What use is a map if you don't know where you are?
Roundhill Campsite which sits between Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst and Beaulieu was a beautiful spot to pitch our tents for a weekend of camping to celebrate our best friend's birthdays. It was a breath of fresh air, in every sense, to be surrounded by trees, the sun and the moon and roaming wildlife, and what better way to spend the first days of Autumn than picking blackberries, trying to forage the biggest mushrooms possible and getting lost in the woods after a trek to the local pub?
Sitting in the speckled sunshine and feeling content from the Bangers and Mash I'd just polished off, talk turned to the direction we should head in to make our way back to the campsite from The Snakecatcher pub in Brockenhurst. "Uber anyone?", my London-based best friend jokingly suggested. We all laughed but the idea was pretty appealing after over two-hours of rambling to get to said position. She then fired up google maps on her phone, and pointing to the screen said, "look if we follow this long road back again, and cut through the woods here the way we came, it says it's only going to take forty minutes". No dawdling and no tree-climbing we agreed, that way we would get back in plenty of time before sun down. So the ten of us (well eleven including our friend's heroic dog Cilla who survived a horse hoof to the head later that evening) set off, but not before a quick pit-stop at the local shop to pick up camp supplies - two chocolate bars, a set of tea-light candles and a pack of cool-ranch Doritos seemed like the essentials.
I'm not sure exactly when we got separated from the others, but it was at some point between talking about the films of Paddy Considine and zombie's on TV. As the conversation dwindled, me, my boyfriend and our friend Ollie noticed how quiet it was all of a sudden. "Marco......Marco!!" Ollie shouted to the rest of the gang. Our earlier Marco Polo game we had jokingly played on the way to the pub fell on deaf ears. "Do either of you have your phones?" I asked, as I knew mine was in my bag, chargeless. Both the boys shook their heads, and we acknowledged this was the first thing to happen in a horror movie. About fifteen minutes had past and I noticed a green tent in a clearing, "Ooh lets go and ask those people camping on how to get back!' But as we got nearer the tent I was so fixed on, it turned into a mossy mound before my very eyes, and then opposite we noticed a huge empty den made of woodland sticks,"This is all getting a bit too Blair Witchy for me" I nervously giggled.
No longer on the beaten track, we trudged through long wild grass. I noticed we couldn't hear the road, I noticed we hadn't seen anyone including our friends in nearly an hour, and I noticed we really didn't know where we were. My stomach started to do little flips. The worst kind of flips. Flips I first thought were from nervousness, but soon realised from something else. "Oh noooooo guys I need to go to the loo!" They started laughing at my panicked face. "Like really need to go!" I quickly looked into my shopping bag, my shopping essentials were not essential enough. I then reached for my leather satchel and pulled out a paper map of the New Forest we had been given at Roundhill reception. I stared at it for a long moment, then started walking towards a secluded spot behind a tree, and shouted back to the boys, "What use is a map if you don't know where you are anyway!?"
As I made my way back to the guys, we all turned and saw two majestic stags staring at us in the distance, it really was a beautiful thing to behold, but was overshadowed by the fact I had just pooped in the woods and now we had no map. I might of been lost, but the irony wasn't lost of me. We carried on walking and during that time I felt like I had answered my own ongoing internal question on how well I would fare in a post-apocalyptic Walking Dead type scenario: terribly. At one point I tried to get the boys to follow me down a path, adamant it was the right way (and later learnt that would of taken us further into the woods). Thank God they know when to ignore me. We had a tense standoff with a horse which eventually let us pass down a path which lead us back to civilisation; who knew the sound of cars could bring such relief?
One thing I did realise from a wonderful weekend camping with friends is that I need to learn some basic navigation skills, you know, just incase one day zombies do take over. Read below for some top tips if you're seriously lost in the wilderness and don't have a phone:
1)Use the Sun as a compass:
The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. Depending on the season, it may not rise/set exactly due east or west, but knowing how to direct yourself accurately using only the sun is far better than walking in circles.
If you are lost and the time is between sunrise (say 6 am) and sunset (say 6 pm), the position of the sun is at “high noon” at half-day (12 pm). High Noon is the point the sun is highest in the sky and directly South (North hemisphere) or directly North (Southern hemisphere).
- In the northern hemisphere: Around noon, the sun will point due south when at its highest point in the sky. Shadows will move clockwise as the sun begins to descend in the horizon.
- In the southern hemisphere: The noonday sun will point due north. Shadows will move counterclockwise.
Now watch the sun for a few minutes (say 15 mins) to see what direction it is moving. That direction is West. This gives you an approximate orientation based on the fact that the sun moves across the sky from East to West – everywhere in the world. 2) Discover the area, but keep track of your point zero
People usually forget that staying in one place is very important, as it increases your chances of being found. So you should mark 'point zero' somehow with rocks or a stack of tree branches and start scouting the area and then return at regular time periods.
3) Keep positive!
No matter what the situation, keep your mind clear and stay positive! Sing if you must, scream, but don’t panic and if you can, try to enjoy your escape a bit. Getting lost in the woods may sound terrifying, but with a little precaution, it can be a memorable adventure. Just think of all the story-telling you will do after reaching home safely!
For more survival tips go to: www.tourismontheedge.com/travel-inspired/tips-tricks/10-step-survival-guide-for-getting-lost-in-the-forest