A Mereworth Mooch

A great location to get immersed in nature

It has been one busy summer this year and I am just now catching up on all my travels. Way back in July I spent a weekend at a military training area called Mereworth Woods with Northern District Sea Cadets for our Adventure Training (AT) competition.

My friend Dave Lewis organises this competition for our District and what a cracking weekend it turned out to be.

A Mereworth Mooch

The cadets arrived on the Friday night and set out on the Saturday on a route to test their navigational skills. Along the way there was always something to see, hear or smell. Sometimes that was beautiful, intriguing or sad. As all the cadets are from London so this is a great location to get immersed in nature.

Nature all around

Thankfully we had plenty of staff on hand to be out and about observing all the teams (we had 7 teams entered). As it was a hot weekend there was plenty of water at the checkpoints and staff were continually checking that the cadets knew where they were going.

Hard navigation

The Sunday morning concentrated on activities to test the cadets. The Atlatl proved a particular favourite but there were others to test teamwork and the likes of their First Aid skills.


There was a ropes section and also a stance on hypothermia though there was always time to chill and hang about in the trees.

It is important to run the event like this as some of the teams would be going on towards the London Area AT competition – Chosin Cup – later in the summer.

Working fun

Now the Sea Cadets have a saying – Serious Fun – I think our competitions try to embody that saying – none more so than the stalking stance. It is fun for the cadets and the staff however it is also serious as there can be good points earned here on the way to winning the District AT cup.

Just fun

After all the points were totted up Waltham Forest unit came 3rd, Newham unit came 2nd and Enfield unit came 1st.

Well done though to all the cadets and staff who took part. We did not make the competition easy for them however we did make it fun.


All the units who attended this year were:

City of London, Edmonton, Enfield, Harringay, Newham, Waltham, Forest and West Ham




Jason and the Ember Extender

Last August I was at the Wilderness Gathering here in UK with my friends from Coastal Survival. Just across from us was my friend Jason Sears demonstrating the use of a bowdrill to visitors.

Meet Jason

Jason is passionate about fire lighting and passing this skill onto others. I decided to sit back and watch his progress. I cannot remember the combination of wood types he was using but he did spend a minute gently warming everything up with some slow rotations of the spindle.

Warming up

Once he felt everything was a dry as he could get it where the spindle meets the hearth board he really powered up to produce a hot ember. The day had been really wet so all this preparation was essential – all the while he was talking to the visitors explaining what he was doing.

Powering in

To help himself along in getting his flame Jason had a piece of Cramp Ball fungus (Daldinia concentrica) on hand. He gently laid the piece of Cramp Ball beside the glowing ember to get it alight. This is a handy trick to remember in damp conditions as the ember created from the bowdrill can easily die out if you are not careful.

A small coal with a touch of cramp ball fungus

After a few seconds and a few puffs of breath the Cramp Ball was well alight then………………………

Well lit and very stable

He added to some straw and huffed and puffed for a bit 🙂

Easy to control

Jason’s straw was also a bit damp so he spent a few moments just drying out the area around the cramp ball by gently blowing into it. It is at this stage that many embers disintegrate if you are not careful or they simply die out as they are too small to overcome the damp material.

Spreading the heat

After a minute the centre of the straw was well dried out and smouldering nicely. Normally, I notice a sudden increase in smoke at this stage and the colour  changes slightly telling me I am about to get a flame………………………

The straw is smoldering well

Which he did – one impromptu looking candle in fact.


It is always a pleasure to watch Jason at the Wilderness Gathering teaching visitors fire lighting, so if you are thinking of coming along next year check him out.



Looking for Salmon – Found an Otter

Twitter – No Salmon – One Otter

Having a wonderful trip touring around Scotland these last two weeks with my family visiting family and friends. Currently we are staying with our friends Kate and John in Banchory (Aberdeenshire).

Kate mentioned that she had heard on Twitter that KT Tunstall (Scottish singer) had spotted some salmon leaping at the ‘Thundering Falls of Feugh‘ – so off we went to investigate. The falls were not thundering today and we spotted no salmon but this little fella popped up.

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Popped up and Popped out

Talk about getting excited. The otter appeared directly below us in the falls, disappeared and then popped up again. He or she was soon scooting up the side of the falls diving in and out of pools and the main flow.

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Up and around hunting

Before long the show was over as we were treated to a big slide down the side of the falls and all was as we had first found it when we arrived.

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Quick as a flash and away

I only had a standard lens on my camera so the shots are not the best however I really enjoyed watching the otter playing and hunting.