Let’s get this out of the way early on, shall we? Deep breath, here goes: TOWIE. Fake Tan. Wel Jel. Reem. Sa’lty Potaata. Motaa’s. Boob jobs. Innit. Dagenham. Romford… I think that’s the lot…oh no wait…. Shuuu Uuuuppp.
The marvellous thing about the richest county in England (true fact) is that it offers a little extra sumthin’ sumthin’ for the mid-week wild camper: A shoreline. And if there’s one thing I love more than a ruddy good hilltop, it’s a shoreline.
So at 7pm on a Wednesday evening, myself and three overexcited microadventure pups made a break for the coast. High-fives, hugs and an introduction to adventure newbie, Rich, preceded boarding the train. There we wedged ourselves between backpacks and commuters, faces pressed against glass, eager for that first glimpse of countryside.
London to Leigh
38 minutes later we rolled into Leigh-on-Sea. We made straight for the The Peterboat to fill our faces with cheesy chips, garlic bread, coffee and chilly dawgs, before retiring to a secluded spot thirty minutes walk away, just below Hadleigh castle.
“What was that noise?!” Said Laura. Looking left and right as if watching a game of tennis.
“That noise, just then… it sounded like a … I don’t know… a monkey.”
“Yeah, like a howler monkey”
“Ah yes, the Essex Howler monkeys. World famous…”
Nestled in bivvy bag, body angled ever so slightly down the hill, I had a clear 180 degree view of the surrounding land. The sun had just slid below the horizon, it’s long rays now replaced with a feint twinkle of street lights in the distance.
I shut my eyes and listened. Never before had I so acutely aware of how the sounds around me were changing. I fell asleep to the noise of a man-made orchestra: The rumble of planes overhead, a dull hum of traffic from the A13 not far behind, a train horn and the clackety-clack of its wheels on the track below. Night-time gave way to a virtual silence, only the rustle of leaves and whistles in the long grass to disturb our dreams. When the light of the moon faded and sunrise took hold, I was woken by a lone bird. Then another, and another until a full blown cacophony made it impossible to sleep any longer. Eventually, the first train thundered past, the hum of the A road returned and the planes took flight overhead. It was 6am. We’d come full circle, and it was time to get back to work.
A Surrey Double Whammy
Surrey, Surrey, so good we did it twice. I’m not entirely sure what happened last week. I can’t be sure – I think I got a little overexcited (most unusual). One minute I was arranging a modest one night bicycle-centric jaunt out to the hills, the next I had nine people keen to give Microadventuring a go, but on different nights of the week. What the heck, I thought. If people want to go Microadventurin’ then a-microadventurin’ we will go.
Surrey part uno saw a cameo from Microadventure rookie, chartered accountant, sensible soul and all round suburban gent, Jonty McNuff. We had a couple of drop outs who cited ‘technical issues’ so late in the evening on Tuesday, an elite team of three met at Richmond park. We were just about to start spinning wheels in the direction of the sunset when third member of the pedal party, Will, aka Supercycling Man, stopped us mid-depart:
“Hang, on… Hang on…” He said, rustling around in the depths of his pannier. Just as I began to wonder whether he was going to produce actual superpowers from within the bag, he found what he was looking for.
“Ah ha!” He shouted, holding two brightly coloured lengths of material aloft.
“Today was Superhero day at school. You two up for wearing capes?” And so we of course donned the capes, and accosted a passer by to take pictures.
“Where are you lot off to?” Said Dominic, the passer by.
” We’re going on a ‘hashtag microadventure'” Will beamed. Dominic stared blankly back.
The Caped Crusaders
We three caped crusaders set off through South Western suburbia and out into the quiet country lanes of Cobham and Ockham. Soft birdsong… the whirr of wheels… the beats of the nineties blasting from Will’s water-bottle-boom-box. Following an aperitif of a samosa and a Yazoo at a local Michelin starred restaurant called ‘Shell’, we headed to The Queens Head in East Clandon for the main course. Once thirsts were quenched and hungers satisfied, we pootled off up nearby Staple Lane – a hill that left Samantha Sambuca the single speed’s one gear creaking and groaning with every rotation. Sweaty, red faced, and doing my best to keep the not-long-since-eaten pasta down, we crested the hill and took a footpath across a field into a nearby wood.
Disturbing the peace
We’d spotted a neighbouring farm closeby, and so made a concerted effort to keep our voices down and twig cracking to a minimum as we set up camp. It didn’t do to get disturbed afterall…
My iPhone slashed it’s way through the silence. “Hello?..Oh. Hi Mum.” Unfortunately, in the hurry to escape for the night I’d left my phone in the pub. In the time it had taken me to cycle back down to retrieve it and return to camp, the pub had called ‘home’. Mum had dialled 1571 (who the frig dials 1571 anymore?!) and, as only mothers do, convinced herself that I’d been kidnapped.
When bedtime came I lay awake for a little longer than usual. I stared up at the ceiling of leaves, and discovered that I could un-focus my eyes just enough to make believe that the gaps of light in the canopy were hundreds of stars.
As night unfolded, Jonty was eaten alive by an array of flying insects. A slug (called Samuel) took up residence on Will’s hand, and I listened to several nearby badgers get down and dirty / have a fight – I couldn’t decide which. I hope it was the latter. Badger porn on a Tuesday night just isn’t cricket.
Morning brought the most spectacular sunrise over the hill just out of the woods. We de-camped to the open field to watch the world wake up from our throne of smugness. Hot chocolates in hand, croissants mid-dunk and with a cracking view all the way into town.
Three counties down
Surrey part 2 was equally as eventful, but those tales will have to wait. We’re now three counties out of seven down. Tonight a mix of strangers, newbies and friends are heading for a camp out Hertfordshire. I. Cannie. Wait.
Until next time Microadventure munchkins,
McNuff out xx