For the last weekend in March we welcomed seven bushcrafters into our private 90-acre woodland near Ruthin, Denbighshire for a two-day bushcraft and wilderness skills course. This is the course that follows on from our Bushcraft Basics course but is suitable for complete novices also.
We began with a short walk into the woods, talking a little about foraging, natural navigation and a few other skills before turning to climb the hill to our woodland camp, complete with a parachute shelter, benches and all of the supplies we will need for the weekend. There is always a little more admin and kerfuffle involved with an overnight course as we get settled into the site – which we then do not leave for the next 30 hours or so.
The first part of the course was quite gentle – talking about what we were going to cover, what we wanted to achieve and even a short discussion on how we learn, and identifying our own skills and strengths. We then delivered a short session on firelighting – focusing on ensuring that the fire lay is properly set rather than exotic and spectacular methods of getting the first ember or flame. Next up was a practical session where the group split off to make their own small fires and put theory into practice.
After a quick lunch we talked about shelters, first looking at some small and practical shelter options that you could carry with you, including tarps and tents, before splitting the group into pairs to build shelters from natural materials. The groups chose three different styles, each one making use of the resources they found in the corner of the woodland they had chosen. As the afternoon progressed the rain turned from drizzle to a downpour, making the shelters less of a theoretical exercise and suddenly a much more practical one! The construction of the shelters also gave us a great way to teach the safe and effective use of cutting tools like saws and axes, as well as basic cordage use and lashing.
A simple evening meal, including some Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum), and an evening sat by campfires telling stories and sharing experiences finished off Day One.
For Day Two we spent a lot of time around the campfire, looking at everything from knife sharpening to fire by friction and choosing the right kit. The campfire area is almost the perfect ‘classroom’ area for these types of courses, apart from the smoke!
We finished by covering a few simple tasks, and tidying up the area we had spent the weekend in to make sure that we left as little trace of our stay as possible, which meant collapsing shelters, covering over the traces of fires and ensuring no litter was left behind. The overall mood of the group seemed to be that although tired, smelling of smoke and looking forward to clean beds and baths – they didn’t want to leave!