Friday night I went camping and it was fantastic!
This may seem like an odd thing to be excited about, everyone’s been camping and most have horror stories about dodgy facilities and leaky tents, but this truly was a worthwhile experience.
On Twitter a couple of months back a friend of mine tweeted me about a #microadventure and I thought it looked like a great idea… With one snag; it’s the middle of winter in the UK with rubbish weather and we had no idea where to go. Finally, we checked on the weather, chose a location near to us, looked it up on the trusty OS map and figured out where we were going.
When we arrived at the car park around 8pm in the dark we discovered a few other cars there… It soon turned out we’d stumbled across a popular spot with the locals (details like that aren’t often found in the tour guides!) so we thought we’d better get on our way as quickly as possible.
This again was easier said than done; living in a shared house means I have some stuff with me and some stuff at home, like a sensibly sized camping chair. I borrowed a friend's one and tied it onto my rucksack but it was huge (very comfy in use but I had not considered the practical element of it). Even with a head torch on, I found myself sliding in the mud from being over balanced and snagging tree branches over turnstiles; it’s good comedy value apparently but I soon regretted not wearing gaiters!
When we were walking to our camping spot though, we knew that the typically British trait of weather watching had paid off – crystal clear skies and only a crescent moon which was due to set by 11pm. Perfect nighttime photography and stargazing conditions.
I have to be honest before heading out to the middle of the countryside, I'd had visions of the Milky Way traipsing across the sky. Whilst I could make it out, it was nothing like some of the photos that you see from our dark sky parks further north. It’s such a shame that the faint orange glow of our metropolises is never far away. Having said that though… I’m so glad that the countryside escape, with full constellations (even if not full galaxy), isn’t too far afield either!
It was so spectacular and quiet; it’s great to find these natural, wild places in Britain. After sitting out to eat dinner (soup and sarnies) and watch the stars (some shooting by even!) the cold eventually became a bit too much and we had to retreat to the warmth of the tent and our sleeping bags.
We had to get up early but it was reassuring to see other photographers out and about before sunrise. Packing was quick and relatively painless (the cold does not allow for nimble hands) but you’d never have known we were there after we’d left. The only error made on my part was assuming that I could trust a memory made in the dark of the route we took and not checking the map. A lesson not soon to be forgotten after carrying that rucksack!
It's so good to try something new (if a little mad, as I've been told) like camping out in the middle of winter just to get some good night sky shots but on the walk back to the car, it was great to meet other walkers enjoying the crisp morning; we even had a chat with some of them. It’s these types of things that make getting out and about so worthwhile - all the little experiences of the adventure that make the whole experience so good!