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book coverOn of my current favourite writers is the French traveller Sylvain Tesson.

So far, only one of Tesson’s books, ‘Consolations of the Forest‘, has been translated (by Linda Coverdale) into English. You can read an extract on the publisher’s website.

In the book Tesson describes the six months he spent on his own in a cabin on the shores of Lake Baikal in the middle of the Siberian taiga.

He philosphises, reads, drinks vodka, smokes cigars, hikes up mountains, skates on the frozen surface of the lake, visits Russian neighbors (a day’s hike or more away) and sits and watches the weather and the taiga.

Ah, sounds like a veritable heaven.

It is a wonderful read, so good I’ve read it twice already.

Since this is all we have of Tesson in English I’ve been using my (pretty poor) French to translate recent interviews and articles about the great man.

In one of the articles, from linternaute.com, Tesson is asked:

How do you like to travel? (‘Que préférez-vous dans les voyages ?’)

This is his answer in French:

Me retrouver seul, au soir tombant, avec un cigare et un livre de poésie, après une étape harassante, devant un coucher de lune, allongé dans mon hamac que j’aurais tendu entre les deux branches d’un bel arbre accueillant. Belle position pour méditer sur le bonheur d’être sur le chemin et sur l’immense beauté du monde.

And here is my (probably pretty dodgy) translation:

I find myself alone, at night, pitched, with a cigar and a book of poetry, after an exhausting stage, before a setting moon, stretched out in a hammock strung between two branches of a welcoming, pretty tree. A good position from which to meditate on the joy of being on a trail and on the immense beauty of the world.

So it is with great pleasure that I add Sylvain Tesson to my list of quotes in praise of wild camping.

Publishers, pull yer finger out and translate more of his books ASAP!

I found a video of Tesson’s Siberian adventure.  It’s all in French but don’t let that put you off, grab some vodka (and possibly a cigar) and prepare to feel very envious.

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On the Icknield Way – Great Chesterford to Linton

I walked this stage of the Icknield Way Path expedition at the start of September 2014.

This was a short stage, only four miles as the bird flies, seven miles for me as I meandered and committed minor trespass in some woods along the way.

I picked up trail at Great Chesterford, a pretty village on the border of Essex and Cambridgeshire.

Great Chesterford village sign

Great Chesterford village sign

The river Cam runs through the village…

The River Cam at Great Chesterford

The River Cam at Great Chesterford

…and looked gorgeous in the somewhat grey and misty autumn morning.

The RIver Cam at Great Chesterford

The RIver Cam at Great Chesterford

Leaving the village I passed a mile-marker.

Mileage post near Great Chesterford

Mileage post near Great Chesterford

It felt great to be back out walking again, with the sound of birds chirping and a light breeze on my face. I sang some songs and whistled a tune, life felt good.

On the Icknield Way

On the Icknield Way

I feasted on blackberries, one of the highlights of hiking in the later summer/early autumn.  Free, tasty and nutritious, what else do you want?

Blackberries

Blackberries

And suddenly the walk was almost over. My destination, Linton, barely half a mile from this green arch where I sat down and ate my lunch.

Green archway near Linton

Green archway near Linton

I arrived at Linton considering a pint but saw the bus back home pulling in at the bus stop, so I jumped on board.  A short, but very enjoyable hike, on the Icknield Way.

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In praise of wild camping – Moominpappa

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

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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