Bushcrafting at Bramley Church

At the end of September last year I was asked to help out at our local church with their open day. This is the 50th post I put on the site and I am glad it it is one of such a good day to mark the occasion.

Our church is the beautiful St James in Bramley Hampshire. It dates back to the twelfth century and is a very family orientated church where my wife Alison is one of the Sunday School leaders.

The church has an annual open day and this year someone (me, more likely than not) had spilled the beans that I taught bushcraft to kids. I was particularly looking forward to this day as I had never taught bushcraft in the grounds of a church before. St James has a small but beautiful churchyard with an area kept aside for meadow flowers. It was in this area (very few flowers because of the time of year) I set up my stance.

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A fun day and great location

There were many other activities including face painting, bell ringing and craft stalls and the weather was perfect for the event.
I set up my tipi with a bushcraft loom I had designed in front of it. My plan for the day was to get the kids (and adults) making mats, twisting cordage, bowdrilling and of course taking time out to have a marshmallow or two.
I also had on display some of my carvings (in various stages of completion) for folk to have a look at.

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Craft display

I did not have the room to set up an Atlatl or archery range so just had the tools on display.

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Primitive tool display

While I was doing this Alison had her hands full all morning painting faces. You will see her handiwork as you go through the pictures.

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Face Painting Fun

When I make a bushcraft loom I normally hammer the upright poles into the ground then string it up. In a churchyard, though, I thought that may not be the best course of action. I devised a loom out of some sycamore rods that I could set up just with a few guy lines. This proved an interesting experiment for me and I documented each step in its construction and its use so I will post a How To…. on making one soon.
The loom proved a great success, keeping kids and adults happily occupied while I got on with other classes. These looms can be time consuming to set up (ask my sister Tina – she used to be a Harris Tweed weaver) but will keep kids occupied for ages with minimal adult input.

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Bushcraft mat-making set up

As per usual a queue quickly developed for bowdrilling. It may look like I am doing most of the work but I really do make the young ones work for that ember.  I find the more effort they put into it, the bigger the smile when they get that flame.

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Bowdrill sessions

You can really see them getting into it here.

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Bowdrill was one of the day’s mainstays

Once the ember is strong it is popped into a tinder bundle and the kids take turn blowing it into flame. I wish I had had the opportunity as a small child to do this – I had to wait until I was a big child instead 🙂

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Group effort in fire making – Spot Daffy Duck?

After a bit of coaching some adults decided to give the bowdrill a go themselves or with the help of some of their family. This gave me a chance to get on with other things.

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Single bowdrill lessons with the families helping out

Not all bowdrill but covered the hand drill for a little while as well.

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Some Handrill lessons

With all the tinder bundles the kids put together we were able to keep a little fire going at the back of the graveyard where we got some marshmallows toasting – who can say they have had a toasted marshmallow in a graveyard before?

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Time for marshmallows

In amongst all this one of the young lads found himself a little frog in the long grass and proudly showed it to everyone. Afterwards he found a quiet spot to put him back in the long grass.

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Found a little friend

We just did a little bit of cordage-making using nettles to make some bracelets – not everyone is into bowdrilling (cannot think why!!)

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Cordage making for bracelets

The mat-making carried on throughout the morning with kids and adults coming and going. Karen stepped up and organised this well with the kids to produce a lovely mat.

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The mat-making class was always on the go

As we finished up I cut the mat from the loom and hung it from the branch of the yew tree. There it hung for a couple of months: the flowers faded, the grasses dried out but the whole mat stayed together in some pretty strong winds.

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The end of a great day

I am looking forward to this year’s event and will be working on improving the loom set up.

Cheers

George

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