Two Wee Adventurers

Rediscovering the great outdoors with a little one

Tag: wild camp

March Microadventure: Woodland Bivvy

I was afraid that last month’s freezing bivvy had put my son off as yesterday he woke in a miserable mood and spent the morning complaining that he didn’t want to go bivvying. By afternoon, after getting hold of some marshmallows and meeting up with our friends who have committed to participating in our Year of Microadventures with us, he had cheered up a little and by evening, while sat around the fire in the evening the boys were declaring how amazing bivvying is.

For each month’s microadventure we are planning to bivvy in a different environment; beach, forest, riverside, hilltop, island. This didn’t quite work out for January and February when we went no further than the neighbour’s garden, but last night we kicked off with somewhere completely new for our first woodland bivvy. Part of the attraction of microadventures for me is that it presents an opportunity to explore your local area and discover somewhere beautiful you never new existed less than ten miles down the road. Being so close to home also makes it easy to get back home for a morning coffee.

We left the boys playing in the stream, pushing each other out of the hammock and building a den while we set up camp and lit a small fire.

The boys whittled sticks for their sausages and we cooked corn cobs in foil in the ashes, followed by tea and hot chocolate and the previously mentioned marshmallows.

Being a person who generally prefers wide, open spaces, I was worried I’d feel a sense of claustrophobia hemmed in by trees, but with the light from the candle lantern and the glow from the fire our camp spot felt cosy and inviting and a safe space rather than a threatening one. It’s also surprising how much darker it is in the forest, with the advantage that Finn thought it was a lot later than it actually was and was persuaded to go to bed earlier than usual.

Unfortunately he can’t be persuaded to sleep any more soundly. Twice he sat up talking in his sleep to himself and a couple more times I found him half out of his sleeping bag and upside down. I didn’t think it was possible to feel too hot out in the woods in early March but the temperature was probably a good ten degrees warmer than on our February bivvy and I was so warm in the night that I woke up and had to strip down to just two thermal layers! After the birds settled down to roost and the owls ceased their hoots and the boys ceased their chatter, a calm silence descended. The trees helped to muffle the sounds outside of our little enclosed space and there was just the gentle tinkling of the small burn a few metres away to lull us to sleep. Being outside enlivens rather than desensitises the senses, and it was easy to appreciate the smell of the damp earth and dried pine needles, the whiff of woodsmoke, the feel of the cool drizzle on my face at intervals during the night, and the occasional gentle gust of cool, unpolluted air.

The boys were full of energy in the morning even if the mums weren’t and there was just enough time for a quick explore down by the river until that well earned (and very much appreciated) cup of coffee back home.





Our First Bivvy Microadventure

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.

On our way

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.

Setting up camp

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.

Watching the sun go down

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.

Our first bivvy complete!

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.


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