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Four Seasons of Microadventure


Why don’t you try this challenge this year?

Once a season this year I am spending a night out in the same woods.
It’s a simple idea: a way to see how the world changes, to measure my own year and make plans, and to experience the outdoors in a variety of ways.




A mixed bag, this one. There was no video, alas. But there’s some excellent memories for me, and that’s worth a fair amount (to me at least, if not to you, dear reader!).

I spent the spring equinox alone in the woods with my thoughts. I was back there for summer with friends and laughter. For the autumn equinox I wanted to share ‘my’ woods with people new to microadventures, to try to see the experience through fresh and un-jaded eyes. I asked a friend, Adventurer / Geography teacher (Fearghal / Mr O’Nuallain), if his class would like to spend a night in the woods. So far, so good.

But various train issues meant that the intrepid teenagers didn’t escape from London until well after dark (hence the lack of film). Absolutely torrential rain had been bucketing from the sky all afternoon. So this was to be a soggy, night-time microadventure!

They were a great bunch of kids, and this was a brilliant opportunity for them to be away from school, away from the frameworks, regulations, constraints, peer-pressure, and pre-judgements that dog many teenagers through their school days. I’md never met these kids. I knew not nor cared how academic, naughty or popular they may be. I was just interested to see what they made of my woods and a night out of doors.

And it was a triumph. The hour-long soggy hike up a hill didn’t break them. They agreed to my request that they turn off their phones for the night. They enjoyed their first experience of pitching bashas and gathering firewood in the dark. They enjoyed the food I cooked on the fire (I was amused later though to see secreted Chicken McNuggets being warmed over the fire!), and really enjoyed toasting marshmallows. There was the predictable noise and hilarity of trying to get teenagers to wriggle into bivvy bags and go to sleep. But they were far more responsive and helpful with packing away at 5am than I had imagined.

The day’s school timetable meant they had to get a train at dawn (in lashing rain, again) and therefore had not one minute of daylight on the whole microadventure. This was a real pity as the woods and the landscape so close to London are beautiful. I was massively impressed with the teenagers. They were polite, well-behaved, enthusiastic, kind to each other, and lots of fun to be with, even in conditions which would have broken many, many adults. One of them was even brave enough to touch a frog! Well done, Precious, Dammy, Kendy, Julie, Adonia, James, and Princess.

Here’s what I concluded from our pitch-dark, brief, rainy microadventure:

  • Kids from the city can get a massive amount from just one simple night away from the city.
  • Kids will refrain from phone-addiction for a night if there are stimulating alternatives (playing with fire, camping in the woods, touching a frog).
  • Sleeping out in pouring rain is fun and beautiful in its own way, IF you are properly equipped to get a dry night’s sleep.
  • Sharing ‘my’ woods and my outdoor life with people who had never done it before made me grateful that I do this stuff regularly, and reassured me that I’mm not weird in finding it refreshing, reflective and invigorating.


Why don’t you try this challenge in 2016?

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  1. Hi Al

    Keen follower of your activities and have managed a few wild camping overnights in the SE with the kids as well as longer mini expeditions thanks for the inspiration. Can you do something on making fires responsibly as they feature in a number of your posts and movies but you don’t say how to do it discreetly and importantly how not to damage the ground longer term. I’ve seen lots of fire scars in popular spots both in the SE and further afield in across the UK, including remote areas of Scotland. Its a bit of a shame in an otherwise pristine environment.

    Cheers Ade

    • Alastair Posted

      Hi Ade, I wrote this –
      Is that the sort of thing you mean?

      • Hi Al

        Thanks for the link, I did search your site (honest!) but it didn’t come up. Yes that’s exactly what I was thinking of.. It would be perhaps good to mention hacking down live wood is a no no (most green wood won’t burn well for a start), and dead standing is better than dead fall etc. without getting all bushcrafty and pious.

        I love a small fire with the kids, part of the outdoor experience but I’ve seen horrendous damage to live trees and roots in some places, people just don’t realise it doesn’t grow back quickly.

        Cheers for replying.


  2. Wonderful, Alastair! I just watched your ‘Mountain Bikes & Bothy Nights’ video. How inspiring, warm and friendly. That amazing-shape mountain at the start of your film – I just climbed it on 21st June; I love that mountain! And that part of the world. I’ve just spent a wonderful 3 weeks on the North West coast of Scotland, and a week on the Orkney Islands. I still haven’t slept in a bothy, though, but you’ve inspired me to, next time. Thank you for your inspiration, and the beautifully shot and narrated film. I love your idea of a micro adventure every month.


  3. Great idea Al!

  4. Jamie Fulbrook Posted

    I like the new winter one – a nice, simple and down to earth chat. I think so many people suffer with ‘The Grass is always greener’ syndrome [myself included] – it can be really hard thing to get past actually. To be ultimately ‘satisfied’ with your current choice – some great reading out there on the subject though 🙂



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