children up in their cosy tent, I put on several more layers of clothes, unrolled my bivvy bag and wriggled about trying to get my well padded body and a hot water bottle into a sleeping bag, causing much giggling all round, then lay down on the ground to sleep. The feeling of being part of that landscape, rather than sealed off from it, was unreal. The gentle sounds of the night and the vast dome of stars above was like a soothing lullaby and I drifted off to sleep in no time.
They were the same night time sounds and twinkling stars I experienced at 3am, when I woke up freezing, and again at 4am and 5am. By this time I could see the welcome light of dawn and lay there anticipating the sun coming over the hill to melt the ground frost that coated our bivvy bags. I rekindled the fire and sat by the river drinking a cup of hot chocolate and feeling the warmth slowly creep back into me.
So this adventure had involved more organising, more children and more kit than I had planned for, I got limited sleep and was frozen to the bone. Was it worth it? Absolutely. In a short space of time we had left our familiar surroundings, cooked and slept under the stars, had a laugh, made new friends and felt close up with the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Not your average Saturday night out. It may not have been a month surviving on deserted island, (but whose got time for those sort of adventures, Bear Grylls?), but it was an achievable adventure in its own right, which has attracted admiration and ridicule in equal measure, and it left us buzzing.
We can’t wait to go again and I am looking forward to a weekend of canoeing and wild camping in Norfolk next month – I’ve just to break it to the kids that they’re not coming (woo hoo!)