“Does anyone know what sweetbreads actually are?” Jo asked us as we polished off the rest of wine, “they tasted a bit weird…” to which we burst into laughter.
We were at one of those amazing country pubs dedicated to fantastic food. The kind you could happily dwindle away a few hours and eat and drink your way through an evening in.
We had entitled ourselves Adventure Queens and were on a Microadventure. Anna McNuff had organised a group of six ladies to meet at the gates of Richmond Park at 6:30pm on a Wednesday evening in May, and spend the evening doing something out of the ordinary. The plan was to cycle 15 miles out of London to a pub just outside of Cobham, eat, drink and be merry and sleep in a field under the stars. The next morning, we would be back at work/home by 7:30am.
After meeting at the gates of Richmond Park, I immediately felt like we were going to have an evening to remember. Jo's hair looked incredible, possibly the most glamourous microadventurer to grace this planet. Anna Hughes had been enjoying the afternoon susnhine in the pub so was already feeling a little tipsy. Laura has so many interesting projects to talk about with organising a record breaking all female crew to row the Atlantic and Anna McNuff has the most wonderful zest for life, she's always a pleasure to be around.
We were very lucky with the weather, it happened to be one of the most beautiful days of the year so far. As we cycled along chatting, giggling and making friends, I was stunned by the beauty of our surroundings. As the sun set, the colours around us continually changed.
Crossing over the motorway, the sun was setting in one direction, the moon rising in the other. Thousands of people were in their cars speeding down the motorway, we felt so lucky to be heading out of town. There was this wonderful smell of countryside and evening dampness... I felt like I should be drinking Rosé.
Now well and truly in the countryside, we only had a few more miles to go before we could wine and dine.
"Are we nearly there yet?" we joked with Anna who had organised our route. "It's just at the end of this road" she said. We turned down said road and found a blockage. Perfect opportunity to snap the sunset before finding an alternative route. Where there's a will there's a way!
By 9pm we arrived at the pub, locked up our bikes and settled into our table. We ordered wine, water and immediately began discussing the pudding menu. Sound familiar? We agreed we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, first off we had to choose main course. By now we were feeling pretty hungry so I opted for a cheese and bacon burger whilst the other ladies chose a range of pasta, risotto and roast lamb dishes.
Dinner was a lot of fun. We talked about everything and anything.
In our group there were two Laura’s, two Anna’s, Jo and myself. Jo suggested we should combine our names and be referred to as Jophie for the rest of the adventure. More laughter ensued…
After our delicious meals and incredible chocolate fondant for dessert, we paid the bill and were about to leave and find our camping spot for the evening.
“As it is Whisky Wednesday, I think we need a little night cap, ladies”, it didn’t take much convincing and the pub had a brilliant selection.
We opted for Laphroaig. Now we felt ready to venture into the night, this was to be the best part.
Just up the road, we found a field at the top of the hill and laid out our camp. Four of us were sleeping in bivvy bags whilst Jo and Anna Hughes shared a tent. Almost a full moon, it was so big and bright we didn’t need headtorches. The stars were shinning brightly as we nestled deep into our sleeping bags and fell asleep.
Four hours later, I was stirring in my sleep and remember thinking to myself, "what on earth is that incredible noise?"
The noise that woke me was the morning chorus, it was echoing around me like the sweetest, most beautiful alarm clock in the world.
I opened my eyes to see the moon right in front of me, low in the sky and almost pink with the colours of dawn.
Waking up with nature. The experience was so magical, I couldn’t get back to sleep.
It’s giving me goose pimples as I write this. Around 5am, my fellow Adventure Queens began to stir. We all had full work days ahead of us and Laura Penhaul had to catch a train to Cardiff so we’d planned an early start. As the sun rose, it was clear we were in for another beautiful day. Jo had made banana bread for breakfast, what a treat for us all. By 5:30 we were on our bikes and retracing our steps back to the big smoke.
I was home by 7:30am and sat at my computer. All day, I felt a kind of long lasting sense of satisfaction and would catch myself smiling. It doesn’t take much to try something different, to step outside our comfort zones and meet new people, but it does require effort.
It’s always easier to succumb to the pressures and demands of society and life in general.
We’re all busy, we could all do without feeling tired the next day, but it’s these things that add colour, richness and variety to our lives. Note to self, I must always say YES. Thanks for organising Anna!
If you want to plan your own microadventure, check out Alastair Humphreys – Mr Microadventure – for inspiration and tips: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/microadventures-3/ he’s even written a book about them, being released in the summer.
Top tips for planning your own microadventure:
- Try something you’ve not done before
- Embrace the unknown, if it wasn’t a little scary you wouldn’t be doing it right!
- Keep the plan simple
- Find people to share the experience with
- Don’t forget your toothbrush!
- Take a little whisky
NB: It's illegal to wild camp in England unless you have permission from the land owner, so you have to be careful. It's legal in Scotland. Make sure you leave no trace, remove all rubbish and keep all gates closed - basically follow the country code.
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