I love sleeping outside. The main reason I go walking is so I can sleep outside but I never seem to have enough time for proper multi-day trips. I’ve done no camping since May and I’m conscious that the summer is coming to a close and I’ve nearly wasted it. So….. off to Wrexham for the night!
The plan kept changing. Originally it was going to be two nights with a full day’s walking inbetween but work, and untold dithering over which rucksack to take, meant that it was half noon before I left the house. After a 3 and a bit mile walk to a Borderlands Line station – where I noticed that the public telephone was stilled smashed up ( ….. or had it been repaired and smashed up again since my last trip?) – I caught the train to Wrexham. Although there is a lot of urban and industrial landscape in North East Wales, there are also some hills and semi-rural bits – and it’s quicker to get to than the bigger mountains further West.
The weather forecast said that I would have a dry night with temperatures no lower than 13 degrees C and that it would start raining at 0900. It also said that there’d be a light wind – which was useful from a midge mitigation point of view.
I took my micro-tarp (5′ by 4′, I think), my Terra Nova Moonlite sleeping bag cover (the original version with no midge net), some Wickes secondary double-glazing film as a groundsheet, and some laminate flooring underlay (folded to provide a shoulder-to-hip pad) as a sleeping mat. My sleeping bag was my lightest / smallest synthetic bag; my Vango Ultralite 100 which has a manufacturer comfort rating of 10 degrees.
Usually I follow the road to Bersham out of Wrexham but, this time, I went South on Wat’s Way towards Erddig Country Park. My lack of recent experience with a 1:25,000 map meant that I kept misjudging how far I’d walked, so I missed my turn onto the Clywedog Trail. Erdigg Country Park looked like a good place for a post-Sunday lunch walk.
Back on track I passed the Bersham Iron Works. This looks like a heritage centre (although there is an actual Bersham Heritage Centre just up the road) but I have never seen it open. A quick search suggests that it’s only open for planned group visits or on special occasions ….. and the Heritage Centre has closed.
Last time I was in this neck of the woods I stumbled across the Nant Mill Visitor Centre – but it had been closed. I was looking forward to passing that way today as I knew they had some sort of cafe or refreshments shop. I arrived at 4:32 ……
…. and the shop was shut. The toilets were open though so I had a drink of tap water via my Sawyers Mini filter. The weather was quite warm and I was carrying 3 litres of water from home in case the hill streams were dry, so I was disappointed not to have the pot of tea and can of pop that I’d been daydreaming about. The photo was taken next day on my way back to Wrexham. It was raining and quite dark which is why my flash fired. By the way, it was 10:02 AM ….. yes, you guessed it, the shop was shut!
I knew roughly where I planned to camp and had a choice of routes to get there. However, I hadn’t really planned a route in any great detail and I wasn’t in a rush. At one point I walked through a field full of cows and had to walk past a large, mean-looking bull. I tried to look confident and purposeful as I strode past it and climbed over the stile. I was then faced with chest high bracken. I was pretty sure I was on a marked footpath but the bracken was completely covering it. I would only have had to cover 75 yards before reaching grass again but the bracken was completely impassable. I fought my way forwards for about 5 yards but got stuck. I would have had to chop it down with a scythe to have any chance of making progress. I turned round and forced my way back to the stile. The bull was still there …. and staring at me. I could see that the adjacent field was bracken-free although I’d have to cross a small gully and a barbed-wire fence to reach it. Hoping that the gully would deter the bull from getting too close while I climbed the fence I reclimbed the stile and crossed onto the next field.
It was probably about 6pm now and I was starting to feel hungry. I had intended to go at least a couple of miles further but I decided that this field would do. I found the flattest part of the field and built my shelter. The wind was coming down the hill, from West-ish, so I rigged the tarp in a lean-to configuration with the broadside to the wind. Hopefully, if it did rain in the morning, the rain would also come from that direction.
At first, I wasn’t going to use the sleeping bag cover but the wind was a little cold so I decided I would. Even with the cover on, the wind was making my feet cold so I put my socks back on. Overnight I was never actually cold but I did put on more clothes more than once in anticiption of becoming cold later. The Vango Ultralite 100 may be rated to 10 degrees but I think, for me, there would be very few situations in the UK when this bag was warm enough for outdoors use. I’m not even sure if this bag is made anymore; I bought it on a whim in TX Maxx at least 6 or 7 years ago.
Dinner was the bag of “TentMeals Italian Inspired Main Meal” which I received on this year’s TGO Challenge. I’d been looking forward to this meal as TentMeals are the first company I’ve come across which only make Vegetarian and Vegan camping meals. I thought the meal (couscous) was a little too overflavoured but it was quick and easy to make and was a nice change from my usual Pasta N Sauce.
There had been a strong breeze whilst I’d been making my camp and preparing my dinner but it dropped as soon as I started to eat – and the midgies came out for their tea. I ended up eating my couscous under the bottom of my head net. Thankfully, the breeze came back after tea and I had a midge-free night.
I had wondered if I was being daft only taking the underlay as a sleeping mat but it worked out OK. I have a piece which I use as “carpet” for my tent and I folded that so that it was four layers thick then placed it so that it was under the area from my shoulders to my thighs. I used my sit mat under my feet. I can usually fit my bivvying kit into a relatively small rucksack but – as I don’t want to use my Neoair mattress outside where it could blow away – I end up strapping a ginormous closed-cell foam rollmat to the outside of my rucksack. The underlay rolls up into a much smaller bundle or could be folded and placed inside the pack.
I sipped a cup of tea as the light faded away. By 9pm I was ready to turn in for the night. I woke a couple of times in the night but I always do. At times the sky was clear with loads of twinkling stars. At other times the clouds were gathering but there was no rain. At about 3am, a cockerel decided it was time to wake everyone up. I think someone must have had a word with him, though, as he’d gone quiet by ten past.
At 5:30 ish it was starting to get light then, all of a sudden, it was 7:30 and I decided it was time to get up. The weather was very still and the midgies were waiting for me. My breakfast porridge was consumed under my head net.
The first spots of rain appeared shortly after 8am and the tarp did its job of keeping my kit dry while I packed up. I would have been impressed by the BBC’s forecast of rain by 9am, had I not checked the forecast on my phone at bedtime and seen that they’d pushed the rain back to 11. By 9am it was raining quite heavily and I was packed up and dressed in full waterproofs.
I had chosen to use my Montane smock [I forget what type it is; I’ve had it for years] but I knew it was not waterproof so I also took my Intregral Designs Silcoat Cape. I bought this cape earlier this year as a means of keeping the rain off my shoulders when wearing Paramo and a rucksack. I find that – in persistent heavy rain – water gets through the shoulder area and I get wet. The cape is big enough to use with a small rucksack but not with my TGO Challenge-sized pack, so it hardly got any use in May. I walked for around 4 hours in horrible rain today and can’t really say that the cape has been a success. I don’t know whether the rain gets in around the neck, or whether the water on the outside transfered to the inside when I packed the cape up on the train before putting it back on, but my smock was wet – although not soaked through. The two times when the cape has been very useful were when I used it as a shelter whilst having a teabreak – so it does have some uses!
I arrived home mid-afternoon having walked approx 16 miles in total and spent a night under the stars. So not really a great expedition but an enjoyable mini adventure nonetheless.