In praise of wild camping : Stephen Graham by a river

Stephen Graham’s ‘The Gentle Art of Tramping’ (1927) is a little gem of a book that celebrates the life lived outdoors, roaming free, wild and without a care.

“Tramping”, Graham tell us, is;

“first of all a rebellion against housekeeping and daily and monthly accounts.  You may escape from the spending mania…in tramping you are not earning a living, but earning a happiness”.

This is much the way I think about wild camping.  It’s one of the few activities left that hasn’t been occupied by consumerism and the constant demand to spend and buy.  Sure, you might need to purchase some kit and stuff but the actual doing of wild camping is absolutely free.

In the book, and the reason for this post, Graham describes the joy of a wild camp by the river:

“There is a strange and wonderful vigilance about the river which rolls past us where we sleep in the grass, murmuring and calling the whole night long, something of the vigilance of the starry sky. You sleep, but an eternal sleepness sentry paces by all the while.”

I’ve only wild camped once by a river and it was a slow-moving East Anglian (the Wissey) one which hardly made a sound, the occasional squabbling of ducks  was all I could hear.  But I know what Graham means, I could most certainly feel the presence of the river.

Sunset on the River Lark, Cambridgeshire

Sunset on the River Lark, Cambridgeshire

This is the second appearance of Stephen Graham in my ‘In Praise of Wild Camping‘ list, you can see his other at Stephen Graham in Russia.

On the Icknield Way – Dullingham to Kennet

I hiked this stage of the Icknield Way in November 2014.

I was joined on the walk by Smithy the Cairn Terrier.  We caught the early train to Cambridge and from there hopped on the train to Dullingham.

Smithy on the train to Dullingham

Smithy on the train to Dullingham

We arrived at Dullingham station for 8am. It was rather misty but it’s such a joy to be out walking at this time, I’m always happiest hiking early in the morning, the earlier the better.

We quickly found the path and began heading north in the direction of Moulton, in Suffolk where we’d be stopping for lunch.

Icknield Way signpost

Icknield Way signpost

This was Smithy’s second hike of over ten miles.  He spent most of the time at full stretch on the lead, pulling me along.  He’d stop every now and again and give me a quizzical look, as if he were expecting to be led back home by now.  He couldn’t believe his luck, non-stop walkies and Scooby-snacks galore, dog heaven!

Smithy on the way

“C’mon, what’s keeping you?”

We arrived at Moulton for lunch.

Lunch at Moulton

Lunch at Moulton

Moulton is a lovely ancient village that pre-dates the 1086 Domesday book and was the star attraction of the walk.

Smithy at St Peter's Church, Moulton

Smithy at St Peter’s Church, Moulton

Saint Peter’s church looked stunning in the autumn afternoon and we lingered for a while in the churchyard.

St Peter's church

St Peter’s church

But all to soon Smithy caught the scent of a pheasant/rabbit/squirrel and was tugging me along the Way again.

We both began to tire on the second half of the hike.  The fields felt muddier, the wind had picked up, my boots were leaking and rain was threatening.

We were glad to arrive at Kennett station and catch the train back to Cambridge, where I had a cuppa tea and Smithy ate a Scooby snack.

A tired dog at Cambridge station

A tired dog at Cambridge station

We arrived home tired but happy. Smithy hit the sofa and didn’t leave it until the following morning.  15 miles on his little legs, a tired but happy dog.

Oh, and the Icknield Way? A joy.

In praise of wild camping : Mary Edith Durham in Albania

Albanian man (1813)

Albanian man (1813)

Mary Edith Durham ( 1863-1944) was a British traveller  and author who spent 20 years exploring the Balkans during the early part of the 20th century.

The main body of her work, and her lifelong passion, was focused on Albania, about which she wrote a series of books.

She is still highly thought of in Albania. In 2004, Albanian President Alfred Moisiu described her as:

“one of the most distinguished personalities of the Albanian world during the last century”

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