Wild Camps 2019

Secret Location, Lake District

Dovedale, Peak District

Ennerdale, Lake District

Winnats Pass, Peak District

Secret Location, Lake District

Why secret?

Well some locations you just feel the need to keep to yourselves.  The past 12 months I have seen far too much litter on pitches I post on my blog, this place is very remote and very clean, and I feel if I advertise the whereabouts, it will soon turn into a mess, which would spoil it.  I absolutely plan to return to this spot time and time again so I want it to be pristine every time I return.  If you are really desperate to wild camp here, drop me an email and I may part with a grid reference or a ///what.three.words.

This wild camp I had company in the form of my usual camping buddy, my grandson Leon, his sister Liberty (Bert) and their dad, Simon.  Due to a late journey start and bad traffic we arrived in the Lake District later than planned.  The weather was terrible, strong, gusting winds and heavy rain so we opted to spend out first night in a forest about a mile and a half away from where we had parked the van.  By the time we found a semi dry pitch it was starting to get dark so the priority was to get the kids tent up to give them some shelter, feed them and then the grown ups sorted ourselves out.  It was past 10 pm by the time we had finished eating so we didn’t hang around we got in our own Bivvie bags under a single basher.

It rained heavily most of the night so it was a great test for my Bivvie bag, the Snugpak SF.  What a quality item it is!  There was some condensation inside the Bivvie bag the next morning but I was expecting it given our location by a fast flowing stream and the amount of rain we had.  Nevertheless, my sleeping bag kept me very warm and very dry.

The next morning after a quick coffee we made our way back to the van.  Due to the poor weather the night before we decided to leave our breakfast in the van to cook the next morning which worked out well as it gave us the opportunity to dry off some clothes etc.

After a nice breakfast we got the kayak out and went on the water (not a lake) for a couple of hours paddling.  It was still quite windy but the kids spirit was high and they had a great time.  Although the fear of them contracting hypothermia brought the kayaking to an end.  The water was very choppy and we got soaked (again).

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We packed away the kayak, had a quick lunch and decided to do a bit of exploring.  Hiking around this particular area of the Lake District has its upside due to its utter remoteness, no shops, no cafes, hardly any people just a single youth hostel.  We decided to have a walk along a marked footpath the took us along the river.  We saw just a handful of people, most I suspect staying at the Youth Hostel.  As the kids were still in fine spirits we decided to walk “Off Piste” for a bit on the way back.

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It was then we bumped into a guy riding an electric mountain bike. He stopped to say hello and we got talking.  Like me, he was an Army veteran and we soon discovered we had actually served in the same unit albeit at different times. The lad was struggling a bit with combat stress and had  a very big meltdown a couple of weeks previous.  He was on his way back to some kind of normality though, thank God.  He must be going through hell.  What he did when he had his meltdowns was jump on his bike and go foraging, covering many miles on his bike.  He emptied the content of his rucksack to show us the mushrooms he had collected during the day explaining what they were and how you could safely pick them.  One particular bag he had, the contents were fetching £50 per kilo and I would estimate he had around 4-5 kilo!  Before he parted, he gave us a bag of these mushrooms for us to cook for our supper.  “One Ex -Squaddie to another” he said.  It’s always the done thing to share your rations as any squaddie will know, he generously parted with at least a kilo of his mushrooms.

As it was late afternoon, we decided it was time to find a spot to set up camp for our final night.  We had seen a few spots on our travels and we decided to set up on the bank of the river.  The views were fantastic, It’s as close to Scotland in England you are ever going to get.  I was in awe of it.  Surrounded by mountains, a crystal clear river, plenty of forest and loads for the kids to explore, Perfect.

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We quickly set up camp, Basher and Bivvie for Simon and me and my Vango Banshee 200 Pro for the kids.

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After the hectic hiking to find a usable spot the night before it was nice to set up at a normal pace.  The kids played, (as they should), exploring the riverbank, collecting small sticks for the Kellie Kettle and generally having fun before we all sat down to some supper which included some of the mushrooms we had been given.

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We lit the Kellie Kettle for some hot water to make the grownups some coffee (with a large dash of Single Malt) and to roast a few marshmallows.  There is something about roasting marshmallow’s over an open fire that kids really love, they were in their element.  Some further exploring followed by a camp clean up and it was time for bed.

