Bushcrafting with the Royal Marine Cadets on the Isle of Wight

Around a fire some time last year my friend Kev Lomas asked me about helping out the Royal Marine Cadets (RMC) in his area (Southern Area Sea Cadets) with some Bushcraft. As Kev had helped us in London Area a lot over the years I was keen to help out.

Another reason was that the course would be on the Isle of Wight and there is nothing better than walking through dappled woodland in the Spring on a sunny day on the island (there are no deer on the island to eat all the flowers).

The course was at the end of April this year and the weather was fine and warm. I had a smooth trip over the Solent with with just a little fog to begin with but it soon cleared up.

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Beautiful ferry crossing

I went down on the Thursday to set up camp and I am glad I did as it took us all Thursday afternoon and Friday to set everything up. The camp we stayed at was deserted and the woodlands were beautiful – though I did manage to get my heavily laden van well and truly stuck in the mud trying to set up. Luckily once emptied she leapt out of the mud to save my embarrassment.

There was to be about 25 cadets on the course with about 5 instructors. One of the instructors called Sgt Tony Moore had attended the same instructor course with Woodcraft School that I had completed so it was good to swap stories. (The chicken below, by the way, is a plastic one we found in the woods.)

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Prepping the camp

When the cadets arrived they were briefed on the activities. I think some were a bit disappointed to find out I was a Blue Jacket (a Sea Cadet instructor) rather than a RMC instructor but when I began describing all the skills they would cover and how these could cross over into their field skills they started to come around (I think also that it helped when Kev mentioned I was ex-Airborne).

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Briefing time

We had the Padre around for the weekend and he was keen to be involved. As well as trying out a normal hammock he was very taken with my UK Hammocks EDC chair.

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The Padre was around all weekend and keen to take part (in a relaxed sort of way)

A tradition in the RMC is to introduce the cadets to the Coca Cola tree. Many of the older ones had seen this before and sniggered at the back watching younger ones’ confusion as Kev pulled the ‘tree’ out of the ground all the while explaining how rare it was 🙂

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The rare Coca Cola tree

Many of the cadets brought their own knives along so we had a good chat about the pros and cons of the various different types. I then issued some fixed-blade bushcrafting knives for them to practise with.

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Knife class

They all managed to make wedges and learn the art of battoning wood, making the kindling they’d later use for their fires.

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Knife skills

They used firesteels to get their fires lit and then we boiled water in our Kelly Kettles for a brew. I love using the term ‘brew’ to Marines as you can see the grimace appear on their faces. To them the correct term is a ‘wet’ and they are very proud of the difference (no idea why).

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Make a Fire – Make a Brew (sorry I should say a Wet)

We bought in some mackerel and the cadets prepared them and made up some Ponassing rigs.

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Ponassing class

A bit of a scrum to be fed but they all enjoyed it.

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Enjoying the fruits of their labour

During the day we went out for a wander looking at tracks and signs. We found some owl pellets, scavenged birds’ eggs and also some early orchids.

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Owl pellets

In the woods there were clear Badger trails which were easy to follow. We came across this nice print near their latrine.

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Badger print

On the Saturday afternoon we dug up some worms so they could be cleaned out overnight. The next day a quite passable omelette was made with a bit of worm as protein.

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Digging up worms for an omelette

Tony had fun showing the cadets how to prep rabbit.

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Rabbit prep

As we had quite a lot of fish that was not Ponassed we fried it off in the Muurrika.

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Frying up the remaining fish the cadets had prepped

In the evening the staff helped the cadets set up 10 hammocks. This took quite a while but was worth it as some were very keen to try them out. One cadet was about 6 foot 5 inches and was determined to have a go. His head could not fit in the hammock so it was quite a challenge to make him comfortable. He survived the night however, and said it was a relaxing sleep.

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We set up 10 hammocks

Again on the Sunday we went for a wander to see was out there in terms of foraging. The cadets were introduced to hawthorn, birch and beech leaves (all tasty in the spring). The small plants we looked at were nettles, wood sorrel, burdock, plantain, reedmace and primrose to name just a few.

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Foraging – Primroses

The ranges were an ideal spot to get the bows out.

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Arrow away

We also introduced the cadets to the Atlatl.

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Airborne Atlatls

You do not often see so many being launched simultaneously like this.

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Broadside

I had a fantastic weekend and so did the cadets, based on the feedback I received. I am looking forward to doing something similar with the RMC in London and also with the Southern Area RMC again next year.

Cheers

George

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