Step into the woods and you’re almost bound to have an adventure.
Mine and E’s Saturday morning began sitting in our camp chairs in a gorgeous glade full of bluebells, eating decadent duck eggs poached in the remains of the previous evening’s chilli, drinking steaming mugs of tea and contemplating E’s stricken Mini. The unfortunate little motor sat where we’d left it the evening before, resting at a skewed angle halfway down a rough woodland track, its wheels swamped in the greasy mud.
In our defence, we were a bit tired when we arrived, but otherwise there was really no excuse for our predicament. We’d been helpfully warned that the tracks were hazardous (we’d even driven past a sign), and apart from anything else, Minis aren’t particularly famed for their off-road capabilities.
Our campsite was called Forgewood, and it was completely wonderful, with lots of space, acres of lovely creaky old woods, and plenty of welcome amenities like hot showers, clean bogs, a café/restaurant and a little shop. There were a couple of nice wide camping fields that must be grand in the summer, but for us it was all about the allure of the trees.
The owners rent the land from Lord Abergavenny’s estate, and there’s plenty of wildlife ranging around. I heard owls both nights (though to my shame I couldn’t tell you what sort), while our evening campfires tempted in an exotic but not intrusive array of peculiar moths, like Gandalf might send to fetch him a giant eagle. As we sat with our tea in the morning we saw deer filtering softly through the trees beyond the track, and I woke sometime in the stillness of Saturday night to hear the gentle scrunching of what I can only assume was another deer sneaking past our tent through the leaf litter. All pretty magical.
Actually, that particular area along the Sussex/Kent border was a new discovery for me, and I wondered why I’d left it so long. Within pretty easy striking distance of London, it’s rural yet accessible, a fine balance of having plenty of infrastructure and enough room to enjoy it. And it’s rather beautiful too. We spent most of Saturday afternoon walking in Ashdown Forest (lured there by the prospect of locations from Winnie the Pooh), practising with my geeky new GPS to find exciting little routes through the woodland trails and the swathes of coconut-scented gorse on the heath.
And the car was fine, of course. The friendly and sympathetic campsite owner, Kate, called out a couple of local farmers with a pocketful of country skills. They began by losing their own truck down the same swampy track, but after contemplating calling a mate with a Land Rover to rescue them, they decided they couldn’t face the humiliation, so instead they let down their tyres as low as they dared, then proceeded to reverse themselves out with ease.
The intrepid little Mini was finally dragged back up onto firm ground, and with thick globules of mud sprayed all up one side, it has rarely looked so adventurous.