After the disappointment of not being able to get out much last year, it was pleasing to get back to a more normal level of camps out this year.
This year I racked up 26 wild camps and 9 “tame” camps. This takes my all time total to 194 wild camps – which means I should hit the double century in 2022.
The quality has also been pretty good too, with two camps that I would probably rate as being in the top 10 or so ever. Arguably this year’s camp on Lingmell is a contender for my best ever camp, and the one on Grindsbrook Knoll isn’t far behind. I’m not generally as lucky as some at being able to get out to experience inversion conditions, so the fact that I got two this year – one at sunset and one at sunrise is pretty unusual. Even some of the camps in crap weather have been pleasant “evenings in”.
The first 6 were in April with a trip to Dartmoor, on a multi-day walk loosely themed around tors with animal-related names. Still quite cool and breezy so I took the Scarp, as well as trying out my new homemade shelter for a couple of nights.
Posts for this trip:
At the end of May I set out to tackle the Darent Valley Path, a walk of 19 miles but as it has two alternatives at the Sevenoaks end, I did both and turned that bit into a loop, and a multi-day walk as a result. I then returned home along a familiar stretch of the North Downs Way. Two nights out using the Luxe Lightwave II.
Post for this trip: The Darenth Valley Path
Having camped in every month so far, I made a point of getting a June night in, at one of my usual Kentish spots – actually the exact same spot as the previous camp, but using the Alpkit Polestar this time.
In July I headed back to Dartmoor to walk the Ancient Forest Boundary (the “Perambulation”) but this was scuppered by awful weather, so I actually only got one night in a tent – this meet-up with Jay, Alan and Robin. This time I took the Pretents Lightrock 1P to try out.
The end of July saw me walk Glyndŵr’s Way – 135 miles (officially, but 147 miles in reality) of undulating, brackeny trail with some serious challenges in finding water for camps. This meant I used campsites more than I’d intended, but I did still get in 4 wild camps, including a tempestuous night on Foel Fadian on the edge of Storm Evert.
Posts for this trip: Glyndŵr’s Way
September came and a trip with TGO Challenge pal Darren to the Lakes – incredibly for a man who works in the outdoor industry, he’d never been! I put together a route to show off some of the best bits. This turned into quite a chilled and slow-paced few days to correspond with fitness levels! It also yielded the most stunning camp of the year. I took the Tipik-tentes Aston for this trip (in red), and the other shelter in the pictures is Darren’s MLD Cricket.
Posts for this trip: A Slow Lake District Backpack
Towards the end of the month I managed to grab an overnighter in one of my usual spots, hoping that the disturbed night I’d had there last time wouldn’t happen again. It did. This time again in the middle of the night a cacophony of high pitched wailing heralded a group of foxes piling through my camp. Apart from not sleeping much after about 3am, it was a comfortable night in the Tipik-tentes Pioulou XL.
In October, the Great Glen Way yielded 2 properly wild camps, along with 2 at designated (albeit basic) sites by the Caledonian Canal.
Post for this trip: The Great Glen Way
In November, I headed off to the Peak District to explore some bits of the Dark Peak that were new to me. The last day of the trip also yielded an inversion, this time a sunrise one.
Post for this trip: The Dark Peak Exploration
Somehow in this topsy-turvy year I managed to camp every month – having got through the early months and camped in each, it was quite easy to then decide to aim for all 12 months. But as the days shortened and Christmas drew near, the appeal of heading out for a long night, most likely tucked away in a scrap of woodland somewhere fairly local, waned a bit. It was a real effort to force myself out to complete the set.
What got me out was the fact I was out for the day anyway at a photography workshop. The problem was it was in Surrey, and after lingering a bit at the end, it became a race against the sun to get to my pitch in Kent. I eventually pitched in the almost dark, and spent a night listening to a gentle breeze rasping over the frost on the roof of the tent.
January to April was lockdown so the first 4 camps were in the garden.
I did 3 campsite camps on Glyndŵr’s Way:
…and the aforementioned 2 camps at designated spots with basic facilities along the Caledonian Canal while doing the Great Glen Way:
A New (and Unique) Tent
During the lockdown season, I had a little project to build from scratch a tent of my own design. You can read about it here.
The end result, although not the neatest (or even symmetrical), did at least work and held up to a couple of breezy nights on Dartmoor. I have ideas to refine the design (and quality!), but the main impact of the project was that now I’m much more likely to make things like stuffsacks and small bags when I need something – my sewing might not yet be able to produce a beautifully made tent, but it is certainly good enough for making small bits and pieces where the quality is less important!
The key project for 2022 will be making a summer (mesh) inner for a tent for the Aston’s little sister the Pioulou XL, that only has a solid fabric inner at the moment. After that I may attempt a simple backpack and a mark 2 tent.
Videos of the Year
One thing I have been doing more in 2021 is filming my walks/camps, and I expect to continue doing this in 2022, and to see some improvement in the quality of the videos, and a bit of growth in the channel as a result. The main focus of this is producing films about each of the National Trails as I do them, and eventually I hope to have them all covered.
Here are embeds of / links to the main video output from the year:
Looking towards 2022…
Of course any plan for 2022 has to carry a caveat (you know what), but all being well I’m expecting to get out quite a lot.
I decided in 2021 that I would aim to eventually walk all of the National Trails in England and Wales, and the “equivalent” Scottish Great Trails. Scotland’s list of “national” trails is much longer than England and Wales, but includes quite a few shorter and less major trails. The LDWA in their National Trails Register treat the West Highland Way, Great Glen Way, Southern Upland Way and Speyside Way as part of the set of National Trails, and I’m doing the same for the purposes of “doing them all”. That doesn’t mean I won’t do at least some of the Scottish smaller Great Trails as well.
The National/Great Trails I’ve picked to focus on in 2022 are:
- South West Coast Path – my Dad and I only have about 104km (65 miles) to do with the section from Barnstaple to Minehead.
- The Speyside Way – with an extension to the source of the river.
- The West Highland Way – as it’s really about time I did it.
- The North Downs Way – in 2022 it will be 6 years since I finished it, and even then it had taken 10 years of on-off walking, so it really is time I re-did my local National Trail in a more concentrated go.
- The South Downs Way – which would make a nice pairing with the North Downs Way, and which is also reasonably straightforward to do without making it a big “away” trip.
On top of these there are a number of other long walks or trails that I have on the list, but if I don’t get around to doing them all in 2022, I can live with that:
- The TGO Challenge, which if the route card survives the vetter’s perusal will be the longest one I’ve done yet, at 344km (214 miles). This time I will be in a team of 3 (fingers crossed) with Paul and Darren.
- The Severn Way
- A repeat of the Cumbria Way
- Resuming the 4 Rings of London (Jubilee Greenway, Capital Ring, LOOP and London Countryway) project which was curtailed by a plague.
- The Saxon Shore Way, which I’m hoping to lure my Dad out to do with me.
2022 should also see my 200th wildcamp (6 to go), and my 300th (15 to go) camp of any type.
Let’s see what 2022 brings…