We left our monthly microadventure to the last minute last month, squeezing it into the last couple of days in August. But now into our 7th month of our ‘Year of Microadventures’ (we missed out June) and with plenty of camping in between, packing for a bivvy adventure has become a smoother, more refined process, verging on my ultimate bivvying goal of… spontaneity! It took just an hour and a half between arriving home after a full day in the city, and getting packed up and leaving the house for the night and I’d even managed to bake a batch of oaty banana cookies for breakfast in that time! Go me. I’d also managed to drop a bag size; my backpack was the lightest it’d ever been, partially aided by packing some of the lighter but bulky gear into Finn’s pack on the one hand and the realisation that I could make do without always carrying a book or two in my bag for the one night.
Turning off the main road down a rutted farm track, I could hear the loud barking of several dogs from the building nestled out of sight in the forest a mile away. Our route would lead us directly through the farm yard and although I’m a dog-lover, the thought of being nipped at the ankles by a collie mistaking me (or worse, my son) for a sheep made me think twice. We double backed to the road and were just scouting out a possible alternative, involving jumping a metre wide ditch, crossing a field full of cows and scaling a couple of barbed wire fences, when I saw a car emerging from the forest up the track. Racing back to the junction, hauling our bags, we arrived just in time to halt the car and were assured that the working dogs were tucked up in their kennels for the night so we continued confidently along our original intended route.
Sleeping out regularly each month with nothing between you and the elements brings a new awareness, or rather appreciation, of the changing of the seasons. As it became obvious that the sun would set a full hour and a half earlier than our last bivvy in July, it was a bit of a push to persuade Finn to keep up his pace as we climbed the hill in order to set up camp in the last dregs of daylight, especially so as we passed the impressive remains of an iron age hill fort, (cue Finn launching into his own Celtic battle re-enactment). We eventually found a flattish spot between two ramparts of a second extensive hill fort on top of the hill and put our wee orange toilet trowel to good use in clearing away a carpet of sheep poo – a necessary precaution against ending up face to face with the stuff in the morning.
It was a beautifully calm evening and the atmosphere couldn’t have been more different than our July hill top bivvy when it was blowing a hoolie. The night was so still that we could hear with clear precision the everyday noises from miles around; the hoots of a tawny owl, the occasional barking of a dog from a farm and the traffic from the distant A702.
With an earlier sunset we were also perfectly timed to be snug in our bivvy bags but still awake to watch the stars emerge one by one (in unison with the electric lights from the nearby town of Biggar). A we competed to be the one to spot the most stars Finn whispered “It’s lovely mum. I wish we could live outdoors”. “Well, we could pitch the tent in the garden and sleep out” I replied. “No mum, I mean without the tent. In the bivvy bags”. Oh dear, what have I got myself into?
After a blissfully non-eventful night we woke to the sun behind us andthe town of Biggar below us blanketed in a thick mist. One of the benefits of bivvying is that you see your usual, mundane, day-to-day surroundings with new eyes, from a fresh perspective that makes it feel like you’re on holiday. And another benefit of bivvying (particularly up a hill) is that you get to enjoy a glorious morning walk that’s downhill all the way…
The morning warmed up and we basked in what has felt rather rare in Scotland this summer… sunshine. We took the long way home, not meeting a soul, just a hare and the ubiquitous sheep, until passing the farm. “You’re out and about early” remarked the kindly farmer emerging from a tractor. I came clean and told him we’d slept on the hill. He was nonplussed and only wanted to know whether or not we were ravaged by midges. But no, despite the calm evening we’d managed to thwart the biting beasties once again.