Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Wild camping by the river

If you haven’t been following us on Facebook, last weekend, Carbenita decided to go for a weekend trip to the beach with our bikes and tent. The idea behind this being that it would be very good training for the full 600 mile ride as we would be carrying most of the same things with us, tent, sleeping bags, panniers with clothes and food etc; but also it would be a similar mileage to what we would like to do for the actual challenge as well.

Our fully loaded bikes just before we departed

 We set off on the Saturday a little bit later than originally planned due to needing a little bit extra time to set up the bikes with all the equipment we needed for the journey. Once we were under way though we were enjoying it immensely, we had picked a very nice route going through some beautiful countryside where the views were magnificent and the sun was out making it look all the better. 

A nice little lake we stopped by to eat
Near the end of the first day we stopped off about 5 miles from our final destination at a posh looking pub called the Fat Goose. Not only did it look posh, but it was priced like a posh pub too, so we elected to each have a starter and share a side to keep our costs down. I even went and had pigeon breast which I never knew you could even eat and I must say although pigeons do not look very appetising they taste rather nice! After our dinner we then cycled the last 5 miles to where we were planning to camp (wildly!).

The posh looking pub
Me sitting waiting for my pigeon
 Our first experience of wild camping was certainly memorable, I had looked forward to it all day long throughout the cycle ride and was quite excited by the time we got to where we were going to try and camp. Once we had arrived it was a case of finding a good spot out the way of any paths. Our original plan was to camp in Stour Woods, next to the Stour river, but we did not find a suitable spot so we moved a bit further down the river to Copperas Woods and found within there a little spot tucked away in a tiny clearing between some trees. By then it was starting to get dark so we tried to hurry and get our tent set up. Due to this being our first proper attempt at pitching the tent, with the added obstacle of not much light, we had a bit of difficulty getting it up. Instead of it taking the 10 minutes assembly time it states on the cover of the tent, it actually took us about 30 minutes!
Carmen looking very tired

Our tent all set up
 After setting up and then getting all our stuff unpacked from the bikes and into the tent we were both thoroughly exhausted. The surprising thing though was that even though it was getting quite cold outside when we got into the tent it was really warm, so warm in fact that we couldn’t get into our sleeping bags due to the heat! This, however, was not the only problem. Whilst I had been excited about the prospect of wild camping, Carmen had not been looking forward to it quite so much. In fact, she was rather apprehensive about the whole thing; she was worried that someone might find us and not just a normal average person, but a serial killer or rapist! This meant that Carmen was very on edge for most of the night, every single noise that was heard (and that was a lot of noises considering we were in a wood with lots of wildlife) she imagined was a person approaching our tent. At one point she even got me a bit apprehensive when we heard a louder noise approaching our tent. Had we got out of the tent to investigate we probably would have come across some harmless baby rabbit hopping about. You can just picture that, two full grown adults cowering in a tent because of a little fluffy bunny! After a few hours though we managed to drop off and get some sleep, although we both dreamt that someone found us whilst we were sleeping! 

We woke up at 4:45 in the morning and decided to get up. The woods were beautiful in the morning and we had a lovely view of the river as the sun started to rise over it. It made the whole uncomfortable night worthwhile in the end.

A nice picture of the sunset
And one of the sunrise

 After getting packed up and having some breakfast we were off for our second day of cycling. Our first destination was Walton-on-the-Naze where we stopped for a quick break on the beach to get some tan on our pale bodies, as you can see in the pictures below.

Carmen on the beach
Me on the beach
 We then moved on down the coast through Frinton, Holland and Clacton, where we stopped for an early lunch, a lovely tasty bacon roll! Unfortunately we forgot to take a picture of them, but we did get our picture taken next to the pier.

Us outside Clacton Pier

Me looking after the bikes

After visiting Clacton High Street briefly for water and bananas we headed off back towards Colchester where we stopped for another rest break at Colchester castle where we even spotted some Pandas! Carmen also found an exhibition within the museum next to the castle that had on display the first ever bike in England, a penny-farthing.

Colchester Castle - Can you spot the Pandas?

The penny-farthing
We then embarked on the last stage of our journey, the 40 miles back to Benfleet! The first 20 of which were quite easy, but after those first 20 things started to get a bit tougher. More hills started appearing and the wind was against us making cycling quite tough. By the last 15 miles Carmen had almost had enough and was even contemplating giving up, but she pushed on determined to make it all the way back. I was so proud of her; she did really well to stick in it for those last 15 miles. We eventually got back at 7:30pm after having cycled a total of 132 miles (213km) over the two days, 55 miles (88.5km) on Saturday and 77 miles (124km) on Sunday. We had a well-deserved meal and rest that night.

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