The first day of walking the Worcestershire Way had passed largely without incident. With a combination of the map and waymarkers, navigation was straightforward. It was hard work lugging my rucksack up some of the hills, but that’s why I’m in training.
I was delighted – and relieved – to find the perfect camping spot just as dusk was falling. Having never wild camped before, I was nervous. I had visions of marauding groups of young men driving doughnuts around the field in the dark and thinking a tent was good game. I’ve obviously watched far too many of the wrong type of film!
To my surprise, as soon as the door to my tent was zipped shut, I felt safe, warm and cosy, and it didn’t take long to fall asleep.
The bright morning light woke me. I reached for my phone to check the time. 5am - time to roll back over and sleep some more. As I tucked my arm back in, my hand brushed the outside of my sleeping bag. It felt damp. Surely not! I was in a new tent and it hadn’t rained during the night. Maybe it was just cold. But I could see a dark patch – it was definitely damp.
I scrambled to get my brain in gear. Looking closely, I could see the inside of the inner tent had tiny water droplets all over it. A wet tent and damp sleeping bag. Staying dry is the key to staying warm, and I really feel the cold. How do I recover from this?
This was the first time I had ever attempted a long-distance footpath on my own, and it was the first time I had ever wild camped. It was proving invaluable as a practice run for the South West Coast Path in a few weeks’ time.
Although I live in Worcestershire, I had not anticipated how chocolate-box pretty this walk would be. The route passes through arable fields, pasture, meadows, woodland and orchards. It takes you along a river (briefly), up and down hills and along ridges, giving you views to both east and west – and occasionally south to the Malverns.
The blackberries were ripe and delicious. Butterflies flitted among the grasses and hedgerows. When I got a good soaking on the first day, I was treated to a full rainbow across the valley, with sunshine at one end and rain at the other. I have the time and fitness to be able to walk, and I felt extremely lucky to find myself on this mini adventure.
But now, I had a damp sleeping bag and wet tent and wasn’t sure what to do. I had a micro-towel in my kit, so wiped down the inside of the tent. It made me feel better just doing something. The fly sheet had sagged during the night and was resting on the inner tent, so I needed to work out what I had done wrong when pitching the tent. I can do that – good.
There was no chance of the sun drying anything out where I was, tucked into the corner of a field by a hedgerow. I still didn’t really know what to do, so I packed everything up and started walking, letting my mind work on it as I walked.
A couple of hours later, I stopped for breakfast. It was dry and windy, so I took out my sleeping bag and dried that off as I ate. Progress.
A couple of hours later again, the sun was shining and I was passing a pub with a garden. What an opportunity! I ordered a cup of tea, stripped off my shoes and socks and pitched my tent in their garden. Within an hour, I was refreshed and everything was dry.
I bounced along the next section of the route. My feet felt warm and dry, and my kit was ready to use for another night if needed. I had recovered the situation.
I did this trip close to home to test out my systems and kit. Things went wrong, but not irretrievably so, and I have learnt a lot ready for my longer walk. I need a new cooking system and some clothes without seams on the shoulders. I needed to check out how to pitch my tent to avoid the inner and outer layers from touching each other (done). As far as I’m concerned, that made the trip a success. The fact that I also completed my first long distance path in over twenty years was the icing on the cake!