I am a 20 year old girl and instead of entering what would have been my third year of university I have decided to figure out what makes me happy and to step out of the pre carved footsteps of the academic system and find a career that is right for me. I have been lucky enough to assemble with the Cross the UK team and uncover our similar interests and dreams and discuss ways we can put them in motion as we are constantly itching to get out and explore more of the UK.
On the 10th October we decided go on a ‘wild camp’. I had never been wild camping before so it was my opportunity to do some training. For those not familiar with the term, this is where you pitch your tent somewhere that is not a recognised camp site. However you have to make sure it is suitable i.e. within National Park boundaries or you have gained permission from the land owner and you go with a respectful mind-set ensuring you ‘leave no trace’ and so that you’re not going to be kicked out in the middle of the night because you had one too many and thought it would be a good idea to ride the nearby livestock… or worse.
We drove to a place near Threlkeld, where there is a public car park called Blencathra Field Centre, and for an autumn day the weather was sublime. My initial 6 layers had to be reduced to 2 as we felt the suns glow warm us through and without a hint of a breeze, it was an unexpected delight. Wild camping = a lot of baggage. This was the first time I had experienced a 5 hour hike with 10kg+ bag on my back, and if you too have never done it before, your hips and shoulders will let you know about it.
We headed along the path towards Glenderaterra Beck and decided to divert from the path in order to climb up the ‘back’ of Blencathra. The Cross the UK team encouraged me to take the lead as we headed off the marked trail. I had to constantly re-judge the best line to take. When I wasn’t looking down, dodging a bog or a cluster of bracken, the views of Blencathra were astounding. Through the zig-zagging valleys you could catch fleeting glimpses of the beautiful Derwent Water and on the opposite side the silent movement of the A66.
The hike was challenging but exceptionally rewarding. As we closed in on the peak of Blencathra I could see the magnificent natural features of the ridgeline along Sharp Edge with the tarn of dense turquoise down below us. We descended from the peak, after a few victorious photographs, to the tarns sheltered cove, anticipating a well earned rest. It was approaching 5pm so we knew it was best to set up camp soon. Within no time the tents were up and the kettle was on, because how can anyone truly feel satisfied about anything in England without celebratory cuppa!?
We relished the evening meal of chorizo and pasta after a variety of dried and sealed entrées. As the night drew in the stars were uncovered, and with the MIA space station scheduled to pass over us we were on the lookout. Along with the darkness came the chill and after a hard days hike it is important to keep your warmth. We made a small camp fire with logs that we had all shared out to carry up the mountain. We were aware of the danger and the marks a fire can leave in the wild, but fortunately as I was with experienced wild campers I knew it would be safe and contained with no marks left. A celebratory drink was enjoyed and a dessert of melted marshmallows (when there is a camp fire present the melting of marshmallows is an unspoken rule) with chocolate and caramel digestives for my own take on the American ‘smores’. We all definitely had a nice warm buzz to go to sleep with.
Again with the weather on our side the night was charming. The fresh air and the complete silence was perfection.
As morning broke some of the group took a walk up to Sharp Edge but within 20 minutes the edge had become completely invisible due to low cloud. A reminder of how high up we were and how fast weather conditions, especially something as important as visibility, can change. Once they returned we packed up and descended the mountain finishing at Scales. The decent took a fraction of the time but it was still a heart pumping walk for an early morning.
Obviously this was a great appetite builder for nothing other to fill it but a full English breakfast.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first wild camp, granted it wasn’t in the wild as such and I was still nurtured/ spoilt with some home comforts and not very far from civilisation but it was a perfect starting point and I learnt a lot. An adventure like this tests you in ways you wouldn’t think- I’m a keen runner and gym goer but my fitness was certainly pushed. Don’t underestimate the mental strength needed to keep going and the constant re-judgement of the best routes to take. Not forgetting the pressure of responding correctly to any unplanned events. Nonetheless the influx of positive feelings you get once you step onto the top makes it all worth it. Having a supportive team behind you also helps.
Thank you Cross the UK for this unforgettable experience… what’s next?