Yesterday I met up with Isabella Streffen for the first time; our ‘meeting up for lunch’ stretched into five hours chatting about, shall we say, diverse subjects. In amongst the wide-ranging topics of conversation, we spent some time talking about my experience of going for a night walk, and unpicking where the different fears came from.
We agreed that the instinctive reactions to twigs snapping and unidentified sounds from the undergrowth were Good Things and there for a reason. We were more critical of the lifelong cultural conditioning we’ve had as women that has trained us to fear the consequences of going out at night alone. We talked chances; we talked transgression; we talked reprisals and we talked about wrestling wolves.
Hear. Us. Roar.
Well, after that I didn’t have much choice but to go back to the lodge, pack some bedding and a headtorch into my panniers and set off for a night in the woods.
…unfortunately, as I was leaving, I met the father of the family in the Lodge next door, and he primed me tales of off-grid campers, grumpy men with rifles, trailbikers, illegal raves and other such things I might encounter. Great.
I went anyway.
My destination was a coven of wooden sleeping shelters out in the woods. I’d done a quick recce on my way back from meeting Isabella and had decided the foil-based detritus was almost certainly evidence of enjoyment of small apple pies and nothing more sinister. (Did a quick litter pick, too.)
I returned whilst there was still a fair bit of light left in the day, so I could see what I was doing as I was getting myself sorted. Once that was done I perched on a log and read a bit more of Macfarlane’s The Old Ways, which seemed like entirely appropriate reading material.
The light faded rapidly, so the reading had to come to an end.
That’s when the bats started.
Sadly it seems I can no longer hear bat chirrups, although these were flying close enough that I could hear the bustle of their wings as they went past.
I had a go at filming them:
Okay, not my best wildlife photography, even alongside the high standards I’d already set earlier in the week:
True fact: all the animals around here are *really* blurry. pic.twitter.com/BrBzzsPtNx
— nikki pugh (@nikkipugh) August 12, 2016
Time for bed.
…which is about the time the trail bikers started hooning up and down a nearby track…
They went after a few laps of the woods, and then it was just me and the grasshoppers. Flippin’ ‘eck the little creakers can stridulate all night long. I mean it: there was one just outside the shelter. All. Night. Long.
There were a few other rustles and patters over the course of the night, but nothing to be seen, which I was a tad disappointed about if I’m honest. I mean, if you’re going to sleep in a wooden box out in the woods, you at least want some good stories to tell afterwards, right?
I didn’t actually get much sleep – in a first night of camping style – but eventually it was morning and that was that.
The worst that happened? Three midge bites.