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I always think I only get a couple of hours sleep when I am wild camping but the second night my Garmin told me different; four and a half hours deep sleep and four hours of light sleep.  I woke up feeling refreshed, more so after having a wash in the freezing water of the river!

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We packed up nice and early as we were going to head off back to Chesterfield early doors.  Breakfast was going to be a civilised affair as we were going to stop off on the way back at a place recommended to me by Andy Beavers who wild camps up in the Lakes a lot.  However, his recommendation did not materialise as the kids wanted a Brewers Fayre feast and as it was the first one we passed, the grown ups buckled under pressure.

This was an amazing wild camping experience, we all loved it.  It was remote, very picturesque, safe, clean and it was like we had the whole valley to ourselves.  What I liked most was to see the kids enjoying themselves and getting a taste for the outdoors.  They are very outdoorsy kids anyway, their mum and dad see to that with a sprinkling of help from myself.  It’s good to see kids not with a phone in their hand or a tablet in their lap and not just enjoying the outdoors, but appreciating it.  Everywhere we went they ensured we had left nothing behind, no trace we had been there.

Liberty, my granddaughter is just 6 years old and Leon is 9.  The whole weekend I clocked up nearly 30,000 steps, they must have done many more than me but not once did they complain.  Kids love stuff like this and I think if more parents actively encouraged it and got out with their kids as opposed to letting them just sit in front of the tv or on tablets and computer our countryside would be more appreciated.

Liberty is one for her selfies with her Granddad!

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Dovedale, Peak District

I have wild camped a few times up on Ravens Tor but my son hasn’t and it’s a place he’s always fancied it so I decided to take him up there.

The weather had been terrible all week but we agreed, no matter what, we were going. We set off late afternoon and drove over to Milldale where we would leave the car. As we drove along the main Buxton – Ashbourne road the heavens opened and boy did it rain.

As the location has very little flat ground, tents were out of the question and there just isn’t anywhere that can cater for a tent-sized footprint. Bivvie bags it is then! Thankfully we both have a small tarp that would offer us a bit of protection should the rain have continued. Thankfully the rain eased off as we approached the car park!

The walk over from Milldale is a steady climb and takes about 30 – 40 mins. Once up at Ravens Tor it was obvious that it’s a popular spot for wild campers. There were a couple of fire pits that had just been left but thankfully no litter. Last time I was up here I filled a carrier bag with beer cans and bottles.

We both settled for a spot just below the Tor but Dan had to move after a while as it became evident he would be in for a pretty uncomfortable night as there just wasn’t enough flat ground. So off he went about 40m away up on top of the Tor.

The sky began to take on a distinct dark grey colour so we both started to build a small shelter using out tarps. I have the Snugpak Stasha and he has an Alpkit 3.5. I’m not really into creating fantastic combinations with large tarps, I just have a lean-to that protects my head and my kit. My Bivvie bag protects everything else. People take time to build really impressive shelters and I can understand the fascination, it’s just not for me. If I want to be completely covered and have a door I’d just take my tent. It is a skill though which I do admire.

It was a wise decision as the rain did come down in style which gave us the opportunity to sit snugly under the shelter and cook some scran. I had one of those Expedition food packs I had left over from my trip to Mongolia. It was in the cupboard so I thought why not use it. It wasn’t great and it didn’t convince me I should stop making the effort to make my own dehydrated food. These things come in at 800 calories each which is far too much for me in one meal. I will stick to my home dried spagbol.

The rain eased off and the sun came out so I put the drone up to fly down the valley. I kept it reasonably high so it wouldn’t disturb anyone in the valley below were there to be any walkers. At the same height as the Tor, it wouldn’t be heard by anyone below. I took some nice footage (link below) and also took some nice stills.

Before we knew it the time was slipping by and after a few sips of the hip flask I got myself into the Bivvie bag and drifted off, even though the local owls made more noise than I wanted them too. It was a really warm night and I had to unzip the sleeping bag, I only took my lightweight Snugpak Chrysalis 1 which is a cracking summer sleeping bag. Even that was still too warm for me.

The woods below where I was sleeping were full of Rooks or Ravens or whatever they were but boy did they let their presence known at 4:30 in the morning! How Daniel slept thought it I will never know. His snoring added to the experience!

I decided to get up, make a brew and sit on a rock pinnacle watching the Peak District come to life. Mist started to gather down in the dale below so I got the drone out and had a fly around the mist. Taking more aerial stills as well.

