10 Tips to Help You Feel Safe and at Ease When Wild Camping

Greetings Adventure Fans, here’s the third in a series of ‘how to’ blog posts, designed to equip you with all the knowledge you need to get out wild camping. You can catch up on the other posts in the series here.

On todays hit list – the legalities of wild camping, and tips on feeling safe and at ease when you’re having a slumber party with nature.

Today’s post is co-written by Chief Adventure Queen, Emma Frampton, otherwise known as ‘Framps’.


WHOOP WHOOP (IS THAT THE SOUND OF THE PO-LICE?)

If we’re going to be totally honest (my mum always told me to tell the truth)… wild camping is ‘technically’ illegal in most of the the UK. It becomes legal when you ask the ‘land owners’ permission (whether the land owner is the government or it’s privately owned), you choose to wild camp in Scotland (totally legal and awesome), or in certain parts of Dartmoor.

That said, it’s not like we’re running around robbing banks (all whacked up on Scooby snacks) here. So there are ways to go about wild camping that will keeps things on the down-low, and make you feel a little bit more comfortable about it all.

The number of people sleeping Wild in the UK has grown massively over the past few years. The way I see it, so long as we operate on a ‘leave no trace’ policy – we’re doing no harm out there.

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5 STEPS TO FINDING A WILD CAMP SPOT

Sometimes the hardest thing in getting out there adventurin’ is not knowing quite where to begin. In a recent Adventure Queens survey we found that the second biggest thing from stopping people going wild camping, is not knowing how to find a good spot for a wild night out. So below are the five steps that I go through myself before heading out there.

ONE: THINGS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU START

No one likes too much choice – choice can be debilitating. We don’t want finding a wild camp spot to end up like a trip to the milk aisle in the supermarket (do I want almond, soya, skimmed, goats, semi-skimmed….. COCONUT?)

So here are a list of questions to ask yourself before even starting the search for a spot – they’ll help you home in on what’s going to make it is great night out on the forest-tiles. Continue reading

The 5 Things You Need To Go Wild Camping

This is the first in a series of ‘how to’ posts on wild camping. This summer, I’m ramping up the vibe with the Adventure Queens – encouraging as many women in the UK and abroad to get out wild camping. That’s not to say this post isn’t for you boys too however.

If you’d like to register for updates on all things Adventure Queens, you can do that here.

We’ve sat down at Adventure Queen HQ, eaten copious packets biscuits, drunk many cups of coffee and pulled together a recommended kit list based on favourites that have been tried and tested, as well as advice from other adventurers.

When it comes to outdoors kit, we definitely agree with what your mum says:  ‘you get what you pay for’ and the good old ‘buy cheap, by twice’. That said, you don’t want to be splashing all your hard earned spondoolies on something you’re not sure you enjoy yet. So we’ve giving options for ‘just giving it a bash’ and ‘keen for the long haul’ below. Don’t forget that borrowing is an option too – borrowing is very 2017 dahhlings.  Continue reading

Wild camping: your questions answered

The two words ‘wild camping’ can strike fear into the heart of even the most willing adventurer. Where do I go? What do I take? Is it even legal?? To help answer these questions, women’s outdoor brand Lily Wild recently organised a wild camping Q&A evening. On a panel made up of me and fellow wild camp keen beans Laura Kennington and Helen Proudfoot, Lily Wild founder Adelaide Goodeve guided the audience through a series of burning questions pitched in by the general public, and later gave them the opportunity to ask some of their own. Although the event was aimed at and attended mostly by women, all of the questions are applicable to both genders.

Below is a full account of the chitter chatter on the night. You can read the whole shebang through from start to finish (recommended), or just click on which question(s) interest you in the list below. You’ll then be whisked down the page as if atop a magic wild camping carpet, to the relevant section. Continue reading

Meet the Adventure Queens

I’m staring at a picture of a girl on her first bicycle tour. Her wayward hair is kept only slightly in check by a helmet perched awkwardly on her head. Her arms, now sun-kissed after a few months on the road lead down to legs muscles, now slightly tighter than they once were. As she moves to pose for the photo, her jersey shifts to reveal a small white area on her upper arms that the sun has yet to reach.

