Bushmoot 2017 – Brilliant

a magical two weeks

A ‘Brilliant Moot’ is how I would summarise this year’s Bushcraft UK Bushmoot. It was action packed from start to finish for me as I juggled my time between looking after my kids, running workshops and doing a lot of filming.

I will let the pictures and video do most of the talking so will keep the text to a minimum.

Bushmoot 2017

The first few days for us ‘Mods’ (forum moderators) were all about setting up the Bushmoot so that everything was in place for everyone arriving later in the week. We did not rush things as it was a holiday for us as well but over a few days the Bushmoot was soon set up.

Set up

There are some great places to camp at the Bushmoot which makes for stunning photography. The Mods’ corner is great to photograph on a sunny morning.

I have used the same camping spot for a number of years now and even though a year passes between each visit it feels as if I have never been away when I return.

Camp life

Early Workshops

There were a couple of early workshops this year – Open Fire Cooking with Neil and a 48hr Survival Course with Fraser from Coastal Survival. Both courses covered a lot of different areas so my photos are just a snapshot of their content – needless to say on both courses all the students eat well.

Early workshops

Videos

I put a short video together of this early part of the Bushmoot – including a scenario where my son pretends to chop my head off with an Ivy sword ūüôā

Also a short video on the Lolli Stick Fire on Fraser’s course.

In amongst all these workshops and general setting up my kids took themselves off exploring. I went with them on one jaunt and they took me to the ‘House of Doom’ (as they referred to it). I think film companies use the site and they had left this massive Gothic barn – quite beautiful but eerie at the same time (the axe was for posing with only by the way).

Exploring

The Bushmoot is all about ‘Family’ as far as I am concerned – this family extends out to all my Bushmoot friends I see time and time again as I return each year.

Friends

Getting out of the woods one day with my friends Ian, Catherine and Liz (and assorted kids) we went Dune Diving. Merthyr Mawr sand dunes are the second highest dunes in Europe, apparently, and there is one dune in particular that the kids love.

Needless to say I joined the kids as they threw themselves down the dune – great fun even for a 50-year-old kid like me.

Dune riding

Core Day Workshops

I have no idea how many different workshops we ran this year and I only photographed or filmed a small number of them. We always start with a tool safety presentation (normally three different groups) before starting the main workshops.

Core days – part 1

Fire lighting in its many different forms is a staple of the Bushmoot and this year was no different – below are pictures from the bowdrill, the damp tinder and the flint and steel workshops.

Core days – part 2

Other workshops included Baking, Pottery, Rocket Stoves, the Starter Course, Basketry and Wood Spirits (to name just a few).

Core days – part 3

Watch the video to get a feel of the subjects we cover at the Bushmoot.

Bushmoot Life

Outside of all these workshops and background work life goes on at the Bushmoot – food I can tell you forms a big part of that life ūüôā

I am no great chef (tend to prefer building Campfire Cooking Constructions) but can when needed put something together – thankfully though there are plenty of people around like my wife Alison willing to put together a good spread for the kids and myself. Highlights of the Bushmoot are the Group Meal and the Hot Chocolate evening.

All things food

A favourite of mine has always been the archery range. We had another great competition this year. The winners from last year (Marek and Louey) were also presented their made-to-measure bows from Wayne Jones of Forest Knights.

This year we also had a catapult competition run by Steve (Mesquite) Harral and a workshop from David Colter on the Pellet Bow. Around the site we had various smaller ranges for axe, spade and pin throwing.

Down on the range

The Naughty Corner

No Bushmoot would be complete without the Naughty Corner and I try to get up to it for an hour or two each evening. This year my friend from the Sea Cadets Alan Lewis joined me at the Bushmoot for the first time and as he is a chef found himself drawn to the pizza oven.

Phil and Magda as usual kept us well fed each evening and Cap’n Badger made sure we were all not too naughty ūüėČ

The Naughty Corner

The Sand Pit

The evening socialising is not restricted to the Naughty Corner – usually for a couple of evenings lots of folk congregate under the big chute by the kids sandpit for a bit of a shindig.

We were supposed to have a band along one evening but for some reason they failed to show up – thankfully Marek and Gemma with some others started their own musical session that lasted well into the evening.

Sandpit evenings

The Main Chute

This is where we meet each day, talk about what will be happening, answer questions and celebrate people.

The Bushmoot is run by Tony and Shelly Bristow (along with us volunteer Mods) and as often happens the Bushmoot coincided with Tony’s birthday. We also remembered our dear friend Drew who passed away so tragically at a young age in 2013. We do this by giving each year an engraved Swiss Army Knife to the person we feel has contributed most to the Moot.

Our good friends John Fenna and Steve Harral raise money each year for Cancer charities. Steve gets John to dress up in a different pink outfit each year and we make lots of donations in various ways. Also John has an award he gives out called the John Fenna Award (a Teddy Bear with lots of bushcraft kit) and this year it went to Cap’n Badger for dedicated service to running the Naughty Corner – or undetected crime as I hear ūüėČ

Life under the main chute

Kids’ Fun

All this talk of fun would not be complete without mention to what we organise for the kids (I mean the young ones here). We are not against technology and I am happy to let my kids watch a movie in the evening by the fire (gives me a breathing space to get on with camp chores).

The Bushmoot is a family friendly place and there are always workshops and games planned in for the kids. When there are no planned activities the whole estate is their playground and it’s great to see my kids roam free as I once did as a kid growing up in the Western Isles.

Kids – old fun and modern fun

My last video on the Bushmoot looks at this ‘Bushmoot Life’.

A Celebration

When I popped up to the Naughty Corner one night I got chatting to our chefs Phil and Magda and found out that they had just got engaged – Phil had popped the question to Magda that day down on the beach and she had said yes.

The next day we got Phil and Magda to announce the engagement to everyone under the Main Chute – congratulations guys.

Congratulations

Me

I am mostly to be found behind the camera lens so you do not see many pictures of my silver mop at the Bushmoot. Over the last 10 years I have really embraced photography and am always on the look out for something unusual to snap.

Fire Faces are a favourite of mine – spotted the BFG in one snap I took this year – but there is always something interesting to photograph at the Bushmoot.

Just me

A bit of Magic

This year at the Naughty Corner it was hard to miss the fact that the fire was making a good impression of a Rainbow. It turns out that Cap’n Badger had acquired some Mystical Fire¬† and popped it into the fire. I took a few snaps of the flames and caught a lovely shot that I call ‘The Dancer’.

My kids loved the stuff and so we popped a couple of sachets on our campfire one evening while they watched a movie.

Rainbow flames

Alison

My wife Alison did not attend the whole of the Bushmoot (she pops back and forth from home over the fortnight) as she runs her own publishing company and this year was focused on finishing the first draft of her own book while we were at the Bushmoot.

Needless to say when Alison returned at the end of the Bushmoot she did so with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the fact that she had finished her first draft – well done darling ūüôā

Congratulations Alison

That is it from me on the subject of the 2017 Bushmoot. Thank you to Tony, Shelly, all the Mods and all the other helpers who organised everything and helped make it such a magical two weeks.

