It was 7:30pm on an unseasonally warm yet still pretty chilly Friday evening in January when I rushed out to meet some lovely folk on top of a local hill.
Friday/Saturday is always super busy for me at the moment. It’s when everything happens for my organic veg box business - I visit our suppliers, pack orders, run our volunteering programme and do home deliveries. As a result I tend to avoid planning evenings out and instead opt for mid-week or Sundays.
But I have a confession - it had been 6 months since my last camp out, and I was getting itchy (soon to be very cold) feet.
When Jason posted in the Yes Tribe for a camp out a couple of weeks later in January I knew I had to be there. I’d never camped out in the colder months before so it would be a great opportunity to test my hardiness and experience bivvying in different conditions.
But I wasn’t the only one. The Yes Tribe are a bunch of awesome people who naturally get stuck in with a big fat HELL YES! when the opportunity presents it’s self. There were even some first-timers opting for January to be the start of their bivvying experiences.
Luckily the mid-January spell of proper winter weather had just passed (checkout Jason’s recky the weekend before where he woke up to a dusting of snow!) and we were lucky enough to have temperatures above freezing with dry weather.
I finished up my veg box deliveries around 7pm, managed to squeeze in a quick dinner and scrambled together my kit before rushing out the door at 7:30pm. We were camping in a woodland clearing around 45minutes from my flat by car and I knew the others had already set off by train from central London so didn’t want to get there too late.
As it happens I arrived at our meeting point with beautiful views over the town below but no sign of any happy campers - I had beaten them too it. 10 minutes later though and I was showered in hugs as they all bounded over the hill top. A quick group shot and we headed to our sleeping spot.
As more people joined us over the next hour or so we dived into home made sausage rolls, brownies and even had Spike providing wine mulled on-site! I was thankful for my warmed (I lacked preparation to mull) cider to keep the chill off.
I’d bought a new bivvy bag for the experience and I’m glad I did. At around 11pm I was looking to bed down for the night and found my mat that I’d gotten out on arrival was already pooling with dew so the added protection of a bivvy with a hood was gladly welcomed to keep my sleeping bag as dry as possible.
Once in my sleeping bag and bivvy, I have to admit, I was absolutely bloody freezing! My feet were like icicles and I was seriously tempted to nip over to the car to warm up and thaw out before climbing back into my sleeping bag. But I figured everyone else must be just as cold and so decided to stick it out.
I slept on and off, waking about every hour and a half or so until the penultimate time when I remember finally feeling warm and snug. I’d acclimatised to the cold and warmed the air in my sleeping bag. This was how I remember it. The first time I bivvied I was toasty, all snuggled in my jacket, sleeping bag and hat, just enjoying the quite of the wild and open view to the sky, star gazing as I wake throughout the night.
It was bright, this cold night in January. With a full moon we had no need for head torches, although disappointingly, a cloud of light pollution was visible rising up from the edge of the hill all around.
Up at 6am I had a quick look for a few planets that were supposedly visible over this period, but with no luck. John then helped me pack up my kit and load the car before I headed off to work having rekindled my bivvying flame.