Adventures: Solo Wild Camp, Ceiriog Valley

I adore this forest with a secret entrance. You’d never know it was there if you weren’t local especially in the late summer as the ferns grow tall, hiding and protecting the gateway like giants to a magical world.

I slowly pushed the greenery aside, to make a temporary path. The tree roots attempted to trip me up. I silently spoke to the woods, telling them I was here to only indulge in their fresh air rather than being a menace.

On the ground, there was plenty of Heather basking in what sunlight there was left after the trees had taken their share. The pup bounded ahead of me, leaving my calls for her echoing. There was no one around only the slight hum of the tractors in the distance.

I arrived at ‘camp’ at 5.30pm and the light was golden. Even in the darkest parts of the woods, it had found channels to seep in through. The pup was running around chasing after damp wood and that gave me chance to clear the ground for our bed tonight. When I say clear, I simply mean to only remove broken branches and stones. I’d never advise moving plants, trees or habitats! Next the tent. It’s only meant to take 5 minutes but I was trying to improvise for a lost peg and the inner always confused me. Still, I swear by my Force 10. It’s the lightest piece of kit I own and it’s always kept me dry.

It wasn’t long until Bel was keenly eyeing me up. I had brought her tennis ball so I could throw it into the depths of the forest, lost in the dark and under the wet wood. Extra time for me to unpack whilst she was distracted. I’d only brought my essentials: mat, sleeping bag, PJs, thermal coat for Bel to sleep on, a flask of homemade soup, a water bottle, biscuits, book, tinder, lighter, knife and head torch. I tend to pack light – too light – to the point where I’ve forgotten essentials. I’m getting better at it.

Now my tent was set up, there was nothing left to do but to sit and think about lighting a fire. Did I really need one? Most of the time you don’t and it’s friendlier if you don’t. I didn’t want to sit and think for too long as raindrops from the leaves above fell on the patch where the campfire was potentially going to go.

The light was fading, the birdsong had ceased and the damp forest floor didn’t feel as friendly as it did before. The tinder from home helped to get the fire going. I only chose to have one because there was a pit left from scouts who used to come up here some years ago and plus, the ground was soggy. This north-west Spruce forest gets a lot of rain.

I was impressed with myself – it lit first time around if only my log burner could behave like that! The crackling fire danced. The flames were modest. My wooded surroundings were now dark but the sky wasn’t and instead a thin blanket of cloud hovered above me. Cloudy skies usually mean a warmer night. No star gazing tonight then.

I decided to change into my PJs – enjoying the fresh air on my exposed skin. I felt satisfied there was no one to spy on me. Outdoor privacy is a lot greater than most think. It’s best to not tempt fate though like forgetting to take my walking boots off and having my trousers stuck around my ankles. It happened.

The pup yawned at me…

Bel and I retired. I always get an early night during camping. My body feels in tune with the natural rhythm of the night. As I laid with Bel besides me, I meditated to the shadows of the trees and flames until they become no more. I must have drifted off, even with a slight feeling of unease. I set out to sleep in the forest tonight and that’s what I was going to do.

I woke to a loud crackle and one side of my tent glowed even more orange than it did before. I carefully unzipped the door to reveal a roaring fire in the pit. I had let it go out naturally but the wind must have caught it. It crackled for some time and I remember feeling annoyed at it because it was giving away my secret location!

Looking at my clock, I’d only been asleep for half an hour – it was going to be a long night! I toyed with delving into my book but I didn’t want the head torch to attract any unwanted attention. I decided to occupy my mind with the activity of the night. That feeling of unease soon grew into curiosity as owls, foxes and a hedgehog screeched, mooched and sniffled around me.

A familiar sound hit the tent which started off as a pita-pata. I always find listening to water in all forms, a perfect antidote to falling asleep. I slept well. Only arousing occasionally to turn over and to try and stop the pup  from ‘top and tailing ‘ me in the sleeping bag! I failed. At just before 8am, I woke to bird song around me and a thumping on the roof coming from the wet falling Spruce.

The sogginess hit me as I climbed out. Broken branches lay on the forest floor. It had obviously been a tad stormy in the night. Did I dream about that thunder? Whilst the morning sun was out, I packed away quickly and plodded home in my PJs because they were still warm from a long comfortable slumber. A nice reminder of my first solo camp in the local forest.

Top Tips for Wild Camping:

-Always tell someone where you are.

-Avoid broadcasting your location online.

-Tidy up after yourself.

-Only have fires in pits or areas blocked off from dry ground, wildlife and trees etc.

-Don’t go the toilet near any water sources and dig a deep hole for a number 2!

– Arrive late, leave early.

-Don’t camp on paths or where you can be seen.

-Move on politely if asked to and/ or offer to pay.

Notes: In most of Wales, wild camping isn’t legal but it’s a grey area. Be respectful and set a trend for other fellow wild campers.

Chelsea