Cheers

George

How To…. Light a Fire with a ‘Lolli Stick’

There is no rocket science here or fancy skill to learn – just down right common sense.

When you have limited resources and the elements may be against you, then you may wish to consider the ‘Lolli Stick Fire’.

At the 2017 BCUK Bushmoot my good friend Fraser Christian from Coastal Survival was running a 48hr workshop on Coastal Survival. One of the classes was on lighting a fire on the beach in windy conditions with very limited resources – he called this the ‘Lolli Stick Fire’.

The ‘Lolli Stick’ Fire

There is no rocket science here or fancy skill to learn – just down right common sense.

Fraser built using sand a little reflector wall in a horse shoe shape and within it he laid a platform of dry dead twigs. On the surface of this platform he laid three loose piles of twigs in a ‘U’ shape. On top of this ‘U’ shape he laid a further pile of loose twigs making a roof. This shape left a hole in the side to add a firelighter.

Rather than using a whole firelighter Fraser cut a firelighter into 8 pieces and stuck one of these small pieces onto a thin sharp twig (and here likened it to a ‘Lolli Stick’). He lit this in the shelter of his tarp and easily popped it into the middle of his twigs.

Minimal resources

The flames spread through the twigs very easily as they were loosely laid and Fraser topped them off with further twigs to get the fire going really well. This process only took around a minute and he soon had a cup of water pushed up against the side of the fire.

Enough for a brew

The small reflector wall helped bounce the heat back onto the cup and so boil the water quite quickly.

You can see it in action in the short video below.

Fraser uses this technique on the coast as the reflector wall protects the fire from the fierce winds and because of the minimal resources needed to light and maintain it. I incorporated this technique into our Starter Course at the Bushmoot and everyone easily got there fires going with it with very limited resources.

The ‘Lolli Stick’ is safe to handle, requires only an eighth of a firelighter and is easy to light – as I said before ‘down right common sense’.

Cheers

George

Bushmoot 2017 Highlights

Over the last week and a half I have spent some glorious (and somewhat tiring) days on the South coast of Wales at the BCUK Bushmoot.

I will write a fuller report later of the event with lots of video but for now here are some of the highlights.

As usual there were far too many workshops being run for someone to attend them all. A particular favourite of mine is the Damp Tinder workshop run by Rich59 proving you can get a Fire in the dampest of conditions.

This year my friend Alan Lewis from the Sea Cadets came along. Alan is a trained chef and was soon helping Phil up at the Naughty Corner with baking the Pizzas.

On Monday the whole Moot community came together and created what is now our traditional communal meal. Everyone brought along Dutch Ovens full of different concoctions for everyone to try out.

In the evening we were expecting a band to turn up but for some reason they did not make it. Undettered we soon had a group jamming away making for a perfect end to the evening.

One of the highlights of the week is the Hot Chocolate evening around the main campfire. I was hoping for a cupful but the demand from the kids for seconds put paid to that ūüôā

Now it is time to rest for a few days, tidy up camp and then head home.

Cheers, George

Coastal Survival at the Bushmoot

The flaming lollipop

This week I am camping on the beautiful South Wales Coast at Merthyr Mawr. It is Bushmoot time again and I thought I would try a quick post using just my phone.

We have been mostly setting up the Bushmoot for the main event starting this weekend.

I did though pop around today to see a couple of the early starter courses Fraser from Coastal Survival was running a course and was when I was passing, teaching his students the art of getting a small fire going on a windswept beach. He got the fire lit using the tiniest piece of firelighter and soon had his cup of water boiling away.

The tiny piece of lit firelighter was inserted into the small tinder pile using a stick – kinds like a flaming lollipop ūüôā

Cheers

George

A Brilliant Bushmoot – 2016

As family holidays go the BCUK Bushmoot is hard to beat. It has it all, with activities for all ages, a stunning location and people who are happy to share their knowledge with you.

The week started with three days of wet weather however that did not stop us getting out and about. I spent one day with my friend Fraser Christian (Coastal Survival) setting nets and lobster pots out on the coast for a class he was running.

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Beginnings

My family spent two weeks at the Bushmoot in early August and the kids cannot wait until next years return trip. The Bushmoot is held on the Ogmore Estate by the beautiful Merthyr Mawr sand dunes in South Wales here in the UK.

While the kids were off playing I was busy with running or attending classes. Once again this year we ran a Starter Course for anyone new to Bushcraft. Alison decided though to crack on with some more spoon carving this year with our daughter Catherine under Deans watchful eye while Finlay got on with climbing everything he could find..

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Play for some – Work for others

This year I spent some time with Anita (our resident potter) discussing how to make a primitive pot for extracting birch bark oil. Anita came up with a design for me which I am hoping to try out in the winter. Anita ran a number of sessions and a particularly popular one was making clay whistles.

The picture of the clay dragon whistle shown below won the August heat of the BCUK Bushmoot competition – It was a cracking bit of craft

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Pottery Art

A course I thoroughly enjoyed this year was Perry McGee’s (National Tracking School) grass rope making (I had attended last years one as well). I really like Perry’s style of teaching – it is relaxed in one way however he really does make you work :-).

The whole group made enough rope from grass to make a hammock that took the weight of anyone in the group, This is a skill I have been looking into more after seeing rope that was made out of heather recently up on the Isle of Lewis.

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Grass – comfy and tough

David Willis (Bushcraft with David Willis) attended once again this year and his class was packed. The smell of fresh baking bread could be detected from afar and I made sure I swung by the class a few times.

Alison attended the class and we were well set up for bread for the next couple of days.

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Beautiful Bread

There was plenty of wood working going on as usual this year. Ed Livesy ran a busy class on carving a Figure Four Deadfall mechanism, Roy Budd was running the pole lathe continuously every day (where he got the energy I do not know) and I ran for the first time the Dovetail Campfire Crane class.

This class on the crane I will run again next year as a lot of people have never heard of it and became very interested in it after seeing what my students created. It is basically an adjustable crane made out of one pole.

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Wood Skills

Food as usual plays a big part in the life of the Bushmoot. The communal meal was a great success again, Tony got himself a lovely birthday cake and the kids enjoyed a few evenings supping hot chocolate around the fire.

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Top Scoff

It must be getting on 6 or 7 years we have run the archery range with the competition later in the Moot.

We have sessions run most evenings and the competition is broken into two parts (kids and adults). I received many great presents to give away as prizes so thanks to all who donated. The winners are each to receive a handmade bow from Wayne Jones (Forest Knights).

On a down side my Holmegaard bow snapped this year at the Moot. It has been a trusty bow since I made it 8 years ago and it has been used by hundreds of people on my courses. I did though get an Elm stave from Chris Claycomb – so that is a project for the winter.

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Down on the Range

Another first for me was running the Damp Wood Log Rocket stove class. The rain we had earlier meant that all the logs were damp (the spray was hitting us in the face when we split them) so it was great to see after all their hard work all the students managed to get their log rockets fired up.

