Okay, so I’m slightly late as its now been a while since the Solstice on 21 December, but its about time i shared the fun I had to celebrate it.
Continuing in the spirit of Alastair Humphreys ( wonder if I class as a ‘mini me’ yet? Probably nowhere near, but a good goal) my other half emailed me with a link to Alastair’s blog and said, ‘So, we’re doing it, right?’ I didn’t think before I said “Absolutely!”
We planned to ride our mountain bikes and strike out across country on bridle paths and byways. We picked a route and identified a camping place. We packed our tent and camping gear and the pasta bolognese i had made the night before ( thats a first – I’m never that prepared despite being in the brownies. Not now you understand – when I was considerably shorter), and on a very wet and wild Saturday, we got dressed in layers topped with water proofs and off we went.
I’ve never done this before. Never set off on a route and done my own planning, navigation and all round decision making. Nor have I put up my own tent without supervision. You’ve got to start somewhere though and when better to start than a very cold and very, very wet and windy winter’s night?
The bridleways were beyond yucky, the soil in the part of East Anglia where I live is heavy clay and so the routes were like trying to cycle across a potters wheel that is covered in slip. and it was hard to stay upright with the wind attacking us from sideways on. It wasn’t long before the inevitable happened and I slid once too often and couldn’t get my foot unclipped from my pedal and fell sideways in very slow motion into a ditch.
A recuperative cuppa in a fantastic tea shop in a converted railway station ticket office hit the spot before getting on our way again
The routes were so slippery that we decided to carry on along quiet roads and as the light was starting to fade, we decided not to head for the planned stopping place but to leave it to chance and see what we could find along the way.
We found a beautiful pine woods just off the road. The light was fading and the wind was starting to get much stronger so the stop really had to be sooner rather than later. We found a clearing amongst the trees that was large enough for the tent, so we set about putting up the tent. The poles have coloured sections that you have to match up with coloured tabs on the tent and all you have to do is thread them through like unfolding magic wands. The next stage involves you using tent pegs which look like meat skewers that you thread though strings at a high tension and hey presto – the tent was up.
Thermarests and sleeping bags unrolled, we fired up the stove and made a brew
By then I realised that i hadn’t changed my soaking wet socks and my feet were really very cold. I got myself ready for bed and changed into clean and dry socks. An hour later I still couldn’t get my feet warm despite foot rubbing, more tea and two sleeping bag liners. Nothing. There was only one thing for it. Gloves.
It was a long night of strange noises but I slept surprisingly well when I did sleep. We started very early in the morning and packed up camp and set off home. By 10am we had covered the relatively short distance home and having stopped off at the village shop for fresh bread, we were back home with the toaster on, a delicious cuppa in hand and the grins on our faces that come with having accomplished something new. it doesn’t matter that it was small. it wasn’t for me. I put a tent up and took it down. I planned a route and took control of my adventure….and I wore gloves on my feet..a perfect winter solstice.