And so it was that on a gorgeous sunny evening on the day of the Summer Solstice (and the longest day of the year) we found ourselves meeting up in a car park with about 40 other people all excited about spending a night out in the wild.
Farnham Heath Nature Reserve is in an Area of Outstanding National Beauty and is particularly renowned for the experience of listening to the 'churring' of the nightjars. It is an example of heathland restoration in progress as the RSPB have cleared the dense rows of pines that were part of an old commercial plantation to restore the valuable heathland habitat with it's purple heather, golden gorse and wildlife such as Grayling butterflies, woodlarks, nightjars and sand lizards.
|The campsite through the trees in the setting sun.|
|The friendly herd of cattle thought we were fascinating and by far the best thing that happened to them in days.|
|The sun setting over the heath.|
|My pictures don't do justice to what was a very special walk where we heard and saw nightjars, owls and bats and even glowworms.|
|Nightjar - photo courtesy of the RSPB. Although we did see them as well as hear them, my camera isn't that good!|
By the time we returned to camp it was dark, the fire was roaring and there was a welcome hot chocolate to go with the obligatory marshmallows over the fire. The kids also tried making 'smores' - melted marshmallows between two chocolate digestive biscuits - bit too sweet for me though! Eventually little heads started to nod and it was time to turn in - well it was after 11pm and Bigger Miss for one was waaay past her bedtime! We snuggled into our sleeping bags and fell asleep to the call of a Tawny Owl and the distant revelry of a village do (well it was Surrey after all!)
|Off for a walk - the next morning after checking the moth trap we were allowed to do as we pleased and much exploring was done by both adults and children and it was easy to find a spot to be alone if you wished.|
|The rare Festoon moth (top left) that was caught in the moth trap laid last night and some of my other wildlife spots on my little photo wander in the morning including the web of a nursery web spider.|
|One of the lovely things about the whole experience was that the children could just run off exploring and den building by themsleves.|
It really was a magical night to remember and even though it was only for one night both Bigger Miss and I felt very odd driving back through a town on the way home. We felt like we had been in a wonderful, peaceful, nature driven bubble and the town really jarred our little bubble. By 11am we were back home with Little Miss and Rollercoaster Dad and it was back to real life with a bump.
|I leave you with a picture of the setting sun, taken on a magical summer solstice - what a perfect way to spend the longest day of the year.|
Linking up with the lovely Coombe Mill for Country Kids (you could definitely camp there I'm sure!)