We just got back from a great overnight wild-camping trip on the River Wye. Weather was good, but very windy on day one which made the mailes hard going at times, but it cleared beautifully in the evening for our camp. We knew heavy rain was coming early the next morning so set about getting good tarp-rigs up for some protection, which worked great. Here’s some photos from the trip.
A sudden down-turn in the temperatures in mid October didn’t put us off a planned canoe trip on the river Wye. We set off for a short trip with an overnight wild camp on the river, Autumn sunshine and the trees just beginning to turn, we had a brief shower once we got on the river, but sheltered under a huge oak tree, with acorns dropping all around us as the squirrels above were busy feeding before winter. There were a lot of pheasants around too, and we saw them scatter as the sound of a Goshawk called loudly from the tree just above us, something I’d never heard before – I still haven’t ever seen one of these elusive predators, even though the Wye valley and the Forest of Dean are one of the best places to see them, they are making a great comeback in recent years after being persecuted, like many birds of prey to the verge of extinction in the UK in the past. But the pheasants certainly know about them!
We canoed downstream in the most beautiful sharp autumn light late in the afternoon, the shower brought out the best rainbow I’ve ever seen, reflected in the river and reaching right across the sky. Arriving at our camp spot as dusk drew in, the temperature was dropping sharply, so with one strike from the firesteel on some birchbark and dry twigs gathered along the way we had a fire going, and set about organising the camp. With a bit of rain still in the air Hawkeye set up his usual tarp rig as a back-up, but we planned to sleep out until any rain came. In fact the sky cleared completely during the evening, but that meant the temperature really began to drop fast – with the fire roaring we were warm but a little apprehensive about how cold it would get during the night. The owls hooted all around the valley in the dark, and the sound of the fire crackling and the river running past made for a fantastic evening around the fire. We ate strips of rump steak on sticks over the flames, and big roast potatoes cooked straight in the embers – the best way: the ferocious heat in the embers cooks the potato much hotter than an oven, and really brings out the best sweet flavour, we both agreed that you need no more than potatoes cooked this way with some butter for a great camp meal. They were in about 40 minutes, then pulled out to cool: the surface turns to a kind of charcoal egg-cup, once cool you can hold that, break open the top and scoop out the soft potato inside, your hands get a blackened, but holy smoke it’s worth it!
The stars were soon out, full moon rising too over the treeline, and later we retired to the swag and sleeping bags with the fire still providing plenty of warmth. I fell asleep with the freshening air, looking up at a billion stars, with the sound of the owls and the river, an unforgettable magical experience.
Sure enough during the night it got very cold: I pulled the canvas swag over my head to keep off the breeze, and slept soundly, perfectly warm and dry: still nothing better for me than an australian canvas ‘swag bag’ and sleeping out, no tent required. Worst case if you get heavy rain a small tarp over the top would do the trick, but unless you get heavy rain you can sleep right out there in the open, in comfort too.
Hawkeye woke early, and got the fire re-started from the remains of last nights logs, then poked my swag with a stick to wake me so I wouldn’t miss the most beautiful morning scene on the river I’ve ever witnessed: the cold meant a thick mist was swirling around over the water, shifted around by a light breeze, the river and the forest around was stirring. H had the Kelly Kettle on too so I had no excuse but to jump up, get some clothes on quick and enjoy some hot tea by the fire, just watching the day begin. The cold was such that a thick frost had formed on most of our gear, and it felt like a winter trip rather then autumn! Warmed my hands on the fire as they were getting numb it was that cold, definitely sub-zero by one or two degrees.
After some coffee and hot porridge on the fire cooked in the trusty crusader mugs, we got into the canoes and pushed off to explore up river, paddling quietly through the swirling mist, the forest all around – a magical experience I’ll never forget.
So here’s the video of the trip… watch it full screen if you can, hope you enjoy it.
We’ve been asked a few times about our views on inflatable canoes, and in particular the open varieties like the Sevylor Colorado or the Back Country by Stearns – the ones that try to emulate a true open canoe. Well we really had to shrug our shoulders as we hadn’t actually tried any of them. So time to change that then!
We decided to start with a video trip report of the Sevylor Colorado with a canoe-camp visit to the Upper Wye. We’ve produced some photos of the Colorado in action and a video – the highlights of a great 2 day trip where we learned a lot about this craft. See the video review for how it pumps up and also how it paddles.
What were our thoughts then on the Sevylor Colorado? Well we were much more than pleasantly surprised! It was a great, fun boat to live with, tough and durable, makes no noise when paddling, easy to lift and of course folds up in the back of a car at the end of a trip. It was much quicker and easier to inflate than we expected too. On the water it handles very differently to a hard-shell canoe, and is basically slower, but more maneuverable – it’s not for speed: but the flexibility it offers of putting in anywhere, transporting easily, and even storing easily makes it a phenomenal product for the relatively low price tag. The idea of being able to just bring your canoe along in the car “just in case” you decide to Get Out on the water is a great one, and it really is a reality with this boat. I’ve heard it used from the beach in the surf and around the coats of Dorset for which I think it would be excellent. Kids are happy in it too, as the inflatable nature of it makes them feel more secure. Inflatable open canoeing now fits in our plans for the future, particularly when travelling on quick overnight camp trips and going ‘minimal’. The canoe itself makes a fantastic camp bed with just a tarp pulled over it. It doesn’t handle anything like an open canoe, although it was great fun in the little rapids we encountered, but then it’s not meant to replace a real open canoe – it’s meant to fill another need: ultimate portability on the river… and it does that perfectly.