The view was breath-taking, it really was, it was like a scene from Jurassic Park. I could have been in some South American rain forest.

As is now traditional when wild camping with Dan we stop and grab breakfast on the way home and as it was Father’s Day, it was his shout!

So, another relaxing brew before I started to pack up, I just gave myself half an hour to contemplate my own thoughts while Ripvanwinkle snored away.

I really like this spot but I am not sure if I will go back in the near future. I am convinced there are places close by just as spectacular and its these I want to find.

Please remember (I know I harp on) to take all your rubbish home with you and the term “Leave no Trace” means exactly that. If you have a fire, when you get up next morning try and repair any damage and put any rocks you use back where you got them from.

As always, feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.
My basic kit for this trip consisted of:

Snugpak Stasha (small tarp)
Snugpak Special Forces Bivvie bag
Snugpak Chrysalis 1 sleeping bag

Ennerdale, Lake District

My second wild camp of 2019 completed over the Easter Weekend. Lake District – Bank Holiday is not something I would jump at owing to the swarm of visitors it gets, particularly in great weather with record breaking temperatures. However, its something I have always wanted to do and I barely have any leave left because of my Mongolia trip so a Bank Holiday it has to be.

The Plan

The plan was to drive up on Good Friday, park at the Bowness Knott car park then wander up the hill to the top of Bowness Knott and spend the night. Daniel decided he wanted to come and so did Leon, my grandson, and his dad Simon. The second day, Saturday, the plan was to walk back to the car and then get the Kayak out and spend the next 24 hrs on the lake. Unfortunately, Simon had to pull out at short notice so the extra kayak wasn’t needed.

The drive from Chesterfield up to Ennerdale was horrible, every single road had an issue of some sorts and what should have taken a little over 3 hours, took over 6 hours so it was somewhat of a relief to get there eventually.

After the long journey it was pleasing to see Leon in such high spirits, still keen and eager to get underway. We left the car park at around 5:30 and headed out along the forest road following the red markers for Smithy Beck.

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We crossed the bridge by the waterfall then instead of continuing along the marked track ,we headed uphill along an old forest road, Leon took charge of the navigation and guided us in the right direction.

The scenery was outstanding and we never saw a soul until half way up where we spotted a couple of tents hidden in the woods in a beautiful glade by the Beck.

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We came across the ruins of an old settlement about a third of the way to the top where we took a breather. Leon proceeded to describe the layout of the building, showing us where the kitchen, bathroom and toilet would have been! I assured him there would have been no flushing toilet which brought a look of puzzlement on his face.

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The track became steeper but Leon soldiered on all the way to the top. At the top, we had a problem. The flat ground showing on the map was actually fully covered in the remnants of a big tree cutting operation and there was absolutely nowhere to pitch the tents. Time really wasn’t on our side as darkness would soon be upon us so we had to climb, scramble and cover lots of uneven ground to find a spot. Daniel led the way with me at the rear keeping Leon in between us so we could keep an eye on him. I have to say he did a sterling job, listening to everything we told him and applied the instructions of where to put his feet etc. We saw lots of eagles and Deer which was worth stopping for and watching them for a few mins.

We eventually found a spot that with a little tidying up, would be suitable. The bonus was the view, it was to die for.

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We found a nice solid tree trunk nearby, set up our kitchen and lit the Kelly Kettle for some hot water and cracked open the Jet Boil to cook dinner. Leon and I used my Vango Banshee Pro 200 tent and Daniel used his Snugpak Journeyman.

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After dinner we just sat, chatted and laughed until the sun set behind us and the bright moon rose above our heads, and roasted some marshmallows over the Kelly Kettle fire. We settled down to sleep around 10pm, the journey had wiped us all out to be fair and so did the hike and scrambling to find our pitch. It was a very warm night and the new RAB sleeping bag was definitely overkill but better to be safe than sorry.

Leon woke me up around 6:30 am the next morning as he wanted to go out and watch the sunrise come in over the mountain. Sat there drinking coffee, watching my grandson tuck into his porridge while the sun came over the mountain was incredible. You can’t buy memories like that.

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After the sun had risen we decided to pack up and then put the drone into the air for a few mins (Video Below).

Daniel managed to crawl out of his scratcher about half an hour later so we had another brew then packed up ready do head back to the car. Leon’s job is to scour the the area we occupied to ensure we left absolutely nothing behind, we don’t want anyone to know we had been there.

