When other plans fell through, I found myself available to go to a Half Man Half Biscuit gig in Holmfirth. However, this would have messed up my intention to do a wild camp over the weekend of the Summer Solstice ….. so I decided to combine the two.
I had a few potential camping spots in mind. The Trig Pillar up the hill south of Snailsden Reservoir looked remote enough and would have met my requirement to bag a benchmark everywhere I go. In my imagination I framed the most amazing sunrise photograph with the sun peeking out from behind the Trig Point. There’d be a bit of midge-repelling breeze up there, too.
Arriving in the area about 3 hours before the gig, I found a layby that might have been a good place to leave my car overnight so I parked up and went for a wander to weigh up how difficult the navigation would be in the dark and to suss out a suitable camp site. The area was obviously popular with walkers and the former quarry and water works meant that the paths were clear and generally easy to find. I’d have had to make a slight detour through some bracken but I was confident I could find my way later.
It was a warm sunny day and I’d been keeping an eye on how the weather was due to develop. I’d been studying the sunrise and sunset times on this website. I know – from my experience of wild camping – that there is usable daylight long after the official Sunset time. Sunset was at 2140 but the gig wasn’t due to finish until 2300 and I was trying to work out how much light there would be. Nautical Twilight ended at 0011, so I hoped that I’d not be in pitch darkness until after midnight when, hopefully, the Waning Gibbous moon would kick in.
Deciding to take a shortcut back to my car, and (successfully) testing the waterproof lining of my left trail shoe, I cut across the dam end of the Snailsden Reservoir and found a rough patch of ground just off the reservoir access road. It had clear views East – so good for the sun in the morning – and, critically, would be very easy to find in the dark. Camp site found, I moved the car down to Hinchliffe Mill and walked into Holmfirth.
Of course, I can’t visit somewhere without looking for benchmarks and I was pleased with my Holmfirth haul. A couple of cut marks, a pivot and a rivet, including these two on Holy Trinity Church:
The HMHB gig was enjoyable, as usual. This smaller venue was more fun than the Liverpool and Manchester gigs I’d been to last year. I took my preferred position up at the front, slightly to the right, and was entertained not just by the band but by the good-natured moshing to my left. My left trouser leg did seem to end up with quite a lot of beer on it, though.
The gig finished just before 11pm and in less than 20 minutes I’d picked up my rucksack from the car and headed off into the dark. Only it wasn’t really dark; there were street lights and big houses with massive security lights which illuminated miles around. Then, suddenly, I turned a corner and faced a wall of darkness. For a second or two I pondered whether I was being an idiot. Was it really a sensible idea to walk on my own in the dark in order to lie on the ground when I could sleep in the car? The moment’s ditheration gave my eyes time to adjust and I realised I could see more than I’d first realised. I walked on.
The stone stile at the reservoir’s gate was awkward in the dark and I had visions of, almost literally, falling at the last hurdle but – at about a quarter past midnight – I was in the place I’d planned to bivi. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by switching on my headtorch so I stamped up and down to find a flat bit of ground then laid out my mat. Of course, as soon as I lay down in my bivi bag I realised that I appeared to be lying on a badger – but one good thing about having no tent is that it is so easy to move.
One thing which had played on my mind as I walked in the dark was “Where is the moon?”. I kept looking all around but couldn’t find it. Yes, there was some cloud but only light cover and I was puzzled. Lying on my back looking at the stars, I turned my head to figure out what the annoying light polution was just above the ground to my right. A-ha! That’s where the moon was. It must’ve risen just after midnight.
With intentions of watching the stars and moon, I soon drifted off to sleep but woke after a short time and realised I was already cold. I put some extra layers on, including my thin gloves, and had a fairly comfortable – if not exactly cosy – night.
Sunrise was due at 4:37.
At 3:17 the sky looked like this:
At 4:20 – so still 17 minutes before sunrise – it was like this:
Sleep reclaimed me and when I next awoke at 5:49 the sun was high in the blue sky and there were fluffy white clouds:
I enjoyed the warmth from the sun whilst having my breakfast of coffee and Welsh cakes.
Packing up is quick and easy after a bivi night and I was pleased, if slightly surprised given how little sleep I’d had after pitching so late, to be walking by 7am. Retracing my steps back to the car was a completely different experience in the daylight. I’d taken one wrong turn in the dark and had realised something was amiss when the texture of the ground under my feet changed. In the light it was so obvious which way I should have gone. Maybe an occasional night walk would help me learn to use all of my senses and not just rely on my eyes?
This was probably my shortest ever camping trip, both in terms of distance and time, but it was an enjoyable overnighter and the walk in the dark added some interest to the usual routine.