Circumstances have meant that it has taken me a while to get round to wild camping my first trail. As I have attempted to explain in other posts, it has been a gradual journey from bed and breakfasts on Hadrian’s Wall to tea in a tent on my first wild camped trail – the Berwickshire Coastal Path. I have written a complete trip report with kit list as usual in the Trails section, so this is just reflections on the trip in the context of my wild camping trips so far.
Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders has some of the highest, longest and most dramatic cliffs on the British coast and plenty of dark skies, which make it a challenging and dramatic experience, ideal for wild camping. I don’t often hear this trail mentioned in hiking conversations, perhaps because people who backpack in Scotland are more drawn to the Munros, the National Parks or the Highlands and Islands, and sometime ignore the beauty of parts of the east coast.
I was on a trip to Edinburgh gazing out of the window, and I noticed a couple of backpackers across the field who waved at the train from the Coastal Path. I had an overwhelming urge to be there waving, instead of on the train on my business errand, and so a week later that is where you would have found me. The attractions of this trail for me are; firstly it is a short trail to start off with, secondly it is full of great scenery, thirdly it is in Scotland with its more enlightened access laws, fourthly it is fairly familiar ground for me and finally, while it is quite rugged, it is never too far from civilisation.
For the first time on a trail, I didn’t have to adhere to a plan or write schedules, except to ensure that I carried the right amount of food for the journey, which I almost succeeded in doing. I realise that this freedom will be familiar to more experienced wild campers but it is still a novelty for me.
I decided to take my time as I had to re-acclimatise to the routines of pitching and breaking camp each day, finding water and looking after my own needs. It was mid March, which is still British winter time in terms of the daylight hours, so it began to get dark at about 6pm. This affected the structure of my days, with early starts in time for sunrise at about 6am and long evenings spent in camp.
It was lovely not to feel the need to stealth camp, as I had on the Northumberland Coast Path. There are actually police signs against camping on the Northumberland route, but they don’t provide legal alternatives such as campsites. I found it hard to feel the sense of freedom on that trail which I now realise that responsible legal wild camping can offer, as I was constantly tense about breaking the law.
I had hoped to complete the Berwickshire Coastal Path in three days, but strenuous post winter gradients, a broken tent pole and bad weather meant that I had to add a fourth short day to my itinerary. I know I made some rookie errors, but that is part of the process of gaining experience I guess. I learned, for example, that I should take a repair kit in order that I don’t have to rely on other people if I get into difficulty. However, I really enjoyed the challenge and freedom of finally combining a little bit of trail walking with wild camping, even though it still felt a little like rubbing my head and patting my stomach at times.
A big thank you to the people who have continued to be encouraging over the long incubation period of my wild camping ambitions.