Examining a Wild Camp – Tracking and reading the story the ground is telling you

A story of tracking, site interpretation and a lesson for investigators

So there I was, wandering through the woods with the dog. This is one of several woodland sites that we occasionally rent to run some of our bushcraft, survival and other wilderness skills courses in North Wales. I am far from any of the footpaths, both the public ones and the ones made by locals through the trees. It’s about 15 minutes after sunset and the light is poor – nearly time for the head torch.

After ducking past a couple of low branches I come to a more open area near the top of a small hill. There are a couple of mature oak trees, a dead-standing Rowan and a surrounding screen of Western Hemlock Spruce enclosing an area roughly 5m in diameter. Something seems ‘different’ about this site, and I pause to quickly look around. I’m fairly sure that I haven’t visited this particular glade before, but something is tickling my senses in a way I can’t vocalise…

Down at the foot of one of the mature spruce trees is a short, blackened and partially burned length of wood. This isn’t unusual near the areas where we run courses, but out here in this relatively untouched corner of the woodland it stands out – there is a reason for it being here, and I am suddenly compelled to investigate further.

A little bit of background information

As I have mentioned on this blog before – a good portion of the work that I do as an instructor and consultant in various outdoor fields doesn’t end up on the website as a public course or event – we even have a seperate website for that kind of thing: outdoorprofessional.co.uk.
Something that we do occasionally is to create bespoke training events for clients who want to be trained in a particular skill or activity. Following a series of connections and conversations we were asked to create training events especially for AFOs (Authorised Firearms Officers