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How to Find a Location for a Microadventure

This is not advice on how to find beautiful places for microadventures in Scotland, the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales etc. That is easy. (Hint: get out of the towns and tourist spots. Climb a hill. Done.)

This is about the art of finding lovely, peaceful places to sleep if you live in a big city. It’s not particularly hard, once you get the hang of it. All that’s required is a map, a train timetable and some open-minded thinking. It also helps to get into the habit of continually evaluating places as potential campsites. For example, driving along the M25, I noticed a high ridge running parallel to the road.  It was  a useful memory when I came to walking a lap of the M25. Look at the familiar in an unfamiliar way and you find beauty. This photo is from that ridge, high above the ugliness of the motorway.

If I can find wilderness and beauty within the M25 you can find it close to where you live. This post will help you, I hope.

Walking a lap of the M25

Here then are some suggestions for how to find a local place for your first overnight microadventure:

  • If you know roughly where you want to go, buy an Ordnance Survey map (or you can browse for free on their painfully un-intuitive website and take a few cheeky screengrabs). (EDIT – thanks to Jack who says this: Bing maps has the OS 1:25k maps, and much easier to use than the clunky OS site. From the map menu just select Road & Ordnance Survey Maps and once you zoom in sufficiently, you’ll be in 1:25k.) In this digital age nothing beats unfolding a giant paper map and dreaming big whilst spilling biscuit crumbs and tea. Use this alongside a map of train routes (assuming you need a train to get you out of the city).
  • Find a station in a pretty rural area of the map. Here is a good way of narrowing down your choices: the next time you are at your local train station look at the places the train stops at. Pick a rural one and go for that. It’ll do for now. You have plenty of time in life to find beautiful microadventures. The point of this post is just to get you started on the first one, to break the inertia and build the momentum. Perhaps even choose a station that your commute passes through every single day but which you know absolutely nothing about.
  • Now consider how far you are willing to walk or cycle from the station to where you want to spend the night. (Bear in mind the unbearable tedium of trying to take your bike on a train, particularly if you are returning to the city in rush hour.)  Use this distance to help you narrow down your search for a spot on the map.
  • Things to look for to find a great microadventure spot: lots of contour lines with a flat bit at the top, green areas of woodland, blue areas of water, walls to hide behind. Look for a footpath leading off the road and into the quieter areas.
    On the map below I have ringed some good-looking spots close to a random, rural railway station to give you an idea of how simple this is. With a bivvy bag you need only a tiny bit of flat ground out of sight to passers-by. I have never been to this place but I’d be pretty confident that all of these spots would be adequate beds for the night.
    camping spots
  • If you don’t have a good map like this then you’ll need to go online. Apps such as Mapster, iOS Maps, ForestXplorer, OS MapFinder and of course Google Maps are great. Use this alongside a map of train routes (assuming you need a train to get you out of the city).
  • The satellite view on these maps is helpful, though I find the contour lines above simpler for “reading” the land.
  • The satellite picture below is the same area as the map above. Although it is difficult to find precise sleeping spots on this view it is very helpful for one great reason: it reassures me that in this area it will be phenomenally easy to find somewhere secluded and pretty to sleep. So long as I have an hour or two of daylight to follow my nose to somewhere that appeals, I know that this will be an easy place to sleep wild.
    The only hard part would be getting myself motivated enough to jump on the train out of the city and get going.
    campong spots satellite
  • Remember too that if you end up arriving in the dark then the process is even easier. The dark is the microadventurer’s friend! Because once darkness has fallen you can just stroll out of the town, fish and chips in hand, and hop over a wall into the first field you find. Here are a few more tips on courteous wild camping.
  • Like so many things in life, the anticipation of camping wild is far more difficult than the reality of it. I did it on the majority of days on my 4-year ride round the world and on many, many nights around the UK as well. Once you have tried it once or twice you will get over your nerves and relish the joy of finding a good spot.

The hardest aspect of all this is finding an approximate area to head to. Don’t fret too much. Just go. If the night is bright with stars and the grass beneath you is soft then you’ll have an exciting, memorable first microadventure.

