So Tuesday 2nd September, 5:00pm I jumped in my car eagerly anticipating cutting my teeth on a Midweek Microadventure. The plan; ditch the car somewhere near the North York Moors, hike for an hour or two, find some great views, take some photos, enjoy the sunset then pitch up and enjoy a bit of solitude and a night under the stars (or as it turned out, quite a bit of cloud!) then get up at dawn and drive back to work!
After a brief stop at GoOutdoors to grab an OS Map, I drove south, past Stockton-on-Tees towards the Moors which rise up from the flat plains around Stockton and Middlesborough. Unfortunately, there was a fairly ominous bank of cloud that eclipsed the sun just as I turned off the A19 to leave the car at the small village of Faceby. I headed south out of Faceby up Bank Lane up towards Round Hill and Live Moor – an uphill slog which immediately highlighted the humidity bought on by the cloud cover (cue ditching the jacket). Turning sharply uphill I took vaguely trodden track up through a copse of trees which bought me out into a dense and overgrown valley between the tree line and the sharply rising hill up onto the top of the moor. A pleasant (but sweat inducing) bushwhack uphill through the ferns and undergrowth led to some great photo opportunities of the sun shooting through the cloud cover down in the valley and eventually topping out onto the Cleveland Way footpath.
It took me a little while to find a campsite while I wandered along the path following the ridge line. I was keen to find somewhere well off the main path to avoid any risk of being disturbed, reasonably sheltered and with a decent view. I was conscious that it is now Grouse season and I didn’t fancy a run in with an angry, shotgun wielding farmer, so was pretty pleased when I found a flat(ish) grassy section above a small rocky outcrop perfectly sheltered from wind and view by a grassy mound.
With the tent pitched by about 8pm I watched the sunset, drank a cup of tea and ate some “here’s some I made earlier” pasta; really enjoying the peace and quiet. The only sound really being the gentle breeze and the occasional warble of a Grouse from the moorland behind me. From my vantage point I had a view of miles and miles of the lower plains I had driven over but as the sun was setting, the fact that I could still Stockton in the distance didn’t really detract from the feeling of isolation and solitude that I was looking for. Having recently been to a talk by Steve Birkenshaw – long distance mountain and fell runner, charismatic speaker and general bad-ass, he spoke about loving the feeling of breaking your everyday normality and doing something a bit different. I think I took this quite to heart and although, for Steve, his “break from normality” is running 300 odd kilometers down the mountains of Wales, for me, this little excursion felt like a wonderful change from everyday routine.
I actually ended up having one of the best night’s sleep I have had in ages! The cloud cover had been a bit of a saving grace as it meant that the night was mild enough to keep my tent door open providing an undisturbed view out over the valley while I slept. At around 5:30am I rose stood around looking at the deep blue of the arriving dawn, then packed up the tent and swiftly made my way back the way to the car, arriving back at the Berghaus head office at around 7:30. A lesson for next time, it turned out I had been massively over-cautious in terms of how far from the car I could afford to go. Next time I will venture further a field and hopefully get myself to a much more isolated spot.
All in all, a very successful night and I already can’t wait for my next impromptu trip. Northumberland National Park may be next as it is known for being the area of the country with the least light pollution! In which case I’m definitely going to remember my tripod next time and take some long exposure photos. Stay tuned for my next one 🙂