Thursday 21 August 2014 – Somewhere near Dorking, Surrey.
In my last post I mentioned that I recently had interviews for two IT based roles, and that I had been called back to both for second round interviews. As it turned out I did not get either of those jobs, which to be honest was a pretty good thing as I was rung later that week about a third job… Bizarrely this was the best out of all the jobs I have interviewed for lately and after a process lasting a mere three days a contract was signed and I started as an application systems manager the next day. It has great money, great people, interesting work and being based in Covent Garden just adds to all the good things about the job. I have been there for a week now, and it was pay day yesterday. My bank account and I are so very very happy:
Anyway, back on subject…. Via someone I follow on Twitter I recently discovered adventurer and author, Alastair Humphreys just as he was releasing his new book entitled “Microadventures” . I was intrigued by some of the things he wrote about in his blog so I bought the book to read on the plane when I went to New Zealand in July. His idea is that people with limited recreation hours should make the most of the time between the 9 – 5 hours of the working day, those spare hours between 5 and 9, for small adventures. Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to take off for days or weeks on end and do something out side of our own box, and now that I have settled into work the opportunity for adventuring is a lot less. I have also realised that after so much travel I am not entirely ‘normal’ anymore and like to get out and explore off the beaten track every now and then.
After delving into this microadventure thing further I found a small group of people who have been sneaking out after work, jumping on a train out into the counties outside London, walking up a hill and sleeping on it. Heading back into the office with a big grin the following day. This all sounded extremely cool to me so I made contact and the following Thursday…
For the past week the forecast for tonight had been looking really good and it was still showing a clear night as I had breakfast before leaving for work with a backpack loaded for sleeping out. However, when I left the office at 6:00 to walk to the meeting point at Waterloo Station the skies had clouded over and a shower just happened to pass by as I crossed over the Thames – Damn!
I had taken my new camera on the trip and this was the only photo I took with it. With a very full backpack I somehow managed to damage one of the leaf shutters that protect the lens. As you would expect I was not very happy with myself for that. All the rest of the photos are taken on my phone.
I met Anna, who has been organising things, and Lara under the big clock in Waterloo station and while we waited for others to show up Lara and I went to M and S to grab some basic snacks for a shared dinner. When we got back to Anna we discovered that the four other people who were to meet at the station had all bailed out – I guess due to the weather, suckers ! As we were getting tickets for the return trip to Dorking we heard the announcer calling the train – at the furthest platform from where we were standing. We made a mad dash for it, got through the ticket barrier and watched the doors close and the train ease out of the station…
With thirty minutes to wait until the next train at 19:24 we sat on the platform, ate some of the food we had just bought and introduced ourselves to each other until the train arrived. Three total strangers heading off to sleep in a field, awesome.
The train arrived in Dorking a few minutes late at 20:20 and we met the fourth member of our small party, Glenn, who had been waiting patiently after driving in from a nearby town. Night had fallen before we arrived so the original plan to walk from Dorking station to “God’s Seat” just off the North Downs Way for sunset was thrown out the window. As a plan B we headed towards the downs and looked for a convenient hill that would give us a view of the morning’s sunrise as well as trees nearby in case the now forecasted light showers turned into something more unpleasant in the wee hours.
After half an hour of vaguely planned walking around we came across a field in a National Trust park that seemed to be facing the right direction for sunrise, had some trees for rain cover if needed and some nice soft long grass for lying on. Strictly speaking it is against National Trust rules to sleep in their parks, but this was kind of out of the way, and I am a member, so…..
We found a patch on the far side of the field and unpacked food and drink and settled in for a chat, a feed and a laugh before finally organising to settle in for the night around 11:30. As this was a very light weight trip there was no tents involved, I had a sleeping mat and slipped my sleeping bag into a recently purchased bivvy bag. The bivvy is basically a large waterproof bag that fully covers the sleeping bag as well as having a head cover to snuggle into – in case of rain and cold. Mine was long enough to allow me to stuff my pack down into the bottom if the rain got too hard, but for tonight I was using my bag as a very hard pillow.
I must say I did not get a lot of sleep, though this was well within expectation – I mean I sleep badly in a nice bed, there was little hope of a great night sleep while in a field! I did get some sleep, between a couple of light showers, the bird noise and the sun rising way too early. It was lovely to be sleeping out, something I should have done before – especially when I was in Africa and had some great opportunities to get out of the tent and sleep under the stars. It was a reasonably comfortable night, I stayed completely dry, considering it did rain a bit – and having bought wisely, my bivvy breathed well as well. Something I was quite pleased.
The sun started to rise just before 5:00 and that was when I discovered my camera wasn’t working anymore. I grabbed a couple of blurry pictures with my phone before the others got up and the rising sun started to colour the horizon.
I spent a vast amount of the night staring at these two trees, in the dull light of the night they really looked like two dinosaurs fighting.
We were all up, packed and off just after 6:00, taking a slow walk back to Dorking station from Denbies Hillside before jumping on a train back into the city – and in the office for a shower before starting my day at the desk at 8:30. A happy grin on my face all day, though my new colleagues did think I was a bit mad…