Those there are two words that we’ve never really put together. Winter usually equals indoors, warmth and duvets, but to test our new tent and gas cooker, last weekend we spent the night under canvas at Blackberry Woods.
Being one of a handful of free weekends before we depart, we had decided we should go for a test camp, as long as it wasn’t going to be too cold, or snowing, or raining and with the forecast promising sunny intervals and maybe even a high of 10 degrees, we packed rear panniers with enough to keep us warm for the night. Cue Emma telling Justin: ‘Pack a woollen jumper, it’ll be cold, assume it will be really cold.’
We cycled a familiar route to Hammersmith before turning the GPS on only to find that it was unable to locate any satellite signals. Cue Justin cursing GPS and wondering if he’d have to use the backup maps which we hadn’t even looked at. We tried again at Putney Bridge, this time with success and placing our trust in its automatically calculated route we headed south.
The endless suburbs of South London soon merged into the sprawl of Redhill, and busy roads through Gatwick and Crawley before the countryside opened up. We hit the hills (as well as geese, and sunshine) for the final 25 km to Streat.
Blackberry Woods is a tiny site with only 20 pitches, but its pretty special, being both open all year and allowing campfires. We weren’t really prepared for our outdoor excursion, half expecting that we’d head down to a nearby pub as soon as it was cold and dark, but as we sat in the fading afternoon light in our own private glade starting dinner, we decided to stay put and make a campfire. The sun set with the afternoon’s bird calls morphing into owls and you could see other tiny glows of fire in the distance until the last of our wood burned down.
The night was cold – so much so that in sleeping bags with all of our clothes on we woke up in the early morning because our noses were still freezing. Justin rolled into the hood of his sleeping bag, Emma pulled down her hat. In the morning the tent was dripping in condensation but we realised that we had forgotten to open any vents when setting it up.
Birds were up early but we emerged just after 9, grabbing breakfast at a cyclists tea shop in Ditchling before retracing our steps to Balcombe where we caught a train back to London. All new pieces of kit seemed to do the job so on the camping front at least, we’re feeling pretty well prepared.