The coffee I can tell you was brilliant ūüôā

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Proper coffee from Damp Log Rockets

As you can see I did take a few pictures at the Bushmoot however there were a few special ones to me. Below are three that I really was glad they turned out so well.

The first one was a moment I captured when taking a picture of the battery candle sitting in basket of carved flowers. Mark was just saying goodbye to Tony with a manly hug when I pressed the shutter.

Next was sitting beside the beautiful artwork created by Keith Beaney. Every year Keith comes along and patiently creates these works of art for us all to enjoy.

And finally one day someone pointed out to me a dragonfly sunning itself next to the shower block. This little fella was not moving for anyone and really let me get up close and personal to photograph him.

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Special Moments

There were too many workshops run to be able to attend them all (approx. 110 were run over the core days) however keeping my trusty Nikon with me I managed to capture a few moments from just some of them.

Wayne was busy teaching knife throwing, Theresa ran a very busy workshop on flint knapping and Stuart spent two days splitting the most twisted trunk in the world without using metal wedges. There were many, many more workshops run by different instructors, I saw some, photographed some but missed many – that is the nature of the Bushmoot for you.

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Passing On By

After the core days were over we spent time dismantling lots of the classrooms, mooching by the fire and taking long relaxing walks down to the beach,

Winding Up
Winding Up

During the Moot I finished off doing my 22 Day 22 Push up challenge and videoed it each day. In the video below you will see in the second half of it lots of Bushmoot locations, finishing up with pushups in the swash zone in the sea at Merthyr Mawr,

So if you are into activity holidays that do not cost the earth then head on down to the Bushmoot next year.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 10/10 – Don’t Just Take My Word For It

Here’s instalment number 10 in the ‘10 Reasons to Bushmoot‘ series. For those of you who have been following the series so far you will have gotten a feel of the wide range of activities on offer at the BCUK Bushmoot. Some of you have contacted me to say you will be attending for the first time this year, which is great, however if you still have not made up your mind then don’t just take my word for it.

I contacted a number of BCUK members and asked them to send me their favourite picture(s) of the Bushmoot (either one they took or from someone else) and to say why it was their favourite.

1 Charlie
Charlie Brookes’s favourite – picture taken by George Aitchison

Charlie – This picture fully sums up the most important thing about the Bushmoot for me, which is the welcoming family.
I first attended the Bushmoot in 2007 and that was only on a last-minute decision. Having been encouraged by the willingness of the BCUK members to welcome you to the forum and share knowledge, I decided to take the plunge and attend the Bushmoot.
It was with a feeling of apprehension that I drove down the lane from Merthyr Mawr. This feeling soon disappeared on booking in, where I was made most welcome by Tony and Shelley. What followed was one of the most enjoyable few days I had spent in a long time, everyone you met made you welcome and they were willing to pass on skills. I can only hope I can continue to make newcomers to the Bushmoot feel as  welcome as people made me feel.

2 Ian
Ian Woodham’s favourite picture

Ian –¬†When I was asked by George to look through my photos and send him something that says why I enjoy Bushmoot, my first thought was to my boy. He and all the children play continually, coming back to camp only for food. There is always something going on, and in an age of computer games, you never hear a child say “I’m board” when spending two weeks away from electricity.¬†

3 Wayne Eleanor
Wayne Jones’s favourite picture

Wayne (Forest Knights)- The photo shows the spirit of the Bushmoot. Sharing skills with other bushcrafters from the novice to seasoned instructors. All come with a willingness to share their skills and learn from each other. Teaching Bhutanese bow making in such a beautiful location is a privilege. It is a joy to be part of the team.

4 Badger
Cap’n Badger’s favourite picture up at the Naughty Corner – the ‘Mammock’

Cap’n Badger – He chose this picture but cannot remember who took it (I think it may have been Lindsey Dearnley) –¬†I remember I ¬†was chilling in the sunshine with Darsha one afternoon when the life raft was stuck into the ‘Mammock’. Also I remember it being spun around with some of the girls inside..lol..and getting thirteen people in it! I’m surprised that little tree took the strain…

5Susannah
Susannah Parsons’s favourite picture

Susannah –¬†The photo of a group of people toasting marshmallows reminds me of a couple of great things about the Bushmoot.

Firstly, woodland TV. There’s nothing like a fire for socialising, quiet contemplation and a general feeling of well-being. I do nearly all my cooking over a communal fire for the entire week, even my breakfast coffee, I love the smell of woodsmoke, sharing food around the fire and the flavour – everything seems to taste better!

Secondly, this picture was taken on a night-time photography course in 2009. What you can’t see, is that this group of people had kindly allowed around 15 paparazzi to surround them and their fire to practice taking night time shots – a great testament both to the range of courses you find yourself doing and to the friendliness and helpfulness of the people you meet.

6 George
George Aitchison’s favourite picture

George – I put this little collage together after asking Mors Kochanski to sign my Bushcraft book at the Bushmoot. He asked me what I wanted written in it and I said whatever he felt like. Apart from his signature line of ‘The more you know the less you carry’ he signed it to ‘a fellow instructor’. That one¬†line has stuck with me ever since.

I worked at both Bushmoots Mors attended and as well as me attending his classes he visited some of mine too. We spent many an evening sitting around the fire shooting the breeze and drinking beer. 

7 Tony
Tony Bristow – Collage from BCUK Members’ pictures

Tony –¬†The Moot is a happy place, it’s also a relaxed place where we’re involved in sharing and creating, discovering and growing while making friendships and memories, where else would you get a group of guys excited about sewing machines, the loveliest pizza hand delivered and kids (actually it’s probably all of us) that go to bed tired, happy and looking forward to the next day of adventures.

Well that is it for me in this series. As Tony said the Moot is a ‘happy place’ so I am looking forward to once again attending this year with my family, seeing my ‘Bushmoot Family’ and having a few adventures along the way. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 9/10 – The Naughty Corner

No series on the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot 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.

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Ye Naughty Corner (top left picture courtesy of Susannah Parsons)

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.

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Set up and the managers (Top and bottom right pictures courtesy of BCUK)

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.

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A place to relax in the evening (Top picture courtesy of Susannah Parsons)

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).

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Great food and great music (Bottom picture courtesy of BCUK)

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.

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Constructions (Top right picture courtesy of BCUK)

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.

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Classes (Top left picture courtesy of BCUK)

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.

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In memory (Bottom right picture courtesy of BCUK)

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.

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The memorable Mammock (Picture courtesy of Mad Dave Delaney)

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.

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A different theme every year (Top right picture courtesy of Susannah Parsons)

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.

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It can get naughty (Bottom right picture courtesy of BCUK)

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.

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Light in the night

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.

Maybe see you there this year.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 8/10 – Fire in Fun Forms

The Moot will have something for you – be that firesteels, bowdrills, handrills, pumpdrills, bamboo fire saws or the secret art of lighting fire from damp tinder

Many many years ago I stumbled upon a website called Bushcraft UK and realised that there were many folk out there just like me, struggling to get to grips with all the different ways of making fire.

