Friday morning and I’m weaving my way through early morning London traffic on the bike, as per usual. I was working until midnight the night before (work’s been busy) and had to hurriedly pack my bag and fly out the door this morning to avoid being late. But instead of my laptop and lunch, what’s weighing me down as I get to the top of Crouch Hill is my sleeping bag.
Four of us have taken Friday off to take Sarah on her first wild-camp. We meet at Workshop coffee in Paddington for an americano and a second breakfast. They let us bring our bikes inside which is a special treat that doesn’t happen often in London. Caught-up and fuelled-up we hit the road and head North.
Edgware Road is a total knob of a road but it gets you North very quickly. We have about 20km of being super alert before we hit the lanes and don’t have to worry about traffic again. Our destination is Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire. I’d clocked an idyllic spot on the river a few weeks before and checked with the landowner that they were happy for us to camp out. Our route was pretty much a direct line that Eddie had finessed to take in a café for lunch. It’s not a disaster if you don’t have someone who is good at and/or enjoys making nice routes, but it’s a lovely bonus if you do. Of us, that’s Eddie!
London > Northamptonshire is really flat so a great direction to head in if you’re carrying bags and looking to take it easy. We made good progress despite a few punctures and were ready to stuff our faces at the vintage café Eddie had found in Southill (near Ireland!) by lunchtime. After an assortment of quiche, baguettes, white twixes (!) and cake, we cracked on, chatting our way up through Bedforshire and Cambridgeshire, into Northamptonshire. Our nature highlight was spotting a black squirrel which confused all of us until we had the data to investigate (pigmentation mutation). The last town before our camp was Oundle, home to a riverside microbrewery, so we stopped for a slightly premature celebratory half. By the time we reached our riverside spot in Fotheringhay, the sun was low in the sky and it was the perfect time for a pre-dinner swim. After accidentally providing an unfortunate strip-tease for a couple of evening walkers, we jumped in. The water was so clear and a treat on tired legs.
We’d booked a pub around the corner for dinner (it’s September, we were bivvying and thought we’d be grateful for the warmth).
After an absolute feast for tea, we headed back to our remote spot to pick a patch for our bivvies. Key things we looked for were…..
- As flat as possible (but head uphill if not)
- Sheltered from the wind
- With a beautiful sight to wake up to
The sky was thick with the milky way – it was incredible to lie beneath it. After a lot of laughs over Sof and Sarah’s two-person Alpkit bivvy (actually genius when you think about it), we fell asleep watching for shooting stars.
The next day we had a pretty simple objective to get to Peterborough in time for a 1:30pm train back to London. We took our sweet time getting up, much to the dismay of a LOT of sheep who’d moved into our patch to graze. After a extended hunt for a sleeping bag-bag which was eventually found in a pocket (classic!), we rolled away, leaving no trace of our stay.
8km up the road was the Wansford Country Lounge which couldn’t have been a better place to get an outdoor lazy breakfast. Most of the ingredients were sourced locally and, by chance, we got talking to John, famous for ‘John the Farmer’s Eggs’ on our menus.
It had been brilliant sunshine for both days so we were really enjoying eking out every last bit of our trip. In between Wansford and Peterborough was Ferry Meadows, where we took an opportunity for another fresh swim, much to the confusion of Johnny Depp and Neil Young who sat by watching.
We made our train (just) and were back in our homes by 3pm.
- If done over a Saturday-Sunday, a trip like this would still leave you some of your weekend.
- If you get a train out or back, you can /ride camp much further away than you could otherwise.
- If you have / can borrow the kit, the amount of planning that went into this (rightly or wrongly!) was probably less than an hour.
- Sleeping bag (+ optional liner)
- Sleeping mat
- Bivvy (or tent)
- Down Jacket (+ optional hat)
- Leggings / Shorts
- Charging pack
- For coffee: Filter / Jetboil / Gas / Lighter / Coffee
- For dinner: Stove / Pan / Gas / Lighter / Something Good!