My good friend Rick popped over to visit me today and we went for a Bimble around the village in the afternoon.
There were plenty of Daffodils and Lesser Celandine on show and even a few Snowdrops still hanging around but other than that all was pretty quiet on the flower front.
When we got to one of the village ponds I was saw that only the Yellow Iris was starting to show through so had a quick look and was about to head off.
Rick though mentioned that he liked the contrast of life and death between the Iris and the Reedmace. I could see his point but until I got right down and took this picture at a very low angle did I truly see what he meant.
As an aside to all this I managed to damage my ear drum when I lay down on my side to take the picture. I felt an intense pain in my right ear and realised a dead stalk of some plant or other had gone into my ear – here’s hoping the pain does not get worse.
I spent last weekend up in the beautiful mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales. The winds were particularly strong and the rain was pretty continual.
I was with fellow instructors from the Sea Cadets working on our navigation skills. Although the elements were against us from the start and we did not top out everyone kept up good spirits. This picture of my friend Dave captures for me the tough conditions however it also shows the high spirits of folk.
My last trip out for 2015 was a particularly nice one as we were celebrating the 6th birthday of a little bushcraft boy called David. He loves the outdoors and his Grandfather Keith Coleman had organised to celebrate the event out in the woods at Danemead Scout camp.
Keith was also out with a few of his cadets to practice some navigation skills and I was going to practice some bushcraft skills with my friends Dave, Alan and Jess.
David’s Mum Maria was who is a good friend of mine was also at the campsite so it was great to catch up with her as we had not met up for a long time.
Keith soon had the candles lit with David and we were soon tucking into a slice of Birthday cake.
Later on the boys Dad Jim turned up with David’s little brother James. Jim has been a good friend of mine for many years so It was good to catch up on goings on again with him. While we were chatting the boys asked if they could light their own fire.
We spent a little while collecting some dry birch bark and small twigs and then got the Firesteels out. I also gave them some cotton wool and Vaseline to help get the fire going as everything was very damp.
It was great to watch the two lads sparking away and then slowly building up their fire until it was well lit. Needless to say when it was time for them to go home they were very reluctant to leave their well nurtured fire.
While the lads were busy making their fire Dave was busily building a spit to cook a joint of beef on. He stripped a green hazel sapling and put a split through the the middle of it with one end squared off. Then he carved a couple of flat skewers to go through the beef and the split. This method keeps the joint fixed to the hazel rod as it is turned over the fire.
Once that was done he made two uprights to sit the hazel rod in over the fire. One of the uprights had a square notch carved into it for the squared end of the hazel rod to rest in. This ensured that as we turned the it it always remained fixed in the position we had set it.
Dave’s father Alan is an excellent chef and he had been busily working away making up a whole range of different veggie kebabs. After a couple of hours turning the spit dinner was ready.
As we try to be civilised 😉 at these events the cheese board was produced by Keith and a relaxing evening was had around the fire.
After a very restful sleep in my hammock I was awoke by our chef Alan busily working away around the fire preparing some pancakes for breakfast.
Alan was using my griddle for this job (if you do not own one I would highly recommend that you invest in one) and it was hanging off my Dovetail Crane. This crane is made out of one piece of wood, is easy to make and offers you a wide range of cooking heights.
While Keith was off doing some navigation work with his cadets I spent my morning constructing a Damp Wood Log Rocket Stove. These are easy to make and great to get a fire going in damp conditions.
I must thank Jess for helping me at this stage to take a lot of my photographs as my hands were full with constructing the stove. Thankfully Jess is an excellent photographer so I did not need to worry if the right shot was being taken or not leaving me free to concentrate on the stove.
All that was left after this was to have a brew and pack up for the trip home. This was an excellent trip to round my year off amongst friends, eating well and celebrating the birthday of a budding bushcrafter.
No series on the Bushcraft UKBushmoot would be complete without a mention of ‘Ye Naughty Corner’ – I will refer to it as the NC in the rest of the post.