In the morning when you take the train back to work everyone in your office will think you are mad, but they’ll be impressed and jealous too!

If you do head off on a microadventure, please let me know. Tag it on Twitter with the hashtag #microadventure or pop something on the new Microadventures Facebook Page.
If you’d like to come on a microadventure with me sign up here.
If you have any friends who could benefit from a microadventure, please send them this link.
Thank you.

I’ve been working hard to encourage people to get out and try a microadventure. Microadventures are a refresh button for busy lives.

But I’m very aware that the hardest thing is getting out there for the first time. So I have produced a few infographics which hopefully will serve to give people the prod necessary to take that first step. (Thank you, Andrea, for all your hard work!)

Click on the image you prefer to open a PDF file that you can then download and keep (Right Click, Save) or share the link with any friends who need a gentle kick up the backside to get out there and do stuff! A lot of the text on the PDF infographic is clickable, leading you to relevant web entries.

Please feel free to use, distribute, print, put on your Facebook page, edit or hack as much as you wish.

Microadventure infographic

Microadventure infographic

Microadventure infographic

Microadventure infographic

If you do head off on a microadventure, please let me know. Tag it on Twitter with the hashtag #microadventure or pop something on the new Microadventures Facebook Page.
If you’d like to come on a microadventure with me sign up here.
If you have any friends who could benefit from a microadventure, please send them this link.

Read Comments

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Comments

  1. Damian Posted

    Off on my first AH style microadventure tonight… sleeping on a hill!

    Reply
    • Good luck with your first microadventure tonight Damian! Off myself tomorrow an a microadventure with a bit of luck. Sleeping in the mountains solo! Nervous and excited in equal measures.

      Reply
  2. Excellent advice. Bing maps http://www.bing.com/maps/ has the OS 1:25k maps, and much easier to use than the clunky OS site. From the map menu just select Road > Ordnance Survey Maps and once you zoom in sufficiently, you’ll be in 1:25k.

    I also use twomaps.com which allows you to view side by side maps and aerial photography, so you get used to reading across from map to land and vice versa. You can even overlay the maps with wikipedia entries, just in case there’s something interesting or historic nearby that’s worth a visit the next morning (an ancient stone circle, a waterfall, or whatever that might be).

    Reply
  3. jamesgout Posted

    Great and v timely post – thanks Alastair. I’m going to head off tomorrow for a #microadventure from St Albans towards the Chilterns. Feeling like kicking off the winter torpor. Although it looks like you’d down that properly by February. I thought the Night of Adventure in London last month was excellent, BTW, and so did the somewhat cyclical mates I dragged along.

    Reply
  4. jamesgout Posted

    PS I’ve spent the last half hour scoping out potential campsites in a very similar way to you suggest, on a 1:25k OS map, but doing so on my iPad using the OutDoors app.

    It’s completely unnecessary – but if you get lost you can see yourself as a blue GPS-enabled dot on screen which is admittedly massively cheating, but quite cool.

    Reply
  5. If you use an apple device(may be available elsewhere I don’t know) check out ArcGIS for a plethora of mapping options including topos and aerials. I use it all the time for deciding where to go for a day. It also lets you measure on screen.

    I must admit though that I love paper maps spread across the floor for hundreds of miles of fun and adventure.

    Reply
  6. Rob Seymour Posted

    Great article, I pour over OS maps doing this just for kicks, just need to get out and do a micro adventure now. For people on Android you won’t find a better app than OruxMaps. You can download offline OS maps at 50k or 25k and map your routes, record routes etc. Its FREE which is amazing for such a feature rich application, you can even get 3D renders of the OS map.

    Reply
  7. The wired thing is having the confidence to drop where you can. once you done this though you realise it will all be fine.

    Reply
  8. David Gaines Posted

    Done long distance walks and often thought about breaking up the nights of BnBs by doing some nights under the stars. Can’t wait to do my first been scraping the kit together and ready. Wish I’d seen the beer can boiler before I bought my jetboil though!!

    Reply
  9. Great site and concept! I really want to try it. One really weird thing is I’ve landed on this page first and the maps (around Mytholmroyd) are somewhere I know extremely well. Fate?

    Reply

 
 

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