Monday, 2 May 2011

Woodsmoke: Woodlander

Spending time in nature over the years has forged in me a deep respect for the myriad of efficient, clever and ingenious ways that life thrives in wild places.  Once upon a time humans also knew what it took to make a living in wild Britain, and there are still a few people who know, or have learned survival and life skills that rely on their own knowledge and resilience, and the resources of land, not clever kit, frieze dried meals or goretex.
I'm fascinated by the concept of humans having a place in nature, so although my own practice is generally one of "leave no trace", taking in my fancy gear and carrying out my rubbish with minimum impact,  I am intrigued enough to want to learn some of these bush skills, and push myself to understand how a human might live within and alongside nature, rather than skating over the top of it as a hardy visitor with a rucksack full of equipment.

I enrolled on a bushcraft course with Woodsmoke in the Lake District, for a week-long immersion in to basic bushcraft skills. The instruction was excellent, the course was very real and hands on, and at times incredibly challenging.  The week is not for you if you fancy a holiday, but if you want to really push yourself, definitely give it a go! I've just got back, and I'm still picking the leaves out of my hair: here is a photo blog of what the week entailed. 

Most of our days were spent either ranging over the beautiful wooded estate where the course takes place, or in the outside classroom at the camp.

 I picked a plum spot for my little tent. I was serenaded every night by tawny owls and woodcock.

 The week was characterised by a mountainous series of projects, from craft and cordage, to field cooking, tracking and plant lore. The first project involved making a Waugan Stick to suspend a billycan above a cooking fire. 

The finished article.

 Another major project was making fire using a bowdrill.  This is hard work.  Here is my first and most triumphant ember.  Only half way there- you have to get the tinder going from this. 

The tinder catches- fire!

 We built natural shelters.  Also hard work!  This is a three person shelter that took six people all afternoon to build!

It was cosy when finished.

Three of us spent the night in the shelter snoozing next to a warm camp fire. 

It wasn't all work.  We had the opportunity to play in a cedar strip built canoe, and swim in the tarn above camp. 

Badger or teddy bear tracks ?

Projects projects projects......

 Pigeon pie cooking in camp ovens....


We learned so many wild plants with multiple uses, but here is a common and edible one, Wood Sorrel. High in oxalic acid, so don't eat too much, but a tasty addition to any hedgerow salad.

No comments: