Travelling in ultra lightweight style (we only carried four cricket stumps instead of the full compliment of six) Emma and I marched along the coast path, over the dunes and onto the vast sands of our beautiful coast for a perfect Wild Night Out 2019, until the high-pitched whining started…Read More
I am guilty of writing about how wonderful my experiences are in nature. whether climbing a mountain or camping by my local river, time spent in the outdoors fuels me for the rest of my daily life, it is intrinsic to my mental and physical wellbeing. However, it is also fair to say that, although I may consider myself hardened to some of the discomforts I don’t always prefer them to the comforts of home.
A couple of weeks ago I went out for a 20km circular walk in my “local” hills, the Chilterns, with the intention of spending a peaceful night out on a hill, watching the stars and replenishing my mind and body as I often do.Read More
How do you tackle the tricky subject of telling your children that wild camping is (Largely) illegal even though you are doing it and encouraging them to do it?
“Can you keep it down a bit please? We can’t make as much noise as we want.”
“No, we have to wait a bit before pitching the tent.”
“Sorry, we can’t invite all your friends.”
“No, we can’t light a campfire this time.”
These are all things I have said to my seven year old and all have solicited the all too familiar reply of “Why?"Read More
Last weekend I went out to the North Norfolk coast again, this time with Emma (with whom I had not been camping since the Snake Bite Adventure) and with a couple of friends of ours.
This microadventure gave Emma the chance to truly sleep under the stars for the first time. Last time we were out she was in the tent with her friend whilst I slept outside and having seen me just lying under a sleeping bag in the grass she absolutely loved the idea of doing away with the tent.Read More
What an exciting weekend! Saturday was the last day of 30 Days Wild and also Wild Night Out so we (Myself, Emma, her friend and her friend’s Dad) embarked on a wonderful micro adventure that ended up with a trip to A&E and a course of antibiotics...
We headed out around 5pm on Saturday. The idea was to have a paddle in the packraft, a splash in the river, a little barbecue and camp out in the wild.
It all went swimmingly. It has been a rich seam of good weather of late and we tapped into it - the girls really enjoying the cooling waters of the river and the generous warmth of the late afternoon sun to dry off as we lit the barbecue and opened a can of beer.
After eating we dragged our gear, using the packraft as a kind of pulk, to a secluded spot where we figured we could set up camp undisturbed. It was around 9 pm when we threw down our mats, and threw up the tent. The air was cool, but not cold. A heron flew overhead and we could hear its wings beat. It was as quiet as can be expected with a 6 and a 7 year old negotiating for more marsh mallows but it was idyllic to be outside, free of the usual digital distractions to which our children can be easily subjected.
Then... I stood on a snake.
Then, whilst wandering around the longer, uncut grass near the tent, it seems I stood on a snake. I felt a sharp pain and jerked my leg up. Two little holes on my ankle oozed a drop of blood. I wiped it off.
I thought I had seen the back end of a grass snake disappear but I was carrying my unpacked sleeping bag and I honestly didn’t really believe this could happen in Cambirdgeshire.
I thought no more of it and before long we were all lying down - children in the tent and grown-ups out under the stars. It was stinging and I joked with everyone that I had been bitten by a snake, but I didn’t really believe it myself. As I tried to rationalise it internally I wondered had my eyes deceived me? What else could it have been? There were no brambles or plants nearby. Nothing but grass.
The dark flick of a snake tail remained in my mind. Surely I hadn't actually been bitten by a snake? These things don't happen in the Cambridgeshire! But the summer sun was setting, shadows lengthening and my mind wandered.
I remembered encountering vipere (adders) when I was a child, in Italy. I was almost always with an adult as I recall and in any case I had been drilled as to what to do: cause vibration from a distance, remain still if it is close to you, don’t touch it or poke it, don’t step over it, even if it blocks your path.
They were beautiful creatures, occasionally quite large, with dark diamonds down their length. Fascinating to a child, because of their danger as well as their beauty.
But that was rural Italy. Most people in England have never seen a snake in the wild.
The next morning I lay in the silence of nature, next to my daughter. The early morning sun warmed our faces and she smiled silently at me - the smile of someone who has (for once) slept well in a tent. This incidentally is quite possibly a major turning point as getting a decent night’s sleep has been tricky for her in a tent, but more of that another time.
The bite marks were weeping and walking was painful.
I had forgotten about my snake encounter, until I moved my ankle and felt some pain. The marks were red but there was no swelling. It wasn’t until we had packed and started walking back to the car that it started to stiffen and the pain started rising.
By the time I had got home it was aching and slightly swollen. It was at this point that I began to accept what had happened. It abated after a rest in the afternoon but by the evening, having worked a few hours in the garden, it was throbbing, and sore.
My wife convinced me to go to A&E where they didn’t feel the infection was visible enough to prescribe antibiotics. By the next morning I knew I needed something more than a painkiller. I was confident there was no venom (even if it had been an adder I ought to have reacted by now, unless it was a dry bite) but my ankle was red and tender and although the swelling was still minimal, the bite marks were weeping and walking was painful.