The NC is many things to many different people who visit the Bushmoot. There is usually a fire on the go at most hours however it is in the evening that the NC really livens up. Some folk love the place and spend a lot of time there, some folk just pop in for a visit every now and then, however some folk steer well clear as it can be busy and noisy. I personally like to visit the NC of an evening and catch up on the days goings on around the fire while enjoying a medicinal tot or two.
Cap’n Badger and Mad Dave (our resident Pirates) normally manage the NC though Dave had to miss the Bushmoot last year. The NC has been around for a number of years now and it has grown in size as each year has passed. Some say that is a good thing and others do not – you will need to decide for yourself.
It has always been a noisy place in the evenings (folks are warned about it if they camp near it for the first time) and as a regular over the years I am quite comfortable there however as the feel of the NC has changed from a small to a big community some folk have drifted off elsewhere on an evening.
The central point of the NC is the fire and it makes for a great woodland TV. On some of the busy nights you will be lucky to get anywhere near it however if there is a decent stock of wood it is soon lit up well. I have snapped many a fire face picture in these flames over the years.
One thing you are guaranteed is the option to try out a number of different tipples while sitting around the fire. There is usually a bottle or two of Kraken rum, meade, port or whisky making the rounds to try. The nost memorable one for me was when I was passed a bottle of Dave Budd’s Chilli rum – never to be forgotten.
I think one of the reasons the NC has become so popular is that there is usually some music and food on the go.
Initially folks would cook there own food and come along to the NC for a drink and a chat. Nowadays our resident Phil is on the go all night cooking and serving a wide range of excellent food (we do run a group kitty to cover the cost of the food).
A couple of years ago Tim Neobard ran a class at the NC to build a cob oven for baking pizzas. The pizzas proved to be very popular with the residents of the NC so everyone was looking forward to having some pizzas the following year.
When we returned last year we found that someone had decided to destroy the pizza oven. Un-dettered Neil re-built the oven this year out of brick instead of cob so hopefully it will be there this year.
I like to pop by the NC during the day to see what is going on. Sometimes it is pretty quiet as folk are off at all the classes however sometimes you will find a class or two going on at the NC.
A few years ago one of our regular NC residents Drew Dunn passed away in a road traffic accident. This tragic loss really affected many of us at the Bushmoot as we had grown to love Drew. When I met Drew for the first time his first words to me were ‘Where can I find the Naughty Corner’.
Drew loved the NC so much that Cap’n Badger and Mad Dave organised the planting of a tree and plaque in his honour. The tree and plaque sit just behind the NC where Drew used to camp.
The NC does throw up some strange sights I must admit. A few years ago this massive net was strung up and it was termed the Mammock. I have no idea how many folk got crammed into the Mammock in the end but it proved a star attraction.
Each year a fancy dress themed night is run. Last year it was Monty Python, the year before it was a Victorian explorer theme and I think next year it is a horror theme.
Not something I have gotten round to doing but there are plenty of folks who do and they do put in a lot of effort to look the part.
As the evening gets on though the reason why the NC corner gets its name starts to become apparent. It might be that you find yourself getting covered in lots of little clothes pegs if you are not careful, you may inadvertently get passed the bottle of chilli vodka, or you may get buckarooed if you fall asleep.
There is an skill to buckarooing as you need a steady hand. The poor soul who is asleep has tins of beer (empty) and pegs (and other adornments) heaped on top of them before a picture is taken. Everything is then taken away so that when the poor soul wakens up they are none the wiser until they see the picture the next day.
I appreciate that the NC is not for everyone as it can be a busy and noisy place however I personally like to spend an hour or two of an evening there.
To me it is one of the highlights of my year where I can relax and have a bit of fun while catching up with my friends.
There are plenty of campfires to visit at the Bushmoot where you can sit and relax and chat. The NC is just another one of them however it is one of the livelier ones.
This week found me working hard for my pictures. With much of nature dormant at the moment in the woods (plenty going on on the peripheries though) my stroll through my local woods this weekend was slow and quiet.
This scene came up on me and kind of reflects the still magical place the woods seem to be at the moment.
I took plenty of pictures however this one reminded me that you do not need to look far for an excellent scene to capture even when you think nothing is going on.
