Let the Adventures Begin
2016 is the year I decided to give wild camping a go after 14 years since I left the Army. I’ve decided to keep it simple, just the odd night here and there up in the Peak District.
Wild Camp 1 – Dovedale, The Peak District
One sunny but chilly April Saturday I decided to get out for a night in Dovedale. My daughter who is also an outdorrsey (is that a word?) person decided she wanted to come with me so she left the two kids at home with hubby and came with me.
Dovedale is a lovely place any day, any season, however I decided I wanted to go up top so I could look down on the dale, benefit being that virtually no-one goes up there. I suspected I was going to have the top of the hill to myself. This is National Trust Property and camping is strictly forbidden. Point worth noting, the NT car park just outside the village of Milldale doesn’t allow overnight parking but spaces are available across the road.
Our short hike took us straight up the hill behind the public toilet in Milldale, there’s a warning that the path is dangerous after rain. It had been raining and it was, as warned, very slippy. After a relatively short walk we came across this spot:
We were high above the river looking down the dale. We both decided this was a nice spot; good views and a flat pitch. Perfect!
As this was going to be the first wild camp we didn’t want to stray too far from the car just in case but to be honest, in the Peak District, you don’t have to hike to far to find a nice spot.
With tent pitched (Vango Tempest 200) we sat down, had some scran in the form of the pre-packed Wayfarer meals which were really good but they are a tad expensive, lesson learned is that you can do just as good for a lot less.
The sun set really quickly and in no time we were treated to an amazing star lit sky, some light pollution but nevertheless sitting back with a hip flask full of port we talked and laughed about all sorts of stuff. Even in April the temperature plumited to around -4C:
After a reasonably comfortable nights sleep we got up at sunrise, had a little wander then prepared breakfast. Although my daughter felt cold throughout the night, she was definitely up for doing it again in the future. It was a great spot, some gorgeous views and not too far away but far enough from civilisation to worry about being bothered by anyone.
The downside to this trip was my tripod toppled over because I didn’t stand it up properly resulting in a £600 bill to get my lens repaired!!
Our view next morning…..
Should anyone want exact locations of my camping spots, just contact me for a grid reference and I would be happy to pass it on providing you promise to leave no trace of being there should you decide to go.
Wild Camp 2 – Kielder Forest Northumberland
The highlight of my wild camping in 2016 due to the fact I got to take my two young grandkids with me was an over night trip to Kielder Forest. My wife and daughter were off to New York for a long Weekend so why not have a trip out.
Kielder Forest has a handful of backpacker locations that are free to use. They are all by running water but they all require a hike to get to them. As the kids are still young I chose a place called Allerybank towards the south of the forest. We set off quite early hoping to arrive at the planned car park just after lunch. We parked at a Bothy car park in a small place called Bower, one or two houses there and the people who lived there were really friendly and offered me good advice on which route to take through the forest.
The hike was just 3 miles, but that was enough for the boys, they were ready to stop and take the rucksacks off.
I was really pleased with the spot we had chosen, if all the backpacking sites in Kielder are like this one then I will definitely be going back again. The local man in Bower who we spoke to mentioned that the spot hadn’t been used in years in fact, he said no one ever goes that way apart from the forest ranger who drives down on the nearby forest track.
We quickly pitched up the tent and started to get things organised before we went on a mini hike so as to let the boys do a bit of exploring. Leaving all the kit at the pitch was fine, no one ever came down here.
The boys job was to collect water for filtering and as the river was just down the bank, it wasn’t too much of a hike for them. However, at one point they were taking a long time, I got a bit anxious then I heard one of them shout, “Can we go for a swim”. As an avid wild swimmer myself I shouted that it would be cool but to hold on and wait for me, they very quickly got ready!
The water was freezing though so they didn’t last long!
After our swim we went out to explore the surrounding area. Had we not been wild camping, we would never have discovered this place, thats the beauty of Wild Camping!
As you can see, the boys approve of outdoor life. We walked a mile or so downriver to a nearby waterfall were the kids spent ages looking for fossils and chucking stones in the river.
The hike back to the tent was dominated with conversation about food as they were really hungry and a bit tired.
Food was in the form of Wayfarer Food pouches. These are really good but very expensive however as I was carrying most of the kit I had to keep things relatively compact and light and the Wayfarer meals were ideal.
