We fell asleep to the sound of loads of owls last night, it was wonderful. At least I hope they were owls anyway. The alarm went off at 5.30am and it was still pitch black. I had it hanging from the ceiling of the tent, I obviously couldn’t see it and spent a good few seconds swiping into the darkness before I found the fucker and silenced it. Well having your heart try and make a break for it through your rib cage as you panic-flail for an invisible alarm clock is a fun way to start the day.
It took longer than usual to get packed away by red torch light, and packing the tent down when it’s soaked always eats up a bit of extra time. I managed to let it drop to the floor so it was now piss wet through and covered in leaves. This sounded very much like a future-me problem. Now-me wanted to get going and find a suitable place for breakfast. We walked in the dark for about 45 minutes before day started to dawn which highlighted the fact that I probably need a better head torch because mine is about as efficient as having a goblin sat on my head frantically lighting matches.
The grey day gave way to blue skies which is lovely buy the sun is really low at this time of year and we were walking right into it. It’s fucking blinding despite rocking a hat and polarised lenses, you have to just keep walking and hope you don’t fall into a ravine or something.
Poor Tarrant took a tumble though. Not into a ravine, thank fuck, I wouldn’t be quite so blaśe about it if I’d had to fish my girlfriend out of a large hole piece by piece. She slipped on a stile, but in her defence the stiles were super wet and slippy and not brilliantly maintained. This one was sloping, and she’d already got one leg over before she lost her footing and fell backwards. She fell quite rapidly but in, like, three parts. Just as I thought she’d stopped falling she fell some more until she was spawled in a small ditch, legs still up and entwined in the stile, on her back waving her arms around. I managed to get her to stop flailing for long enough to unclip her backpack so she could actually get up. Once we’d ascertained that she wasn’t seriously hurt, just a bit bruised, I told her she looked like an angry tortoise stuck on its back. It was hilarious. For me anyway. I don’t know why she puts up with me, I really am the worst girlfriend.
The Vanguard Way used to run quite the distance from Edenbridge but it’s been rerouted to avoid what is becoming a busy road. The GPX I’d downloaded was out of date but Tarrant has an OS Maps subscription and that has the new route. It skirts less than a mile from the town and you know what that means? Coffee. So Tarrant doesn’t casually murder someone because they told her she looked like an angry tortoise. Edenbridge also has all manner of other exciting things such as a public toilet so you don’t have to shit in a hole in the ground, a Tescos Express to stock up on food and snacks, and even a Waitrose in case you were feeling a bit fancy.
We did faff for quite a while here but hey, it’s a meander, not a march. After a spot of breakfast on a bench like a couple of hobos we relieved Costa of a couple of tasty hot beverages, chilled there for a bit, then headed back to the trail. A trail which crosses some manner of airstrip. We’re not talking Gatwick or anything, I don’t know how often it’s used but it’s not tarmaced, it’s just grass, ergo marsh when it’s been raining. We did mange to go the wrong way here too, there’s a right turn which isn’t waymarked so off we wandered into the abyss before we checked the map, realised what we’d done and wandered back.
After that I kind of just felt we spent our whole lives walking up a fucking hill. Not those majestic, definite hills where you gasp your way to the top, sweaty and triumphant, surveying the glorious views that lie before you, your reward for such a gallant effort. No. Those obnoxious steady inclines that just don’t seem to give up. They just go on and on and fucking on and you feel like the air should be getting thin and someone will meet you around the next corner with some oxygen and a biscuit. You know when you have to choose between breathing and drinking water? That. I feel like there was a lot of road walking today too which, let’s face it, no one likes. At one point I was getting hungry, lunch needed to occur if I wasn’t to try and chew chunks off passers-by, but Tarrant didn’t want to have lunch by a road. Fortunately we managed to detour off into some woods where we could also filter some water.
We did bag a trig though! We’d tried to get one earlier in the day but it was so buried in brambles and hedges there was no way we could get to it without sacrificing a substantial amount of flesh to the thorns. I like trigs, but I also like having eyes, so we left it. Dry Hill though, that was just a quick hop over a gate and a naughty little trespass to the middle of a grassy field. Nerds gonna nerd.
Today’s resupply was brought to you by the Co-op in Forest Row and on account of the fact the weather looked like it was gearing up for a downpour, we didn’t fuck around. We powered up through a golf course, because of course there’s a golf course, we were back in Sussex now. Golf courses everywhere. I hate them. All that space that could be rewilded given over so only certain people in very specific clothing can belt a tiny ball around, it’s such a waste of countryside.
Once we were past the golf course we started looking for an ideal place to camp. We probably had about an hour of light left and we wanted to shovel noodles into our chops before it got dark. Our usual tactic involves me leaving my bag with Tarrant and diving off into various woodlands. One place looked promising until I realised there was a whole fucking house there, hidden by the trees. What an amazing place to live though! We carried on then I popped off to the side, through the ferns and down a hill which flattened out to a perfect tent-sized pitch under a tree. This’ll do. According to the OS Map we were slap bang on a right of way but it’d be dark soon. Who’d be wandering off into the bracken after dark? Apart from, y’know, us. And doggers.
Limpsfield Chart, Surrey to Colemans Hatch, East Sussex
Stayed at: Wild camp just after the golf course.
Activity: Hiking the Vanguard Way, North to South.
Useful shit to know…
- The toilets in Edenbridge are in the car park opposite Costa.
- There are toilets in the community centre in Forest Row, but you can only get to them when the centre is open.
- There’s a drinking water tap set into the wall outside the community centre.
- There aren’t a huge amount of places to filter stream water but I’ve pin-dropped the places we found and yes, one of them runs through the golf course.