Mid-Winter Camp

While fun and relaxing, Christmas often lacks much in the way of excitement. To counteract this, a handful of friends set off on the 29th December 2012 to stay in the woods for the night. The ethics were simple.

  1. No tents
  2. No stoves
  3. Leave the woods as we found them

Arriving shortly before the sun set, we used the last of its light to prepare our new home.

Some put up the tarps, a large one produced a dry space for living under while some smaller ones provided shelter for when we eventually went to bed. Others dug a trench for the fire and used the precious dry kindling we'd brought to get a welcome, flickering source of light and heat going. Twenty minutes of concerted effort from everyone, a hand saw, and an axe ensured we had a substantial woodpile to last us the night.

With sun now gone and the fire blazing, attention turned to food and drink. A demi-john of apple wine was decanted into a pot and left to warm on the edge of the embers. Billy-cans of chilli and stew were placed closer to the middle of the fire and jacket potatoes wrapped in foil balanced precariously on a platform made of sticks. Before long everybody was cradling mugs of steaming apple wine and tucking into plates, bowls and mugs full of stew and jacket potatoes.

By now the earlier rain had eased off and an almost-full moon was rising, casting moon-shadows amongst the trees. By its light it was possible to read labels on bottles with no assistance from artificial sources. In the eerie blue glow and by the light of the flickering fire we tucked into a pudding of bananas and chocolates baked on the fire. From a rucksack some excellent Christmas leftover cheese was produced and, accompanied by a 'wee dram' or two, a fine meal was rounded off.

As the whiskey and wine flowed, so did the stories, from tall-tales of past adventures, to plans for the future, we sat in the light of the fire and relished where we were, and when. While perhaps not a plan for every night, to escape reality television, leftover turkey and well-meaning relatives for a night and return to a more primitive state felt, for us, the height of luxury.

The arrival of a cold front meant the temperature plummeted to just above zero and eventually, around midnight, we were driven to our beds. Climbing into bivi-bags, swaddled in layers of down, with just eyes and the occasional hat poking out we dozed off to sleep listening to powerful winds shaking the trees all around us.

To those who came, we salute your sense of adventure and thank-you for your company. For those who didn't but wish they had, let us know and we'll make sure you get your invitation next year!

Photo Geeks: All the photos were shot using a low-light hack on a Panasonic Lumix, with no flash. Example settings: 1/1000 É/1.7 ISO 12800