Winter here in Yorkshire has been never ending this year (as I write this post, I reckon it’s actually the 100th day of January) so when we had a brief window of less than grim weather, I was ready for some fresh air and adventure.
My husband Ride Holme and I decided to start upgrading some of our old camping kit over the winter in readiness for a bike packing trip to Scotland later this year, so with our trusty new down sleeping bags and sparkling new bike kit to test out, we were hankering after an overnight bivvy.
The only problem was that the longer winter had kept it’s grip on us, the softer we’d become. In our defence, we’d had ongoing rain leading to months of muddy gloopy conditions underfoot – followed by the ‘Beast from the East’ bringing sub zero temperatures and large dumps of snow at the end of February – followed by more snow – followed by more rain and clag. You can see why a cosy wood burner, a good bottle of red wine, a dry house and a comfortable warm bed had become overwhelmingly appealing.
On the day we picked up some more bike bags for our Scotland trip, we realised that no rain had been forecast for that night. We looked at each other, grinned and scurried home to start packing some overnight kit.
With a frozen leftover chilli, an obligatory bottle of wine, hot chocolate and porridge for the morning stashed away on our bikes, we set off for a Saturday night out to a place we knew in local woodland.
Ah the thrill of setting off on an adventure, however small, gave me that giddy feeling back. That feeling which I’d been missing for all those weeks spent curled up on the sofa watching re-runs of old films. So even though my bike felt heavier than normal and even though I had a few hills to tackle before reaching our overnight camp, I was grinning all the way.
We arrived at the entrance to the woods just as dusk fell. It’s strange how places can feel completely different in the dark. Whilst the woods are fairly dense, they’ve never spooked me before….but riding through them by torchlight, with the pheasants cackling and flying around….now that felt spooky. I was glad to arrive at our overnight bivvy on the opposite edge of the woods.
Getting our priorities right, the first task was cooking up our chilli – and that was when we realised we’d left a key piece of kit at home. We had the cooker. We had gas. We had the gas converter and the pans. We even had the chilli and some spoons. What we’d failed to pack was something to light the cooker.
Now, you’re reading here about two people who spend a lot of time in the great outdoors. We go camping regularly. We cook up food at the side of the van after a grand day out. We have first aid kits and other handy items in our rucksacks all the time. So you’d expect that one of us would have a lighter, box of matches, flint spark or something stashed away somewhere.
Uh-uh. Nope. Nada. Niets.
We looked through our kit. Then looked again. And again. Then we started looking in the waste ground around us – surely somebody would have left some litter – an old lighter, a fallen match – but no.
Then we considered ‘making fire’. After a brief flurry with 2 sticks and realising that was never going to happen (neither of us had been on a survival course), we turned our hand to making sparks with an old spanner and a brick. It made a lot of noise. It even made the odd spark, but was never close enough to ignite the gas.
Mr Ride Holme muted the idea of one of us returning home for the lighter. I wasn’t sure whether I would prefer to run the gauntlet of the spooky woods by riding back and forth, or sit alone in said spooky woods waiting for his return. I looked through my bags again.
Meanwhile, my resourceful husband had widened his search for some useful rubbish. We’d pretty much decided to abandon the trip and open the wine back home in front of the cosy wood burner when at the 11th hour (8pm), he uncovered a rusting lighter in the undergrowth. It was out of gas, but still had it’s spark.
Hallelujah! The adventure was saved.
Back with our priorities, the wine was opened.
The rest of the night went much more smoothly. Our shiny new kit performed well and we’d started to get an idea of where things would fit on the bike when we headed to Scotland.
We woke to a beautiful morning, one of the few sunny days for 4 months. It made me even more thankful for our overnight adventure.
Packing up the kit, we decided to cycle the long way home to make the most of the day.
Here’s to more adventures…..
Thanks to Ride Holme for images