The results on the site only took me so far so I was even happier when I spotted a thread on the Bushmoot. This was the second Bushmoot way back in 2005.

Since then I have discovered many different ways of making fire when out and about. This post is about just some of the ways we make fire at the BCUK Bushmoot.

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Bushmoot Fire

Firesteels

One of the most common methods a bushcrafter will use to light a fire is a Firesteel, so there are plenty of people willing to share with you how they use theirs and explain what tinders they use.

We have included the use of Firesteels into our ‘Starter Course‘ at the Moot. ¬†They are easy to use and the kids love them. When teaching very young kids (pre school) I liken them to creating Fairy lights and this seems to catch the children’s imagination.

The first person to teach me to use a Firesteel ¬†properly at the Moot was Kevin Warrington (Laplander’s Natural Lore Blog) and after I attended his bowdrill class he asked me to come back and assist him with fire-making the next year. We have been good friends ever since and I have to thank Kevin for getting me started on the road to instructing others in the world of bushcraft.

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Fairy Lights

The Starter Course

The Starter course at the Moot is not just about lighting a fire, it is also about making anyone preparing and maintaining a fire, and just as importantly it is about putting a fire out safely.

It is great to see a whole family come together to learn how to work as a team to get all the resources they need for their fire and to coax that initial burst of heat into a well-established fire.

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Creating a Fire

Pump Drills

From time to time some of the instructors will bring along some of their pump drills or other similar training aids. The pump drills prove a great hit with all the kids and once they get the hang of the system they soon have them spinning madly away as they attempt to produce some smoke.

These drills were supplied a couple of years ago by Perry McGee of the National Tracking School.

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Fire Drills

Bowdrill

A favourite of mine over the years has to be the bowdrill. I have lost count of the number of people I have helped master this skill at the Moot. One of the reasons I love teaching this skill is that there are so many factors to take into account when bowing you can easily lose a whole day when teaching it.

Recently a number of other instructors like Mark Oriel have stepped forward to teach this skill enabling me to focus on other areas to develop myself.

Bushmoot Bowdrill
Bushmoot Bowdrill – Pictures courtesy of Ian Woodham

Bowdrill Methods

While teaching bowdrill I use two methods. One is with a single wrap of cord around the drill piece and the other is with multiple wraps (the Egyptian method).

The single wrap is easy to set up however it puts a lot of strain on the cord and if the drill and the bearing block become separated the drill piece tends to ping off to the side.

The Egyptian method relies on multiple wraps, it takes longer to set up and can be more difficult to control. It does though have the advantage of not putting so much strain on the cord and the drill does not ping off to the side when it becomes detached from the bearing block.

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Single twist and Egyptian

Here is the bowdrill in action using the single wrap method.

Group Bowdrills

As we get a lot of children at the Moot and from time to time someone carrying an injury you need to devise other strategies for bowdrilling. Historically I believe bowdrilling was a communal affair as it requires a lot less effort from individuals to get fire when they work together.

I set up Group Bowdrill sessions for families where a couple of people can hold a large bearing block in place and a couple of others can push the bow back and forth to generate the heat required (approx 425 degrees Celsius) to produce an ember. This method usually results in a massive ember, which increases the chance of getting a flame.

Another method is to use the large bearing block with the bowyer holding one end as a bearing block with the other end dug into the ground. In the bottom two pictures you can see that Dave is also using a ’round’ of wood to raise the hearthboard making the act of bowing easier.

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Teamwork

I made a short video of a bow in action with the Egyptian method at the Moot a couple of years ago. This was to show how easy it was to create an ember using this method with two people on the bow.

Handrills

A Master fire maker who¬†has been coming to the moot for years now is Richard (Rich59 on BCUK) and what he doesn’t know about firemaking is not worth bothering about. He is an expert with the handrill and regularly brings along a range of woods such as Elder, Teasel, Buddlia, Mullein and Reedmace for students to try out.

Richard is a keen experimenter and will try out different techniques like attaching cord to the drill to see if that technique makes life easier for people.

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Handrill

This is my short video on using a handrill.

Bamboo Firesaw

This year Richard experimented with Bamboo Fire Saws. He managed to get some spare bamboo from Wayne Jones of Forest Knights (Wayne was making Bhutenese bows) and we soon had a pile prepped up around our camp.

I did not get to see Richards class as I was running one myself but the reports were all positive with successful fires being made, Maybe next year I will make time to see his class.

Bamboo Fire
Bamboo Fire – Bottom picture courtesy of Andy McDonald Photography

Dry Tinder

Once you have your ember created (however you do that) it is time to coax that very fragile bundle of hot dust into a fully formed ember and – with the use of whatever tinder you have at hand – to get that much sought-after flame.

It is at this stage that you can see students’ faces transform from concentration into sheer joy – one of the reasons why I love this subject.

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Flamage

Damp Tinder

Normally you try and find the driest tinder possible to turn your ember into a flame, however Richard turned that idea upside down a few years ago. We had a chat one evening around the fire and he explained his idea to me: dimply that it was possible to walk off into the woods and pick up damp dead leaves and process them in a certain way to make tinder to start a fire.

After collecting a pile of damp leaves (take the driest ones from the top of the leaf debris) start to break them up by rubbing them vigorously. Collect the flaked pieces and grade them from minute up to piles of the skeletal remains of the leaves.

From this make a small pile wjth the finest flakes in the centre of your pile.

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Damp Tinder fires – Prep

Make a small hole in the side of your pile to the centre and pop an ember (create that in whatever way you wish) and start to blow gently into the ember.

The trick is to do this slowly so that you create an ever-expanding dry area. If necessary you can place some green leaves or bark over the top to trap all the broken debris and stop it all blowing away. After about 10 to 20 minutes you usually get flame. Just shows you should always persevere with your fire.

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Damp Tinder Fires – Flammage

Challenging Yourself

Whether you are a novice to fire making or an expert looking for a new challenge the Moot will have something for you  Рbe that firesteels, bowdrills, handrills, pumpdrills, bamboo fire saws or the secret art of lighting fire from damp tinder.

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Happy Fire faces

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 7/10 – Time for Nature

In this digital/technology dominated world we live in today I always try and make time to keep an eye on what Mother Nature is up to around me – obviously with a camera about my person ūüôā

One place where I can really immerse myself back into nature is every year at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot for a couple of weeks. This post will concentrate on some of the different ways we at the Moot interact with nature.

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Bushmoot Nature

The Moot is located in a wood on the edge of the National Nature Reserve at Merthyr Mawr Warren in South Wales. Merthyr Mawr Warren is I am told the site of the second largest sand dunes in Europe.

The wood we use is on the edge of these dunes and  was heavily planted with a variety of plants/trees after the Second World War by the local estate owners to help stabilise the dunes.

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The Playground

I like to take a walk around the site as often as possible while I am at the Moot to see what I can spot. One of my favourite spots was this little old water wheel at the edge of the site. It is a most beautiful and quiet spot to sit and observe nature.

