As the sun sets on a glorious and uncharacteristically warm Saturday evening in April, what would you find the majority of the English population doing? Probably lounging in their garden, cremating some food on the barbeque, fetching more chilled beers from the fridge… What was I doing? Sitting alone on a hill in Oxfordshire, enveloped by my sleeping bag, watching the sun slowly sink below the glowing horizon.
You see, I was recently gifted a bivvy bag* (see below if you’re not familiar with these) and the gorgeous weather and lack of any other weekend plans seemed like the perfect opportunity to have a play with my new toy. Thus, a snap decision later and I found myself throwing a selection of camping gear into a rucksack and hopping into my car, one particular hill in mind. As I wound my way along country lanes, the surrounding fields rolling away from me like a ripple in still water, I felt a flutter of anticipation spread from my belly to the tips of my fingers. This hasty decision was unlikely to be one I regretted.
I finally pulled into the gravelly car park at my destination, raising a hand in greeting to the only other people in the car park as they departed. I had expected the hill to be popular this evening as it was such a spectacular viewpoint from which to watch the sunset, but it transpired I was the only one. I duly dubbed myself Queen of the Hill, crown still to be arranged.
Having left it so late in the day to start the adventure, I only had time to find a suitable spot to call my home for the night, before the sun disappeared fully and darkness began settling in. I quickly went about making camp, inflating my airbed and unravelling my sleeping bag, finally crawling in. It’s all too easy to get cold when you’re sitting still outside, even after a warm day, and I’ve persevered through enough cold nights to know how valuable my current warmth was to having a comfortable night.
One by one, a host of twinkling stars appeared above me and the nearly-full moon rose into the sky. I hadn’t taken into account how much light would be created by the moon and was thankful that I’d chosen to sleep by a small bushy patch as it shielded me from the brightness. Not wanting to spend the evening glued to my phone, I zipped it away into the inside pocket of my sleeping bag. Soon after, I was fast asleep, the rustle of a gentle breeze through the leaves overhead serving as a lullaby.
I slept soundly, with the exception of waking up too hot during the early hours (not something I could’ve predicted happening). By the time the sky began to lighten and the birds were singing in the new day, I felt rested and energetic. Sipping my freshly-brewed coffee, I watched as the warm glow on the horizon deepened, before the sun peeped out above the crest of the neighbouring hill. The day was beginning.
I took my time breaking camp, acutely aware that on a “normal” day I would usually be just about managing to drag myself out of bed at this time. Yet here I was, breakfasted and caffeined-up, strolling through some woods as the rays of the still low sun cast stretched-out shadows of the trees over the path in front of me. I know which start to the day I prefer…
* Bivvy bag: essentially a raincoat for your sleeping bag. Lightweight, waterproof and perfect for a wild night under the stars!
Feeling inspired to go on your own bivvy adventure but not sure where to start? Keep an eye on my website as I’ll be posting a beginners guide over the next few weeks! If you want to know exactly when it goes up, why not subscribe?