Campfires, sunsets and stunning views
Another excellent Fireside Meetup gathering - this time wild camping in woodland up Cheddar Gorge, with landowner's permission.
To get involved with our events, join our Meetups group at www.meetup.com/fireside-meetups (or search ‘Fireside Meetups’ on the Meetups app). It’s free to join and a lot of our hikes and adventures are free too.
Scroll the gallery for pictures from this Meetup
“There’s a real sense when climbing up Cheddar Gorge that you’re treading in the steps of our oldest ancestors.”
Our second Meetup took place at the stunning Cheddar Gorge and involves an overnight wild camp as well as many hikes around the Gorge. One of the West Country’s most spectacular elevations, Cheddar Gorge also has a fascinating history dating back over ten thousand years to our very earliest forebears.
The caves at Wookey Hole nearby are a treasure trove of Neolithic and Mesolithic archaeology, and there’s a real sense when climbing up Cheddar Gorge that you’re treading in the steps of our oldest ancestors.
“I always find that a fire and brew perks up a group better than anything else”
For this Meetup, we wanted to add in a greater level of difficulty and challenge, and the hike up from our muster point in Cheddar was particularly steep and gnarly, especially when carrying all the kit needed for a self-sustained overnight stay. Having spent the day before trudging up and down the hill to set up the base-camp in pouring rain and gale-force winds, it was a relief that the day of the Meetup brought beautiful sunshine. Limited by the Rule of 6, the small group made the hard climb up to a secret piece of woodland on the eastern side of the Gorge, not far from the main tracks but far enough to feel cut off and remote.
We had landowner permission to camp in the woods, and had paid the owner for our ‘pitches’, and apart from a rustic toilet everything else reflected a truly wild camping experience with no facilities or water tap on site so everything had to be carried up. I’d set up a couple of large tarpaulins the day before and was relieved to see them still in place despite the atrocious rains and winds that had swept through the campsite overnight, so we were able to focus on chopping firewood and preparing the main camp area after everyone had pitched their tents. I always find that a fire and brew perks up a group better than anything else, especially after a hard slog uphill!
Everything takes longer than you think when wild camping, but with a team of people all helping to process firewood, make coffee and prepare supper to start cooking over the fire, by early afternoon we were ready to head up to the Gorge clifftop. Cutting cross-country to adjoin the main track, we were met by a herd of the Gorge’s wild goats and spectacular views across the Somerset levels, Glastonbury Tor and as far as the Bristol Channel.
Being late spring, there were plenty of plants to forage and identify en-route to the clifftop and then we made our way to the highest point to enjoy the Gorge at it’s finest. The wind was still intense, which made for a somewhat exhilarating photo opportunity looking down the sheer cliffs to the winding road below.
We returned to the camp for a fire-cooked supper of aubergine and sweet potato curry and then, after several more essential doses of coffee, we returned to the clifftop path for a perfect sunset.
“A dry and clear Meetup sandwiched between two of the stormiest, wettest days in 2021 was a moment of serendipity.”
Woodland campfires at night, in good weather, are an enchanting moment anywhere in the world, and our night time around the fire at Cheddar Gorge was no exception. Some of us even made one last slog up to the clifftop for a final night-time adventure under a fleeting full moon, mostly shrouded by fast-moving clouds as the second weather front started to build.
Fortunately, we were able to break camp the next morning and put everything away dry, before the second storm in three days made landfall. Having a dry and clear Meetup sandwiched between two of the stormiest, wettest days in 2021 was a moment of serendipity, and for those of us that enjoy outdoor adventures we have to appreciate these moments knowing they can be so rare.