A very quick update!

Just a very quick update to let you know that there are lots of exciting things a foot behind the scenes. There isn’t a lot of obvious activity going on because we have been so busy sorting out the next step. So watch this space!

Congratulations Sash!

Mongolian Yurt

The Mongolian Yurt at Underhill Farm

We have just done the prize draw of those who answered our Nearly Wild Camping surveys and Sash from Cheshire has won a night in the Mongolian Yurt at Underhill Farm. So we look forward to seeing her there!

Even though the competition has now ended our surveys are still open if you want to give us your opinion on the Nearly Wild Camping concept and how we should structure it to make it work best for as many people as possible. The campers survey is here and the potential sites survey is here.

Calling more Nearly Wild Campers

Here is an exciting opportunity… do you want to check out some beautiful Nearly Wild Camping locations this August?

Underhill Farm

Underhill Farm

We are looking for more campers to visit some of our wonderful trial sites before September and give us feedback. It is really important that we have lots of experience that we can build our full site on to make sure it works for as many people as possible. So if you fancy a wilder camping trip in Wales this month then have a look at what it involves and sign up here.

I am personally really looking forward to going and visiting some of our sites myself in a couple of weeks and now you can too!

Providing the fertile soil

So we’ve explored quite a lot around what Nearly Wild Camping is about and in the last blog post I shared some of the story of where it came from, but where is it now? What is it surrounded by? What does the wider ecosystem look like that the organism of Nearly Wild Camping is a part of?

Nearly Wild

Well Nearly Wild Camping is actually the first initiative of the newly formed Nearly Wild Community Interest Company, which is about encouraging people to explore the natural world through fun, innovative projects and outdoor activities. This builds understanding of the natural world and our relationship with it, by encouraging an inquiring mind in all ages.

Nearly Wild Camping clearly fits in with this, as it will give people easier access to wilder experiences and will let them explore areas they wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

The idea for Nearly Wild CIC has been gathering momentum for a few years now, but with the enthusiasm for Nearly Wild Camping really taking off we thought it was about time to make it official. So at the moment they are being co-created. As new opportunities and ideas keep appearing, we are busily working out how they fit together, as well as how they are going to function individually. We want Nearly Wild to act as the fertile soil in which we can trial and grow a whole range of different initiatives.

At the moment, as well as Nearly Wild Camping, we are using our own practical experience, which we continue to develop through hosting holidays, activities, courses and experiences at Underhill Farm, to try out new activities that get people out, exploring and building their understanding of the natural world and its importance.

We have lots of other exciting seeds of ideas too, which we will be germinating in the near future. If you want to hear about how they are all getting on, then you can sign up to the Nearly Wild mailing list here.

 

Nearly Wild Camping Location: Underhill Farm

So what kind of places can you go Nearly Wild Camping? I want to give you a flavour of some of the different locations that are involved in this summers trial, so I am going to do a few case studies of different places. First up is Underhill Farm, where all of this started.

The farm when it was first purchased

The farm when it was first purchased

Nestled beneath the limestone cliffs of Llanymynech rocks Nature Reserve, just a stones throw from the Welsh border lies Underhill Farm. Bought by the Evison family in 2009 it had been empty since 1961 and was in need of quite a bit of TLC. Now four years on, after lots of hard work, it is a quiet smallholding, managed for wildlife and people following permaculture and ecological principles, where visitors can come and relax and explore. There are two fields, one is pasture with two large ponds, a couple of yurts, a tepee and space for camping, backed by woodland and the Llanymynech rocks, there are often peregrine falcons screaming overhead and at this time of year there are lots of dragonflies hawking around the ponds and the woodpecker nesting in the ash tree.

The other field is also partly pasture, but with a range of different fruit and nut trees planted on it, a wildflower meadow and small copse at the bottom and a play and exploration area in one corner. The small flock of Jacobs sheep, will be roaming one of the two fields depending on what other activities are going on at the time.

Camping next to one of the ponds

Camping next to one of the ponds

The beautiful black and white buildings are all functioning now, with some providing accommodation and others providing a dry indoor space for cooking, eating or wet weather activities. There is also a small, but diverse veg patch, growing food for the Evison family and the WWOOFers who come to stay.

There is quite a range of facilities at Underhill Farm and it is right on the edge of Pant village with a pub and a shop, so it would definitely be categorised as a one star location, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still feel like a secluded, wild corner. The facilities are purposefully basic, but for those who wouldn’t feel comfortable without them there is a flushing toilet, a shower (made out of an old plastic mains pipe!), a basic kitchen (although people are encouraged to cook at the fire pit), picnic benches and an indoor seating area. There are also informal activities running throughout the summer (another Nearly Wild initiative), which encourage and help people to explore the history, culture and wildlife of the area.

Underhill Farm

Underhill Farm

Underhill Farm was started to provide an alternative for those who wanted a wilder experience, but weren’t willing to head out into the middle of nowhere with no facilities. It has become clear that there are many people looking for this kind of opportunity and that is partly where the idea for Nearly Wild Camping came from. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a network of locations offering a similar thing, and catering for a range of different definitions of wild, across the country? Most often the answer to that question is yes, so that’s what we are trying to create!

Here’s to a summer of sunny camping!

You may have noticed that we have been a bit quiet recently, don’t worry it is not that we have gone away it is because we have been really busy behind the scenes doing all kinds of exciting things. First and foremost, our trial has started! We have 12 wild corners of Wales and the borders and nearly 40 campers. Over the next few weeks there will be lots of people browsing through the profiles of the wonderful trial sites and deciding where they want to explore first.