The walk to the car was a steady bimble so we could take in the scenery. Leon never stopped laughing at Dan who was singing rude songs which would have Leon’s mum cringing!

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We eventually made it to the car at about 10am. We unpacked the rubbish and left it in the car and replenished our rations. It took a short time to inflate the kayak (thank god for electric pumps), then we had a dry practice run to make sure we could all fit in with our kit. Once sorted we headed for Ennerdale lake, just a couple of hundred yards from Bowness Knott Car Park.

The plan was to circumnavigate the lake, find somewhere suitable to drag the kayak up onto a beach then hike up to the top of hill we had identified as a possible spot to pitch for a second night. Things don’t always go to plan though do they? We set off in a clockwise direction around the lake but our kayak discipline didn’t last very long as our route became very random, to much messing around and laughing and having fun to be bothered with routes.

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As you can see from the photo above, it was as peaceful as could be. We were the only ones on the water virtually all day. The beauty of Ennerdale is boats are not allowed, neither are groups of kayakers without first obtaining a permit from United Utilities. For single kayaks its no problem. It was hard to believe this was a Bank Holiday weekend in the Lake District, I had to keep pinching myself.

We paddled around for a couple of hours, I say we but Leon said he just want to chill so it was down to Daniel and me.

We saw a nice spot where we could have lunch so we paddled to the beach and fired up some hot water for our soup.

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We spent about an hour in this spot just taking in the rays from the hot sun, skimming stones in the lake and just generally relaxing. We eventually got our act together and carried on to the south of lake where we explored the river coming in. We couldn’t get too far as the water was shallow and we had lots of weight in the kayak but nevertheless we gave it a go. As nature goes, this spot was up there with the best places in the UK. Lots of wildfowl and so many different species of bird that Leon was keen to teach us the identity of. We headed off back along the other shore, all the time looking for a spot to beach the kayak. so we could head off up the hill for our second night under the stars.

Daniel suggested we head off back to the secluded beach where we had lunch, it was a beautiful spot and the hill was going to still be there for another wild camp sometime in the future. We were all in agreement so a night on the beach it was.

We headed along the far shore in perfectly still, millpond like water. We paddled under Anglers Crag where the water was crystal clear and you could quite easily see the bottom. We stopped paddling and just drifted, feet up watching the fish jump and waving back at and talking to the odd walkers on the nearby path.

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Leon announced he was getting a bit hungry so at around 4:30pm we decided to cross the lake back to the beach and set up our camp for the night. Leon was thrilled, he kept announcing “This is the best trip ever”. It didn’t take long to set up and get the coffee on.

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Thumbs up from Leon
We had a coffee, Dan did some sunbathing and I, as is customary, went for a swim…

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We had a short walk down the shore to do a bit of exploring where we came across a couple of Wild Campers in Hammocks and under a tarp. All having the same interests as us and all obviously caring about the environment we were in. Just how it should be.

After our activities we sat down, fired up the Kelly Kettle and had some dinner. It was so peaceful, even the mini waves had stopped lapping on the shore and it became silent with the exception of the odd Owl letting us know they were around.

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The sun began to set and so did our eyelids. We’d had a fantastic day and Leon was struggling to stay awake, the last photo I took on this evening was looking west along the lake. I only took my little compact camera on this trip as I wasn’t sure about carrying multiple thousands of pounds worth of camera kit in my kayak. They are not the best quality images but they are ok.

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We all had a cracking nights sleep and woke to the sound of water lapping up onto the shore. After a quick coffee we packed up and made our way back to the car at Bowness Knot Car Park. The trip home was how it should be, nice clear roads, a stop off for a Brewers Fayre breakfast of which we all made the most of their “all you can eat” policy. 🙂

This was an epic trip, we had such a good time. I know I go harping on about Wild Camping but people should really give it a try, as long as you tidy up after yourselves and if need be, tidy up after the people who don’t bother.

As always, any questions, please contact me.

Winnats Pass, Peak District

The first wild camp of 2019 was a cold, windy overnighter on top of Winnats Pass. In a few short weeks I will be embarking on my biggest adventure to date, a trip to Lake Khovsgol in North West Mongolia.

