By: Blonde Two
On a recent Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Bronze expedition the young people I was working with were camping for one night on a local school field. We had two cohorts of expeditioners coming through so for the staff that meant two night’s camping (Monday and Thursday) in the same week.
My tent was the obvious option.
And very comfortable it was indeed but it was while enjoying my dinner and the general chatter on Monday night that I spotted the hammocking possibilities of the site. There were plenty of trees to choose from so after dinner I took a wander to see if I could find a suitable pair to support a DofE night hanging.
Not something you usually want to consider on expedition.
As anyone who had ever slept in a camping hammock will know, finding hammock trees is often harder than finding flat grass. This time I was lucky. I found at least three possibilities.
I also found plenty of midges.
Luckily for me my hammock has its own bug net so I resolved to bring it along with it’s tarp for shelter in case rain was forecast for Thursday night’s camp.
I was quite excited about the prospect.
When the day came I arrived at camp at about 17:00. Just in time to chat to the teams who were by then excitedly pitching their tents and preparing to cook tea. Once I had done that I picked up my hammock from the minibus and set off into the trees to play with knots. Just after anointing myself liberally with our favourite Blonde bug repellent Smidge.
Always interesting, never the same twice.
It took a while but I eventually achieved a hang (hammocking term) satisfying enough to show to the rest of my staff team. There was some jealousy expressed at the luxury of my accomodation, and some trying out for those who hadn’t tried a camping hammock before.
They obviously didn’t look too closely at my knots.
After that there followed a gear-geek session with a fellow-leader during which we tried out different knots, discussed tree huggers (straps not hippies) and then resorted to a YouTube video for advice.
It was good fun but we had a job to do.
So after asking the nearest team to keep an eye on my hammock, it was back to young people watching for a while. They were very well behaved and all but put themselves to bed at around 22:00 (this does not usually happen with Bronze DofE teams).
I was the first adult to go to bed that night!
To be fair, I often am. It would seem that a good night’s sleep is even more important to me now than it used to be when I was younger.
And I did have a good sleep.
After a bit of compulsory sleeping bag wriggling (this takes practice in a hammock) I read for about 20 minutes then shifted myself across the diagonal of the hammock to settle down for the night.
Note to novice hammockers: Sleeping across the diagonal of your hammock stops you from adopting the feet-up ‘banana’ position, which can result in cold feet and cramp.
Then I woke up at dawn.
Which, no matter how tired you are, really is the most magical time to wake up in a hammock. The air seems to carry more oxygen, the birds perch closer by and the trees bend towards you in the half light. There are few experiences that have ever helped me feel closer to nature. I swung happily for a while, made a visit to the bush, then settled back to doze off again until about six.
Which gave me half an hour before the first team started to rise.
It was perfect and I am planning to take my hammock with me on more DofE expeditions. Not only did I sleep well, I got the chance to show off my tree-hanging skills to my colleagues and gained a small amount of kudos with the youngsters.
Which is always worth storing up for future encounters!