This was both a planned and unintended over-nighter.
By which I mean I had every intention of staying out overnight, but the way in which it happened was unexpected: it seems that honesty goes a long way!
Sick of buying things speculatively online I had been looking for an army surplus store for a while – It seems that those that exist aren’t always great at having an online presence and as I’m not in the know it took me a while to find one locally.
The one I visited was in Thrapston in Northamptonshire UK, just outside Kettering. I bought a BCB crusader cookset (mk1) and was keen to try it.
It was later July and I had time off work.
I had an untested overnight bag in my car that I’d specced out for the summer months.
this consisted of;
1) a cheap mil-tec molle patrol pack from Amazon
2) a DD camping hammock
3) a Vango inflatable mat (on sale from go outdoors)
4) an apline stowaway pot (the seagul pot)
5) a british army basha (from my colleague at work who was ex-infrantry)
6) a no name wood gassifier stove from amazon
7) a mora clipper companion knife
8) a no name folding pruning saw
9) a tarp/moisture barrier from the £1 shop
10) a gelert adventure treated nylon bivvy bag
11) an ancient storm-shield X-700 one season sleeping bag
12) a head torch
13) a hygiene kit (alcohol lotion/loo roll/a cheap trowel etc..)
14) a satchel for food
It was supposed to be a low weight single bag with only food consumables not accounted for in the packing. This was possible because of the small pack size of the sleeping bag.
I filled up the food satchel at the local supermarket and I decided to drive around the local countryside till I found a good spot to do a spot of stealth camping.
After while I hadn’t spotted the right combination of site and secure parking to I pulled up at the entrance to a field to have a snack.
I was shortly disturbed by the farmer who was exiting the field.
He saw my kit in the back of the car and asked what I was doing – I was honest with him about my intentions.
To my surprise he was quite receptive and commented that I seemed to know what I was doing (I wouldn’t go that far but maybe he concluded I ‘probably’ wouldn’t burn his farm down).
He then said that I was more than welcome to use his land over night and gave me directions to a field he would prefer I used! He even told me where best to park stipulating only that he couldn’t guarantee my vehicles safety and that I needed to leave clearance for the farm traffic. What an absolute gent!
RESULT! my first ever over night stay with landowner permission 🙂
I parked up and started the short hike towards the designated field.
The area was remote but was a working farm and made up of maintained agricultural land.
So once I got to the destination field I was drawn towards the tree-line as I’m a hammock camper and like to be in the woods. However to do this I needed to cross a fenced boundary and this made me feel uncomfortable as I wasn’t sure who’s land I was on and I didn’t want to betray the kindness of the farmer. To mitigate this I setup as close to the edge of the wood as I could.
I decided to use the wood gas stove and not have an open fire as I felt this would be taking the mickey a bit (all things considered).
I rigged up the basha and self inflating mat while I set my dinner cooking;
Im still new at this game and I always need to refer to source material – in this case I had to join two pieces of paracord together to get the right length. Thankfully the pro-knot wallet reference came to my rescue.
For my dinner I intended to make a beef stew from parsnip/carrots and onion and i was going to use beer for the stock;
This may sound delicious but it was actually pretty gross – I’m a terrible cook and it was very bitter tasting – despite the excellent beverage used in its production 🙂
As I sat down to eat I noticed how dark it had got in the woodland – but it was still coming up to sunset in the fields. Why should I hide when I have permission to be here? So I ate my dinner in the open field.
and watched the sun go down – it was blissful!
The sky was so beautiful and I still felt a pang of guilt about crossing the field boundary when the farmer had specified this field as where I could camp. So I decided to break camp and sleep in the field. I packed up all my gear away and got ready for some ground dwelling – no rain was forecast so I didn’t need a shelter. I intended to lie on my back and gaze at the stars.
The part of Thrapston I was staying in is equidistant between all the major dwellings in the area – as such there was no light pollution and no traffic noise – in the UK that is a rarity – all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing and the owls and deer in the woods.I was very lucky!
I could see so many stars and made an effort to photograph them on my iphone – obviously this doesn’t work very well 😉
But this is when my untested pack proved to be unfit for the task! I was wearing full clothing including my fleece lined coat and a thinsulate fleece hat, I was on the mat inside my sleeping bag with a sleeping bag liner and nylon bivvy – but despite it being mid-july I was absolutely freezing!! Not life threatening but certainly uncomfortable and teeth chatteringly cold. I guess this tiny sleeping bag was a false economy – I decided at this moment never to skimp on the sleep system to save space in future!
Ordinarily I would light a fire – but I was in the middle of a well maintained field and I would not have been very decent of me to leave a massive fire scare on the farmers land when he had so kindly let me stay.
So I went to plan B……. hipflask! 🙂
I sank the entire contents of my Jack Daniels filled 8oz hip flask and basically drifted in an out of chilly sleep all night enjoying the thousands of stars I could see in the pitch blackness.
In the morning I deeply appreciated the simplicity and reliability of the crusader cook set as I waited for my (desperately needed) morning coffee – see how shiny an unused crusader mug looks :).
In the past Id used aluminium cups and heated them on fires for the morning brew – but they take so long to get going, then when the water is boiling you cant drink the beverage because the cup is too hot and when the cup has cooled down enough to put it to your lips, the coffee is cold 😦 using hexi tabs feels like a cheat but the British Army knew what they are doing – it just works! and you get to pour the boiling water into the plastic cup that comes with the Osprey bottle – which you can then put to your lips without melting your face and you can actually enjoy a sustaining and revitalizing hot cup of joe right when you need it most! Marvellous! I haven’t looked back – and because we’ve established that I cant cook I’ve moved to the whole boil in the bag concept – sure if the apocalypse hits ill need to cook from scratch but for wild camping its a no brainer! Boil in the bag food – use the water for a brew, eat out of the plastic bags, no washing up and dispose of your rubbish on the fire = genius!
I think I packed up around 7 and went driving around to find the farmer and thank him but I couldn’t find his house. I never learned his name and will probably never be there again – but it was a very decent thing for him to do and i really appreciate it. What an unexpected and un-deserved thing to have the luxury of acres of open land at your disposal without fear of being accosted.