I’ve been reading a much recommended book by Phoebe Smith, borrowed from my local library, called ‘Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper’ – I bet you can’t guess what its about! The book inspired a conversation with a good friend of mine leading to our first wild sleeping adventure. We set off one Friday afternoon hitch hiking out to the Yorkshire dales, little did we know what lay ahead of us. After a brief stop in Ilkley for some supplies and a near successful attempt at making a coke can stove we headed in the direction of Bolton Abbey. We wandered over streams, past woodlands, through fields of sheep and around fields of cows (too scared to walk through them) scouting out good spots to cook and spend the night while also storing in the back of our mind where we would make a run for if we needed to chicken out.
As it was nearing darkness we set up our hammock bunk bed under some tarpaulin (another birthday present), had a midnight snack and brushed our teeth. Just as we climbed into our makeshift beds for the night the rain started noisily beating upon the tarpaulin. Not long after came the thunder and lightening and we each began to reassure the other we’d be fine whilst secretly praying we’d survive till the morning.
At around 1am I awoke with an uncomfortable sensation in my bladder, not wanting to turn on my torch for fear of insect attention I clambered out of my hammock and headed into the almost pitch black woodland in the rain barefoot to relieve myself. I hadn’t wandered too far before I slipped down a bank towards the river. In the process of stopping myself sliding a piece of my toe was sacrificed to the elements, needless to say I screamed loudly. I later found out as I crawled sheepishly back into my sleeping bag toe throbbing that my scream was drowned out by the thunderstorm and my hammock buddy lay blissfully unaware – good job it hadn’t been kidnappers.
The next day we awoke somewhat surprised we’d lived till the morning with no wild animal/psycho attacks – perhaps they don’t like rain. We swiftly packed down before any unsuspecting dog walkers stumbled upon our sleeping arrangement. The air was still damp but BBC weather promised us a beautiful day ahead so we set off to find the spot we’d marked out for breakfast on the bank of the river. We treated ourself to bacon sandwiches and tea under the tarpaulin, a well deserved treat for our first wild sleep. The weather brightened up just in time for a spot of wild swimming and a chance to dry the wet gear before hitching back to civilisation.