Sunday 28 March 2010

Bushcraft and trig

A windswept Rachel, glad to find a trig point where it should be. The rope was for the dog, (honest!)

Yorkshire moors

Hobo stove with brew on, Rachel will be making a 'proper' fire to cook on, the camouflage sheet is a poncho over the kitchen area
Rachel having fun with her lines
Setting up bushcraft camp There is a certain frisson of excitement to be stepping out of the door with a rucksack and having no certainty as to where the day will end and shelter for the night be found. Rush hour was just getting underway as I headed across town on the underground.The tube, a mass of humanity, heading for offices, another day of toil at their city desks; more hours of the same, repetitive tedium. People, blank faced mutely suffering the crowding of personal space, jostling, shuffling to board the packed compartment. Many hide behind the freebie newspapers that abound; women hastily applying their makeup; I have never managed to make a decent job of doing my makeup on public transport and yet many women deftly apply mascara and eyeshadow with casual dexterity as the train sways and shudders through the tunnels. With my travel stained clothing and scruffy rucksack, I stand out as something different, an oddity in the days humdrum existence; eyes scan me from head to toe and then dismiss me.
St Pancras has recently had a massive rebuild and the connecting tunnels from Kings Cross a veritable rabbit warren. St Pancras station has a very long central concourse and great throngs of humanity where sweeping through. A virtual tidal wave of literally hundreds of people where relentlessly all heading in the one direction. Swimming against that mighty host was a daunting prospect, hesitate and you would be swept away and it took steely determination to plough on through. Standing by the barriers waiting for the message board to announce which platform my train would be at, I watched as more trains disgorged yet more people; all of them, as if by some primal homing instinct, heading in to the city, an ants nest, a mighty organism, man, the herd animal.
After a flurry of messages back and forward Rachel and myself had agreed to meet up in Nottingham. Rachel has, among her range of outdoor activities, a hobby of collecting trig points, what she does with them I dare not ask? A good enough reason to get out and explore and it certainly enhances the map reading skills. However, the plan was for Rachel to pick me up in Nottingham and from there we would head out, find a couple of trig points and then find a place to set up camp in a certain area of woodland.Having duly met up by late morning as planned, we set out. The afternoon was spent travelling to a variety of locations with some interesting walks through woods and fields, seeking out illusive trig points. With two trig points duly recorded we discreetly took to the woods for an overnight bushcraft camp. Bushcraft camping carries much the same ethos as any form of wild camping, leave no trace,be discreet and cause no damage. There are differences though; often a tarp of some form is used in place of a tent; these can be slightly heavier than the ultra light tarps and and much larger. The benefits are many though, the volume of space under a large tarp is immense, my tarp is 3metre by 3 and Rachel's is even larger; they offer full protection from any weather, making them ideal for winter and at the same time offer all round vision of the surrounding woods and I have often seen deer close by. In summer a lighter and smaller tarp and bivi bag often suffice.
As soon as camp was set up my small hobo stove put to use for a brew of tea while Rachel bustled around gathering wood for what she considers 'a proper fire'. Open fires are not for summer in the woods, with all the risks of a potential forest fire; at this time of the year there was no real risk and all traces would be removed the following morning. Heavy, blustery showers where sweeping through, the wind roaring in the tree tops but we where snug. When travelling solo my food is basic, lightweight dried rations; Rachel though likes to cook and prepared a sumptuous and delicious supper with caramelised prawns and baked potatoes. As is the norm. with me at the moment I had a broken nights sleep, having to get up eight or nine times during the night; at least I had time to listen the noises of the night, the call of owls, the bark of a fox, night creatures scurrying and scuffling through the leaf litter.
The following morning, after a leisurely start, Rachel introduced me to yet more joys and also the headaches of trig hunting. At one point we found ourselves revolving in circles in a brand new housing estate not even yet marked on any map. We could only surmise that the trig point, if it still existed, must be at the edge of someones back garden? It would seem trig points are illusive animals, two at least on Rachel's list had been removed by local farmers. Some lurked in the depths of hedgerows, as found out when we sought one in the middle of a pristine looking golf course. In all due respect to the golfers, no one raised an eyebrow or challenged us as we cast about, map in hand seeking the skulking trig. At another point, wandering along bridleways Rachel's keen eyes spotted a stoat, we also managed to spot a baby one too. Muddy fields where carefully negotiated, up bridleways, down paths and even roadside trig points, we sought them all at points, north, south, east and west, Rachel is a determined lass and was a sight to behold as she pored over the map, muttering incantations under her breath and having some strong words concerning farmers who remove her sought after object.
Rachel was tired after a long session working nights and we retired to her place that night. The Saturday morning saw us out once more on the hunt. Rachel had hijacked ( borrowed) a dog to accompany us during the course of our days rambling. This time we where heading for the moors above Keighley. Some fine moorland walking, wide open spaces, the dog though was not versed in the ways of hill walking and was a little flummoxed when confronted with a high dry stone wall. He accepted though, with great equanimity, the indignity of being scooped up and passed over the wall. A lovely walk with fine views, blustery but dry. After a quick lunch we where soon heading rapidly up another hill to bag yet another trig; well at least the dog was, closely followed by Rachel, with me in the rear doing the granny shuffle, huffing and puffing. It was good to be out though and an enjoyable few days where had.