In praise of wild camping – Moominpappa

by martinxo on August 22, 2014

Moominpappa roamed far and wide before settling down with Moominmama in Moominvalley. His adventurous spirit never left him though and in the book ‘Moominpappa at Sea‘ he sets off on a quest to find a lighthouse in the sea.

He was happy and wide-awake, and his hat was pushed right back.  Higher up on the beach he had built a tent of the sails and the oars, looking like a big, squatting animal

Moominpappa at Sea
By Tove Jansson
Moominpappa and his tent

The Moomin series were characters in a wonderful series of children’s novels (great for adults as well!) written by Finnish author Tove Jansson.

I’m extremely pleased to add Moominpappa to my list of quotes in praise of wild camping.

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Wild Camp in Barking Fox wood – Hertfordshire

by martinxo on August 8, 2014

It was mid-July and so far I had enjoyed only one wild camp since the start of the year.

And then, unannounced, a completely free weekend turned up. The week prior to the camp I nervously watched cruel weather fronts move up, down, and across the south-east;  rain and cloud; seemingly a typical English summer, alas.

It didn’t look good for the weekend, and then suddenly, a break in the gloom, happy smiling suns on the weather website,  the camp was on.

I took the train south to a sleepy Hertfordshire village and twenty minutes later the wood, let’s call it Barking Fox wood, was there, all inviting on the horizon.

Path to Barking Fox wood

Path to Barking Fox wood

It was early evening as I approached the wood.

Pond near the wood

Pond near the wood

Sheep nibbled lazily at grass, ignoring me as I strode by.

Sheep in a field outside the wood

Sheep in a field outside the wood

As I entered the wood I started to feel the usual apprehension of a wild camper…did anyone see me go into the wood? Would they come for me when night fell?  Stupid thoughts, I banished them and whistled a merry tune instead.

Entrance to Barking Fox wood

Entrance to Barking Fox wood

I left the path and dove deep into the wood, heading for the edge furthest from the footpath.  I prefer to camp at the edge a of wood, where there is more light, a view other than just trees, and a greater sense of security.

Hammock pitch

Hammock pitch

I pitched-up just before the sun went down.

I had already eaten so hadn’t bothered with packing a cook-kit. Instead I snacked on bombay mix and chocolate, all washed down with generous swigs of Irish whiskey.

I sat back in the hammock listening to the roosting birds and light breeze curling through the trees. At 10pm, I undressed and slipped into my sleeping bag.  Ah! So good to be in a hammock again, no more hard surfaces, comfort! What luxury.

But of course, I hardly slept, my mind, well, part of my mind, refused to switch off.  I tried more whiskey, no good, ate a little cake, no good.  No sleep, pah!

I finally dropped off at about 3am and was woken at 4am by the barking fox, after whom I named the wood.

The fox mooched around a short distance from my camp, barking aimlessly for a good ten minutes or so and then stopped.  I manged to get back to sleep for a bit but not for as long as I would have liked.

Waking up in Barking Fox Wood

Waking up in Barking Fox Wood

Shortly before 7am I put a cuppa tea on and ate a muffin.  Despite the lack of sleep it felt great, wonderful, fantastic, to be in the woods again, it really can’t be beaten, as any wild camper will surely agree.

Morning tea

Morning tea

One tea led to another, of course…

Tea in the woods, hard to beat.

Tea in the woods, hard to beat.

Refreshed (kinda), I packed up, leaving no trace.

Leave no trace

Leave no trace

I thanked the wood for having me and made my way back to the sleepy Hertfordshire town where I hopped on the train back home.

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On the Nar Valley Way – a Norfolk river walk

July 6, 2014

This hike came from Laurence Mitchell‘s excellent “Walking in Norfolk  - 40 circular walks” book. I took the train up to King’s Lynn, hopped on a bus to Narborough and soon found myself on the Nar Valley Way.  The river Nar itself runs for 15 miles, winding its way through west Norfolk before joining up with the river Great […]

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On the Icknield Way – Royston to Great Chesterford

June 15, 2014

I walked this stage of the Icknield Way Path expedition at the end of May 2014. I arrived at Royston and picked up the Icknield Way east towards Great Chesterford, a hike of about twelve miles. Leaving Royston took me over the Greenwich Meridian, a good place to check that one’s compass is actually working (mine […]

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In praise of wild camping – Roger Deakin in Grovely Wood

May 7, 2014

Roger Deakin was an English writer and environmentalist, he died in 2006.  Deakin is probably best know for his book Waterlog in which he describes his adventures wild swimming in UK rivers and lakes. His last book, Wildwood, was published posthumously in 2007. In Wildwood, Deakin crosses the country  visiting woodland and talking to people working with, and […]

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On the Icknield Way – Baldock to Royston

April 27, 2014

I walked this stage of the Icknield Way Path expedition on Easter Monday 2014. I hopped on the train at Ely, changed at Cambridge where I had a rather tasty bacon roll and a cuppa tea.  Then jumped on the train south. I arrived in Baldock on a cool, misty morning.  The sign below greeted […]

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The Icknield Way Path

April 17, 2014

The  Icknield Way Path runs 110 miles from  Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, to  Knettishall Heath in Suffolk. Rather confusingly, the path is also a section of the longer Icknield Way that is made up of four paths, stretching from the north Norfolk coast to Wiltshire, more on all that another time. I had intended to walk the […]

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An early spring wild camp in Badger Wood – Hertfordshire

April 13, 2014

I had been looking forward to my first wild camp of the 2014. I had hoped for a camp in January and February, fantasising about waking up in a silent-morning wood with frost, or better still, snow on the ground.  But alas we were denied a winter and instead were given an angry, wet Autumn […]

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In praise of wild camping – John Muir in Bonaventure cemetery

March 22, 2014

Scottish-American John Muir (1838 – 1914) is credited as one of the first advocates of wilderness preservation in the United States.  He was a prolific walker and spent many, many nights sleeping out under the moon and stars. The following lines are taken from ‘A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf‘, an account of his hike from Indiana […]

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Five wintry walks in the French Pyrenees

March 15, 2014

Yes, it’s the annual family journey to the French Pyrenees for some skiing. I, however,  am not really a huge fan of hurtling down a mountain at 60mph, so for me it’s snowshoes and hiking. Walk 1 – ascent of the Serre de Moncamp We went up to Camurac our local, very unpretentious,  little ski […]

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