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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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

UK adventure festivals

It’s that time of year again. The days are long, the nights are warm, those of you with hay fever look like something from the Zombie apocalypse and (if a city dweller) your face is forced frequently into the armpit of a sweaty, topless man on the tube. Yes folks – it’s summer! And that means there are even less excuses to be cooped up inside. Especially when there’s whole host of places to unleash your inner adventure-beast over the summer, and beyond. 

Here’s a run-down of some of the UK’s best outdoor and adventure festivals for your diary. You’re welcome. You can hug me later. Continue reading

To scoot or not to scoot, that is the question.

Here goes an experiment. Because it strikes me that all-too-often we only get to hear about adventure plans when they are unveiled / announced / launched / released, and above all… final. The reasons for that are valid – you don’t want to look like a prize banana after all – shooting your mouth off and then not doing what you said you would. But it always seems a shame that the journey to the start line of an adventure should appear so effortless.

And so this time, I’d like to roll a little differently. To share with you the jagged and jumbled mess of musings that unfold before things are set in stone. Because, like anything else in life it ain’t plain sailing. Plans are made, dashed, changed, turned upside down, and dashed again before finally, hopefully settling at something that definitely (possibly) maybe floats the adventure boat. Here’s the story so far… 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

Beyond My Back Gate

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Gandalf the Grey wasn’t messing when he laid down those words to our man Frodo at the shire. Sometimes there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. And I’m here to officially declare that’s half the fun. Or I hope to goodness it is.

Phase I – Europe calling

Travel and adventure can be a tricky business. Planning leads to procrastination, procrastination to wavers in confidence, to delayed plans and life contorting itself into a sticky spiders web of reasons why we shouldn’t just pack up and go. Before you know it, it’s ten years down the line and you’re still saying ‘I’ve always wanted to… [insert fabulous location]’. I too am guilty of such a heinous crime. The victim? Europe. 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

 

 

The Roman Run: 86 miles along Hadrian’s Wall

I often forget just how beautiful Britain is, and I’d wager I’m not the only one. It took me spending 7 months of last year in another country to appreciate how truly unique my own is. So when I returned to the Green Green grass of home in January, I was determined – to explore more of my own back yard and to get to know Britain a little better. Having sourced and settled on a suitable challenge for Easter, I dropped adventure compadre, Lydia, a note:

Empress Lydia, making her way across the Bowness-On-Solway marshes

Empress Lydia, making her way across the Bowness-On-Solway marshes

“Lyds! Awesome idea. Easter time … Fancy running the length of Hadrian’s wall? Dressed as Romans. Camping on the way. Bacon on the stove. History a -go-go. 86 miles. 3 or 4 days. Keen?”

The appeal of the Wall wasn’t just the rumoured landscape spectaculars. Nor was it that the ever-wonderful National Trust had laid down a route so well signposted, that even we could follow it. More than that, it came down to what we could learn along the way. And in turn, what we could pass on about the History of Britain to some kiddywinks around the globe, via the marvellous Skype Classroom.

A GOOD START

Preparation was, shall we say, inconvenient. I paired a 3 week bout of tonsillitis, with a sprained back muscle

and when I spoke to Lydia 2 days before the off, she casually dropped in “Oh yeah, I mean, I tore my calf 6 weeks ago and haven’t run on it since, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.” P*ss poor preparation leads to… perfect performance, right?

But as G.K Chesterton says: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” With that in mind this was set to be one rather large … adventure.

Northumberland National Park

Looking out across Cawfields Crags, Northumberland National Park

THE TRAIL ITSELF

As far as trails go, Hadrian’s Wall is a ripper. Standing at Cawfields Crags in the middle of Northumberland National Park on day three, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer British-ness of it all. At this particular point, the landscape appears as if you’re stood atop a sleeping prehistoric beast – it’s plump green body, centrally divided by a grey stone spine, rising, falling and twisting into the horizon. It took every fibre of my being not to launch into a lung-busting rendition of ‘England’s Green an pleasant land’.

What I love most about the middle 30 miles of trail, is that it frees up your imagination. It wasn’t too far a stretch to envisage how things might have been for Hadrian and his men, almost 2,000 years ago. But for a far off wind farm and the odd throng of tourists, the immediate landscape is largely unspoilt. I’m always a fan of anywhere in the world you can feel that way, and the fact that I could find it in my beloved Blighty, well, that was a bonus.