I am really excited to start hearing how all of the camping trips go, but for the moment it’s a bit of a waiting game for me. We have asked all the participants to answer a couple of questions after each trip, so I am eagerly anticipating the first responses to those. I will definitely share some of the feedback on this blog.

In the meantime I am planning an excursion for the Nearly Wild Camping team, we are going to try and visit as many of the trial sites as we can in a couple of days road trip, to see how they match up to their profiles, get to know the site owners, get some feedback and have a great time! Having put all of the profiles together I know how amazing the sites are and I can’t wait to go and see them.

I want to try and do some case studies of different sites on this blog to give you all a flavour of what Nearly Wild Camping might actually be like! First up will be Underhill Farm, the birthplace and home of Nearly Wild Camping.

You may have noticed that we have also had a bit of a rearrange of the website and we will be putting some more content on their soon. More about that next week.

Also coming up in a future blog (I told you we’ve been busy) we have been doing lots of bigger picture thinking. It’s all very exciting, but I’m going to leave you in suspense until next time!

Things are shaping up!

It’s getting rather exciting here at Nearly Wild Camping HQ. We have myriad of wonderful looking sites signed up from across Wales and a whole host of enthusiastic campers. I am just in the process of gathering all of the  information about the sites together ready to be sent out to the campers, making sure that it is clear what facilities are available, whether that is a stream or an outside tap, a compost toilet or nothing at all! As long as the campers know in advance they can come prepared!

I don’t want to give too much a way and spoil the surprise, but we have some really lovely sites signed up, from working farms to nature reserves and woodlands to remote smallholders gardens. They are in a whole range of different locations from hillsides to streamsides and woodland to pasture. There are also lots of offers of local food appearing too! 

There is still a week or so left to sign up for the trial as a camper or as a site, the more the merrier! There has been lots of enthusiasm from smallholders and landowners. It can be hard work to make a living from working the land and most landowners are looking at diversifying into other ways of bringing in an income from their land. Nearly Wild Camping provides the opportunity to have a small number of campers staying on your land each year without having to invest in lots of infrastructure or applying for planning permission (not needed if the camping is for less than 28 days per year). So if you have some land in Wales or know of someone who does and might be interested, then why not join in with our trial this summer or let them know.

You can find the application form for the trial here.

And for all the campers I’m crossing all of my fingers and toes for lots of gorgeous sunny weekends, like the last few, to go camping in this summer. We are hoping to go and visit most of the trial sites ourselves and I cannot wait for my next Nearly Wild Camping experience.

Reversing the star system

One of the features of Nearly Wild Camping is the rating system we are going to use. We are going to take the conventional star system for tourist accommodation and turn it on it’s head. So in the middle of nowhere, with no facilities is going to be 5*!

I have been having a think today about how exactly this could work. I think it is going to be a mix of two different scales, one for how many facilities are available and the other for how remote it is, which will include how far away it is from buildings, how far it is from any shops or facilities and how remote it feels. It is going to be a bit subjective to decide where a site is on a scale and also a site could potentially come out at different stars on each scale, so there would have to be some rules on what you do in that situation. Averaging them wouldn’t help because if they were only one star apart then it would end up in the middle! Or maybe you are allowed to have half a star? Any suggestions gratefully received!

My thoughts so far for the Facilities scale are:

5* has no facilities at all

4* has access to drinking water

3* has a few facilities

2* has provision for all facilities, but not necessarily conventional options, eg. compost toilets and solar showers

1* has all the conventional facilities

 

The remoteness scale is a bit trickier, my initial try is:

5* is at least 500m from any buildings and they are not visible, it feels remote and is at least 2 miles from the shops

4* some buildings are visible, but they are not within 200m, it still feels remote and is at least a mile from any shops

3* still feels remote, but it s either near to habitation and the shops or is next to habitation but a long way from anything else

2* is near to habitation, but still feels separate, it is also not far from a shop

1* is next to buildings or habitation, a short distance from the shops and does not feel remote

 

I feel like remoteness is different to wildness. You can find wild patches in the middle of big urban conurbations, but to be remote you need to be far away from convenience facilities. What do you think? I would love your feedback on my ideas.

Not so wild camping

As I mentioned in the last blog, we ended up with a rather ironic camping location at the Welsh smallholders show last weekend. I just thought you might appreciate a photo of it!

As well as the beautiful brick toilet block with the lights on all night, may I point out the road just visible behind the tents, which is where all of the car parking traffic came into the showground, starting at 6am! It certainly made me more passionate when talking to people about some wilder options!

And we’re off!

The Nearly Wild Camping team are now back and recovering from a whirlwind weekend at the Welsh Smallholder show. It was wonderful to talk to so many enthusiastic people, confirming that there really is a demand for Nearly Wild Camping from both campers and smallholders.

Nearly Wild Camping Stand

The Nearly Wild Camping stand at the welsh smallholders show

We talked to people who were veteran wild campers, who were interested in being able to visit a wider range of places and not to have to move on first thing in the morning. And then we talked to people who had never camped before, but were really taken with the idea of having the experience of camping in wilder places.

We talked to smallholders who wanted to share their little bit of wilderness with others and those who were struggling to make a living from the land and welcomed another income stream. As well as those with bigger farms, who realised this could be a good use for some of their out of the way awkward land – difficult for farming, but perfect for nearly wild camping!

We also talked to some organisations who thought that their members might be interested in getting involved. What about being able to visit some of the farms who are part of the Calonwen cooperative?! I know I would be really interested to go and check them out.

We had lots of campers and smallholders who want to get involved in this summers trial, so we will be getting everything together this week, once we have properly digested all the interesting conversations and feedback we have had, ready to get the trial up and running.

There was also a beautiful irony about the weekend. The camping spot that we had been allocated was right next to the toilet block and the main car park…