It seems longer than just over a week since I was out exploring South Wicklow and writing my previous post. After having an enjoyable and relaxing time I was keen to push on and begin to plan February’s night out. After returning to work I found out I had the combination two days off at the start of the week and my mind started to steadily turn over ideas for the trip. A loose plan was in place that if the weather was suitable and time allowed I would head off again today and return sometime tomorrow from my next dose of adventure.
The forecast was looking good, nothing had come up last minute and it was seeming I would be able to get away again for the second time in two weeks. That was until Sunday morning when I decided I should catch up on some fitness training and somewhere in the process managed to upset my back which responded by refusing to bend very well and reduced my walking speed to that of a child. After accepting any form of trip wasn’t going to happen this week I awoke to a wonderful glow of winter sun on Monday morning but knew any meaningful trip was still out of the question. For those of you who know me, you will know that I do not do staying inside or resting very well unless it comes after a long and sustained period of exertion. As such I decided staying indoors all day was not an option and decided to head to Phoenix Park in Dublin for a short walk and a coffee to see if I could loosen the back up a bit.
I am very fortunate in that the park is only a short distance from my house allowing me to regularly visit its cafes and to run, cycle and walk there. Upon leaving the house I had no intention of going for an adventure and was certainly not intending to write a blog about my trip. As I left the house for what I thought was going to be a short trip for some fresh air my spirit of adventure began to get the better of me. Two things led to my change of thought. Firstly, my speed was much reduced from my normal pace and I immediately noticed how the slower pace meant I had already begun to pay more attention to the detail of my surroundings. Secondly, I had just received a new phone with a much better camera than my previous one. I had hardly been going for five minutes when the idea of a photo walk came into my mind. I have never been much of a photographer but liked the idea of the challenge and figured that as my pace was reduced I may as well make the most of my lack of speed by trying to hone my creative eye and find a few good things to photograph along the way. Within another five minutes a second thought had struck me; ‘This is the smallest adventure’.
I figured that almost all of the people living in the UK and Ireland probably live within access of a green space, even if only small, that is accessible either by foot, bike or public transport. Whilst this blog and most of my adventurous goals for the year involve wild camping, not all of us have the equipment needed or the desire to stay outdoors for the night. However, most of us would at some point or another venture out to a local green space for a walk, a picnic or a sit on the grass. While this can just be viewed as a trip to the park it only takes a small shift in mindset to become a starting point for adventure. For myself there are a few key characteristics I enjoy about my wild camping trips:
- I am doing something different in an environment that is usually quieter and more natural than my normal day-to-day environment.
- I am exploring and discovering a new place and learning from my surroundings.
- I have time to relax and reflect.
- There is an element of challenge to the activity I am undertaking.
As I continued on my way I realised that what had started as a short walk to a cafe with an added challenge of photography had the potential to be something more. After deciding not to stop at the cafe as I was only just getting started I found that I noticed an entire pond in the trees near the main road through the park which I had never seen before. My slower pace allowed me to notice the regularly placed information signs that taught me some of the history of the park, showing me things I would not otherwise of seen.
Being a weekday the Park was much quieter than at weekends and soon I had left the main road through the park and was surprised by the level of peace and tranquility I found so close to my front door. I began to wish I had brought a stove or a flask so I had an excuse stop and enjoy my new environment with the added sense of self sufficiency I do on camping trips. At one point I realised I was completely alone as I wondered along a leafy path under an archway of trees with the winter sun shining though. I stopped for a few moments to enjoy the solitude and really felt as if I could have been in a much more remote location, in the mountain’s or maybe a forest. I was aware sounds and textures that I had not noticed before and smiled as I continued on my way.
Just as I emerged from the path towards another road through the park I was treated to a special moment. Five or six of the deer that live in the park, completely unaware of my presence, ran across the path and up into the woodland beside it.
Within another five minutes I was back at the gates to the park and on my way home. The whole trip had taken me around two hours. I would normally walk the same route in 40 minutes or run it in 20. In all the times I had done that I had never noticed the detail, the natural beauty or adventure around me. All of this I found within two miles of my front door. You don’t have to be extreme or experienced to enjoy these places, sometimes all we have to do is slow down and use that slower pace to show us more of what is right there for us near where we live. Although I wouldn’t suggest waiting for an injury before you do it.