We woke up on Sunday morning to find a few inches of snow covering Huntingdon. It had been forecast and it delivered.
It's the first time Emma has seen the white stuff in the UK so we went for a walk, had a snowball fight and then came back to build a snow-hermaphrodite in the garden. I thought it was a snowman but Emma corrected me, saying it was a woman, before correcting herself and confirming it was actually both. Anyway, we kept the physical decoration down to a carrot and some pebbles (on its face, before you ask).
It was all a huge amount of family fun, but something kept niggling at me. I yearned to spend more time outside in these rare conditions. It wasn’t enough to tramp around lobbing snowballs. When we were out I walked ahead a little and lay down in the snow, wrapped up warm, face close to ground. There is something friendly and tactile about snow, this and some deep-seated nostalgia for those who see it rarely, that makes one want to be in it. Deep powder requires sitting in. A snow drift needs a snow angel. It is not enough to observe snow. It must be experienced.
There is no better way to momentarily weave yourself into the fabric of nature than sleeping out. So I resolved to have a wild camp on our first (and probably last) night of snow in Cambridgeshire. As the day warmed a little it became evident I wasn’t going to be pitching in deep snow, but with a bit of luck I thought it might cool and we might get another dusting before morning.
"immersion in a dark and inhospitable world, devoid of distractions"
So I headed out around 9pm on Sunday and walked the 3.5km to my favourite wild camping spot. I limited myself to pitching the flysheet and using an old orange survival bag as a groundsheet. By 10:15pm I was all tucked up, phone in pocket, ready to drift off to sleep.
As a story this is somewhat anti-climactic. There is little more to say really. It was cold so I woke three times to answer the call of nature. It rained a little - my prayers for more snow were not answered.
But the experience; the immersion in a dark and inhospitable world, devoid of distractions, was the kind of microadventure that made the following morning’s coffee and toast all the more luxurious. A salutary break from the sophistication of our daily lives.
I use the word “inhospitable" quite happily because although it was the corner of a field, relatively close to home, it is by comparison that we judge such things. I remember an amazing experience, as a teenager, spending one night in deep snow camping under a pine tree... in the garden.
Like last night it was an existence briefly stripped back to the bare minimum in the quest for an “adventure”. You don’t have to go far to find it - it really is largely in the mind.