“Mum, I just love it!” squealed my overexcited wee boy, his voice muffled by his head half buried in a bivvy bag. Lying back on the surprisingly soft, springy grass, gazing upwards at the wide expanse of blue, smiling contentedly, I was loving it too. We just don’t see clear blue skies so often in South Lanarkshire. We were six miles from home and 468m up on a nondescript but fairly accessible hill. My first overnight bivvy. Finn’s first overnight bivvy. A shared first experience and wonderful memories in the making I hoped.
I’ve spent a fair few nights out under canvas, including one or two solo camps in the wilderness but this was an entirely different experience, one I’m struggling to put into words so you’ll just have to try it for yourself. To clarify, by bivvy I’m referring to sleeping out under the stars without a tent, in our case using a waterproof ‘bivvy bag’. The seed of this trip was sown over a year ago after picking up Alastair Humphrey’s book “Microadventures”. After reading, then re-reading it, I’d daydreamed of camping out minus the canvas but I hadn’t made the mental leap required to make it happen. So after seeing Alastair’s latest Microadventure Challenge to get an overnight microadventure happening in every county in Great Britain before the end of June and hoping to be the first in South Lanarkshire, it was time to take action.
The practicalities were as I suspected. No just throwing a few things together in a small 30 litre bag as espoused by Alastair. Packing was a half day expedition in itself. After a manic search for our bright orange survival bag bivvy and remembering we’d cut it into pieces for some creation the previous summer, we made a rush visit to find a bivvy bag for Finn at the only outdoor shop for miles. Lanark Army Navy stores. No cheap orange survival bag replacement but a single oversized camouflage bivvy bag smelling faintly of cigarette smoke. It would have to do. I’d spent all morning psychologically preparing myself for our sleep out on the hills, not to mention the year spent thinking about it.
Hauling a bag containing all we would need for the night wasn’t too challenging. Cajoling a five year old, who would normally be getting ready for bed at this time, up a hill, was a little more so. Still, he was fuelled by excitement and the promise of home-made chocolate brownies when we got to the top. An hour later we had reached our king-sized bed and room with a view for the night. Settling down listening to my husband and son tell each other stories, I was tired but fought against succumbing to sleep, every five minutes forcing my eyes open again to watch the darkening skies and imprint the view in my mind and the contentment in my soul.
The night itself was surprisingly uneventful. I was expecting visits from a myriad inquisitive animals but we saw only sheep, who respectfully kept their distance and heard only birds, which I wish I could have identified from their calls.
I can’t say I woke feeling refreshed, but I certainly felt the warm glow of satisfaction from completing something that’d taken a year to work up to. After a quick breakfast and cup of tea, we got packed up (neither as fast or as gracefully as I’d have liked) and were on our way back down the hill. Finn still in his fleecy pyjamas, me, still with a big smug grin on my face.