Wildcamping in Afan Forest

A day of cycling brought me to Maesteg. A strange town, it was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and I felt a bit lost here. I was catcalled by some Men, this made me feel vulnerable. Eager to leave the area, I followed signposts towards the Afan Forest. In no time I was up in the hills, the trail was picturesque and secluded mostly, but I passed through a few small communities. I was surprised at how many waterfalls there were around, though small, still gorgeous. The sounds of clean water cascading down the hillside added an air of tranquility to this silent place.

I wanted to lay myself down while the sun was still in the sky, so I could adjust to my surroundings and breathe through the twilight hour. I soon realised that the Afan area was not ideal for wild camping, but I would keep searching regardless. Pushing my bike up such steep inclines proved too difficult, so we separated. I buried her in forestry and climbed steadily on foot to find the perfect place to sleep.

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With the warmth of the setting sun against my skin I searched for a new home. Sliding down the side of the mountain did not appeal to me, but seemed inevitable here. Still, this would be a beautiful setting to wake up in. I was running out of sunlight now, so headed back down the hillside and towards a town called Glyncorrwg. It was about a mile from here that I found a suitable patch, though the land was not even, it would have to suffice.

I spent some time meditating and stretching, I know how cruel a damp ground can be to the spine. I spread my arms out wide, brushed the earth with my fingertips, focused on my diaphragm, until I was breathing in textures.

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I hadn’t slept well the night before taking this adventure, so I was pretty exhausted. I hoped this would work in my favour. My eyelids felt heavy as I watched the sky darken, I realised I’d never done this, never stared with such curiosity as the evening sky faded through shades of blue, I enjoyed it thoroughly and tried to stop my eyes from closing, to no avail, I drifted off.

I awoke in darkness. My surroundings had been soaked in black, yet the sky bursted with the light of a thousand of stars, a sight that took my breath away. I didn’t try to understand, it didn’t seem like something to be understood, so I just observed, the layers danced together, the outer, the eternal and me. Hours passed, it was around 3am that I drifted back into slumber.

I happened upon the wreckage of a plane. Climbed over corpses and debris to hunt for treasures, found some sort of flight simulator goggles, piloted through kaleidoscope skies, listed them on eBay for £50, bargain. A Man said he’d meet me at the airport.

“Silly girl.” He sneered. “I just wanted normal, prescription glasses!”

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I awoke stiff, shivering, I struggled for breath. I had slid over a meter away from where I’d originally lay my head. In the night it had started to rain, so I’d pulled my bivvy and sleeping bag over my face, which was already covered in a balaclava, my head pounded from this lack of oxygen, thankfully the pain only lasted twenty minutes or so. I wondered why I was so cold, and why this early September morning was so covered in frost, I was not prepared for these temperatures. There had been about ten hours of darkness, five of which I had slept, five I’d spent in awe of the night sky.

When I finally felt brave enough to exit my bivvy cocoon, I loaded my gear onto my bike and pedalled hard through the countryside. Such relief I felt as the sun arose over the hills, with all the uphill cycling I began to sweat and had to strip myself of a few layers. I realised I hadn’t eaten a meal in two days, only sandwiches, weetabix and croissants, I had used a lot of my energy cycling. Unfortunately, Woman can not live on pastries alone, I needed real sustenance now. I found a pub and ordered a large vegetarian breakfast. These were the most convincing meat free sausages I’d ever tasted, I felt like this sort of defeated the object, vegetarians don’t like the taste or texture of meat. However, I was in no position to criticize, I was lucky to have found food so early on a Sunday morning.

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I wasn’t really sure where the day would take me, but knew I wanted to be near the coast. I headed south towards the town of Bridgend and decided I would follow the signs to the closest beach, I wanted to wash my clothes and decided my best chance at drying them would be upon warm sands. About twenty miles from where I had slept was Ogmore, a quaint village with a rugged coastal path. I struggled to push my bike over the rocks and crevices that dotted the land.

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There were people here, I did not let it distract me. I’ve always enjoyed being alone, since childhood I’ve thrived in silence, for some time in my life I felt this was wrong, in observing how other humans interact with each other, it would seem there’s some inherent need to belong, build a tribe, become identified by the people we surround ourselves with. In the distance, families and their pets. They all seemed fulfilled. Am I missing something? I wondered. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere, yet ironically, that can only mean I belong everywhere.

At that moment a beetle landed on me, we were of the same matter, yet the beetle did not contemplate its own purposelessness, it also hadn’t been conditioned to believe it needed some kind of a community, or poisoned by the concept of time passing it by. It knew to do only one thing, to blend into the environment. This had been my purpose just last night, but the beetle was way more experienced than me, it had the advantage of looking like a leaf, I had to buy a bag with human MONEY in a desperate attempt to camouflage myself, and I still didn’t look like a leaf. Sometimes I doubt that this meaty, emotional vessel is really adequate to contain what is referred to as myself, maybe a different form would be more appropriate. And then I remember that this body is a gift of flesh and bone that enables me to interact with the world, and learn. So can’t really argue with that, maybe in my next life I will be an actual leaf or something, but then I wouldn’t be able to write blogs, so we’ll see.

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I began to look for a place to sleep, it was only early in the afternoon but I wanted to make sure I could find somewhere sheltered and remote. Although, I knew this would be hardship so near to the coast, I’d settle for minimal signs of civilization within a one mile radius. My back ached and I wanted to bury myself in a nice, flat woodland. A Woman was interested as to why I was washing my clothes in the sea, when I told her she warned me a storm had been forecasted. This made me nervous, I didn’t have the appropriate gear to deal with a mostly dry night never mind this. I thought about gathering sticks and stones from the beach to make myself a shelter, but that probably wouldn’t last the night. I could make myself a tarp from my coat and a couple of twigs, but I was afraid of freezing in my Summer sleeping bag. I gave myself one more hour to find a place to sleep, if I wasn’t satisfied, I’d return to the city.

I found some stepping stones near a castle, there were people nearby but I imagined it would calm down by night. The stones would act as a natural deterrent to potential predators, although I didn’t imagine the type of person wishing to cause another person harm would frequent such an area, it would be difficult to climb over them in the darkness. Carrying my gear over would not be easy though.

So far so good, this place met all my criteria. I felt pretty confident, that was until the horses showed up. They were gentle, although one of them tried to eat my phone, not cool man. Be sensible Kerri, I thought to myself. Do you really want to wake up with a horse shoe to the face? Or in a storm without gear? Often, I find myself torn between these two mindsets, the impulsive me, fuelled by curiosity. The sensible me, based on rational fear. Today, I would go with the latter attitude.

However, not all was lost, I am learning constantly, yet to truly embrace this lifestyle I must invest in some good gear. If anybody has any recommendations, feel free to leave me a comment, I could do with any advice, I am quite the novice really.

I wish you safe and happy adventures!

Dank 

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