We were warned. The Met Office had issued a severe weather warning for Sussex, with gale force winds and temperatures well below zero forecast.
Despite this, 11 people thought that it sounded like a great way to spend the weekend. Five children aged between three and eight years old and their parents were up for a walk and an overnight bivi.
It was raining as we scurried down to the bus stop and arrived just in time to dive onto a bus hauling our huge rucksacks inside and counting the children. The driver looked harassed and told us that he was the last bus to get through before the road was closed in response to an accident. A short while into our journey we received a message that two of our group had missed the bus, which meant that they would not be joining us.
We were deposited at Friston Pond and I watched as a, wind driven, dustbin lid skipped across the road and into the pond. The rain had stopped by the time we reached the footpath and the kids ran, excitedly, through the trees.
We took turns navigating the route until, at the top of a hill, we came to a broad, flat ride. Out of the wind and bathed in sunshine it seemed like the ideal place for lunch.
It was only a short walk to where we had decided to spend the night and we had given ourselves plenty of time to practice set ups before the early sunset caught up with us.
The wind had become a gentle breeze by the time we walked through the tall grey columns of a beech wood, looking for the perfect campsite. Beneath our feet was a soft, brown, paisley patterned, carpet of leaves. A scattering of young sycamores which had found their way in were attempting to compete for vital sunlight with the towering beeches.
While the adults practiced knots the kids ran around the forest playing a succession of extemporised woodland games. When we had finished setting up it was time for an early dinner as the sun dissolved in the west. We were rewarded for not using our head torches by the magnificent show put on by the stars twinkling against a cloudless backdrop and an incredibly bright, haloed, half moon.
Using bashas rather than tents we could snuggle down into our sleeping bags and gaze up, looking past the black branches scrimshawed on the sky and enjoy the show.
There were lots of oooh’s and aaah’s as a perfect sunrise illuminated our frosty forest. We had breakfast and packed up slowly, reluctant to leave the beautiful wood, as the kids played. The views across the Downs were fantastic. We stopped for lunch before eventually heading down to Seven Sisters visitor centre to catch the bus back.