THE HISTORY OF HADRIAN

Lydia, on patrol, checking out Hadrian's handiwork

Lydia, on patrol, checking out Hadrian’s handiwork

Hadrian was a ‘complex’ character. Forceful, confident and unequivocally ambitious his greatest achievement was to realise that efforts to expand an Empire already creaking at the seams would likely end in disaster. Instead, he developed a fascination for it’s borders, and set about consolidating what he already owned. Over the course of his rule, he instructed eight walls to be built around the Empire. Yet none were as ambitious in their undertaking as the stone Limes Britannicus – erected to protect those South of it’s borders from the ‘Barbarian’s’ of the North (It’s cool, I can say that, I’m part Scottish and proud Barbarian after all).

It took 30,000 men 10 years to complete the Wall. Three metres wide in many places, twenty feet high and with a huge ditch on the South side, it was a feat even modern day engineers would be proud of.

Hadrian was nothing if not thorough with his defence methods, and as a result, remembering the names of the many forts, turrets and mile castles along the wall can be a challenge. But if your Latin isn’t up to much, fear not. Join Lydia and I in… making it up. There was the world famous Bald-Bird fort (Birdoswald), Vic’s Vapo Rub (Vercovicium), Saggy-doo-doo (Segundunum), and my personal favourite : Vindaloo (a two bird one stone kind of name, appropriate when referring to either the ruins of Vindolanda, or Vindobala).

Life is always (always) better with a cape. At mile 61 on the trail.

Life is always (always) better with a cape. At mile 61 on the trail.

FANCY DRESS

On day one, running in fancy dress felt like a rather like we were indulging in an elaborate walk of shame. The sun not long up, the streets quiet, and two lone scantily clad ladies tip toeing along the tarmac. But soon we became quite comfortable in our new Roman skins. We found it to be a talking point. It encouraged passers by to say hello, caused to kiddies to squeal in delight (or run away) and, at worst, it made 95% of those we encountered crack a smile (the remaining 5% clearly had deep seated emotional issues). Now, if that’s not good for the human race, I don’t know what is.

Our Roman research found that costumes, invite comment. And after a few hours, the comments begin to repeat – providing ample opportunity to develop a series of well honed responses:

  • Civilian: “Lovely Day for it” | Roman: “Isn’t it just”
  • Civilian: “Why are you dressed like that?” | Roman: “When in Rome…”
  • Civilian: “You’re about 2,000 years too late” | Roman: “We missed the Facebook invite”
  • Civilian: “Are you running it in a day?” | Roman: “Rome, my friend, wasn’t built in a day”
  • Civilian: “Hail Caesar” | Roman: “Errr, I’m pretty sure that was Hilter…” (usually muttered)

THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGE

I’ll not lie to you all, the four days spent pounding the wall weren’t a walk in the park. But with our ‘inconvenient’ preparation, it was never going to be. At the end of day one, I was marginally concerned when both trapezius muscles froze entirely for 20 minutes, preventing me from moving my arms anywhere beyond

One very tired Roman Soldier at the end of day 3

One very tired Roman Soldier at the end of day 3

their rested position. And when a short stroll to the toilet resulted in my right leg being stuck in the ninety degree position, the prospects for day two were a little frightening. But lo and behold, and just as I’d hoped, the body worked it out. Things got easier. The muscles let up, and they began to function… just as they should. Bodies, I will always maintain, are capable of more than we give them credit for.

In the end our greatest dramas were blister related. By day two I had one so large on my left toe that it needed its own post code. I settled for naming it Bobby instead and we began running a ‘when will Bobby burst’ sweepstake (photos of Bobby available on request, withheld from here in case anyone wants to eat, ever again). Then of course there was Antonia – the heel blister (loosely named after Hadrian’s Greecian male love interest Antinous). Antonia was moody at the best of times, but especially vocal on day three.

But frozen muscles and blisters are no match for the sheer joy of an adventure. I was a pig in poop. Outdoors for 8 hours every day, learning new things, making new friends, going beyond what I thought I was capable of and filling my lungs with fresh air (albeit often tinged with cow pat).

The ‘History of Hadrian’s Wall’ will be up as a lesson on Skype Classroom by the end of next week. If any teachers, Friends of teachers, or parents have a group of kidling’s keen to learn about one of England’s greatest landmark’s, via an adventurous twist – just say hello.

Until next time adventure fans, adieu.

Check out the full gallery of pics below, and a local news article on the Roman Run here

Sunday at the Seaside: Wild swimming in March?

“Fancy planning a day trip to the seaside for a swim?”

It was early March when new adventure chum Emily dropped me a message. I won’t detail the ins and outs of my response, but it included an obscene amount of exclamation marks, the words ‘oh my gosh’ in quick succession and an overzealous use of the caps lock function. Needless to say the thought of a coastal swim left me (and my shiny new wetsuit) rather excited.

