Winter adventures are miserably cold, wet, windy and absolutely brilliant.
It’s mid October and I’m lying in my tent in a North Devon Campsite which has the capacity for somewhere in the region of 500 tents. I am however the only person here. I have to be honest and the idea of spending 10 days camping alone a few weeks before the clocks turn didn’t excite me much but I have to finish writing my next book and getting into the great outdoors is the best way to get creative. I generally write better in the evenings, which leaves me the days to go exploring. I sit up and bump the side of the tent which sends a showering of condensation right down the back of my neck. I let out a less than manly yelp. It dropped to about 5 degrees in the night which made my 2am pee a little interesting. After wiping the condensation away with a towel and then using the towel to wipe my face (DIY wet-wipe) I put the Jetboil on and within minutes have a steaming cup of Yorkshire’s finest brew warming me up from the inside - life’s simple pleasures. I then spend the next 13 minutes trying to get all my winter kit on which takes a Masters in Contortionism in my small tent. Eventually, and half way to Michelin man status with the number of layers I have on I’m ready to take on the world. I’m only a few hundred meters from the famous North Coast Path so pack up some essentials, a banana, oat cakes, water and chorizo. I unzip the tent, the wind and rain is so strong it whips the door flap onto my face, the zip hitting me slap bang on the nose. This doesn’t stop me though and I exit the tent like a Roman Emperor exiting his canvas hut on hearing canon fire in the distance, the camera zooming in on his determined face. I was determined, determined to have a real adventure and not let a silly thing like weather stop that from happening. That first mile is always the hardest, my feet and body getting used to the slippery terrain while trying to avoid being blown off a 100ft cliff, although with wind this strong there was a good chance I’d actually just hover in mid-air, my weight exactly matching the counter force of the wind rushing up the cliff. Luckily I suffer from vertigo so never went close enough to the cliffs to test the theory. Although I’m soaked to the bone it’s exciting and I can feel the adrenalin turning my body from: ‘sitting-on-my-arse-author’ mode to ‘super-warrior-explorer’ mode. I feel alive in a weird primeval way. For the next hour wind and rain plays slapstick with my face as I explore landscapes that have come right out of Lord of the Rings. Crouched over to push into the wind I feel like a bit like Golum looking for The Ring, which for me was The Ship Aground Pub a few miles away. I eventually reach the pub, soaking wet and a little dehydrated as I always forget to drink when it’s raining, opting for the less effective theory of osmosis. I’m convinced it will happen one day. I open the door, there is a fire already burning in the corner and a Labrador curled up in the corner. I order a bottle of Devon’s finest ale and sit near the window. I go to take my first sip and notice how the fire reflecting off the top of the bottle actually resembles a Ring. After a few hours suffering the perils of middle earth I had found my treasure. That first sip has never tasted so sweet. I felt triumphant. This is what adventuring is all about. There’s a famous saying; ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothing. There’s also another saying; ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.’ I say we should all get outdoors when the weather is bad. Your experience will no doubt be a lot tougher, but the rewards will be that much better, and let’s be honest, no great story ever started with the sentence. ‘So it was a lovely sunny day’.