Wild Camping

You know about camping. It involves pitching up in the falling darkness, carrying your washbag to the nearby smelly toilet block, being kept awake by fellow campers, and trying to dry out your tent before you have to bed down for an uncomfortable night in it.

But have you heard of wild camping?

Wikipedia doesn’t bother to define it. It’s also technically illegal (though widely tolerated) in most of the UK, so I’m obviously not encouraging you…. If you do decide to defy the law, however, you might want to think about where and how to go about wild camping. Do you want to escape into nature for a few days and/or give your children a true adventure?

wildcamp

There are a few points to remember:

  1. You have to carry the tent and all your equipment. Wild campers often follow a route across the landscape they want to travel in and therefore have to cart all their stuff around between locations, which are often remote and difficult to traverse. You can buy ultra lightweight gear but it’s pricey, so be prepared to travel light and eat all your tinned food on the first night.
  2. Take a trowel. No toilet block means a rudimentary latrine. Dig this far enough from your tent and find an area with some privacy.
  3. Animals will wake you in the night. Strange rustling sounds of mammals attracted by the smell of your stove-cooked dinner of baked beans on toast will disturb your sleep; don’t be alarmed, and don’t leave any food outside for them. The creatively-minded might decide to set up some camera traps near the tents to capture video or photo of the animals that visit them in the night.
  4. Pitch somewhere protected from the wind. Camping with an unobstructed beach view sounds delightful but just remember that that sea wind has not been deadened by any trees or terrains yet so you will feel its full force. Oh, and don’t forget about the tide coming in!
  5. Don’t trespass. It’s not worth the risk – there are plenty of public footpaths across the country.
  6. No electricity means your smartphone will soon run out of charge and you can’t rely on Google maps when you’re lost. Brush up on your map and compass reading skills.
  7. Pay attention to the weather and don’t set off on a mountain hike in fog or poor conditions. You don’t want to be the idiot that has to be rescued because they climbed a mountain in a storm without proper equipment or food.

So if you want to “get back to nature” and have a proper experience of the stars without light pollution, camping without the annoying families, survival by your own skills and no reliance on phones, then wild camping might be for you. There are sanitized versions where you can camp on the edge of the wilderness in a managed site, or there are more adventurous versions that involve climbing a mountain or wandering deep into a forest and pitching up somewhere where no one can find you. Nature is great for your physical and mental health, the perfect antidote to hectic modern lifestyles, and it’s so much more memorable and interesting than lounging by a Spanish hotel pool.

 

 

 

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Little garden sink pond

Our little cottage garden is quite small so there’s not much we can do with it. It is mostly paved over with border beds, though they are thriving with greenery, and a large apple tree and several rose bushes. It’s very pretty but it would benefit from a water feature.

So we bought an old Belfast sink through Gumtree, took a bank holiday trip to the local garden centre and bought a variety of pond plants and gravel. First attempt the water was very red and cloudy (from the pre-washed gravel – washed in clay??) so it needed a re fill and now it’s really quite clear.

An old milk bottle top did the trick of blocking the plug hole and the fern and bamboo will provide some shade to keep the water cool.

The RSPB website has a really helpful guide if you want to have a go at creating a little pond in your garden yourself.

And now we just wait for all the amphibians in the neighbourhood to discover it. :)

Nightjar

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I’ve not blogged in a while because I have been busy with others thing (including overtime at work) and also I suppose I was waiting for the warmer weather to appear to give me an opportunity to find something to write about.

Last week we went to Lakenheath Fen on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, a reserve managed by the RSPB. I hadn’t been there before but was aware it has a variety of habitats – woodlands, wetlands, reedbeds, etc. – so I was expecting to get some use out of my binoculars.

Instead it was mostly my ears that took centre stage as there were many interesting bird sounds from the reedbeds from elusive birds that just didn’t emerge, no matter how long we waited. Bitterns booming and never appearing is an experience I am used to, but I had not expected that when wandering down the path back to the visitor centre we would disturb a nightjar!

The sound was so puzzling to a very amateur birder like me – it sounded like a computer game, or a laser, or a machine. We couldn’t spot the creature, didn’t even manage to get a recording, but when googling it days later we realised it could only be a nightjar. I know it’s unlikely and unusual behaviour at this time of year but I can’t think that we could have confused such a distinctive sound.

This was on the 1st of April, on a reserve that had no prior reported sightings. They do nest in nearby Thetford forest so I imagine this one was on its way there and stopped off to see if maybe this territory might be suitable nesting ground.

Other birds that we actually spotted that day include blackcaps, reed buntings, cormorants, marsh harriers, egrets, herons. There were also some garganeys but they were too far away for binoculars to take in.

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