She is brimming with enthusiasm. She has dreams that seem too big for her head. She has no clue what’s she’s doing and a bundle of fears to face up to on a daily basis. She isn’t quite sure where to start, but start she has. And by goodness she’s happy that she did. 

FROM ROOKIE TO REALITY

The UK adventure community is a wonderfully supportive place. I’ll never forget the first email I sent to Dave Cornthwaite announcing that I wanted to head off on a 50 state cycle, but I had no idea where to start. I was scared of wild camping (which I had never done) and terrified I would buy all the wrong things. His reply was swift, funny and reassuring. As was Alastair Humphrey’s the first time I reached out to him. Continue reading

Adventures around London

The Essex Coastline

Aye me, it’s been quite a summer. Now 15 weeks in fact, since a a handful of adventurous chumlings and I set out to sleep wild in each and every county surrounding London. Even though we’ve managed to get a whopping 76 Londonites away from their desks and out to the hills (in the middle of the week no less), I’m feeling a little greedy. And it’s high-time I shared the love.

So here’s a few tips on how to go about creating a little adventure to escape the big smoke.

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The London Series: Essex and Surrey

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.

London to Leigh-On-Sea in 38 minutes

London to Leigh-On-Sea in 38 minutes

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.
“What noise?”
“That noise, just then… it sounded like a … I don’t know… a monkey.”
“A monkey?”
“Yeah, like a howler monkey”
“Ah yes, the Essex Howler monkeys. World famous…”

Rich gets very excited about popping his microadventure cherry

Rich gets very excited about popping his microadventure cherry

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.

4am in the morning - our Hadleigh hilltop heaven

4am in the morning – our Hadleigh hilltop heaven

 

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.

Part 1

The Caped Crusaders

The Caped Crusaders

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…

“BRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG”

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.

Will on his throne of smugness at sunrise

Will on his throne of smugness at sunrise

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

 

 

Microadventure: The London Series

“That street you live on, that street, it’s the road to Africa, to anywhere, to…adventure.”

I was sat in the Ellis Brigham Mountain store in Covent Garden, listening to Al Humphrey’s talk about the four years he’d spent cycling around the world.

But I wasn’t there to hear about big trips. About grand feats of endurance and continents conquered. No, no.  I, along with a room full of other adventure lovers, had come for tales far closer to home. Of ‘Local Discoveries for Great Escapes’ as goes the title of Al’s new book: Microadventures. The concept is simple: Leave work bang on time, grab a chum (or two), escape to the countryside, eat, laugh, indulge in a wee dram, sleep under the stars and be back at your desk the following morning. Perhaps with a feint whiff of eau du field about your person and a dirty little secret to boot, but grinning from ear to ear nonetheless.

I’ve been a quiet fan of the microadventure for some time. I popped my bivvy cherry last year, and

Greater London and it's surrounding counties

Greater London and it’s surrounding counties

know only too well the strange satisfaction that comes from sleeping in a sack outdoors. So on the way home from the talk I had (if I do say so myself) a rather good idea. For the next seven weeks I’d go on a mission to prove just how easy London Microadventur-er-ing is. I’d do one trip per week in each of the six counties that surround London: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey (Yes, I had to Google what those counties were, please don’t judge me). And I’d drag as many people as I could along for the ride. For the final week we’d all find a way to sleep out in Greater London itself.

Team Berkshire

As an ex-rower, Henley is like a second home. Which made it a perfect location for the first week of the challenge. That’s what adventure is about after all – seeing the world through fresh eyes. Visiting places you know like the back of your hand and being surprised at what you find there. Pathways once invisible, leading to woods until now, unseen.

The adventure assembly at Henley was true Avengers style. Will, aka Super Cycling Man, pedalled from London, stopping so many times to take photos that he almost missed dinner. Shropshire natives and married couple Laraine and Owain (yes I think it’s cute that their names rhyme too) screeched in by car – looking glamourous having come directly from the Stroke Association awards that afternoon. Mark the cameraman jetted in from Jersey, and the rest of us, well, the rest of us… got the train. How frightfully dull.

