School Night Adventures

Rachael Walker showcases the wonders of mid-week adventuring close to home.

Words By: Rachael Walker

Photos By: Roo Fowler

It’s a Wednesday night and last weekend feels like a distant memory and yet the next seems so far away. Phone notifications are pinging, teams calls are non-stop and every time I try to leave the desk, the invisible elastic of work drags me back to noise and demands. I need some outdoors time, a little time to decompress from the constant noise that is daily life and work. A quick run or ride won’t suffice today, I need a little extra.

School night adventure? Time is tight, but it feels like the perfect thing to do right now. I check the overnight weather; it’s a bit iffy, but should be ok. In my last tea break I grab all my kit and load up the bike bags. I remember I have some left over Idahoan mashed potato in the cupboard, a little gas left in the canister and chuck them in.

After a speedy final kit run through to check I have everything needed, I get pedalling. I have a potential camp spot in mind but will make the route up as I go along. I dash into the local supermarket to grab more supplies. It’s a panic shop, all I come out with is chorizo and far too much chocolate (it was on special offer!). Sweet and savoury, that’ll do right?!

I’ve got everything I need now for a night under the big sky. I start pedalling away from the villages traffic and on to the quiet roads, in search of singletrack. It’s been a challenging winter, with record breaking rainfall, spring is in full flow now but so many off road paths are either underwater, or relentless bogs. The bluebells are starting to bloom but haven’t reached their peak when they carpet the forest floor in a spectacular display of blue flowers. The many country lanes around here provide easy miles and help link up the gravel sections which have dried out.

A familiar smell fills the air; wild garlic! Suddenly it feels like a jungle, deep green walls of wild garlic in every direction. I pick a few leaves to add to my posh mash potato dinner - what a treat! Once up the climb, my wheels hit dirt and onto a singletrack section where I’m greeted with a sea of yellow. The rapeseed fields are blooming, the colour is popping and it’s a little reminder that summer is on its way. After this long wet English winter it feels like the end is insight. As if to temper that thought, the clouds roll in, squeezing out the last of the days sun. Is it going to rain again?

I’ve only been riding for 1.5 hours but already the messages, emails and meetings are forgotten in the blur of traffic, colours, smells and pedalling. My body and legs are moving but my mind is calm and in the moment. It’s getting late - I realise I haven’t seen a soul for the last half an hour, it’s as if everyone has gone to bed early and yet it’s only seven thirty!. The camp spot isn’t far, the aim is to get there for sunset in half an hours time, so up the last climb I go.

There’s no one at the camp spot, it’s super quiet apart from the sound of bee’s doing their thing and the birds having an evening gossip. Sunset must have happened, but this side of the thick clouds, I saw nothing. The comforting blare of the stove starts up and in no time at all I’m tucking into hot mashed potato with chorizo and wild garlic whilst watching car headlights silently crossing the landscape in the distance. It’s almost dark now and time to settle down. The bivvy bag seemed like the perfect choice for a quick night out, simple, light and less intrusive on the surroundings. The air is mild and it’s warm and cosy in the bivvy. I lay looking at the clouds until they reveal the stars, I just about make out the plough before Elon’s satellite’s come scuttling across the night sky. Looking down at the small dots of lights from the houses, I feel a sense of gentle smugness that I’m out having this little piece of adventure when everyday life is continuing down below.

I don't sleep much, but that's ok.

The grunting of a nearby deer wakes me from my dozy slumber, light is filling the sky and I feel refreshed. An 8.30am meeting is in the diary and at 6am the sun shows itself for mere seconds before diving behind the first cloud it sees. Easily enough time to make a coffee and just watch the world go by, for the next 10 minutes it feels like someone has hit pause. My coffee finishes and in doing do, I hit fast forward.

Kit is stuffed back into its sacks, I click my hemet strap and enter a race. My eyes water as I speed off the hill to meet up with the rush hour traffic.

Once back and after a quick shower, and toast, the laptop is open and no one on the call knows any different. They ask how I am this morning.

I feel great.