Written by Mary Reynolds
Providing high quality outdoor sessions which are immersive, informative and engaging is what we're all about, here at Mount Cook. That's why we value the importance of staff training to ensure that our team remains at the forefront of outdoor learning and activity delivery. Deputy Manager, Bernie, and Executive Coordinator, Mary, recently went on a Bush Craft course, here's how they got on:
We arrived at the Woodland Survival Crafts site on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border and met Dave Watson, the founder. Our group had very varied backgrounds and experience but all shared a love for the outdoors.
We began our day with perceptions, Dave took us to the surrounding woodland and asked each of us to ‘go and find something flexible and interesting’; everyone returned with different objects from pine branches to feathers. We then discussed possible uses for the items in survival situations.
Next it was onto shelter construction. After discussing structures, the group was given the task of building two types of shelter:
In the afternoon, we collected tinder and wood and put our fire lighting skills to the test using fire steels. Next up was the bow drill; a pre-historic drilling tool which was commonly used to create friction fire. The kit is made up of a bow (usually made from ash or hazel), a drill (hazel), a base board (lime or poplar) and a bearing block (holly or hornbeam).
We learnt very fast that this task requires determination, perseverance and most of all technique; even though Dave’s demonstration made it look effortless!
That evening we headed off into the woodland for some tree identification…in the dark…with no torches allowed! It was a brilliant way to get us really thinking about the defining features of each tree. Without light, we were forced to use our sense of touch and even hearing to figure out what trees were around us. It showed us that we didn’t need to rely on torches, our eyes had adjusted within the first 5 minutes and we could make out most objects.
After a tiring day, we headed back to our shelters for our first night of wild camping!
The group headed out to collect materials for string making; we were shown how to strip back the outer layer of a bramble stem using a standard kitchen knife. Once the outer layer has been removed, you twist every section of the stem; this separates the fibres inside which can then be peeled off.
To create the string, you find the middle point of the fibres and twist them together; find somewhere to place the loop then start to wrap the separate strands around each other, carefully twisting throughout to strengthen. The best way to test if you are doing it correctly is to let go completely; if the string does not unwrap then it’s right!
Next up…campfire gadgetry; we were split up and asked to create a system which would allow a pot to hang over the fire, we got creative and put our knife skills to the test by creating notches to determine the level of heat on the pot.
The afternoon was spent learning different techniques for natural navigation, from a shadow stick to using the hour hands on a watch. Water purification followed this; we experimented with natural materials such as moss, sand and pebbles.
That evening we headed out for some star gazing; Pete Morton taught us how to identify various constellations. With no light pollution, we located Cassiopeia; commonly known as the ‘W’, as well as Orion, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
We started the day off with a fire lighting challenge, it had rained all night so we had to find sheltered branches to collect for tinder. The Larch trees provided lots of shelter for the ground below due to their widespread branches and needles.
The group then headed out for some more tree identification, this time in the day light! After lunch we worked on our knife skills; we made tent pegs then moved onto whistles. For the main part of the whistle we used elder wood; this has a soft pith that can be easily removed to create a hollow tube that’s about 2 ½ cm deep. At about 1 ½ cm down you create a notch by first cutting in at 90 degrees then cutting into that at a 45 degree angle, shown below
Once this is complete you find a stick that fits within the tube tightly; you then shave off some wood to create one flat surface. Finally feed the stick very carefully into the whistle and line it up with the 90 degree cut, facing the flat surface towards the notch, and there you have your whistle!
The course was brilliant, we learnt so much and are looking forward to bringing some fresh ideas back to Mount Cook.
We will be delivering a Bush Craft Experience Day on Sunday 14th May. If you are interested in learning about shelter construction, natural navigation, cordage and fire lighting techniques, why not join us?
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