It has been a dream of mine to one day head on over to Scandinavia to practise my bushcraft skills, particularly in winter time. Time and money have so far not allowed me to do that however that has not stopped me from researching some of the ways of lighting fires in the snow or wet conditions.
I have seen many a Scandinavian (sometimes referred to as Swedish candles though Finnish seems the origin for many ) candle at bushcraft meets that have been carved using a chainsaw however I do not own one. My research showed me that chainsaws were not required and there are many other ways to light a fire in the snow or on wet ground other than candles, such as long fires and log rocket stoves.
This post brings together all my posts over the last couple of years on this subject. You will find if you click on the title for each section it will bring you to a more detailed post on making these fires.
Trawling You Tube one evening a few years ago I came across a video titled the Log Stove from Hobbexp. Up until that point I thought to make a candle you needed a chainsaw. Hobbexp showed me that you could make a perfectly good candle with just an axe and some kindling.
The one below was made using a birch log and stuffed with birch bark and spruce resin (and a couple of battoned-down pieces of green wood to keep the splits open). These candles can burn for a good couple of hours, are easy to set up and look great. I have no idea how many I have made over the last couple of years.
I got another idea for a candle during my research once again from You Tube from ‘bushcraftmyway’ titled the swedish torch/stove – my way. I liked this stove as it could be made from damp wood (ideal in the UK).
I tied some seasoned but damp birch rods together with bramble strips and willow bark then stuffed in tiny pieces of kindling and Vaseline-coated cotton wool. I decided to use the Vaseline and cotton wool so as to give the damp wood a chance to dry out.
After a bit of tender care the wood started to dry out and I easily managed to boil a kettle on it. This is an excellent way to get a fire going in damp/wet conditions. The remains of the candle after it had burnt down provided me with a great bed of coals to maintain a more traditional firelay.
All this research led me to compare this rod style of candle with the more commonly split log candle. I set up the rod candle this time with very dry rods and split a spruce log with my axe into a number of wedges.
I tied them all together with natural cordage and lit them. The rod candle took off very quickly as it was stuffed full of very fine kindling however the split log candle lasted longer as it took longer to fully get going.
Again I managed to easily boil a kettle on both of these candles. Both are simple and easy to make.
The idea for this one came from Perkele’s Blog Spot but the post is no longer available. I think this candle is regarded by many as the original Finnish Candle.
A log is split from top to bottom and pieces from the central core are then axed out to act as kindling. Lots of cuts are made into the inner faces of the candle to give the flames plenty of surface area to catch onto.
It took me a while to get the flames self sustaining, but once they’d caught the candle worked well. It looked precarious as the two pieces of wood are not lashed together but they stayed upright till the end.
The Rakovalkea Gap fire hails from Finland and I was taught a similar method by my friend Kevin Warrington (Laplanders Natural Lore) back in 2007. I came across the term Rakovalkea around about 2011 after seeing pictures of this fire being made by the Finnish army on the internet.
This is a scaled-down model I made however it was fully functioning and its set up makes for a long burn time with easy adjustment to increase or decrease the flames. This has proved to be the most most popular post on my website.
I decided to include this little fella as it is excellent for cooking in damp or wintry conditions. It is a wood gas stove and burns very efficiently. I was shown this by my friend Ian Woodham back in 2011 at the Bushcraft UKBushmoot. As soon as I got home I made one up and documented it on my blog.
I made this out of a metal paint pot, a large dog food tin, a Fray Bentos pie tin and a few bits and bobs. It works a treat and needs very little fuel to keep it going. I like to use dry seasoned pine/spruce/larch cones in the stove as they burn for a good length of time.
Now the kids love this stove – whenever you are having a barbie in the garden or if you are having a family camp make one or two of these up.
The principles are the same as the log rocket in the previous post except for the faces you can carve on them. Once they get going the faces really light up. They are perfectly able to be used as a normal log rocket stove for cooking or boiling but have the extra appeal factor of the face. A good video on this is the one made by Marcels Workshop.
