So it may be a bit late in the day but I decided to actually look up the definition of the word challenge and amongst other things it is this, according to my pocket Oxford Dictionary ( a 21st birthday present which I cherish and still regularly use) :-
“a call to take part in [something] demanding or difficult and stimulating”
And these 50@50 challenges easily fall into that remit!! Because….I have NEVER slept out under the stars…usually a nice comfy bed in a hotel for me, I most certainly have NEVER been for a wee outside and, as most of you know, I HATE getting up early so have seldom seen the sun rise. Yet this is at total odds with the nature loving me who wants to see and experience as much as I can.
So, when Debbie suggested that as part of her ‘ connecting to nature’ challenge to me we were going to sleep out over night up on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire, in a bivvie (whatever that is…although I do know now!!), and that we would then get up to hear the dawn chorus (4.38 am) followed by watching the sunrise (5.18am) and morning meditation my heart leapt whilst my stomach churned…..was I up for it??
ABSOLUTELY. We headed out after our lovely willow weaving day, where my fellow weavers had done their best with their oohs and aaahhhs about sleeping on the Moor ( a spiritual place full of unusual people, noises and rituals….. thanks ladies!!) to make me a tad nervous. If Debbie had not known what she had taken on before, she certainly did when it came to packing and she had to give me a step by step guide of what things were ( I might add I was very concerned when the matting looked remarkably coffin shaped) and how to pack them. That done we headed out to the Moor, past the sign forbidding camping and fires
( she made me break the law too 😱) and headed past the Nine Ladies Stone Circle.
It was about 9.45 and at half light, one night after a full moon, when we began to hear strange, guttural sounds coming from the direction of the stone circle, accompanied by our own nervous semi-giggle/WTF utterances. It was then we saw two half naked men in the centre of the circle sparring…relief together with confusion washed over us (and thoughts of primitive sacrifices, gladiatorial fights, a scene from Women in Love, and maybe that this was their own challenge crossed my mind)….the scene was similar to this photo below which I found on the Internet
So I now have to apologise to the weavers as they were right…it was a place to behold strange sights. We walked on and tried not to disturb them and headed for our camp. I cannot thank Debbie enough for what followed. She had previously found a great site (the entrance to which was marked by the carnage of a bird kill the previous night…not prearranged by Debbie I hasten to add), under a circle of birch trees and which already had a stone firepit made. She had put walking sticks at the moor entrance which had still been there and collected firewood which she had stashed off the ground in the nook of some branches to dry….it was perfect. We set up our bivvies ( which are waterproof covers for your sleeping bags thus negating the need for a tent), laughed, reflected, lit a fire, shared a cider, laughed some more and went to bed hoping the forecasted bad weather would stay away……..and with me still refusing to have a tinkle in the dark undergrowth.
As I lay down and looked up the leaves on the trees were swirling rhythmically, an ethereal mist formed over the top of the braken and swept coolly over my exposed face….not scary but magical. I will skip over my fidgeting and snoring as I am sure that only enhanced Debbie’s experience to no end, along with me asking loudly “are you awake?” as I wanted her to see the full moon as it cast its glow on us through the trees. That was some time after 1am and it was then that Debbie’s keen ears heard voices…and approaching people walking through the moor and undergrowth…at that time of night and with the stillness we had no idea how close they were to us but the sounds finally subsided so we guessed they had moved away. The mist had also gone and the movement in the trees reminded me now of my childhood kaleidoscope, constantly changing and lulling me off to a comfortable, deep sleep.
Debbie awoke me and the birds started to joyously sing…note to self…learn bird songs!!! A curious robin came to investigate, a peacock called ( reminding me of home) and it was then time to temporarily abandon our camp and go and see the sunrise from the top of the moor. When you witness this it is easy to understand why so many cultures worship and hold the sun in such high regard, why poets and lyricists write about it and how dependent our lives are upon this simple act….I felt humble as I basked in the increasing and dazzling warmth……yet inspired too.
We found a rock with a ledge and Debbie, an experienced yoga instructor, led us in a meditation which I choose to keep private. We walked around the moor, past Rapunzels castle and other significant features, witnessed the skyline coming to life, enjoyed seeing both the moon and the sun up together and then ventured back to camp for a ‘nice cup of tea’, before heading off.
Some statements are well over used…but this genuinely is an experience I will endeavour never to forget….it was a Challenge, an adventure, life affirming and absolutely worth losing a nights sleep in a comfy bed for. I am slightly ashamed to say it…but I felt brave. Thanks Debbie for such an uplifting experience.
Hahahahhaha…and yes…I even had a wee in the undergrowth !!!