Where I was brought up we had a lake across the road. While it wasn’t a good idea to go swimming in it we did. In the summer we’d hire kayaks and paddle all day. In the woods we would divvy up into teams and play army. We’d build dens or camp out and go further as we got older, riding our bikes to the coast or walking a few miles to a larger forest. We also got braver, exploring a local car junk yard or playing hide and seek around the factories.
In the outdoor activity club we would spend lunch times pouring over maps imagining what the landscape was like and building paper mache models of the hills. Carefully cutting out the contours on card and building them up to get a sense of what it might be like. Then we’d organise weekends walking them and carrying all our kit on our backs. One memory I have is camping near a pool and spending all day swimming in it, the weather was that good.
Another time a group of us went caving with school. The teachers took away our torches and left us in this dark cave with the words “youre standing on a ledge, be careful where you step”. While everyone else lost their shit I laughed and said “follow me, do you really think they would leave us on a ledge like this” and confidently stepped away. At 14 that level of bravery seems normal, at 40 its foolhardy but my logic still stands.
In the cubs and scouts we were lucky to have a large camp near us. It had a huge spiderman net to play on and we would go early to spend time playing on that before the meetings. In the days before health and safety went mad that net caused plenty a broken bone.
We’d spend weekends at this scout camp, orienteering and practicing bushcraft. I remember one winter we camped there and it got pretty bad. There was none of the tents you get now. Old canvas things that slept 10. I remember waking up to snow one morning, my lungs filling with cold air, but happy in a warm nest with my “brothers” around me like a pack of dogs.
My Dad used to take me walking in the Cheviots and further afield, just the two of us. While I sadly don’t recall too much of those walks it always filled my heart knowing we would be spending some time together (my parents split up when I was young)
He told me to watch an episode of Julia Bradbury’s TV show recently, reminding me that we’d walked High Cup Nick when I was a kid. I know I’ll be walking past there on my LEJOG adventure so I’ve decided to try and wild camp in the area. I’ll no longer be looking at the stunning landscape as a child but through the eyes of a 40 year old adult.
I’ll always have the spirit of that kid, dreaming of greater adventures and making more memories.