17 min read

A Night In The YesWoods

A great time under canvas in the woods

The last time I spent a night in the woods Shelli and I were on our bushcraft weekend, almost 4 years ago now!? That weekend we slept under a tarp strung between two trees and also under a shelter we built; thankfully it didn’t rain that night!

It was definitely something I wanted to do more of though, reminding me of the times when I was younger, taking a sleeping bag out and sleeping over the fields under the stars. Or loading up my old Bergen and walking to some woods to camp out for the night, baking potatoes in the fire. Good times.

A few years ago I was pointed to the YesTribe Facebook Group – see also Say Yes More – which I followed from afar. That was until Shelli and I went to Yestival last year, joining a few hundred people for a weekend full of talks, workshops, games and a lot more besides. The Yestival weekend came at the perfect time as I was still struggling from losing Russ earlier in the year, and Yestival was a real dose of medicine.

As often happens, things never really worked out to go along to other YesTribe events (busy, kids, too far away etc.) but Dave Cornthwaite1 posted recently that they were working on sorting out some woodland: the YesWoods. Who knew where they would be but I was looking forward to visiting at some point if I could.

Dave then mentioned this year’s YesTribe annual campaign: Wake Up Wild, the aim being to encourage 2019 people to spend time under the stars by hosting 100 free wild camps around the country. As part of the campaign the first YesWoods camp out was announced, the meet up point being the Unicorn Pub “Henley”, as Dave put it.

“Hang on. The Unicorn Pub, Henley? There’s no pub in Henley by that name” I thought. I then checked the address and, as I thought, it was the pub just up the road from Sonning Common, where Shelli lived for a few years. Tempting! Could this be the beginnings of a plan forming? With that thought I clicked on the “Interested” button for the event on Facebook and didn’t think much more of it.

That evening Shelli said she’d seen I was interested in the camp out and, in no uncertain terms, said I should go and that it’d be good for me. How could I not go now? Ah yes, that wonderful thing called anxiety that rears its ugly head far too often these days. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited with the thought of going and planning what I wanted to take and how to get there, but the thought of meeting new people pretty much terrified me!

What sort of example would I be to our girls (three of which have been affected by anxiety in varying degrees) if I succumbed to this fear? If I didn’t practice what I preach? Thinking about it reminded me of the following:

Step outside your comfort zone. That’s where the magic is

Don’t be afraid to try something new: you’ll either have a great time or a great story. If you’re lucky you’ll have both

I’d been doing better for a while with my anxiety – especially the social aspect of it – going to more gigs in the last year than, well, many previous years put together, so how bad could spending an evening/morning with a few people be? People who were part of a group who had shown themselves to be pretty awesome time and time again? I was going to go!

The Plan

Decision made to actually go to the camp out – in for a penny and all that – I checked out what the weather was supposed to be doing Friday evening/night and Saturday morning. There was a small chance of rain but the more worrying thing was the fact that it was forecast to be around -6°C! Hang on, what?! I thought Spring had sprung?

I’d originally thought about just taking a sleeping bag and my bivvy bag (bought for my LEJOG walk but never actually used) but the thought of being in that and the possibility of -6°C really didn’t appeal if I’m honest. So, a quick browse around t’Internets and a new one person tent was on order ready for the night in the woods.

With that part of the plan sorted out I started to think about getting to the pub on Friday and then back home on Saturday. I could drive but considering Shelli and I walked to Sonning Common and back the other month to go to the surgery to pick up my “happy pills” there really wasn’t any excuse not to do the same again. It wasn’t exactly a long way away from home.

I didn’t need to plot the route there as I followed the route we took that weekend, but not knowing exactly where the YesWoods were in relation to the pub I didn’t really know where I’d be walking home from. Worst case, I could retrace my steps and walk back the same way I was planning on getting there. I was hopeful however that the woods would allow me to take a different route home on Saturday so I decided to just pack my GPS and once I was ready to make my way home I’d figure out a route and start walking. Sorted!

There wasn’t really much else that needed planning after that. There’s not a great deal you need to think about when you’re going off for one night under canvas is there?

Friday

Having worked a ridiculous number of hours the weekend before, fitting it all in around Asri’s 15th Birthday weekend fun and games, I took Friday off in lieu to spend the day with Shelli to try and make up for the missed evenings while I was working.

