We threw our bags in the car, picked up a very late lunch from a chip shop and headed to a nearby carpark to watch the sunset. It was completely overcast. We ate our chips overlooking a half-derelict old bus as the light faded and cars left the carpark one by one. A family flying a kite packed up. A couple of dog walkers came and went. By 4:30pm it was dark and ours was the only car left.
It was a brisk, windy walk to the top of our hill. Towns snaked away in a line of light on one side, and on the other was a skin of darkness, speckled with lights from farms and villages and cut through by the main road twisting out from the closest town.
We set up camp in a hollow to keep out the worst of the wind and, having learnt our lesson from last time, donned extra pairs of socks and trousers before hopping into our bivvies. We weren’t hungry and there wasn’t much else to do, so we decided to get a very early night. A few hours later, we woke up, cooked some noodles, brushed our teeth and went back to bed, setting an alarm for 11:45pm.
In the breaks between the clouds, it looked like the stars were speeding across the sky. I could hear gusts of wind approaching over the ridge and through the grass before they hit our little camp, whipping the bivvy bag around my head and making it rustle and snap like a sail. It was so strong that I moved when it buffeted me, like vehicles judder in the cross winds on a bridge. “How am I ever going to sleep in this?” I wondered . . .
. . . and then the alarm went off. I was warm and comfortable and had to convince myself to get up and watch the fireworks - that was the reason we were out here, after all! We spent a cold half-hour jumping up and down, running on the spot, shivering and rubbing our arms as the wind tore around us. There were a few sparkles here and there, but when it turned midnight every town and village within sight began sending up fireworks in earnest. We could see some big ones in the far distance - from Brighton, we decided - and the flares hanging over a nearby town demonstrated how useful they must be in an emergency. A village below us gave us a good display, but seen from high up and from a distance, most of the fireworks seemed rather puny. Still, we agreed, it was a new experience to watch the whole horizon twinkling so prettily. We wished ourselves a happy (Gregorian calendar) new year and dove back into our warm nests.
We woke up at about 5am and had a chocolatey snack to try and ward off the chill. I was thankful for my extra pair of trousers, but the three pairs of socks were still unable to keep my feet warm. At least I wasn’t tangled up in my sleeping gear like my partner. It was quite amusing (for me) to watch him wallow around like a walrus trying to sort himself out. We dozed again, then made porridge and tea as the sky turned from grey to pastel pink.
As we arrived back into the car park, we passed the first dog walkers of 2015. I wondered if they could tell that we'd slept out there?
What better place to enjoy New Year’s Eve fireworks than the top of a hill? And what better way to make sure you’re on the hill at midnight than sleeping there?
This microadventure cost £14.90 (for two of us), including petrol, food and drinks.
Like the idea of sleeping outside every month this year? Join in with Alastair Humphreys' year of microadventure! Love the idea of microadventuring, but not 100% sold on camping? Join our alternative year of microadventure!
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