Friday, 11 July 2014

Microadventuring along the Ridgeway

After my sort-of-failed attempt at a solstice microadventure, I was keen to have another go before the summer was out. I had a couple of camping trips in the diary, plus a hiking weekend but nothing in a bivvy bag and certainly nothing that made the most of the "5-9". So it was with with huge enthusiasm that I accepted the invitation to join Anna McNuff on not one but two midweek microadventures as part of her mission to complete one in each of 7 counties in 7 weeks.

First up, Hertfordshire. Five of us met at Tring station, although none of us actually travelled by train. I arrived first, followed by Anna with two more intrepid explorers, Rachel and David, and finally Mark. The weather report had predicted fine weather so the initial meet-in-a-pub plan was swiftly altered to the picnic-on-the-hill plan. We set off each with a rucksack and a carrier bag of food, enough to feed us twice over, following the Ridgeway to the Ivanhoe Beacon. A picnic spot was found, beers were cracked and pimms decanted into a variety of mugs. We ooh'ed and aah'ed at the dense orange sunset.

Lit by Anna's Torch Of A Thousand Suns (TM) we headed back down the trail, dodging cows with teddy bear-like fur, to a patch of trees under which we found a clearing in which to bed down for the night. Nettles trampled and sleeping bags unfurled we settled down for the night. How much sleep we actually got is open to debate. I was intensely aware of the noise my sleeping bag made as I tossed and turned. The wildlife was vocal.
On solstice night I'd been put off sleeping out by the fear I'd be too cold. No such fear now. The night was remarkably warm and my sleeping bag so cosy I was comfortable in t-shirt and pants. And socks. I never said it was sexy. Fleece and baselayer were relegated to the rucksack in easy reach.

I admitted defeat and woke at around 5:30am to the sound of birdsong and the discovery that the sun was already up and shining brightly through the leaves of the tree we sheltered under. Anna and Rachel were already awake, Anna with an excited gleam in her eye. I watched insects dance in the light and deer bound through a field some way away. It was utterly glorious and I felt refreshed despite the hour and a night of broken sleep.
Ridgeway take 2
The next week it was back to the Ridgeway, this time Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire, somewhere I’d never heard of before. An initial group of about a dozen became just seven; Anna, repeat offender Mark, Charlotte, Katie, James and Paddy.
Picnic spot and adventure hat
Once again we met at the station but this time train ridiculousness meant I was the only one who drove. Showers threatened and I will confess to never having checked a weather report so often during a single day. We got some drizzle early on but it soon cleared to reveal some gorgeous views as we climbed approximately a thousand* steps up the Ridgeway. A clearing complete with log bench overlooking the town proved the perfect picnic spot and the sight of a charred patch of grass was all Paddy needed to dive off to find firewood. Twenty minutes later and with the aid of a jet boil we had a proper campfire fire going.
It was a much cooler evening that the week before but the fire warmed us all evening while we chatted and sang songs. We tried toasting Percy pigs and flapjacks, drank beers and coffee, and followed the crushing defeat of Brazil in the World Cup.
A better hashtag you'll never see #microadventure
At about 11pm and after far too many chocolate mini rolls, Anna led us to the camping spot she’d recced earlier, in the woods under the canopy of the trees. Despite the hour it was still possible to see the lightness of the sky through the leaves. The coffee coursing through my veins and the pitter-patter of rain drops being shaken from the leaves by the breeze gave the illusion that I didn’t sleep much but at 5:30 I was woken by Anna’s alarm. It took a bit longer for me to emerge from the cocoon of my sleeping bag to a misty morning. A stumble down the Ridgeway and along the back of the semi’s led us back into civilisation. The gentle roar of the A roads grew louder and all too soon I was once again in the office, showered, changed and with a Waitrose for coffee in front of me, too excited to concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing.
Packing up our camping spot the morning after the night before.
Beats staying in with a pizza and a DVD any night of the week.


*I may be exaggerating somewhat

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