I have a little Robin (Ok I am sure there are different ones every few years) who comes to visit me at my camp. This little fella is not shy and is always on the lookout for scraps.

My kids make this site their playground and interact with nature all the time, from climbing strange looking tree roots to making their own art by throwing Himalayan Balsam up into trees so that they hang down (quite a weird site passing these trees). As we are continually clearing back the Balsam I do not mind them doing this.

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Variety

As bushcrafters we try and minimise the impact we have on the site. For firewood we have an agreement with the local estate to buy in timber from them so as to not strip out the local wood for firewood.

Occasionally with the agreement of the estate we will take out a tree or two that has become a danger to those camping in the woods.

We have been coming to the site for over ten years and this policy of minimal impact has meant that the site remains a place of real natural diversity.

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Keeping the balance

A key attraction that the Moot has is of a place of learning. We have many highly experienced instructors that come along each year to teach. This can range from creating natural art, foraging for edible plants, understanding how everything interacts and using natures raw materials to make useful items.

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Great instruction

Part of all this learning is to know when to forage and when not to forage. In a class with Fraser from Coastal Survival this year we foraged on the coastline. We looked at many of the crabs that could be found in the rock pools and returned the many smaller ones or ones carrying eggs to where we found them. There were plenty of big crabs and shrimps though to harvest for the pot.

We also forage for lots of plants that make great teas.

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To forage or not to forage

If you like wild flowers then the Moot is a place to go to see them. Take a wander along the edge of the wood by the dunes and you will spot some real beauties like the Vipers Bugloss, Evening Primrose and the Common Centaury.

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Stunning flowers

Bushcrafters like to forage plants that they find useful and there are plenty of plants to be found here like the Rosebay Willowherb, Thistles and Burdock.

They are beautiful in their own right when in flower but it is for their uses that I look for them.

Willowherb is known as Fireweed or Bombweed and Paul Kirtley has written an excellent piece on this plant – Rosebay Willowherb: Taking The Pith

Thistles come in many varieties and I like to collect the downy seed heads for use as an ember extender. A good source of information on this plant can be found on the Eat The Weeds site – Thistle: It’s That Spine of Year

The final picture you can see at the bottom right¬†is the bushcrafters old favourite – Burdock. As well as having an edible root at the end of its first year¬†I collect the second year stalks to make hangers for my kit. I wrote a post on this last year – How To…. Make a Simple Burdock Hanger

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Bushcrafters plants

I like to do a bit of Macro photography from time to time and there is plenty of scope to do this at the Moot with plants and insects. Below are just some of the shots I have taken there recently showing the cycle of life.

Below you can see the lovely stripes of the Cinnabar caterpillar, the delicate features of what I think is a Meadow Brown Butterfly sunning itself, the busy life of the feeding Six Spotted Burnett to the beauty of a discarded snail shell.

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The Cycle of Life

Children and adults can be put off by insects however with a little bit of play and observation you can soon learn to live alongside insects.

My daughter had a real dislike of wasps before coming to the Moot but now is quite intrigued by them. The caterpillar you can see in the bottom picture dropped onto my friends arm one day. He was quite beautiful to look at but thankfully not poisonous in any way.

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Observing

I love to photograph insects and they come in many forms at Merthyr Mawr.

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A Bugs Life

A skill I learnt a couple of years ago from Perry McGee of the National Tracking School was the art of Dowsing. Perry taught me this in minutes and I was able to located water sources and even follow a buried hose. I do not know how this really works but it is a force of nature that intrigues me.

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Unseen Nature

Whatever interests you about watching or interacting with nature the Moot is a place to do that.

I love to photograph what I see and I have found a great place to do that at the Moot.

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The Moot

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 6/10 – Meet the Moot Kids

One thing that the BCUK Bushmoot is renowned for is its kid friendly environment. The Moot provides a massive playground for both structured (by lessons) and unstructured learning (through play).

As I grew up as a kid  on the Isle of Lewis I would head on out in the morning to find adventure and return home when my stomach demanded attention. As I live in a village now that has busy roads running through it the Moot is one of the few places I know of that I am happy for my kids to go out and make their own adventures as I once did.

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Bushmoot Fun

We stress that parents are responsible for their children however we encourage a sense of adventure. I let my kids run off and play within the main area of the Moot site and under adult supervision on the massive expanse of the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr.

There are plenty of woods, dunes, trees and buildings to explore in the area around the Moot to satisfy the sense of adventure in any kid.

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Adventuring

There are workshops specifically for the kids and other workshops  where they learn alongside adults. Kids are encouraged to attend the Starter Course we run for anyone new to bushcraft or looking to work on their basic skills.

These basic skills include learning about knots, fire lighting, carving and safely using a saw (to name just a few). Wherever possible I like to get the kids learning these skills alongside their parents so that they can work together later as a family. Kids under 16 are allowed to use  knives and saws however they must be under the supervision of an adult when they are using them or carrying them.

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Key skills

Even in this digital age of the xBox and the Playstation kids are always attracted to sticks, be that the Atlatl, bows or staffs. I like to think that the classes we teach kids bring some of that make believe digital world to life without any of the violence or gore. We always teach the kids to treat these tools with respect and only to use them when permitted.

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Historical learning

My good friend Fraser Christian of Coastal Survival has been coming to the Moot for a number of years now. Fraser is always keen to teach kids in his classes. Some of his courses include campfire baking, net making, coastal foraging and survival training.

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Fun with Fraser

One thing I love about the Moot is that it is situated on sand dunes that have over the years become a woodland. This makes for an amazing place to launch yourself of heights or climb trees. Natures own playground you could say.

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Hanging Out

There are lots of activities aimed primarily at the kids from treasure hunts with our resident Pirates under the leadership of Cap’n Badger, to craft courses and games.

One of the games I run from time to time is a stalking game. Below you can see the kids trying to leopard crawl up to get some sticks without being soaked. This is a great game to teach kids all about their senses and in particular about staying quiet in order to see more wildlife around them.

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Games

For many a year now we have had story telling sessions around the fire of an evening for the kids (and adults too). Womble is a great story teller and keeps the kids captivated with his interactive stories.

The Moot organiser is Tony Bristow and depending on the dates of the Moot his birthday sometimes falls during it. It usually is a time to bake a cake and dish it out. Needless to say Tony gets a little piece however there are many hungry little ones looking for their share ūüôā

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Stories, Cakes and Pirates

The Moot is for kids of all ages be that young at heart (yes I mean you Spikey) or taking their first steps out in the adventure of life. My kids love coming along to see their ‘Moot friends’ and I hope they will continue to do so for years to come.

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Kids – Young and not so young

Looking at the BCUK forum I see that there is talk already about organising activities for the kids for next year.

Hopefully see you there.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 5/10 – Food – Glorious Food

a real banquet is produced each year

A big part of any Moot is food and at the BCUK Bushmoot it comes in all forms.