The lads quickly became tired after a long day and after another mini adventure into the forest on their own they hit the sack, leaving me to have a wander with my camera.
I’ve got to say, this was an excellent trip and it really gave the boys the outdoor/wild camping bug. Even now they describe this one night up in Kielder as the best holiday they ever had. Bless em.
Kielder Forest is massive and a perfect place for a wild camp, the wildlife is amazing, particularly the flying variety and when the weather is good, you can’t beat it for a few days away.
The Backpacking sites are a brilliant idea and I think there are about a dozen of them scattered around. For obvious reasons they are very strict regarding open fires, simply not allowed which is a fair one. The vastness of the forest means you can find your own spot if you so wish but for our first visit, the Allerybank pitch was perfect.
Wild Camp 3 – The Yorkshire Dales
I make no secret of being a massive fan of the Yorkshire Dales, I’ve been countless times and I will continue to go whenever I can. It’s not too far a drive from where I live so its perfect for a weekends overnight camp.
This particular camp had me heading towards the small village of Askrigg as I had been reliably informed that there were a couple of waterfalls up there worth photographing. I contacted a local farmer and asked about wild camping, they had a basic camp site in the village Askrigg Camping and they were happy for me to use their land up in the hills. They now charge £10 per person, per night to wild camp so I don’t go there anymore but the experience I had was brilliant so if you are willing to pay then fill yer boots.
This time it was just my dog and me, we parked in a field by the farm-house and began the hike up to the spot we were I had decided to go. The hike up was along Mill Gill and the information I was given about the waterfalls was bang on, they were worth photographing.
However pitching up was priority so we carried on up the hill to the area put aside for wild camping and found the perfect spot alongside the water.
I quickly set up and had a brew then Milly and I went to explore the area around us. The peacefulness was unreal, apart from the bleating sheep we were totally alone, miles away from any other human and very content. We walked back down to one of the waterfalls so I could take some photos, the area around the waterfall was covered in the flowers of wild garlic (I took some to add to my dinner) and Bluebells.
The waterfall was fantastic and while I played with my camera, Milly swam which was fair enough. She had me waiting ages for her to get out so I could take photos but she is a very stubborn Labrador so the only way to entice her out was with a bit of my beef jerky!
As it was getting dark we made our way back to the tent and cooked dinner which was a bag of microwaved rice (I boil it in its bag and just add stuff to it, whatever takes my fancy).
By the time I had finished eating it was getting dark so I quickly washed up and sat outside listening to a bit of music and reading before jumping in my sleeping bag and getting my head down. Milly was really restless so I can’t say I had a great nights sleep but I have had worse.
During the night I got up to take a leak and I hear rustling in the tree above my head, when I looked up my head torch shone directly at a very large owl who was probably wondering what the hell a bloke was doing walking round in his underpants and walking boots. We acknowledged each other with a nod of the head and I quickly got back inside my sleeping bag as I didn’t want to disturb him too much.
Milly telling me it was time to get up!
Next morning it was a swim in the pool next to where we pitched, this place was truly amazing but hell was it cold! Nevertheless I stayed in for a good 15 minutes until I felt refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Milly stayed in considerably longer than I did.
We had another walk around before breakfast then after another brew I packed our kit away and went in search of another waterfall on the way back. We found this gem and I spent a good while photographing it from all angles while Milly, again went for a swim.
This was a stunning location for a wild camp and I highly recommend it. There is so much to explore in the Yorkshire Dales so it may be a while before I venture back to this spot but it’s definitely on the list.
Wild Camp 4 – Longstone Moor, The Peak District
Longstone Moor is just a short drive from my house and having been recommended to go there I thought why not give it a bash. As soon as news got out to the family I was going my grandson immediately asked if he could tag along, of course he could, how could I refuse? As soon as I agreed to him coming, his mum (my daughter) asked if she could tag along too!
So it was the three of us hiking across Longstone Moor late one summer afternoon looking for a decent pitch to set up.
After a couple of miles hiking we found our spot on the side of the Moor away from the hiking paths overlooking the village of Great Longstone with views over to Chatsworth and in the other direction, Monsal Dale.
After pitching up the two tents we had a walk around the Moor just taking in the views and Leon listening to my stories about previous wild camps. After an hour or so we returned to the pitch and cooked dinner which was again boil in the bag stuff followed by a desert of Harribos!
The sun began to set very quickly so I got my camera out for the obligatory sunset shot.
