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Adventure

Andy Torbet

Underwater exploration, extreme diving, climbing, kayaking, skydiving…  is there anything that TV adventurer Andy Torbet won't do? A regular presenter on Coast and The One Show, Andy is never happier than when he's free-diving with sharks or scaling sheer mountain cliffs. Read Andy's blog to find out more about his exploits and discover how to have some adventures of your own.

www.andytorbet.com

Wild Camping Part Two

 

What you’ll need to wild camp will depend on the weather and how close you want to get to nature. It also depends on how long you’re out for, but let’s assume it’s a single overnighter and you can extrapolate from there.

Your basic needs when you stop for the night is food to recover from all the adventurous activities you’ve hopefully been doing during the day and to fuel up for all the more tomorrow. You’ll also need some degree of shelter from the elements in order for you to recover and get a good night’s sleep. I’ll deal with food and cooking next month but for now let’s look at shelter.

The greater the degree of shelter and comfort the greater the weight I’m afraid. Less of a problem when you using something like a canoe or kayak, but if you’re trekking into your campsite or parachuting in and weight is an issue then you do not wanting to be carrying the equivalent of a fruit machine on your back. So, at the top end is a tent.

A tent will keep the wind off, the rain off and give a degree of extra warmth and privacy. It’s the best option as far as pure shelter is concerned, however, it has disadvantages too. Foremost is its weight. The weight can be shared between your compatriots depending on how big the tent is but it’s still relatively heavy, although some very lightweight versions are now available. However, the lighter the tent the weaker it is, usually, which means something that will cope with a high altitude mountain storm will way more than something you use on a beach on a summer's night. Tents take time to put up which can be a pain when it’s wet, windy, you’re tired and just want to go to bed. But the biggest drawback for me is that it removes you from the environment. They're also bulky and I prefer to keep things small and compact, especially if I’m climbing or moving through restrictive terrain (e.g. dense forest or jungle). Sometimes a tent is essential. If it’s minus 30 outside, an eighty mile an hour wind is blowing and it’s snowing (which I’ve experienced) you’ll be very grateful for your tent. But normally I like to be out under the stars. So the other option is a bivi.

This consists of a sleeping bag and a bivi bag, which is effectively a waterproof shell for your sleeping bag. This way you can literally sleep under the stars. If it’s likely to rain I often take a basha (an Army term) which is just a small tarpaulin that you can set up over you to get the worst of the rain and wind off you. You simply run a line between two trees, lay the tarpaulin over it and secure it to the ground at the corners – so it looks like the roof of a house. The worst the weather the closer you should secure it to the ground to keep drafts out.  If there are no trees where you’re going you can take two lightweight extendable poles or use your walking poles.

The final thing to cover is the sleeping mat. The more comfortable they are the heavier they are but that extra thickness also insulated you from the ground, making considerably you warmer, allows you to sleep on rockier ground and will allow for a better night sleep. People are divided on this and it may depend on how long you are out for whether you can cope with less quality to your sleep but I’m a fan of sleeping well when I’m out. A little extra weight is worth the chance to recovery properly during the night. The foam, inflatable mats are good. They are comfortable and warmer for their weight but expensive and can be punctured so require more looking after. The simple foam mats are very cheap and won’t puncture but are less comfortable, warm and are bulky. My final top tip is, if you’re bivi-ing, stick your mat inside your bivi bag. It’ll keep it dry and stop you sliding off it. However, a word of caution, if the ground has sharps on it (sharp stones, sticks or bits of wire, rubbish, etc – I’ve had to camp on a beach with broken glass over it once while sea kayaking) put the mat on the bottom – they are much cheaper to replace than a bivi bag.

You can also consider a hammock. These aren’t just for the jungle, I’ve used them in Scotland. You can string it between two tree, still rig your basha over the top if it’s raining (although you need some extra sting to tie to the corners and extend you to your ground anchors) and you won’t need a mat to sleep on, thereby saving weight as a hammock weighs much less than a mat. However, the lack of mat can reduce the insulation on your back as your lying, and crushing, your sleeping bag. I’ll often pack the hammock with my clothes to over come this, wet clothes on the outside of the bivi bag, dry ones on the inside. Obviously if there are no trees of rocks to hang a hammock it’s not a great option.

And, finally, consider you’re site. Try to get out of the wind, find an area where the ground is not wet or likely to become wet (I knew someone who camped in a ditch. Dry and sheltered from the wind but when it rained during the night it became a stream…). Look for a patch of ground the even and flat, sloping ground will have you waking up all night and clear away any rocks, sticks or debris. A little time in site selection and preparation will pay dividends when you climb into bed.

Oh, and one very last point – dry bags. If you only buy one then buy one big enough for your sleeping bag… in fact, buy two and double bag it. If every other bit of kit gets a soaking then one piece that must stay dry is your sleeping bag. Trust me.

Next month I’ll deal with food and cooking.

 

Wild camping - part one

 

One of the easiest and most accessible adventures we can have is Wild Camping.


Anyone, regardless of age and ability, can have a go at this and it needn’t require great long hike into the remote wilds of the Scottish Highland.


First of the legal side of things. Wild camping is not permitted by law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (but is also classed as a civil not a criminal offence) unless participants have permission from the landowner (there will always be someone as all land in these countries is owned). However, practically a number of places tolerate wild camping as long as a code of ethics is adhered to. Good examples of these locations are Snowdonia and the Lake District National Parks. Both locations’ official websites have pages dedicated to dealing with the issue of wild camping and his allowance along with details of the codes of practice one should stick to.


