It's been quite the weekend. I'm now home, unpacked and still catching a stray whiff of woodsmoke on my jacket.
You see, on Saturday I headed off to the Yorkshire Dales - yes, in this weather - to meet up with some fellow bloggers. I'm a contributor to the Folklings site so when Annie suggested we all get together for a short stay in two cabins at the Swinton Bivouac I jumped at the chance.
Once upon a time the idea of meeting up with seven strangers for a weekend would have sent me running for the hills; on this occasion I headed to the Dales. I wanted to meet other bloggers and I wanted a change of scene.
The drive over there was pretty dreadful. Torrential rain and high winds meant negotiating closed roads and flooded lanes but the incredible scenery more than made up for it. I arrived just as daylight was fading and made my way through the woods to the cabins and a warm welcome.
The cabins themselves don't have electricity so it was tealights and woodburning stoves all the way. And the site has a cafe and facilities should you need them.
Needless to say there was much eating, drinking and making merry. As well as Annie I made some fantastic new friends: Gemma, Jen, Emma, Lizzie, Katie and Cerys. It feels good to be part of a community like this.
We slept four to each cabin and I took the very top bunk from a triple-decker arrangement. A climb up a steep wooden ladder but at the top, a view of the living quarters below and the windswept trees above. I kept the skylight unshaded - I mean, how often do you get to sleep high in a roofspace in the middle of a forest?
The lack of light pollution meant the stars - when the clouds fleetingly parted - were spectacular.
The following morning we headed out to the Druid's Temple, a folly situated high in the forest with far-reaching views across the Dales. The weather was incredibly wild; rain coming down horizontally and wind that threatened to tear off your hat. I didn't take my camera but the others did, so if you fancy seeing some pictures take a look at my fellow Folkling-ers blogs and Instagram feeds.
Of course, all this blisteringly fresh air and exhilaration necessitated a huge pub lunch. Roast beef: tick. Yorkshire pudding: tick. Chocolate fudge cake with cream: tick.
The drive home was wet but beautiful: ploughed fields, pheasants, circling rooks, tumbling waterfalls. The villages in that part of the world are very pretty indeed with stone cottages and double-fronted houses, little bridges and farms. Some had Christmas wreaths on their front doors which, along with their smoking chimneys, made you think, 'Ooooh'.
So, there we have it: my escape into the woods. New friends, a bit of adventuring, a lot of inspiration and a feeling that an off-grid hut could very well be the closest thing to paradise.