After a fairly lazy/easy morning we took Snow for a walk out to the Sun pub at Whitchurch Hill for a pint and a spot of lunch. It’s a pub we’ve been to quite a lot and we were looking forward to some scrummy food and a nice drink while we chilled out together. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Unknown to us the pub had changed hands and after a lacklustre service the food was, well, very average. The baguettes and cheesy chips were filling but we’d been looking forward to a lovely sourdough pizza. Although we had a lovely time we both agreed we wouldn’t be going there for food again. Shame.

Back home I started to get my gear together and once it was all on the dining table I was [very] doubtful that it’d fit in the usual day pack. Because of the expected freezing temperature I was taking two sleeping bags, not having a 4 season bag, so they took up quite a bit of space. Add the roll mat, tent, water, food, waterproofs etc. etc. there was considerably more to pack than I’d really appreciated.

While I stood there scratching my head thinking about the problem, Shelli shouted downstairs reminding me of my trusty old Berghaus C7 Pro 70+10 rucksack I’d used on my LEJOG walk. It was in the shed and wasn’t in too bad condition from what I remembered.

I got the shed key, got the pack down from the shelf, brushed it off, and gave it a good looking over. Other than some minor damage to the waist belt, where it’d rubbed and frayed the material, it was almost perfect! Amazing to think really considering what it went through back in 2010!? It was definitely worth every penny spent on it that’s for sure. Taking it indoors I started to organise my kit and figuring out how I’d get it packed and would you believe it, it all went in first time!

So I was ready and just had to wait for the girls to get in from school, cook dinner, tidy up, and then hit the road to get to the pub in time to meet up with Dave and everyone else. When I say I was ready I mean I’d gotten everything ready but my mind was racing a bit and the nerves were beginning to rise through me the closer it got to leaving. This was the reason I decided to walk to the camp out, the walk being a way of trying to get rid of my nerves and anxiety before meeting everyone.

After sorting out the girls’ dinner I left the house a little bit later than I’d planned, hitting the road at 4:45pm.

It was strange but at the same time very familiar having my old friend on my back again. It wasn’t long before the old squeaks accompanied my every step. It really didn’t feel like it’d been 9 years since I last seriously used the pack, but it still remained the most comfortable pack I’d ever used.

It was cool outside but not too bad. The weather wasn’t really sure what it wanted to do and the clouds kept on coming overhead, and about 45 minutes into the walk it started to rain. Thankfully the lane I was walking down was covered quite well by the trees so I didn’t bother stopping to put my coat on. More than that, I had a sneaky feeling the rain wouldn’t last and all the effort taking the pack off and putting my coat on would be wasted.

I was right. The rain stopped, then started again, then stopped, and started again as I made my way to Sonning Common so I was glad I didn’t bother. What was frustrating was having to bag up my camera time and time again to protect it from the rain, finally giving up on it and clipping it to my pack for the final couple of miles.

I’d originally planned on stopping at the chip shop for a portion of chips after the walk but as I approached I really didn’t feel hungry after my pub lunch. As I got there though who did I bump into? Dave, getting his dinner before going to the pub. Perfect timing! He’d gotten a lift from Simon, I mean Steve, no, I mean Simon. They asked if I wanted a lift but I wanted to walk all of the way to the pub and then the woods. It’s what I’d planned so it was what I was going to do.

You’ll be unsurprised to hear that they beat me to the pub, but it was great to finally get there, take my pack off and sup a rather tasty pint of beer, meeting some of the other people who were staying in the woods that night.

Once the final few peeps arrived by various buses we got our things together and Dan, Becky, Sergio and I made our way along the lane with the vague instructions “look for the two gates just past where the houses end”. We were told it should be around 20 minutes but I’ll admit we weren’t too sure as the lane kept on going and we passed more houses, questioning whether or not we’d missed the gates or something?

Just down a little hill we spotted Simon’s van and Dave’s orange jacket. We’d arrived! Well, not quite. There was still a little stroll down to the woods but it wasn’t long before we’d dropped out gear and were getting the grand tour of the YesWoods.

Tour done and the light beginning to die out, we all went off and scoped out our camping spots for the night. I had my little tent, others had hammocks, and one – Dan – had a tarp and a bivvy bag; very brave!

I found my spot and put my home up for the night. It looked good and, sorting out the mat and sleeping bags, felt big for such a small tent. I was confident I’d fit in along with everything else – including my empty pack – without any problems at all.