I’d only known this girl for 3 months. In fact, we’d met just once – on a London to Bristol cycle organised by Challenge Sophie. But anyone who agrees to leave East London at 5am and ride 135 miles to Brizzle with a group of strangers, is my sort of person.

Emily explained that she was part of a group of open water swimmers, called the ‘Excellent Women’s Swimming Society‘ (I sh*t you not), and did I fancy joining them for a trip down to Camber Sands? Let me think about that for a mome… YES.

The Excellent Women

Kristen, Alison and Emily - 3 most excellent women

Kirsten, Alison and Emily – 3 most excellent women

At 7am on a Sunday morning, I peeled back my eyelids. I hit the snooze button and stared at the ceiling. ‘Why oh why, in the name of all that is holy – do I agree to these things?’ I swung my legs onto the floor, made it downstairs, threw some coffee in the general direction of my face and set off on Samantha Sambuca the single speed – bound for St Pancras. Wetsuit in bag. Fig bars at the ready (gawd knows I love a fig bar), and feeling more than a tad excited about the prospect of a Sunday sea-frolick.

Already feeling mildly adventurous after an hours ride, I met Em and two other excellent women at the platform. All of them looking rather bohemian chic, in a combination of knits, jeans, and hoodies. I, rather embarrassingly, wearing lycra (I cant help it. I have problems).  We crammed the bikes onto the train, and, united by our various levels of insanity – got down to some serious chit chat.

In a bizarre twist, Emily then identified the train inspector as someone who had coached her in swimming when she was eight. Apparently neither had aged much over the past two decades, as he recognised her immediately too (I can only assume both parties indulge in frequent Oil of O’Lay application). The reunion was beautiful. A moment that should have occurred entirely in slow motion, perhaps accompanied by a rendition of Take That’s ‘Never Forget’, playing softly in the distance. How apt, I thought, that this train inspector had planted the very seed for Emily’s adventure that day.

Crusin' through the fields to Camber

Crusin’ through the fields to Camber

Sunday at the Seaside

After the train pulled into Rye, we swiftly set off along the coastal path to Camber sands. Across bright yellow fields, through heavy gates, round a car park (scenic addition), past sheep, ponies and… more sheep. Thirty minutes later the beach loomed into view, and we mentally readied ourselves for a deserted expanse of coastline. We were crazy after all, nay wild – escaping the confines of the indoors so early in spring. Of course… the beach was packed. Kids running around half naked, sand castles mid-construction and games of paddle bat being fiercely contested at the waters edge. Clearly these ‘coast dwellers’ had missed the memo from London town about it being little chilly.

Searching for a swim spot

Searching for a swim spot

Pride dented, we headed down the beach in search of the perfect spot for a swim. For the first time in 2014, we wrestled gleefully into wetsuits. Giggling like school children, lunging and readjusting mid-struggle to make sure Camber didn’t get more than it’d bargained for. The official report cited at least 3 side-boob escape attempts, but thankfully, none were successful.

Numb faces and Blue toes

The swim itself was glorious. I’ll admit that the eight degree water took a bit of getting used to, but (apparently) peeing in your wetsuit shortly after entering the sea takes the edge off. For the first few minutes I struggled to keep my face submerged for more than ten strokes. I thought of adventurer Sean Conway, and then of Davina’s sport relief challenge – and how on Earth they’d coped in such cold temperatures for extended periods of time.

Alison more than excited about the impending dip

Alison more than excited about the impending dip

Finally my face went too numb to feel anything at all – a splendid development that left me free to swim normally. We ploughed up and down for a good 40 minutes. Stopping for chats every now and then, and to bask in the joy of it all. Eventually when our hands became too wrinkled and our toes the wrong shade of Blue, we made our way back to shore.

Backtracking along the coastal path we headed straight to the pub. Hydration was followed closely by a search for ice-cream based protein, as we wandered the quaint cobbled streets of Rye for a final hour. At 5.30pm it was time to return to the big smoke. We dragged ourselves reluctantly to the train station, nudging our way back toward reality. Another return ride from St Pancras to Teddington at the other end, and I was home by 8pm.

The return to Rye

The return to Rye

That night, I clambered into bed exhausted, but grinning from ear to ear. The taste of salt water in my mouth, my hair infused with sand and feeling ever so slightly like I was still swaying.

How much I’d done with a Sunday – made new friends, indulged in a love of the seaside, of swimming, and learnt about a part of Britain I never had before. I was filled with a deep and renewed admiration for a country I’d lived in my whole life.

In adventuring, it’s true that you get what you give. Put in a little effort – go exploring, mix up your weekend, and the rewards are tenfold.