Lake District: http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/wheretostay/wildcamping
Snowdonia http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/visiting/faqs (Frequently Asked Question - currently the 5th questions down deals with wild camping)

Dartmoor is exceptional in that wild camping is actually actively allowed as long as the group size is small (think one or two tents), you spend no more than two consecutive nights on the same spot and you camp more than 100m from public roads, enclosures or other restricted areas.  A full map of the areas where you can wild camp under these conditions can be found at the following webpage:
http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/43909/vi-camping_map_309.pdf


One of my favourite places to wind camp is on beaches. Like the rest of England, NI and Wales it is not permitted unless you have the land-owner permission but these hidden spots are often more accessible than the hills for some people and young children.


Scotland is much freer than the rest of the UK and the right to roam applies almost anywhere. You can wild camp in any area of wild land as long as you follow the general code.

The official guide from Scotland’s Tourist Department offers some advice:
http://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/activities/walking/wild-camping
and you can download the Scottish Outdoor Access Code here: https://www.ahume.co.uk/blog/index.php/countryside-etiquette-the-essential-guide/#1


The only exception to all this around Loch Lomond where camping is forbidden due to past campers leaving rubbish, damaging the area and generally getting drunk and upsetting the locals. Which goes to prove the ability to wild camp is a privilege not a right and if we wish to continue to experience the joys and freedom it brings we must applies a bit of common sense and respect to our approach.


The most important parts of the general code of conduct are:
• Take all litter away
• Leave the site as you found it -no holes, no fire damage, no litter, no damage to vegetation. And if you see any litter (even if it’s not yours), pick it up and take it home…it’s all good karma.
• Minimise disturbance to people and wildlife (camp out of site, minimise noise and light)
• Keep groups small
• Only stay for one night (in some places, e.g. Dartmoor and Scotland, you can stay for more)
• Any toilet duties should be carried out as discretely as possible and should be a minimum of 30m from any water course.


A simple guide of how one should conduct oneself whilst wild-camping can be summarised as:
“If, when you leave in the morning, there is no evidence of your visit and no-one will ever know you’ve been there then you’ve probably done things right”

Having dealt with the legal side of things next month I’ll look at some of the essential, basic kit you’ll need to have a safe and comfortable night out under the stars.

 

UK Adventures for Beginners

I’m fortunate enough to make a living from adventures. Whether it’s cave-diving in Asia or high altitude sky–diving in the Americas, or ice-climbing in Greenland or kayaking in Canada. But a lot of my projects, be they personal or media work have taken place in the UK.

And although I normally specialise in the more technical, skilled adventure projects it needn’t be a requirement. Adventures don’t need to take up weeks or months of your life, great quantities of cash or require technical skills. There are still adventures aplenty at home that anyone can undertake for free, for minimal outlay on inexpensive kit or hire charges and only need a morning, day or weekend.

So to kick-start things off here are 5 ideas for the summer:

1. Snorkelling: My number one for a reason. Snorkelling is incredibly easy and can be done in river, lakes, mountain pools, ponds and of course all manner of coastlines. All you need is a mask, snorkel and fins…and maybe a wetsuit outside of summer. However, all you really need is a pair of goggles and your pants because seeing what’s beneath the surface is the real adventure. Much of the submerged parts of the British coastline, rivers and lakes have never been seen so this is genuine exploration. There are even plenty of safe, shallow wrecks to snorkel. It’s good for any age and ability just apply common sense to where you decide to go, if it’s to dangerous to swim (big waves, strong current or fast tide) then it’s too dangerous to snorkel. A great beginners’ site is Kimmeridge Bay Snorkel Trail – you can even hire the kit for a fiver.

2. Wild Camping: Camping on a campsite is all well and good with its shower block, fresh water and parking space by your tent. However, camping out in the wild fills you with a sense of freedom and it’s significantly more peaceful. It could be on a secluded beach in a cove in North Devon, by a loch in the Knoydart area of Scotland, or in a forest in the Brecon Beacons. Certain places discourage wild camping so it’s worth checking, especially in established National Parks. Wherever you go try to get off the beaten track and remember not to damage the local area or wildlife and take all your litter home.

3. Sit-On-Top Sea-Kayaking: There are plenty of places that hire these for about £25 per day and you can get the two-man type if you’ve a young child or your partner is feeling lazy. They’re more stable and safer then standard close-cockpit kayaks and very it’s easy to get the hang of the basics quickly. It’s an amazing way to see the coastline and the wildlife around our shores far form the madding crowd. Anywhere that hires them will give you a brief where the best place to go on that day and if there is a hire centre in the area then it’s a good area for sea-kayaking. Prime locations include the West coast of Scotland and the Scottish Islands, Pembrokeshire, Cornwall and Devon.

4. River Canoeing: Much like the sea-kayaking mentioned above canoes are cheap to hire and easy to use. If it’s your first outing pick an easy river and any hire company can advise on the best stretch for you in the current conditions (some very benign rivers can become difficult after heavy rain). The River Wye is the most popular canoeing river in the UK and has a number of hire companies along its length. If you’re feeling adventurous you can do a multi-day trip stopping at riverside campsites (and pubs) or even, if you chose the Wye, do a six day trip down it’s length from Glasbury to Chepstow – over 100 miles of ancient bridges and Wye Valley forest.

5. Climb a mountain: As great an accomplishment as Ben Nevis or Snowdonia is the usual problem is that they can get very, very busy. A few summers ago I took my mum up Ben Nevis to see the sunrise and we left at 4am. At the summit there was only two other people but on the way down I passed 342 people on their way up and it wasn’t even 10am when we finished. So pick one of the unusual ones, far, remote and wild – it doesn’t have to be technical, most are a simple walk up and down hill. The mountains in the far North West of Scotland, towards Cape Wrath, are breathtaking and will make you feel like the only person in the world.

Now all you have to do is pray for a bit of sunshine…

 

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