Salcey Forest

This was an August over-nighter in Salcey Forest Northamptonshire.

Its the largest forest in the Northampton area but is still quite small and criss-crossed with public footpaths, roads and bridleways. As a consequence its quite busy. Also its right next to the M1 motorway so if you are looking for peace and quiet you wont find it here..

Id been advised not to stay there because there is apparently a lot of crime in the area and its a regular place for urchins to pull into lay bays and have a party. But I wanted to get out and there aren’t that many options in this area.

I was using the a small kit list that fit into a 30L Tresspass rucksack. It was a false economy as I still needed a satchel to carry my food.

My kit was;

  • DD camping hammock: small and simple.
  • 1 season sleeping bag: This bag has been subsequently humanely destroyed as it was too cold even in the summer months – never save space by making yourself cold!
  • Gelert treated nylon bivvy bag: Ive used this bag in -2 and + 18c temps. I like it because it packs away to nothing (its an ant compared to the elephant size of my BA Gortex bag). I’ve seen it has mixed reviews saying there is too much condensation. I’ve never had this issue, but have noted its treated on one side only – so perhaps those who had issues used it inside out?
  • no tarp – no rain was forecast and I hoped to be protected by the bivvy if this proved wrong. I love seeing the stars and tree canopy from the hammock when I can.
  • Alpine stowaway pot – the famous seagull pot. A locked lid stainless steel marvel that acts as my cooking pot and bowl.
  • Trangia kettle – because I like to keep the water boiling and food heating roles separate (which is why I like the BCB boil in the bag system for space saving and ergonomic reasons)
  • Wood Gas stove – a copy of the famous original but it does the job and nests perfectly inside the alpine stowaway pot for storage.
  • Kleen Kanteen Bamboo stainless steel flask. This is a food grade steel flask that is safe to heat water in. Its beautifully designed but not quite a litre in size – I gambled it would be ok for an overnighter. I use this with the famous solution of fish mouth spreaders to turn it into a billy can to heat over a fire. It nests into some old rubbish aluminium camping mug I’ve had for years.
  • Assorted tools such as head torch, mora companion knife and milt-tec folding saw, a £1 folding trowel for latrine purposes, hand gel for the same and to act as a fire starter (it catches a spark from a fire steel!) cotton wool seeped in petroleum jelly as a fire starter ..etc..

There is a village nearby the forest where I found a place to park – stealth parking is an art. You want to park close enough to the destination that you can get back quick if you need to, but you have to look like you live there or are visiting – while also not stealing someone’s spot and trying not to get your car stolen or damaged. Most importantly you want your card to be safe and you don’t want to come back to a ticket or for it to have been towed away! I found a spot so there was only a small walk (I wouldn’t even call it a hike) to the woods.

Once I hit the forest I kept walking along the foot paths until the general public and dog walkers thinned out. I had to cross a few roads for this to happen. I’m always dismayed at how few wild places we have left in Britain. There are one or two local woods that are starting to come on due to the woodland trust planting them 20 or 30 years ago – but there is very little on my doorstep as its been swallowed up by roads or agriculture. When I spend time in Wales or Scotland I’m always blown away by the nature they have there. I recently had occasion to travel to Russia for work. I was staying in Domededovo outside Moscow. I was struck by how wild it was, its like in the UK we cut the forests down and then built on them, in Russia it seems like they built the cities inside the forest! The translator I was with was very proud of where he was from and said he was into camping and this was a normal pastime in the area. He tried to describe to me what shelter he used but had to resort to a google image to explain it – and guess what?… it was a hammock 🙂 He didn’t have a clue what DD hammocks where though, but I suspect Hammock camping is probably quite and ancient activity. It certainly the only thing that makes sense to me in a deeply forested area as far as I’m concerned..

I kept walking until the path was blocked by overgrowth – at this point I concluded I was far enough off the beaten track to consider making camp.

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The ground was full of debris so I wouldn’t want to have to clear the floor to ground dwell – also it would be inappropriate. Luckily with a Hammock that really isn’t an issue! I also found a spot that had an existing fire scar. So that’s bad form for the person who left it but I always think an existing scar is fair game. I assume they were engaged in similar activities as myself as I saw no other debris. It was right next to two tress at the right distance for my camp too. So I setup and started making dinner while i collected my own firewood.

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As night fell I ate and built my fire. I drank the contents of my hipflask and sharpened my knife. It was a fairly uneventful night I’m afraid to say. I chilled out and didn’t do much to write home about. While the environment was beautiful I could always here the traffic on the M1 which was disappointing. I enjoyed the night and watched the stars and tree canopy from my hammock.

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I slept well and was warm most of the night – I think I was disturbed once around 4 due to the cold – but it was August!

The morning was amazing – its such a fantastic thing to wake up to the forest and see it waking up too. To hear the birds and the insects, I saw a couple of Hares run through my camp. I lay there from sunrise till about 9 just watching how the sun rise filtered through the tree canopy and how the colours changed . Beautiful.

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I had a mellow breakfast then broke camp – attempted to fix the fire scar and then made my way home. The kit was small but I didn’t need much. Shame about the M1!

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