An Unadventurous Adventure
Here is something a little different, and perhaps a touch more accessible than my usual posts. On the 30th June 2018, people all across the UK had a wild night out (https://www.wildnightout.org/). This is my story of our unadventurous adventure.
With a busy few weeks scheduled between the European Alps and the Scottish Highlands, I didn’t have much time to plan a ‘proper’ adventure. But I still wanted to be part of the Wild Night Out for 2018, so with the constraints of time, we made the best of it and had one of the smallest adventures it’s possible to have in the UK! Hence, for those who are yet to sleep out in the ‘wild’ but would love the challenge to be in manageable territory, this might just be the inspiration for you.
On our journey, we headed for Newbury and then into the North Wessex Downs to a village called Fosbury. This area is full of charming quintessential English hamlets. Fosbury and Vernham Dean are the main places that the SatNav will recognise, but the actual start of the adventure is from Conholt Hill, 1.5km south of Fosbury. The map below shows all you need to know to start your adventure in the right place.
Driving along the Conholt Hill road from Fosbury for 100m, you come to a house (on the right), and an obvious parking place on the left (the rightmost purple dot on the map). One of the best features of this walk is that you park in Berkshire, but as soon as you start your adventure, you cross into Wiltshire, and so have conquered a county boarder after only a few steps!
From here the fun starts. Taking the very non-obvious footpath on the right hand side of the house, you start down a narrow track with a beautiful cottage and greenhouse to the right. The path narrows further as you walk beside a wall, and then 2 minutes after leaving the car, you emerge into wide open fields of *whatever the farmer has growing this year*. Whatever it is though, the vistas are stunning.
From here, the walk is simple; you trek up for 15 minutes via an obvious footpath with a forest on the right and fields to the left. After 15 minutes, you will reach your first, and only, navigational challenge. The forest bends around to the left, and there is a footpath either straight through the trees in front of you, or around to the left. Turn left, keeping the trees on your right and the top of the field on your left.
Five more minutes takes you to a very slight right hand turn, as the path (very obviously) takes you through a small leafy section of the forest. This path ends with a stile, and on crossing this, you enter the fields of Knolls Down, once home of Fosbury Fort. And this is your home for the evening!
There is a little more climbing to get to the actual site of the fort, with a moat or two to be crossed, but these grassy fields are the perfect setting for a microadventure and really worth exploring. There is a main footpath running south down the middle of the fort, but this is easily avoided, and the slopes to the east away from the path give a great vantage point over the surrounding countryside. The area really is very wide and open, allowing you to explore the best place to lay down for the evening.
Thanks to some logistical challenges, our own exploration extended to finding the most suitable tree to sleep under. Thankfully these come very soon after reaching the fort, and the flat Serengeti style trees give great cover whilst still giving a superb view from your million start hotel.
Doing things a little differently
As for our little adventure, we didn’t manage to set out from the car until just after 10pm, meaning despite the full moon and general scorching summer temperatures, the relative darkness still made finding somewhere to sleep a challenge. We only had our iPhone torches for both the map (OS Mapping), and for lighting, but this only goes further to prove really anyone can take part in such an adventure.
We took one rucksack each and even though we we’re only 20 minutes downhill to the car, we had enough kit to make our stay as pleasant as possible. My bag contained one bivi bag, one very light sleeping bag, a sleeping mat,a makeshift basha, a bottle of water, and some snacks (obviously). Clearly there wouldn’t be much time for snacking in the evening, so we wandered up by the side of the forest, following the arrow on the map; all very easy stuff that even the least outdoor-literate person could achieve. On finding a perfect little tree, we set up camp (a 2 minute job at most if you have a bivi bag), and then settled down for the night with a log and my rucksack for a pillow.
After a completely uneventful night of a bliss 14 degrees, we awoke to yet another round of glorious sunshine and stunning views to keep us company whilst eating mini pain au chocolats and some cinnamon rolls; an altogether perfect antidote to a stressful week in the city.
And then we left without a trace, spending 30 minutes to trundle back to the car, soaking up the sunshine and getting down with nature. Perhaps the best part is since it starts getting light at 4am, you can lounge around in the morning, have a lazy breakfast, head back to the car and be back at home well in time for a second breakfast (and most of the countries first).
A few hours later, we were back on the bikes, soaking up the remainder of a glorious summers day. #bliss