WON08 – My Wildest Birthday

Location: Creason Wood

  • Date: Thursday 23rd February
  • OSGrid: SX529801 (E252987 N080141)
  • Travel: 1hr drive 20 minute walk
  • Style: Tent & Hammock

Introduction

This week was something of a special WON, not only was I to wake up as a 36 year old man the following morning, but we’d also decided to invite Jack, one of our regular readers, along as our first guest camper. The pressure was on in terms of finding a suitable spot – back in the day my idea of a perfect ‘wild birthday’ would have involved too much tequila, hours of crazy dancing and a Goodbody’s full veggie breakfast at around 6am, but wild these days has taken on a whole new meaning…

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A wild fridge

The Diary

 

 

I’d had another busy day at work, and Paul and Jack were waiting for me at the aquarium by the time I got back from a careers fair in Brixham. Fortunately they’d already been to the shop for food, and we were on the road by about 7:30. Although I’d never been to Horndon before, from the map it looked as though there would definitely be scope for hammocks, and I hoped, somewhere, a pitch flat enough for Jack to set up his tent.

On the way, Jack mentioned a bus stop in Walkhampton which, following attack from a vandal, had been rebuilt by an unknown person and now included wall hangings, potted plants, and an armchair. The potential for a new, impromptu Wild One Night was too much to resist so we took a slight detour from our path to Mary Tavy to check it out. True enough, the bus stop has been converted, but on closer inspection we decided it would make a great shelter for 1 or maybe two, but we had our hearts set on a night by the river, so we jumped back in the car and headed north.

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Stu and Jack enjoy the comforts of Walkhampton Bus Stop

On arrival at Horndon, we parked the car at the bottom of the lane that leads to the leat. There is a sign which shows it as a deadend, but a large-ish parking / turning circle at the bottom left more than enough room to leave the car overnight without preventing other vehicles from accessing the field gates or turning round.

We were working off the Dartmoor 1:25k OS Map to find our way into the woods, and an overlay taken from the Dartmoor Interactive Wild Camping map (available here) which shows all of the areas of Dartmoor on which you can camp without seeking prior permission. It was during this that Jack revealed he had previously been the Devon Orienteering schools champion, and excelled it seemed, in map reading. Regular readers will know I’m becoming notorious for leading us in exactly the wrong direction under the guise of knowing exactly where I’m going… so having Jack along made the walk in refreshingly direct!

Our walk took us along the leat, from the steep sided woodland out to a much flatter, almost floodplain-like opening. We’d seen this on the map and knew it lay just outside the free camping area we had come to investigate, but on the edge of the river was the perfect spot – a copse of 6 or so trees on a slightly raised mound with a clear patch on the near edge. The perfect spot for two hammocks and a tent. On our walk over we must have startled a young deer, whose head suddenly appeared from amongst the reeds before it made a dash for the woods.

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The flat open land at Creason Woods is the perfect spot for a camp

Setting up camp proved fun – The last 8 weeks has seen a real development of our camping characters, and our approaches to equipment in particular. Lassiez-faire Stu, Accessible Joe, and Ultralight Paul coming to describe our little group quite well. The differences in hammock setups are a particularly good example!

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The perfect lines of Paul’s precisely pitched hammock
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Stu’s laissez-faire approach to hammock setup features a twig and an meandering knot

 

…but Jack wins an award of his own for least likely to survive the night…

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Jack’s tent. the only tent I’ve ever seen that needs more nurturing that Joe’s!

Once camp was set up, we spent a while picking out the constellations above us while the sky was still clear, and Paul revealed that he’d snuck a couple of bottles of cider into the shopping this week; a celebratory touch in honour of my imminent birthday. We headed over to the river and found a place to leave the drinks to cool while we tried to catch the atmosphere with our phone cameras. It turns out that whilst Jack was a great companion for the night, and top company, his camera, like ours, leaves a lot to be desired at night so we wrote that idea off, opened the drinks and quietly just enjoyed the moment for what it was. No photos, but trust me, it was perfect.

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Our riverside spot by the light of day

The next morning we got up nice and early and packed the shelters down. Paul even set his alarm a little early to make sure we all left at the same time. It wasn’t until we’d packed down our frost covered canvases and left that the full extent to Jack’s survival situation emerged – not only had he spent the night with a collapsed tent, but inside it he had just a summer weight sleeping bag, no roll-mat and was only wearing a t-shirt and a jumper! Wild Camping is one thing, but Wild Hardcore Surviving is another game all together! I may be twice his age as of today, but when I’m older, I want to be as hardy as Jack!!

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Paul, just back from crossing the Himalayas encounters Jack on a stroll through the park. Two very different approaches to Wild Camping!

 

The verdict

Stu. A birthday characterised by quiet moonlit conversation and comfortable reflective silences on the boulders that line the river felt like a world away from my regular birthday routine, but equally one of the most memorable in a long time. You don’t come here for a party, but it’s a beautiful spot. I loved it.

Paul. Hiking in made me a little nervous as the path is seemingly surrounded only by steep hills and bog. Patience is often rewarded though and the end of the trail opened out into a beautiful clearing. This allowed us to camp in a couple of different ways which somehow adds to the fun! A great camp, and a nice one to introduce our first guest camper with!

Special Guest Jack. A nice gentle introduction to the world of WON in a fantastic spot. Definitely gave me the bug and hopefully future camps can live up to my first!

 

Top tips from the trip

Rivers and flowing water make great natural drinks chillers

Roll mats make a big difference

A chopped up roll mat makes great sit-pads if the ground is hard or wet


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