By the time the nine strong team were gathered in the beer garden at The Little Angel, bevvies in hand, we represented a neat little cross section of society. Health and safety, finance, performing arts, education, couriers and communications, all were there – ready to shirk responsibility, cast off the 9-5 and (as Al puts it) start living for the 5–9 instead.

After consuming an adequate mix of carbs and protein (burger = protein, bun = carbs), partaking in one of our five-a-day (Gerkin in burger), quaffing local ales and playing the shortest and most ill-equipped game of Jenga, we left the pub and set out on the Chiltern Way footpath. Guided by my trusty torch (which contains the fire of a thousand suns) I blinded teammates at intervals as we picked our way across fields, through gates and (much to Super Cycling Man’s despair) over stiles. Twenty minutes later we arrived at a clearing in the wood with just enough space for nine weary bodies to rest.

“I need to hang my bag in the tree” Announced the ever cautious Jo Pickard.
“Errr, okay – why?”
“It’s got my banana bread in it.”
“Ah okay, that makes sen…no, wait. Why does it need to go in the tree?”
“Because…. I don’t know…There might be bears, or something.”

After reassuring Lady Pickard that the only likely candidate for a banana bread predator was a

A forest camp fit for Kings and Queens

A forest camp fit for Kings and Queens

rogue badger, we unrolled mats, de-robed (some more than others…Tarran) and went for one last gawd-I-hope-it-lasts-til-morning pee. We burrowed deep into sleeping bags and snuggled up under a canopy of trees and fragmented moonlight.

When morning came, jetboils were fired up, a timely brew was… erm… brewed and slurped alongside a breakfast of banana bread and croissants, both of which had miraculously eluded the Henley bears. With bellies once again full, we gathered our gear and ambled out of the woods in the opposite direction.

“My word.” Mouthed Russell (not the wilderness explorer, but a close copy).

The dawn had lit up a Poppy field. Red dots spattered across an otherwise green horizon, merging into the early morning mist, lurking in the river valley below.

After recovering from the romance of it all, I and the adventure avengers did what any civilized Berkshire resident would at 6am: We cannonballed into the river in our pants (in the case of Super Cycling Man his pants were, naturally, on the outside of this clothing). We squealed, frolicked, swam and sang, before exiting the river and scurrying, still wet, to the train station. There we caught the 6.30am train – back to Paddington, and back to normal life.

The morning after the night before.

The morning after the night before.

Are we crazy?

Possibly, although I’ll argue otherwise. I confess I keep my nocturnal trips on the down low with colleagues in the office I don’t know so well. And still, at the risk of sounding old before my time, I find it bizarre that to roll in with a hangover is a more accepted norm. Bleary eyed, mascara smeared, sambuca seeping from pores, hoping with all your might that that dirty breakfast

The Poppy Fields at Henley - better than a hangover

The Poppy Fields at Henley – better than a hangover

sausage will calm the storm in your stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done that too. But now days, a microadventure is my night out. I get treated to what feels like a weekend in the middle of the working week and I don’t stop smiling for any of the following day. While the world sleeps, watches TV or stays late at their laptop, I get better acquainted with the small corners of my own beloved country. And the only people I have to share it with are those who appreciate it as much as I do.

Since writing this I’ve returned from microadventure number two in Essex, and am about to head for number three in Surrey. Those two are a tale for next time….

Until then adventure lovers, Adieu xx

If you’d like to see what Team Berkshire get up to when they’re not bear-dodging in the Henley woods, you can stalk them here:

Microadventure Selfie

Microadventure Selfie

 

Jo Pickard: @JoPickard

Will Hodson: @SuperCyclingMan

Mark Davies: @Davies16

Russ Smith: @HikeBikeRun

Emily Chappell: @EmilyChappell

Tarran Kent-Hume: @Tarran008

Laraine Wynne-Jones: @LaraineWynJones

Owain Wynne-Jones: @OwynJones