Log rocket stoves have always appealed to me as a woodsman however when I am lightweight camping I do not fancy carrying around pre-prepared ones. Recently on Facebook Paul Hasling posted an article on making one with an axe and saw with no need for a drill. One of the other Scout leaders posted up a step by step guide on making one but it is in Spanish – the pictures though speak for themselves – Rocket Stove de Madeira.
I was instantly attracted to this method however when I was next out in the woods I could only find damp logs. To overcome this I split the log into six pieces and added Raappanan tuli cuts inside the chimney. This damp log rocket stove took slightly longer to get going as the internal wood slowly dried but once it was going there was no stopping it.
The final post in this series came to me one evening when I was wondering how I could operate in the woods without an axe. I figured it was worth a go trying to make a log rocket stove with just my Mora knife (I did use a small saw to trim the log).
With some battoning and the use of a wooden wedge I was able to split a decent sized log and fashion a perfectly good log rocket stove.
This exercise really is an excellent way to test out your knife skills.
Is the story over on candles, long fires and log rocket stoves? – I think not. I will continue to research this intriguing subject and if you have any ideas that I could try out to add to this library of knowledge I would really appreciate hearing from you.
The BEL award is a nationally recognised qualification in outdoor leadership and comes under the banner of the Sports Leader UK Award. The trainee instructors have to attend three weekends of training and put in many more hours’ work on their leadership and navigation skills.
For the assessment we brought in an independent assessor who had never worked with the students before and we also had another observer from the Sports Leader organisation along to see that we ran the course to the correct standards.
Much of the weekend was spent observing the students’ navigational skills as these have to be to a high standard. Not only do they need to know how to use a map and compass they need to be proficient in teaching others this skill.
Interspersed with the navigation tasks the students had to give lectures and run classes in different subjects to each other and the cadets. We were very lucky on the weekend to have a keen bunch along from Sunbury and Walton Sea Cadets. This made the assessment much more realistic and was a good reminder to the students as to why they were looking to gain the qualification.
It is not all about navigation and leadership though. The assessment also tests the students on their knowledge of group management, risk assessing, camping, clothing/kit and the environment.
It is all well and good to be able to read a map and teach that skill but being an Adventure Leader is about a whole lot more. It is about being comfortable and knowledgeable in the environment you find yourself in, and having the skills to make the learning experience for the cadets as varied, enjoyable and stretching as possible. This has to be done in a safe manner however the instructor must stretch the students enough so that they feel that adventurous spirit that draws us outdoors in the first place.
John was on our very first course as a BEL student in 2010 and has since gained his Hill and Moorland Leaders award. John takes over running the BEL course from me this year and has the same sense of adventure but far better administrative skills than me so organising future courses should be a doddle for him.
The champagne picture on the bottom right was when he was presented the bottle on the news of his recent engagement to Samantha and the soaking was from his daughter who he had teased just a bit too much.
One thing about this weekend was the beautiful evenings as the sun set over the Forest. The students were a bit too caught up in their navigational assessments to really appreciate them but I sure did.
Along the way I did spot some lovely colours in the environment around me. I do not expect the students to be expert in identifying plants, fungi, animals or insects but I do expect them to be able to name some trees, flowers and have a basic knowledge of the history of the area they are working in.
Having this basic knowledge allows them to come across as a well-rounded Adventure Leader to their students and means more fulfilling and educational walks.
So after a lot of hard work over about 6 weekends the majority of the students reached the standard of Level 3 Basic Expedition Leader Award from Sports Leader UK. A number of the students received their certificates at the Walton and Sunbury Sea Cadet Unit recently.
There are a few more who just need to finish their final assignment and then they can be awarded their certificates.
I am looking forward to helping out once again in the BEL course this year as an instructor and assessor but thankfully JK is taking the reins in terms of organising it allowing me to do more of what I like – Getting out and Adventuring.
Last weekend I ended up in Dorset visiting my friend Fraser Christian from Coastal Survival. It was a stormy weekend but thankfully the wind dropped enough on the Saturday evening to allow me to sleep in my hammock.
On the Sunday morning not long after I got up I spotted this waterfall effect of Turkey Tail fungus on an old stump and was quite taken with them from a top down view – kinda glistened in the early morning sunshine.