Looking back over the pictures I have taken I was quite staggered at the range of food you can find at the Moot. I cannot profess to being any sort of cook (I prefer to build cooking constructions) however I appreciate good food when I see and smell it.

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Food – Glorious Fod

Many years ago at the Moot I would help out with teaching how to butcher rabbits and pigeons so that they were ready for the pot. Many of the instructors at the Moot will do these classes and each year you are bound to find a class going on somewhere preparing some meat stuffs for the pot.

I leave the butchering of Deer and such like to some of the members more competent in this field though I could quite happily run a class if I had to.

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Food Prep Skills

Up until a few years ago at every Moot we had a Hangi – an underground oven. A large pit would be dug in the sand and it would be lined with non porous stones (to avoid stones exploding). A large fire would be lit above it and kept going for a few hours.

Once the fire died down pre-prepared food parcels would be placed on the hot stones and covered in sand and hessian to slowly cook.

This is a great group cooking method and we had many a fine meal out of the Hangi

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The Hangi

The Hangi has not been run for a few years as it has been superceded by Ponnassing. We try to buy in some salmon or other similar large fish and cook them as you see below over an open fire.

In the picture below at the top right you can see some Dutch Ovens that Neil was using to cook some food. Neil creates such an intense fire that the pots with regular turning can be used as cooking vessels without being on the actual embers at all.

The Ponnassing did not happen this year because of difficulties in getting fish however I hope it will be back on the menu next year. All the fish when it is cooked is added to the group meal.

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Ponnasing and Dutch Oven Cooking

About five years ago we introduced to the group meal some Dutch Oven food. Many of the members of the Moot cook a meal in a Dutch Oven (or similar type of pot) and bring it along to the group meal. Each dish is clearly marked with its ingredients so we do not get any allergy issues.

The queue for this meal is massive with everyone looking to get a taste of something new. I am always amazed at what people can produce over an open fire – a real banquet is produced each year.

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The Group Meal

Baking is something I love to do around the campfire. At the Moot it happens all over the place.

The baking classes can be over subscribed so we usually have a number of instructors running classes. Everything is covered from simple twizzle stick bread, dampers, loaves, rolls and even cakes (cheers Ian Woodham for the cakes).

I love the look on someone’s face when they open up a pot and look upon their first loaf baked over an open fire – about as magical as when you create your first flame from a bowdrill. My friend David Willis (Bushcraft with David Willis) ran the class you can see in the picture below and it was enjoyed immensely by everyone.

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Beautiful Baking

As I said I do not do much cooking at the Moot and that is because I am rather spoiled by certain friends. For example my friend Fraser Christian (Coastal Survival) is a top rate chef and loves to cook.

Fraser likes to forage on land and sea for his food and then to cook rather amazing meals. I have no wish to upset that routine so I am happy to help out in the gathering and cooking process with the ultimate aim of getting a fantastic meal.

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Fraser’s Kitchen (my second home)

For many years at the Moot I would come along on my own and so would keep my own cooking fairly simple (whenever I could not cadge a meal off someone else). Over the last couple of years my family have started to come along so I have to start to think about cooking a bit more.

I am not bad at a good breakfast however thankfully my wife Alison is an excellent cook so I am not stretched too far ūüôā

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My Kitchen

Looking at my pictures I came across these ones from my friend Mark Oriel who is a butcher by trade. One year he managed to spit roast a whole pig which went down a treat with everyone.

He also ran an excellent class building a smocker in the woods so as to preserve different meats.

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Master Butcher – Mark Oriel

One thing I have learned coming to the Moot is that Bushcrafters do not generally tend to go hungry – quite the opposite could be said in truth.

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Mega Meals

To make all this happen you need people with different skills. We come together and share these skills to make some truly memorable meals in what many others may say is an inhospitable environment – we just call it home.

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It is all about people

There are many other classes going on in terms of cooking and foraging so the best way to see what is on offer is to come along to the Moot. Next year it will be at the beginning of August on the coast at Merthyr Mawr in South Wales.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 4/10 – All Things Archery

My annual holiday to the BCUK Bushmoot would not be complete without a bit of bow making and some time down on the range.

About ten years ago I was introduced to bowmaking by my friend Bardster (Paul Bradley). Bardster used to run workshops at the Moot which were always well attended. I then studied under John Rhyder of Woodcraft School and made a number of different bows from Ash Flatbows, Holmegaards and the Father & Son bow.

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Bushmoot Archery

The Father & Son Bow

I introduced to the Moot a number of years ago the Father and Son bow¬†(I had learnt this of my friend¬†Mark Emery of Kepis Bushcraft)¬†This is a ‘quickie’ bow to make and comprises two rods (usually hazel) strapped together.¬†The bows take only an hour or two to make if you know what you are doing although they¬†may take up to a day to make if you are new to it all.

I have run quite a few classes over the years at the Moot on the Father & Son bow. As you can see in the pictures below they were large classes.

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The Father & Son bow

Nowadays Chris Pryke runs this class and it is well attended each year. The bows if made properly can last you years. I still have and use my first one which is over 6 years old now.

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In new hands

I have had hours and hours of fun making and using these bows over the years. They are cheap to make, very accurate with practice (normally I shoot them between 10 and 20 metres) and will shoot on a high arc about 60 to 70 metres.

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Father & Son Bow in action

The Bhutanese Bow

One of our long-term members is Wayne Jones of Forest Knights bushcraft school. Wayne is an expert bowyer and taught me a few years ago to make a Bhutanese bow. This type of bow is made of a large piece of bamboo and relatively quick to make (about half a day I think it took me)

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The Bhutanese Bow

The bow is constructed of two separate pieces of bamboo joined in the centre. The join can be with, tape, cord or with pins.

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Building the Bhutanese bow

Most folk who start one of these bows can be found down on the range in the evening.

We started the range at the Moot about six years ago. it is well away from all the camping areas surrounded by wooded sand dunes. There are two Bhutanese bows in the top picture below in action and I am holding one in the bottom picture below.

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Bhutanese bows in action

Traditional Bows

Wayne sometimes runs workshops similar to the ones Bardster did in the past making more traditional style flatbows. I hope to one day make time to study under Wayne as it has been a few years since I have made an Ash  Flatbow.

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Classic bows

The Mini Bow

The final type of bow that is produced at the Moot is the Mini bow. Wayne uses the large pieces of bamboo he brings along for the Bhutanese bows to also make these very small Mini bows. The kids absolutely (and a few adults) love them.

They do not take long to make and are small enough to be made as one piece.

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The Mini bow

Different Bows

On the range you will see a wide variety of bows in action from the traditional (top two have my Ash Flatbow and my Holmegaard in use.

Below them are some of the modern bows people bring along to the Moot. Some are very powerful and come with all manner of attachments. When it comes to the competition we hold we do not mind what type of bow you use as long as it does not have extras such as stabilisers, sights or gears attached.

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Old and new

I am always intrigued with the different bows that appear and was particularly interested in the Mongol style bow Lisa had brought along as I had never seen one before (bottom right).