I have never got an appointment so quickly in all my life. Perhaps it was from curiosity, rather than any real sense of urgency, but I must thank my local surgery for seeing me immediately and prescribing antibiotics instantly.
As I have mentioned before my wife has an irrational fear of snakes, so this is a particularly bizarre thing to happen in our household, especially only a week after Emma and I were looking at snakes in the local nature reserve. Four days have passed now and the antibiotics have kicked in and, whilst Emma and I have found it all to be a bit of an adventure, the chances of her mother ever spending a night out with us in the wild has receded further.
At least it's something to tell the grandchildren. Of course I may dress the story up by then...
Last week I talked to Sarah Outen and spent three days on a little adventure in the wild, so we will be back again with a guest post next week. Enjoy!
Adventure is a word which is used very much these days to describe outdoor activities that, to those who have always done them, are simply what they are; hiking, camping or canoeing, for example. They need no greater moniker to attribute some magical quality to them...Read More
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).Read More
I am nearing the end of a 12 day trip in which I have ignored my usual routines, including fresh air and exercise.
Then again it is half term so these things are allowed. As a family, we have decamped to the city of Belgrade, to work, to see friends and family, and on a personal note to have some therapy on my knee in the hope of running again.
In this maelstrom of activity; the catching up, the meetings, the blur of lights, the restaurants, lunch time beers and late nights, I have also largely ignored this blog. I plead forgiveness from myself for neglecting that which often keeps me happy and healthy.
But a change is as good as a rest and this week I found out I have been shortlisted for the Go Outdoors Best Outdoor Blog, as voted by Go Outdoors Customers. I am delighted just to think that someone might enjoy and be inspired by reading my blog.
...if I thought my blog inspired even just a handful of people...
I have recently been doing some crowdsourcing, listening to the reasons why people don’t go out camping in the wild (article to follow soon) and most “excuses" tend to be around comfort or children.
Over the last 12 months I have re-acquainted myself with wild places. I have also taken my 5/6 year old daughter out wild camping in summer and autumn, paddling on rivers and on short walks in the mountains. This is not because either of us is super human. Emma is a girl who never showed any propensity towards these things. She is no natural sportswoman, she has no particular love of discomfort, she has only recently started distancing herself from an unequivocal love of pink things.
Like all children, however, she is curious. And curiosity is like a fire, the flames must be fanned..
I sense that many people want to try things like camping in the wild - there are after all more and more communities springing up on Facebook aimed at emboldening the meek to go out and enjoy a simpler, more adventurous life, even if just for one night under the stars.
Getting outside and existing in a slightly more analog way is not difficult, does not have to be particularly uncomfortable and it is possible with children. I would be delighted to win this Go Outdoors Best Blog Award, but if I thought that my blog had inspired even just a handful of people to get outside or to introduce the simplicity, beauty and health of nature to their kin it would surpass any award or prize.
Check out the others for inspiration
Here, just for good measure, are links to the other nominees, all of whom, I am sure, are not blogging for awards (although they are nice) but for the joy, excitement and wellbeing that the outdoors offers them, their friends and family.
There is nothing as liberating as not caring if your knees are dirty and it is a form a freedom which is so easily attainable for young an old.
At home I wash my hands and I prepare food with a huge array of clean utensils on various chopping boards. We have devices for all sorts of things; to crush and shave and squeeze and slice, to crack, to grind, to store, to core, for peel or rind.
In the wild I use one fork for everything. I drop it in the earth, sand or grass and I pick it up. I may dab a bit of water on it (if I am not rationing it) but as often as not I end up with some crunchy grains in my food. If I light a fire my hands are sooty as are the sausages. I put things down in the grass, I blow dirt off the bread, I eat with my hands and lick my filthy fingers, I share a spoon and I re-use my cup. I wipe my hands on my dirty top.
In the latter scenario I don’t complain. In fact my 6 year old doesn’t complain that her morning hot chocolate tastes a little of last night's baked beans. She doesn’t complain that she has to wee in the grass or that her shoe is filled with sand.
There is nothing as liberating as not caring if your knees are dirty. It is a taste of freedom.
This weekend I took my daughter out for another microadventure; her second wild camp. On Friday we jumped in the car straight after school and headed up to Lincolnshire to see my parents and then hooked up with Dan for a night on the wild east coast.
Here is what happened:
With thanks to our Adventure Mentor, Dan, for his research.
Now 30 Days Wild is here so what better occasion to go out in the hope of seeing some nocturnal wildlife and how better to introduce my daughter to wild camping?
We set off around 18:45, dodging the buzzing dragon flies.
Once 'we' had got over the "stinky cow parsley", the debilitating nettle stings and the immeasurable distance we had to travel to reach our camp spot, I explained to Emma that these sorts of battles against the odds are the very essence of adventure and would make the experience all the more satisfying.Read More
There is something about being outdoors that makes any meal special. Wind-combed grasses, birdsong and - yesterday at least - the warmth of the evening sun all help to deflect from the limited nature of "wild cooking".
Just like the microadventure we had on Day 4 of 30 Days Wild last night's trip had minimal planning, beyond cobbling together a few ingredients... from the fridge and the store cupboard and ensuring the beers were cooled. Now read the recipe and watch the video...Read More