You’re Mad You Are

I know that when people say this, that it is tongue in cheek, lighthearted. They say this when they hear that I’ve slept outside at night, somewhere remote and beautiful, either alone or with other “mad” people. Not everybody says it..some say “I’d love to do that” or even “I’ll come with you one day”. A few friends have, many more haven’t found the time yet..

But yes, madness, insanity, nutter are words often used. Along with “why???!!”

I say why NOT? ( I began using this term when my kids were little and constantly asked why and my mouth got bored with explaining)

Why NOT? Why wouldn’t you decide to go explore, take a walk, pack a sleeping bag and bivvy, and sleep somewhere different. Different sights, different sounds, being somewhere when other people are not.

I can imagine most of the responses. Uncomfortable. Frightening. Boring. Tiring.

I would say that all of these things can be overcome with the right gear and an open mind. Microadventures has become a thing. Check the web. Alastair Humphries coined the term and encouraged the development of many facebook groups covering all parts of the world. I joined my local group and have met others that have also discovered the joys of living a little closer to the edges ( but really, still very far from the edge!). I have noticed that many members have profile pictures showing them wearing a medal, climbing a mountain, sailing, kayaking, cycling. It occurs to me that those who are naturally active and fit are perhaps more easily persuaded to go wild camp, sleep on a hill, have a microadventure.

I’m not very young or very fit. I’m mid forties, often tired, often stressed, two teenage children, one needing extra care. I have arthritis. I don’t cycle or walk miles and miles. But I still go and sleep out, I still take myself closer to the edges. It is a way of getting away, a chance to hear my thoughts and most of all, a chance to experience the world in a completely different way.

This is heightened when I wild camp alone. I love to go with others, I tend to feel no nervousness or fear then, and the company is good. However, when with others, there is naturally more chatter and more can be missed.

I would say, if you ever tempted to go sleep out and if you are a bit like me, prone to aches and pains, sleep lightly..then do a little research on good but lightweight microadventure/wild camping kit and get the best bivvy, sleeping bag, backpack you can afford. That way you increase your chances of enjoying it because you won’t be wet or cold or aching. If you get crap stuff, chances are you won’t sleep a wink and won’t ever do it again. If you get good stuff and don’t want to do it again, well….the resale value of good stuff is excellent..
It is an investment, but almost certainly less than what many people will spend on a smartphone or a holiday. And this gear gives you many small holidays.

Last night, I wild camped alone. In a wood. I’ve never camped in a wood alone. I feel more nervous in woods. I blame the scary stories and films. From Little Red Riding Hood to Evil Dead, woods don’t have a great press, particularly at night. Also rain was forecast, but I had waterproofs. The weather was unremarkable. No amazing sunset or sunrise, but an opportunity to notice the detail and beauty in the ordinary. I walked from Sheringham up onto the cliff coastal path, across the fields, about 3 miles to some woods. On the way, I had a very close encounter with a muntjac deer that seemed at first oblivious to my presence as I stood so still. I was taking a short video of the area when he/she came into view.

I was a bit scared sometimes in the woods. It took me a long time to find a spot where I felt hidden. I knew I was safe, but that didn’t stop bits of my brain suggesting I wasn’t. So much to hear, so many sounds that we have to make sense of. Or not. There comes a point when you realise that you can’t know what every noise is, neither do you need to. Bivvy bag helps me see immediately that there nothing to be concerned about. A tent would leave me wondering, but too scared to unzip the door. Just as I drifted off, a muntjac began barking loudly. It startled me, but as soon as I realised what it was, I reached for my phone and recorded the sound. There was rain in the night, but I stayed dry and warm.

I was awake by 5.30 and making a coffee. The rain had cleared and I felt proud of myself! I never sleep as well as I do at home, yet I always feel more awake in the morning.

The walk back turned out to be 5/6 miles as I got lost coming out of the woods. But a clear dry warm morning. I was wearing ridiculously unsuitable shoes. Crocs. They were the most comfortable things ever to walk in when dry, but a little slippy on the wet ground. On the last leg, as the cliff lowered onto a section of isolated beach, I decided to go for a quick swim. Nobody in sight, the beach was my own. The water made me gasp but cooled me down and gave me a further lift for the last steep ( for Norfolk) climb up to the town.

I don’t really mind being called mad. But madness, to me, is covering yourself in jam and hugging a wasps nest. That would make me raise one eyebrow (if I could) and ask a concerned “why?”. My life has consisted of doing many many stupid clumsy things. This is not on that list..

I took a selection of photographs and video shorts, capturing some of the sounds and sights, no commentary or music…you’ll need sound up if you want to hear the muntjac bark at night though!