Night soon fell and young tired eyes soon started to wilt so Leon tucked himself up in bed while his mum brought out a secret stash of port. We sat, we chatted, we drank port and we laughed well into the night. Up on the Moor the night skies can be a bit special so I always take my camera and tripod up there just in case.
I had hoped to capture the Milky way but the clouds came rolling in and spoiled any chance I had.
We all had a good nights sleep and woke up well after sunrise. With Leon getting impatient to do some adventure stuff we decided to go and forage for some breakfast. The wooded area by the Moor was, thankfully full of blackberries so we collected what we could carry and went back to the pitch to eat them for breakfast along with a scotch egg and a hot cup of coffee. The views were excellent and in the distance towards Chatsworth we could see a cloud inversion.
As Leon had football training that day we had to get back home but not before another walkabout. This caused us to run late so the hike back to the car was quite rushed but it was worth it.
This wild camp gave me an affinity with Longstone Moor and I have been back a few times on my own since and to different locations on the Moor, it has lots of wild camping opportunities and as its so close to home, I intend using every one of them!
A very peaceful place and some stunning views.
Wild Camp 5 – Big Moor, The Peak District
I have hiked across Big Moor on numerous occasions, I love it up there. Big Moor is located (depending which way you look at it) just behind White Edge. If you go to the trig point on White Edge and look towards Curbar Edge, Big Moor is right behind you.
I’ve known for years about the herd of wild red deer up there and on occasions been lucky enough to see the odd one. A few years ago whilst walking my dog up there I bumped into a local lady who was telling me all about the history of the herd, apparently they have been there for generations and can best be seen at dusk or sunrise. This conversation stayed with my for years, I would love to have the opportunity to photograph deer in the wild so when I got back into wild camping this place was always going to be high on the list. The land is privately managed by a company on behalf on the National Trust and Wild camping is strictly not allowed and I am led to believe that rangers do patrol the area so if you do go up here yourself, be discreet then you wont get moved on.
This trip my son decided he wanted to come. It was November and the weather was turning really cold and wet. I had invested in my new Exped sleeping pad so I was confident the cold wouldn’t get to me. I was right! 🙂
We parked the car down in Baslow and made the hike up to Baslow edge and along to Curbar Gap which was still busy even though the weather wasn’t great. We made our way up to White Edge and across to Big Moor. There aren’t that many great spots around up on the Moor, it’s very open to the elements but we manages, to find a spot. My son used my 2 man tent and I used the 1 man tent.
After pitch up my son got changed into his running gear and set off for a six-mile run along White Edge and around the Moor. I happily waved to him as he left and made myself a brew. It wasn’t long before I heard the call of the red deer so I put on my big lens and decided to do a bit of deer stalking. It wasn’t before it struck me that it was Rutting Season so I needed to be careful and not get too close otherwise they could well run at me to keep me away.
It wasn’t long before I saw my first deer and then as I got a bit closer the whole herd came in to view. This made my day as I was able to grab some good photos. The light was very poor though so I had to really crank up the ISO hence the grainy pictures but nevertheless. I was really pleased.
The sight of these beasts really cheered me up but I didn’t want to disturb them too much so I retreated back to the tents to give them some peace. They obviously knew I was around but I tried to keep my distance.
My son returned from his run and we had dinner. The sun set really early and it wasn’t long before we were in our sleeping bags as the rain came and so did the howling winds. The noise from the stags virtually kept me awake all night, at one point they were just a few metres away from us and the call of one of the stags was so loud it was like a ships fog horn. I wasn’t comfortable with them being so close so I got out and away they went. My son slept through it all, god knows how. I could hear him snoring away in his tent oblivious to it all.
The next morning I was up early waiting for some decent light so I could go out to try to find the herd. I walked for a while trying to be the professional deer stalker crouching down and dragging myself through the heather. I’m sure the deer were laughing at me thinking look at that dick head!
Anyway I managed to get another couple of photos:
The weather turned a bit sour so after some breakfast and a brew we packed up and made our way back to the car. We had parked just over three miles away so it wasn’t too bad a hike back plus it was all down hill as opposed to our hike up to the Moor the day before. My son has one of those fancy GPS watches that tell you everything you don’t need to know. Apparently, the climb up was over 700ft?
This is the end of my 2016 campaign. I did do a few more camps up on Longstone Moor but as I covered that location already I have left them out.