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Bows in all sizes

Each evening during the Moot (and sometimes during the day) a few of us troop down to the range for a shoot. Running the range is usually Cap’n Badger, Paul Pomfrey, Ian Woodham and myself.

We try and balance the time between teaching novices and letting the ‘Old and Bold’ have time to keep their eye in. After a full days teaching bushcraft having to do this can initially feel like a chore to me however once I have shot in a few arrows it can be quite relaxing, especially after a very busy day.

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Hard contests

Competition day happens usually in the second week of the Moot and it gets very competitive. We normally run two competitions, one for the kids and one for the adults. They have to shoot at different ranges and are closely marked by the referees as there are usually some very good prizes up for grabs.

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Over the years

Afterwards when all the scores have been tallied up the thing I really like about this time down on the range is how good natured everyone is.

The winners get first dibs at the prizes (everyone brings a prize for the pot with a few extras donated) however everybody walks away with a prize at the end.

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Having fun

I have been to many different types of bushcraft shows, courses and meetings over the years but it is only at the BCUK Bushmoot that I see such a wide range of archery on display.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 3/10 – Craft, Constructions and Art

For ten years now I have been going to the BCUK Bushmoot and I have had great fun learning new crafts, making some amazing constructions and occasionally dabbling in a bit of art.

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Craft, art and constructions

This post cannot do justice to the wide variety of crafts, constructions and artistic endeavours that are undertaken however I have trawled through my picture library to try my best.

One of the most talented carvers who attends the moot regularly is Dean Allen. Dean makes beautiful spoons (particularly Welsh Spoons) and some fine primitive crafts as well.

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Carving craft from Dean

Hands are always busy doing something at the Moot – twisting grass rope, weaving beautiful tablet bands, embroidering flags and constructing clay pots – to name just a few activities.

I have attended the classes with Perry McGee on grass rope making and tablet weaving with Susannah Parsons. Both classes were hugely enjoyable as these instructors are experts in their craft.

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Hands on with it all

I have dabbled in animal hide work from scraping to tanning, and I know it is hard work (see my earlier¬†blog¬†How To….Make Buckskin from a Deer Hide). Theresa Kamper however makes it look so easy. She¬†studied everything to do with working with animal hides¬†for her PhD and is fantastically knowledgeable on the subject of everything we regard as ‘Primitive Skills’, and is happy to share that knowledge at the Moot.

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Primitive skills craft from Theresa

Basket- and lobster-pot making is very popular at the Moot. Our regular instructor on this is Julie Wagstaff from the Welsh Willow Works.

I have never had the time to do one of Jules’s classes however everyone I have spoken with has really learned a lot from her. Jules has a really patient nature and a very creative pair of hands.

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Basket making

One day of the Moot is set aside as Traders Day. The Moot is not a particularly commercial event for traders however we do have a small shop open most days with a bring and buy stand.

On Traders Day many of the members set up a stand to sell their ‘wares’. Some of this is second hand, others have brand new bought-in goods, and a few sell their own creations. Some of these items like the baskets and the leather work you can see below are highly crafted and intricate.

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Traders day

A post on craft cannot be complete without mentioning Mr Dave Budd. Dave is a master craftsman when it comes to metalwork, Using only the most rudimentary (but highly suited to the job) equipment he runs his own forge for us every year.

Dave makes excellent knives and other woodland working tools. My daughter Catherine enjoys being the ‘Pump Monkey’ – ¬†keeping the pump going to heat the forge. Dave also donated this year a beautiful knife and a bodkin arrow point as prizes for the archery competition.

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Dave Budd iron craft

Another metalworker who is starting to experiment with this material is my Bushmoot neighbour Ian Woodham. A few years ago Ian showed a class I was running how he built a gas wood-burning stove out of a paint can. I was so impressed with it that I made one myself and wrote a tutorial on it – How To….Build a Wood Gas Stove.

This year Ian brought along a new stove he had built out of two gas bottles. The stove had a burner on one side and an oven on the other and I can confirm it did make excellent pizzas and cakes. Since then he has built another one which I am hopefully going to be trying out soon (as soon as I can figure out how to transport it from Yorkshire to Hampshire).

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Cooking construction from Ian

We have had a number of leatherwork instructors over the years however Eric Methven has been teaching this art at the Moot the longest. Eric can turn his hand to most things when it comes to working with leather from water bottles, tankards and sheaths to the likes of beautiful arm guards for archery (we got one of these guards as a prize for the archery competition one year).

Our good friend Drew passed away a few years ago and he was a keen student of Eric’s. I still remember clearly Drew coming up to my camp to show me the new sheath he had just made for his Leatherman multitool.

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Leather craft from Eric

No Moot would be complete without some spoon carving. Our expert carver is Dean however quite a few of us lend a hand with this class. It is great to see all the kids learning to carve their first spoon (and adults too – that is my wife Alison with her first spoon below).

My first spoon at the Moot (way back in 2005) was quickly constructed from birch bark. It did not take long to make but it did impress me.

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Spoonage

I ran a competition one year where everyone was tasked with constructing something for a bushcraft camp. There were many entries and you can see three below.

I loved the little stool and the washing rack, which had a lot of love and care put into its construction. My entry was this freestanding hammock stand (no land anchors were needed) .

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Camp constructions

A couple of other construction projects have been around the theme of cooking. Tim Neobard built this fantastic pizza oven out of clay and straw last year. It baked some excellent pizzas (sadly some idiots smashed it up after the Moot finished).

Happily the oven was re-built by Neil this year using bricks as a skeleton so hopefully it will last for a few years.

My project this year has been on building campfire cranes and I tested out my Lap Joint crane at the Moot. It is a very simple device made out of one pole and I am happy to say it passed with flying colours. Since then I have been busy building other cranes with as many variations as I can think of.

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Fireside constructions

One thing you can be guaranteed about at the Moot is being astonished by the numerous things you can do with string, be that Dream Catchers, crochet or making whoopie slings.

We also had David Colter making Balearic slings out of string at the Moot and running a competition with them. Most bushcrafters are quite happy at the Moot to show you what they think are the best knots to use in any given situation.

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String craft

A very quiet craftsman is our very own Cap’n Badger. He uses a fine saw to carve bone and antler into beautiful pendants. You can see a couple of his designs in the picture below.

The pendant on the bottom right is the one he carved for me a few years ago. The design was very intricate (a Royal Marine dagger and parachute wings). Badger also made some more pendants this year and donated them to the archery competition where they were quickly snapped up by the competitors.

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Fine bone craft from Cap’n Badger

Now it is not all hard graft when it comes to the Moot. Last year my friend Richard brought along a number of his bottles of white elderberry wine. I managed to get a private tasting session and I was very impressed with the quality of the wine that he had produced.

Richard has managed to cultivate his own ‘orchard’ of elder trees that produce white elderberries. This has taken him years to do and it has paid off for him with some excellent wine.

I think though that the most beautiful sight you will come across at the Moot must be the fantastic mosaics of plants made by Keith Beaney (Keith refers to them as Land Art and you can see why clearly). Keith will spend hours producing these wonderful spectacles for us to marvel at. Many of the children head off to collect materials, inspired by his creations, and leave their own mosaics dotted around the woods.

