Halloween Camp

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Halloween is a great time to do a bit of family camping. The summer is over, the midges are gone and the hills are much more peaceful but you don’t yet see the full cold or snow of winter. That said, even from a week ahead the weather forecast looked like the fickle finger of camping fate was going to tease us suggesting Saturday would see sun until lunch, then heavy rain and wind until 7pm, then occasional showers through the night followed by clear skies on Sunday morning. A dash of all weathers it would seem and a bit of bad luck could see the rain pushed to the evening and no-one wants to sit around the fire with soggy Halloween sparklers in torrential rain.

Leaving Belfast at lunch time on Saturday the skies were bright suggesting nothing of the rain that was forecast to follow, if anything I was ruing having left the sunglasses at home. We had a craving for some of Newcastle Barbican’s finest chicken nuggets but alas, there must have been some sort of lunchtime stampede and by the time we arrived the shelves were bare, Centra was no better being completely cleaned out so after locating some emergency sausage rolls we made for Annalong just as the rain began to fall.

By the time we parked the car the rain was torrential and Dowser was waiting with a car full of young’uns clawing at the windows happy to camp in any weather. Leaving him to bargain with the children we donned our wet gear and hurried up the Annalong Valley towards our usual destination for family camps – Annalong Wood.

04-IMG_2792On arrival we spotted the tent of Glenn and Tom who had arrived earlier and headed up the valley to explore the caves. After some time flaffing around we got a tarp pitched and our gear stowed under. Bivvying looks easy on paper but when you’re standing in the wet trying to find the best mix of tree position, dampness of ground and angle of hill at the same time as keeping it all rear to the wind it’s never as easy as it looks. Nonetheless, it wasn’t too long before it was all sorted and we turned to thoughts of a fire for warmth and cooking.

Dave, Glenn and Tom had already collected a load of wood and we set about laying a fire that was likely to light in such damp conditions. Glenn had the foresight to pack a few emergency firelighters and it wasn’t long before the fire was roaring and everyone was already starting to feel cheerier despite the relentless downpour. Glen had also sorted a tarp by the fire for a bit of communal shelter so all things considered it wasn’t too bad at all, although no-one was going to complain if the rain eased off.

Warm food was next on the agenda and as luck wouldn’t have it, the rain became even heavier leaving people trying to make sure and fry rather than boil an assortment of meats! We also got the tripod setup and started warming a dose of mulled wine to keep everyone toasty.

fire-gogglesThen around 730pm as the prognosticator from the Met Office had promised, the rain eased off and gave everyone a chance to dry their wet gear around the fire. We hung Halloween decorations, ladled cups full of steaming hot mulled wine and settled down for some of the usual legendary craic around the campfire.

The skies cleared as the moon rose and we had no more rain for the rest of the evening, although the wind stayed strong whistling the fire smoke in occasional circles shifting people from seat to seat and spawning the idea that we should invent “fire goggles” which would absolutely be a guaranteed winner. I think that idea might have surfaced after the mull was finished – this time next year Rodney, we’ll all be millionaires!

As the fire died we drifted off to bed. The bivvy was surprisingly comfy and while the wind kept it a shade chilly, it was a snug night and I lay until well after 9am on Sunday morning.

By the time I traded the warm sleeping bag for the fresh outdoor air the fire was going again and plenty of breakfast sausages were in evidence. I was being lazy and used a fire fork to warm the remnants of the previous days sausage rolls followed by chocolate croissants which were awesome gently heated in the flames.

With the sun splitting the trees we packed up and began the lazy walk down the valley to the cars. All in, it was another excellent camp. The weather gave everyone something to think about but as ever, when you’re well prepared for the rain, camping in Northern Ireland doesn’t need to be too much of a fuss and when you can do a wild weekend like this and still have a great time then you know you’re pretty much good to go in whatever weather the province has to offer.

Thanks to everyone who braved the elements, roll on Christmas camp!

This entry was posted in Trip Reviews.

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