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WILD NIGHT OUT AT YHA WYE VALLEY

This weekend I joined people from all over the UK for Wild Night Out, a once-a-year dedicated date in the diary for us all to get adventurous under the cover of darkness…  

Wild Night Out was started in 2016 by Explorers Connect founder and Adventure Revolution author (a book I can’t wait to read) Belinda Kirk, a fellow Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion (who I interviewed in one of my GetOutside Interviews) and all-round amazing adventurer. After 20 years of taking people of all ages into the wilderness, she understands the positive impact that adventure can have on people’s lives. Belinda says that spending time on adventures is empowering, brings people together and is fun; and I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

This year, rather than camp out in my garden or head off on a solo adventure somewhere, I decided to join one of the organised campouts being run by YHA. YHA Wye Valley was putting on one of the special events this year, and as it’s really only just down the road I thought it would be the perfect way to get outside, go camping, and meet some likeminded people.

I camped for two nights on the banks of the river, and enjoyed the organised hill walk, bushcraft, a campfire, and an adventure talk from bicycle and motorcycle adventurer Helen Lloyd. And there was plenty of opportunity to chat with other campers about travel and adventure, too.

YHA Wye Valley

YHA Wye Valley is nestled on the bank of the River Wye at Welsh Bicknor, near Goodrich and Ross-on-Wye. The spacious river-side campsite is a lovely place to spend a couple of nights, and I put up my Robens Green Cone (my current favourite tent, reviewed in this post) under the relative shade of some trees (it was a scorcher of a weekend) and set to relaxing. It continues to be a particularly busy time at work, and retreating to my tent is an excellent way to switch off and take some time out for me.

OS Map Showing YHA Wye Valley and Coppet Hill

The large camping field had space for tents, along with a couple of Land Pods (which look great, might try one of those sometime) and a handful of comfortable looking bell tents. There are a couple of portaloo style toilets on the site (which remained clean and odour free the whole weekend, despite the high heat, which was unexpectedly good!), but campers also have access to the communal facilities including toilets, showers and dishwashing facilities in the hostel itself.

The Access Road

I read some reviews of the YHA that mentioned the “treacherous” and “scary” access road. And in all honesty, having ridden roads described as such before, I dismissed the comments thinking it was probably just a steep country lane.

But it is indeed quite the track. Once through the small village of Goodrich, you head down to end of what I can only describe as a very steep and uneven single-track lane (complete with a hairpin bend that I didn’t make in one turn and had to back up and go again). I wouldn’t call it scary, or treacherous, but it is one that should certainly be taken with care and treated with respect.

Camping at a Hostel

Anyway, back to the YHA itself. With direct access to the river and sitting on the riverside footpath (the Wye Valley Walk, marked with diamonds on the OS Map), it really is a great place for someone who loves to mooch around the outdoors for fun at the weekends to stay. The showers are large, hot and reasonably powerful, the site is spacious, and the setting is really very lovely indeed.

The price for the Wild Night Out weekend included food, so I had breakfast baps both mornings and dinner on Saturday night. It was simple but pretty decent food, and given that the weather was nice, we sat out on the picnic tables in the courtyard and chatted as we ate. I could have ordered pizza on Friday evening, which looked really good, but I’d come prepared with my own food – maybe next time.

I really liked camping at YHA Wye Valley. I’ve stayed at quite a number before now but never camping, and this was a great way to enjoy both being under canvas and the benefits of hostel life. The staff were super friendly and helpful, and you are automatically surrounded by people with stories to tell. It bodes well for when I hike the UK Coast to Coast later in the year, as we are camping at a few YHAs for that.

Wild Night Out Activities

Our Wild Night Out was organised by Joel, a YHA Wye Valley instructor who normally spends his time working with School groups, getting kids having fun in and around the river. It wasn’t an overly scheduled event, there was lots of time to do my own thing (and I arrived on the Friday evening, giving me the evening and Saturday morning to myself for much needed relaxation), but the few activities that were put on were fun and a great way to get chatting to others who’d come along.

Hill Walk at Coppet Hill

We started with a short hill walk up Coppet Hill. I’ve actually been up Coppet Hill before, on a walk from Goodrich to Symonds Yat, but that was very much a winter walk which was boggy and cold – a far cry from Saturday’s weather (you can read about that route here).

It was a lovely walk, a little steep in places but no bother really. We walked around three miles or so in total, up the country lane (the access road), through woodland, across heathland, down through farmland, and then a final stretch along the river path. All the while we chatted about hiking, cycling, motorcycling, back packing, and all kinds of other things.

It was particularly hot and sweaty, walking in humid 29-degree heat is not something I’m used to, but it was well worth the effort. The views from the hilltop were glorious, and being with a group meant I was able to get a pretty decent photo of me at the trig pillar, which made a nice change.

Swimming in the River Wye

While not an organised activity as such, most of us came off the hill and got straight in the River Wye for a much needed cool off. Wild swimming in hot weather is just so nice, it’s great for the body and soul, and on such a sticky day without access to a fan or ice-cold drinks, it was ideal to recalibrate my temperature!

I got in the river both evenings, and I guess it was less swimming and more floating, but even so, it was utterly lovely. Thankful I’d packed my Skinner’s socks (which you can read about in my post about camping shoes), as the Wye here is a combination of rocks and silt, it was a very comfortable place to pause for a while.

Joel also put on a bushcraft workshop about making fires, but I got chatting to some other Wild Night Outers about travel and adventure and we never made it to that… they clearly had a good time though as they came out of the woodland area and between them built a great looking long log fire for us to commune around for our evening story telling. If only I’d brought marshmallows!

Talk of Adventure

I’d spent lots of time chatting to Helen Lloyd about her motorcycle overland adventures as we hiked and ate together, and I very much enjoyed hearing her speak about her travels around the campfire that evening. She spoke mainly about a couple of her long cycling trips, in Africa and to Siberia, telling us stories that were super inspiring to hear.

Helen is actually one of the reasons we’re heading to Iceland on an off-road focused road trip this summer; we heard her speak at Overland a while ago, which confirmed in our minds that was what we wanted to do. It felt more than a little good to tell her she inspired me, and chat about bikes, routes, gear, and plenty of other things too. Although I rather hope we don’t get as wet in Iceland as she did… but I suspect we won’t be immune to the inevitable.

Helen spoke late into the evening as the sun went down, answering all our questions and making me wonder where we should go next year!

Our Own Stories

But it wasn’t only Helen’s stories I was able to hear at the weekend. You know I struggle somewhat with events where you get the most from them when you chat with other attendees, my introversion kicks in big time and it’s hard to persuade myself to say hi. But I found this Wild Night Out event to be very relaxed and friendly, and it was very easy to chat to others and hear their stories – and tell my own.

There were only around 30 of us there in total, but if you wrote down all the overland road trips, back packing trips, expeditions, and other kinds of adventures we’d been on between us, you could fill a full year of Lonely Planet magazine and then some.

And I guess that’s exactly why the event has left me with a refreshed desire to get outside more – these were my people. We were all normal (ish…), we have jobs and commitments at home, but we also have dreams to travel and explore and experience life in full colour. Never underestimate the power of finding your tribe.

I will definitely be looking out for next year’s Wild Night Out events, I hope YHA get involved again. See you next year?! Keep an eye on the Wild Night Out and YHA instagram accounts for announcements.

I was a fully paid-up attendee of Wild Night Out at YHA Wye Valley, money very well spent. Thanks for such a great weekend.

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