We just got back from a fantastic woodland swag camp in a local nature reserve. Given special permission, we were able to camp in a place not normally open to that activity, surrounded by the sights and sounds of a protected woodland and grassland nature reserve. We were treated to young Roe deer and even a badger wandering past our camp, as well as a large male Roe deer passing by and letting off loud barking calls just outside our camp. We’ll write up the trip in full soon, but here’s a pic of the woodland camp scene – you’ll spot the green Australian “swag” wild-camping bedrolls rolled up in the pics below.
Took a trip to the River Wye at the end of May with our Australian visitor “OZMan” to show him what it’s like in a country that has rather more water and lush growth than they get down under. A fantastic trip again in gorgeous late spring weather, OzMan even took a dip in the river and climbed tup to the top of Yat Rock, he was really struck by the beauty of our English countryside. I lent him one of our genuine Australian swags so he’d feel right at home! Somewhere along that lazy river as the evening drew in towards dusk I spotted a rare “Hobby” falcon flashing over the surface of the water catching bugs, something I’ve never seen before – a really beautiful bird, with a very distinctive agile flight full of twists and turns as it races after dragon-flies and moths, eating them on the wing. As the canoe drifted silently on the water we came very close, right under a branch where it had stopped to rest for a while, so I could see that striking red underside and dark moustache features. But it’s in flight you want to see this bird – a really magical experience, and one you’d be unlikely to see except from down at the water level in a canoe, approaching silently on the water.
On Saturday 24th, we took ‘Old Red’ (our newest canoe, an Old Town Discovery 158) on its 3rd trip, on another ‘over-nighter’ on the River Wye. The river was quite low with the recent fine weather and Spring has now properly arrived at last. We didn’t see the Peregrines this time but were treated to a lengthy sighting of a Stoat, hunting alongside the riverbank.
It moved quickly in the cover but we could see the distinctive white chest and black tip of the tail clearly – How to tell a Stoat from a Weasel? Just remember this old rhyme: A Stoat is Weasily recognised, as it Stoatally different from a Weasel!
I rigged up an improvised shelter with my tarp as we expected some rain at night and sure enough, at around 3am, the showers started.
The birdsong took over from the rain at 6am and it was incredible to hear this chorus again. The protective Canada Goose we’d seen on the last trip left us alone as we passed this time – he seemed a bit more relaxed about canoeists. Mrs Goose was still up on the nest as he eye-balled us from the other side of the river. Only a few Buzzards this time and the Owls were fairly quiet – and no visits from the Mink at camp – all in all, a Stoatally different trip!
‘Old Red’ our new Old Town Discovery 158 canadian canoe had its 2nd outing on Sat 10th with an overnighter involved. The usual and amazing magic of the Wye Valley featured again on this trip. Daytime temperatures were up to 17 degrees on the Saturday with quite a chilly 5 at night as we lay out under the stars in the Swags. The trees still looked very Wintry and they’re late this year, but up close, you could see the buds of Spring bursting out everywhere. Another few warm days and that should make a huge difference.
We heard the Peregrine Falcons calling in the distance and soon after saw one of them zooming down the valley like a jet, and disappearing over the trees. We also encountered a very defensive male Canada Goose who wanted to fight anyone that passed; to keep Mrs Goose safe. We met him two weeks ago on that trip and he was fairly touchy then to any passers by. We kept away both times to give them some space. Countless Buzzards soured in the warm air and a Sparrowhawk darted around the trees just yards from Old Red as we drifted silently. In the morning, we were awake by 6am listening to what sounded like hundreds of birds singing at the same time. At camp, I was pleased with my improving skills with a striker and small pieces of Birch bark shavings to get a small camp fire going, for directly boiling the Kelly Kettle and cooking some meat that I propped on a sharpened green stick.
During the night, I lay there listening to the Tawnys and my eyes had adjusted quite well under the fairly bright night sky. I heard a worrying noise on the pebbles and stones about 20 yards from me and picked up the outline and profile of a large Mink bounding towards our spot, closer and closer.
The Mink then stopped very abruptly, sniffed the air, and did a ‘I just smelt a bloke’ kind of U turn back to the river. As he raced away, he tore up stones behind him, like a car doing wheel spins! I heard the splash as he hit the safety of the Wye again.
On day 2, only 3 other canoeists were seen by us so it really felt like we had the Valley to ourselves which was a great feeling on that warm Sunday morning, as the lambs skipped on the banks along side us.
Last weekend saw us make it on the first river trip of the year, finally after a very cold and rather drawn out winter this year. It was fantastic to finally get out on the water, and with the river Wye in quite a bit of flow after yet more rain the river itself felt as eager to move down stream as we were! A highlight was taking our new red Old Town Discovery 158 out for a maiden trip, and I have to say she is a lovely boat – there’s something classic about the red colour – perhaps it’s from the Bill Mason days (see below), and whilst our green one blends in visually with the surroundings, the red one seems equally at home out in the wilds. There was really no sign of spring yet, despite it being the very end of March – just some wild garlic in the woods with it’s rich pungent aroma as you walk through breaking the leaves and releasing the scent, and a few daffodils of course in the churchyards and gardens. But otherwise it felt like we were there at the very start of spring – the first day was much like winter, cold wind and grey clouds, no greeness in the trees at all. But when the sun came out after the nights camp on an island in the river, and all the birds in the valley burst into song it seemed like suddenly spring had gotten underway. Buzzards soared in breeding pairs above our campsite, the river flowed past, and overall it was a pretty special trip – here’s to many more this year! View the trip in video below:
Some still photos of the trip:
Autumn colours make getting out into the woods a must…
For more “Bushcrafting By Landrover” see our LandroverExplorer.co.uk website – follows the same “Get Out & Stay Out” philosophy but applied to on-land travel instead of on water!
At the first sign of it getting colder and the leaves turning we loaded up and headed for an overnight trip down the Wye to catch the early autumn mood – leaving enough time for a late Autumn trip to follow before winter hopefully…