Now we’re stepping back out into the world, we find adventure closer to home. We’ve traded far-flung corners of the world for days spent exploring our own back yard. Fraser the Rucksack 25L and Smith the Roll Pack 15L - with pockets accompany Andrew & Emma Groves of Miscellaneous Adventures on an afternoon woodland foraging.
Words & Photography by Andrew & Emma Groves from Miscellaneous Adventures | @misc_adventures
As lockdown has eased, we've felt nervous about leaving our bubble; we live and work in a woodland and in truth being holed up there suited us pretty well. The headlines of crowded beaches and heavily littered and abused beauty spots made us want to retreat even further into isolation and never come out. Gradually though, curiosity led us out of our woodland hideaway and on to the hills and downs to see what nature had been up to elsewhere. A recent study into ethnobotany and the use of plants for food and medicine gave us extra motivation to delve into the meadows and woodlands in search of new meaning in familiar plants.
We packed everything we needed for a day hike along a quiet and varied part the South Downs; OS map, coffee, waterproof jackets (an essential even on the sunniest of days), small gas stove, some lunch, hammocks and our favourite field guide and hand lens to help with our foraging.
Companions on the trail
"The Fraser 25L swallows much more stuff than you would expect; easily capable of fitting everything I need for a day in the woods and probably even overnight if packed wisely. The rugged fabric is hardwearing and the outside pockets are brilliant for carrying tools and for stuffing with bits of bark, or anything else interesting I find along the way..."
"The Smith 15L is a super versatile daypack, ideal for day hikes and local nature exploration; the big front pocket makes it easy to have essentials like notebooks, maps or field guides close to hand."
Starting out on a chalk path, we pass through meadows crammed with brightly coloured wildflowers swaying in the welcome cool breeze. Here were many species that we know and love and we spend an intentionally long time studying tiny details and finding new surprises; the solitary pink flower in the centre of every wild carrot umbel or the cardamon-like scent of hogweed seeds.
Continuing along the undulating track, we pass several huge veteran trees including one whitebeam with a trunk riven almost completely in half yet still very much alive; we climb up inside on the low hanging limbs and drink our coffee nestled in the canopy. A tree tunnel of hazel and decaying ash takes us down into the lush green shade of a beech wood and we head for a gnarled yew tree we see standing alone amongst its taller neighbours. Distracted by the plants on the woodland margin we pause for a closer look; wood avens with its hooked seeds that readily cling to the fur of passing creatures, and the bright yellow-green cup-shaped flowers of wood spurge that shine like little lights through the deep shade. Stopping so regularly has turned what would normally have been a short walk into a day-long epic. Slender beeches a hammock's distance apart suggest a perfect spot for lunch. Swaying gently looking up through the gaps in the canopy, it's tempting to doze amongst the silence of the woods but we know we have to head home soon; this day is a treat, a rare day off from work and parenthood. We make selfheal tea with leaves and flowers foraged along the way, and drink in nature's goodness figuratively and literally.
Retracing our path on the way back, we stop to harvest a few things to dry for future use: yarrow, wild marjoram, more selfheal and some yellow rattle seeds for sowing at home. Lingering in the wildflower meadows, we are refreshed and rejuvenated by our hike; although we've only traveled a short distance, we have been out for hours and feel like we've had a proper adventure. Naming the things we find in the landscape or knowing their uses doesn't give them any more value or make them any more beautiful, but by being curious and seeking knowledge we find ourselves noticing beauty in the landscape that we otherwise would of overlooked; on this journey so close to home, stopping to take a closer look at nature and searching for new ways of seeing familiar things we found joy and adventure in the everyday.