• Camping wild – my mini summer holiday

    22nd August 2016 | News | Claire
  • But my friend, Louise and our collective three children thought the idea of falling asleep in a particularly magical part of the moor was impossibly exciting! The trip to Millets, selecting the very basics my daughter and I would need, was inspiring.  How lovely it would be to cook in the wild as the sun went down.

    We planned the meals carefully. Simple lentil casserole in the evening, hot chocolate with marshmallows and squirty cream before bedtime and bacon and veggie sausages for breakfast. 

    We had to take two cars as we had so much stuff and I was a little nervous about how we would manage to carry all that stuff to the location from the car park. It was about a half hour walk. 

    But fortunately, our children have strong arms and backs so we loaded ourselves up and set off!

    To avoid looking entirely hopeless I had secretly practiced putting up my tent in my parents’ garden. It was all very easy and my daughter and her friend also made short work of erecting their tent.

    Unfortunately, Louise and her 14 year old son were really struggling with their very large tent. This was not, I should clarify, because they were camping novices, it was because their tent poles appeared to be from a different planet and were miles too long for the tent itself.

    Fortunately, Friend’s Daughter, who is a bit of an expert, came to the rescue and eventually, it was up!  This was all highly amusing and we were high spirits as we had our hot drinks before the next job…. Gathering firewood.  Friend’s Daughter had very sensibly brought her fire bucket (which ensures any fire is safely contained).

    We headed up the hill, where the gorse had been swailed (a practice I don’t approve of but it did provide us with useful firewood at least).  Snapping off burnt branches turned our hands black and Friend’s Son rubbed the soot all over his face, which made him resemble a stalking soldier.  I got black streaks all over my clothes but I didn’t mind (remarkable in itself).

    Louise, who remarked that she felt a bit like Anne in the Famous Five, had been boiling the little kettle over my camping stove for tea, which whistled sweetly once it was ready.

    We now had quite a good supply of branches and twigs for the fire but we still needed a firelighter to get it going. 

    It was getting dark now and I was really surprised to see a thick layer of dew all over our picnic blankets. The temperature dropped quickly but despite the growing twilight we were amazed to see a continual line of people stomping past us with their own tents and pitching across the river. Climbing the hill before it got completely dark the area around the river was peppered with about a dozen tents. Amazing considering we thought we would be the only ones!

    Suddenly, two people on horseback came cantering over, between them rounding up sheep, which skipped across the bridge and up the hill. Completely lovely. And obviously a very old practice.

    As the stars peeped out behind the clouds, still people were walking past and one couple asked if we were part of the group who were lighting beacons on the hills. We were intrigued. Apparently, a local group that evening were orchestrating a sychronised lighting up the arc of ancient stone monuments.  We stared at the hills in fascination as they each lit up.

    After dinner (lamenting the lack of cheese) and as I broke up the chocolate for the bedtime drink, Friend’s Daughter glimpsed a shooting star. We drank our hot chocolate sat as close to the fire as possible without getting burnt. It was getting chilly!

    Both Louise and I spotted the same shooting star and each made secret wishes. 

    It then got far too cold to be up so we retired to our respective tents. I wore all my clothes, including a top, two jumpers, a cardigan, trousers and a waterproof. I had assumed I would be toastily warm.  I also naively decided to keep my tent flap open, so I could gaze at the stars in a romantic fashion.

    After half an hour or so of shivering, the idea of romantic star gazing waned so I shut the outdoor one, not noticing that there was also an indoor one. The inside of my tent then became very damp.

    So despite wriggling inside my sleeping bag and drawing it closed, with just room for my nose to peek out so I didn’t suffocate, I was FREEZING.

    I emerged at about 5.30am to see an amazing sunrise, with a mist hanging low over the moorland. I went back to shiver in my sleeping bag. 

    I decided to get up properly at about 6.30am.  It was an idyllic summer morning. But I was still really cold so stomped off up the hill to get some more blackened firewood.

    After a few minutes of the fire going, my daughter emerged squintily. She smugly informed me she had slept all night. I couldn’t believe it!  Yet, all three younger ones confirmed they had slept really well. 

    Louise, on the other hand, had apparently been as freezing as me.

    We quickly got some breakfast going and used the remainder of the squirty cream on our hot drinks. I was slightly horrified to realise that Friend’s Daughter and I had between us consumed the entire can of squirty cream, which probably accounted for why I was feeling a bit nauseous.

    A walker then informed us that it had probably been about three degrees on the moor overnight! Louise and I suddenly felt less like camping lightweights and instead rather more like tough outdoorsy types.  We squared our shoulders.

    As the sun warmed us up the younger ones (excellent swimmers) went off in search of a suitable place to swim. I went with them and helpfully fell asleep on a large lump of granite.

    My verdict on wild camping? It was amazing and magical. I loved it and would definitely do it again in the right weather. But first I will buy a warmer sleeping bag, close the inside tent door … and most importantly of all, remember the cheese!