The rest of the evening was spent sat round the fire finding out a little bit more about each other, and chatting about anything and everything. It was well on the way to midnight before we all decided it was time to call it a night. We said goodnight and made our way to our camping spots to settle down, hopeful of a reasonable night’s sleep and not too cold a night.

Saturday

I never really sleep that well, even at home, and the night in the tent was no different. It wasn’t that I was cold or uncomfortable – the sleeping mat and bags did their jobs really well – but around 3am I needed the loo. As you can imagine, the thought of getting out of my snug sleeping bags to go to the loo really didn’t appeal so I tried desperately to ignore it … and 30 minutes later I gave in went off to the loo. After that I slept on and off, and when the sun came up I lay in bed listening to the birds which was really rather nice.

I didn’t rush up, getting out of my tent around 8:30am, finding Steve, Simon and Sergio sitting around the fire pit having a hot drink. Becky was next to join us and a little while later Dave appeared too. Dan and Shanice were nowhere to be seen though.

We all chatted and Simon cooked up some sausages on the fire, offering them and some rolls round, which was very welcome and they were delicious! Thanks Simon. I’d only planned on a light breakfast as I wasn’t expecting a late walk home, but you’d be mad to turn down a nice sausage roll wouldn’t you?

Dan and Shanice eventually joined us around the fire, which was now doing an excellent job of warming us up as it definitely felt chillier than the previous evening.

After helping Dave with a bit of tree pruning we all got together for some group photos before the first of the group headed homeward. The rest of us stayed a bit longer, helping to gather more branches to add to the little “walls” that had already been started to hide the fire pit from view from the bridle path.

The morning was disappearing fast and around 11:30am I broke camp, making sure nothing was left behind, and checked my GPS to figure out the quickest route home. After a final check round the camp, making sure the fire was well and truly out, we all grabbed our gear and headed up to the lane.

I waved goodbye as Steve and Simon drove the others back to Reading to get their trains and headed up the path towards home.

The route home was a much more direct affair compared to the previous day’s route. I didn’t need to go back to Sonning Common, just head towards Hook End and then over the A4074 home. There’d be a mixture of woods and lanes on the way home which wasn’t a problem. I just wanted to be home as quickly as I could.

After the rain on the walk to the woods the day before I was hopeful for at least a dry stroll home. There was blue in the sky and, although still a little chilly, it was looking like a nice clear day. That lasted for the majority of the walk home, but as I got close to Hook End it started to “rain”. Well, that’s what I initially thought until I noticed the the “rain” drops were bouncing off the road in front of me. It was hail! Seriously?! It didn’t last too long but on the final stretch home I think it hailed at least three times!

I got to the house at 1:30pm, taking just under an hour and a quarter to walk the 4 miles home, which I was pleased with. I got cleaned up and sorted out my kit and chilled for the rest of the afternoon.

It truly was a great time and I’m so glad I went. Everyone was really friendly and I’m seriously looking forward to my next stay in the YesWoods. A massive thank you to Dave for organising the camp out, and to Steve, Simon, Sergio, Dan, Becky and Shanice for being awesome people!

Roll on the next YesWoods camp out!

Photos

Friday

Saturday

Route Details

Route Files

Friday

If you’re interested you can download the KML file and/or GPX file of the plotted route. Please be aware though that the route was hand-plotted and so may not be 100% accurate.

Saturday

If you’re interested you can download the KML file and/or GPX file of the plotted route. Please be aware though that the route was hand-plotted and so may not be 100% accurate.

Walk Statistics

Friday

MilesStart (HH:MM)Finish (HH:MM)Breaks (HH:MM)Walking (HH:MM)Pace (MPH)
6.4716:4518:4000:0001:553.38

Saturday

MilesStart (HH:MM)Finish (HH:MM)Breaks (HH:MM)Walking (HH:MM)Pace (MPH)
3.9912:1713:3000:0001:133.28

Route Maps

Friday

Saturday

Elevation Details

Friday

Start Elavation (m)End Elavation (m)Max Elevation (m)Min Elevation (m)Total Climb (m)Total Descent (m)Climbs on Route
17111617687102-1570

Saturday

Start Elavation (m)End Elavation (m)Max Elevation (m)Min Elevation (m)Total Climb (m)Total Descent (m)Climbs on Route
135171176113129-930

More information about climb ratings can be found at Map My Walk.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.Dave Cornthwaite is a speaker, adventurer, and community leader