A September To Remember: We Spoke To The Man Who Spent An Entire Month Wild Camping In London's Parks
Trefor Jones slept in a different London park every night for a month, and made a film about the experience.
Last September, Trefor Jones from Essex spent an entire month sleeping in London's various different parks. The rules of the challenge were simple - a different park every night, six of the eight Royal Parks had to be slept in, parks had to be located within zones one to three of the capital's public transport system, no tents (even if it rained), and no going back to the same park.
Jones documented the experience in a film, which you can watch below, called 'A September To Remember.' We caught up with him to talk through what it was like living in parks for a month, what the highs were, what the lows were, whether he ever feared for his own safety, and why he feels so drawn to wild camping.
"I'd run out of annual leave and wouldn't be able to escape the city for some time. I decided why not have an adventure right here in London," he says when we ask him what it was that inspired him to spend a month camping in the city's parks, "I liked the idea of exploring what was on my doorstep and utilising London as one of the greenest cities in the world."
"Gaining a sense of solitude and quiet in a place as busy as London was an incredible thing to achieve. Waking up in ancient parks such as Greenwich Park, and having it all to myself was a phenomenal feeling," Jones tells us, when we ask him what it was about the experience that made it so special.
Surely, it couldn't have all been sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows though? There must have been bits about camping in London's park that were, well, a bit crap? In Trefor's case, the crap bits were quite literally crap-based.
"Too much dog shit...," he says, when we ask him about the downsides of camping in a city like London, "...though I managed to only step in some three out of the 30 nights, which wasn't too bad going."
"The fact that it never went pitch black, due to light pollution, was also a bit sad. All in all though I don't really have anything negative to say about the challenge."
What about the boys in blue though? The fuzz? The long arm of the law? The coppers? Park authorities? Didn't they have some stern words to say about Trefor living in parks?
"This was something that I'd considered being a potential issue when I started out. Especially as I was going to attempt to sleep in the eight Royal Parks across the city, and knowing that they're heavily protected. However, I didn't have any run-ins with park rangers and the like, and funnily enough those sleeps in the Royal Parks were some of the most peaceful and special over the month, without any disturbances."
Because this particular Mpora journalist insists on acting his shoe-size, rather this age, we felt like we couldn't miss an opportunity to grill Trefor on the whole toilet situation. When you're sleeping in a park, where exactly do you go when you've got to go?
"I always get asked about this, and I think it's a fair enough question. Let's just say I got by just fine, and was never caught short," Trefor tells us.
When we first learned about Trefor's month spent sleeping in London's parks, we couldn't help but consider issues around safety. The capital has a big population and while the media tend to spin and sensationalise stories about the dangers of London, like any major world city, London is not without its "characters" - who might be tempted to target people sleeping alone in a park, people like Trefor. We asked Trefor about this, to see if he'd ever felt unsafe during the experience.
"There really weren't any instances where I thought that something bad could happen or that I was putting myself at unnecessary risk. Each night there'd be a little sense of fear going on in my head but it's all psychological, and that's also part of the thrill of bivvying in these kinds of places. I was a little scared of the deer in Bushy Park though and had images of a brutish stag rutting my hammock in the middle of the night fending me off from his wife to be."
Moving on from the subject of 'A September To Remember' specifically, we asked Trefor what it is about wild camping in general that he enjoys so much.
"I love the freedom and sense of really being out in the elements. The thrill of it and the idea that I can set up and pack up within minutes really appeals too. I wouldn't go back to using tents anymore, and I certainly won't be using campsites from now on."
"It's my little way of finding peace and escaping from a hectic city and lifestyle once in a while. It's not for everyone but I have enjoyed getting mates to try it out with me recently. I even took my girlfriend bivvying on our third date. She loved it."
As Trefor is an extremely experienced wild camper, we were curious to know more about his previous adventures and which place in particular he would label as the best place he'd ever woken up.
"Terribly hard question to answer as there's been so many beautiful spots I've woken up in. I once slept in a haystack which was so snug and cosy, and really fun waking up in. I felt like a little mouse making my home in the hay. Having done 99 bivvy sleep-outs now, I know that I want to make the next one special. Though I'll probably just end up down Hackney marshes or something."
Trefor is clearly passionate about wild camping and it's obvious from his responses to our line of questioning that, as an outdoor activity, he'd recommend it to anyone.
"I've definitely found something that I find really fulfilling and that always guarantees a sense of excitement and adventure. What I love about it is the simplicity of it, it really doesn't take much to go out there and sleep under the night sky canvas every now and then."
"Go try it. It'll be scary the first time but you'll wake up refreshed and proud of the experience. You can do it with some mates or even try sleeping out under the stars in your back garden."