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Liquid art from Richard and plant art from Keith

I could have added lots more on this subject but I have to end somewhere.

I am looking forward to next year when I can practice some of these arts and crafts again and learn new ones.

Cheers

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 2/10 – Competitiveness

The BCUK Bushmoot is about sharing knowledge however one thing it does bring out in me is my competitive spirit. That may be through making a tug of war rope out of grass through to the serious competitiveness of the archery range.

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Competition time

This sharing of knowledge may come about in many ways such as workshops, one to one sessions, presentations and competitions. This post is focussed on the many competitive activities we  undertake over the two weeks of the Bushmoot.

The first picture I shared was of the grass  tug of war we undertook under the watchful eye of Perry McGee from the National Tracking School. Perry showed us how to quickly gather grass, twist it, create rope and most importantly how to have fun with what we created.

Catapult

One of the activities that attracted participants from all age ranges was the catapult. The catapult is a tool for all ages I think – sometimes we were aiming for accuracy and sometimes aiming just for the fun of it ūüôā

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Cattie time

The Sling

My friend David Colter has introduced the sling and in particular the Balearic style of sling. The throwers all made their own slings from string and leather and it attracted participants of all age groups.

David has run classes on this for a number of years and he had a great time running a competition on the sand dunes this year. The sling throws the projectile at very high speed so I think they used tennis balls for safety’s sake.

Next year David is making this official by running the Balearic slinging world championship event at the Bushmoot.

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The Slingshot

Atlatl

One of my favourite events is the Atlatl. This again is a very ancient art and was (and still is in certain parts of the world) used as a hunting tool.

I have lots of different types of Atlatl throwers and darts however I use unsharpened bamboo canes for training. I use Atlatl throwers with rest attachments for the kids to use (they can be difficult to hold) and spend many an hour with my friend Charlie Brookes on the range teaching them to throw.

This is a particularly popular activity for kids of all ages (most adults at the Bushmoot come under this category as well) as the appeal of throwing Atlatl darts down range can be quite addictive.

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The Atlatl

Axe/Spade throwing

We run an axe and spade throwing range as well ( more difficult than it looks) and it provokes stiff competition. I have not done this to any great degree (though I hope to throw more next year) but it does make for great viewing and photography.

I noticed the guys were throwing next to Cap’n Badger’s white tarp and positioned myself to try and capture the axes and spades in flight.¬†Needles to say I had my lens well zoomed in and the shutter speed really fast.

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Axe/Spade throwing

I think Cap’n Badger was trying to tell me here what he thought of Phil’s throwing technique ūüėČ

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Cap’n Badger

Archery

Each year we (that is usually Cap’n Badger, Paul Pomfrey and myself) run the archery range for an hour or two in the evening. This allows anyone who wants time to get in a bit of practice.

We run lots of classes for the kids offering tuition or time for parents to teach their own kids. For many who come to the Bushmoot this is the first time they have ever shot a bow.

Many of the bows are made on site including the Bhutenese bows (with Wayne Jones) and the Father and Son bows by Chris Pryke (I used to make these at the Bushmoot as well).

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Little ones archery

The archery range is situated well away from the main camping area in the centre of a beautiful copse. The range is managed well by a core team and there is plenty of time to practise before the competition.

We have a competition for the kids and one for the adults. Everyone who enters brings a present along and we also have prizes donated by others so the so the spirit of competitiveness can be quite fierce.

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Big ones archery

Usually we have three rounds of shots at different distances and the judges make sure everything is tallied up correctly.

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Keeping an eye on things

The award ceremony is always great fun (especially as the scores are read out) and everyone walks away with at least one prize.

As the years have gone by and the competition has become a normal part of the Bushmoot many people look forward to this event so that they can walk away as champion.

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Prizes

The Bushmoot is a great place to learn however it is also a great place to come and test yourself against others, be that making grass rope the quickest through to being crowned archery champ for 2016 – who knows it could be you ūüôā

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Happy Competitors

See some of you there next year.

George

10 Reasons to Bushmoot – 1/10 – Learning

The Bushmoot (referred to generally as the Moot) is an annual event here in the UK and for many years now has taken place at Merthyr Mawr in South Wales. The name Bushmoot comes from the word Bushcraft (as popularised by Richard Graves and Mors Kochanski) and the Saxon word Moot (used to describe a gathering of people).

I like the Moot as it is a gathering of like-minded people with a multitude of skills to share with each other. Not only can kids run free and have fun but so can the adults and I am a firm believer in learning through fun .

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Fun learning

I am writing 10 blog posts on the Moot this year and this first one is on the theme of Learning. I tried to write just one post however I really struggled to choose just a few pictures out of the many hundreds I took. My wife Alison suggested a number of short blog posts on different themes from the Moot and so here we are.

A couple of well-attended courses nowadays are the Starter course (a full breakdown of the course can be seen here on the BCUK site) and the Spoon carving course run by Dean Allen. Alison and our kids did the spoon carving course this year with Dean and carved their very first spoons.

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The basics

I managed to fit in a few courses this year and did a cracking traps course with Perry McGee.

The Moot is usually run over 2 weeks with a core 5 days in the middle where many short courses (2 hrs to 1 day) such as fire making, bow making, spoon carving, tarpology, knife safety, axe work, net making, cordage making, bread making, foraging, atlatl making and knotwork, to name just a few, are run.

There are other longer courses run either side of the core days (with an additional fee) such as an accredited First Aid course, Bhutenese bow making, coastal survival, tracking and lobster pot making with willow.

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Fine detail

Many of the courses are based on using different materials, from basket making, pottery, sling making to learning about different knots.

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Using different materials

We get lots of full-time instructors visiting the Moot like Fraser Christian (Coastal Survival), Perry McGee (National Tracking School). Wayne Jones (Forest Knights), Julia Wagstaff (Welsh Willow Works),  David Willis (Bushcraft with David Willis), Theresa Emmerich (tanning expert) and Richard Cook our First Aid expert.

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Advice from the experts

I enjoyed running the ‘show and tell’ workshop on campfire cooking constructions and observing the father and son bows being made.

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Working with wood

One of the things I love about the Moot is the sharing of knowledge such as how a stove was constructed or that Ikea make good quality drying racks that double up as brilliant cooking grills.

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A bit of metal

A favourite of mine is the art of fire making. At the Moot you can learn about making fire with firesteels (old and modern), bowdrill, handrill, with damp tinder, pump drills and in many other ways.

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Flamage

Shelter building is a big subject and is covered well, from simple tarps and debris shelters to large group tarps, permanent constructions and the magical art of tarpology.

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Shelter in many forms

There are many other courses to attend at the Moot with new ideas coming up each year. I have found that the Moot has really broadened my knowledge of all things Bushcraft over the years and I expect will continue to do so for many more to come.

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Sharing knowledge

Look out for more reasons to Bushmoot soon…

Cheers

George