The wild camp was designed to test some kit against some decent cold weather, which Winnats Pass proved to be, the temperature dropped to -9 degC. However, temperatures over in Mongolia will more than likely sink to -40. As I will be spending all my time under canvas in the Mongolian wilderness I am classing it as a wild camp so watch this space for a write up when I get back.

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Anyway, Back to Winnats Pass…. This was a spot my son had wanted to visit for year’s so on sunny, clear, crisp Saturday morning we got our kit and headed up to Castleton. As we approached Castleton, it was obvious we would be spending the night in some cold temperatures, which was great as that’s what we wanted. We parked the car and head off up to the top.

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The snow was quite deep in places but the hike was not too far so nothing to really stretch us. There were a few people at the top so we just hovered around until the sun started to set then pitched up. We decided to pitch close to the edge so we could take in the amazing views up there. After pitching up I got the camera out and took some night shots although the sky was clear, it still wasn’t that dark, not the darkness you need for some good astro photography. I tried but failed miserably so I just did a few light trails for Dan as these are one of his favourite styles.

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After some food we took a few more shots, had a little walk around then hunkered down for a couple of hours rising again to check out if it had got any darker. Dan had left the water in the car so it was down to melting snow which always feels like you’re on a proper expedition. It still hadn’t got dark enough so we just messed around with the camera and sipped some single malt before setting down for the night.

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All was well until about 01:45 when I was woken by high winds. I had never been out in such bad gales before. At one point it felt like my legs were being squashed the downforce of the wind, it was so strong. Dan got up to check the tents and apart from one of my pegs lifting, they took the gales with ease. I am always in awe of my little Vango Zenith 100, it’s an absolute cracking 1 person tent.

Dan has a Snugpak Journeyman Solo and that thing never shifted, it was as solid as you like. He loves it and I can see why however, I prefer that little bit more height but it was obvious, in those conditions his more low profile tent would win the day.

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The gales lasted what seemed to be an age and it wasn’t until around 03:30 that it began to die down a bit. We were both quite worried at how close we were to the edge and we were hoping a gust wasn’t going to lift us over the edge but all was good in the end. Lesson learned there; keep away from edges as the weather can turn in an instant. There is a short video summary I put together below that gives you some idea of how far we would have fallen. Scary!

As soon as the wind calmed down I must have fallen straight to sleep as it was just getting light when I woke up to the sound of……….. Birds singing? No, Dan snoring! Boy that lad can snore for NATO!

We got up and watched the sunrise over Hope Valley, what a sight to see that is. Across the Pass we could see loads of people up on the summit of Mam Tor, It’s a bit of a trek to get up there on a cold, winters morning but they would have had some incredible views. I have done it myself many times and sunrise up there is something to behold.

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We noticed quite a few people on top of Winnats Pass taking the sunrise shots and I began to feel a bit guilty, as our tents would have been in their line of sight. One guy came over for a chat and couldn’t believe we had spent the night up there. His camera had stopped working in the freezing temperatures but he managed to get his shots, which, he said, were made more dramatic by having the tents in there.

Thankfully, my camera worked fine and I had no problems, I even got my drone up for a short flight without any hassle. It’s just a case of hovering it a while to get the batteries warm.

I was again impressed with the Land Rover Explore phone, I put it down in the snow and left it for about an hour, when I came back it worked perfectly. Never could I have done this with any of my iPhones.

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Today we were going to have breakfast down in the café in Castleton so the stoves stayed in the bags. As we made our way back we did a bit of a promo photo shoot. ITV had asked me to get some shots and if possible some video prior to us appearing on TV to talk about our trip to Mongolia. This took some time with lots of laughing and pratting about but we got there in the end.

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We walked up to the café just as it was opening, perfect timing! We ordered our Full English with coffee and afterwards spent a few minutes walking around the Information Centre’s mini museum. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

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So that was it, our first wild camp of 2019. The next one we do will be on a frozen lake. Dan will be running the 100 miles from north to south over four days, I will be part of the support crew looking after 33 competitors pitting their wits against some of the most extreme conditions on earth. Its an adventure we’re both going to remember. Keep an eye out on the blog for when we return mid-March. I am sure there will be many stories to tell….

Thanks for reading and please feel inspired to get out there yourselves. One night can bring adventures in its own right and the worst that can happen is a crap nights sleep. However, it will be something you remember always.

As always, please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

P.S. We are using the trip to Mongolia to try to raise as much money for Children in Need as we can so if you can spare a few pennies, please donate at the link below:

Children in Need