Wilderness Gathering 2017

This August I went to the Wilderness Gathering to help out my friend Fraser Christian of Coastal Survival with the running of his stand. It was a busy stand however from time to time I ventured out around the show and spotted some real gems.

Wilderness Gathering 2017

Starting at the end of the Wilderness Gathering I got tipped off that JP from Woodlife Trails was going to get ambushed by the Coyote Kids – Needless to say the tip off was spot on 🙂

Just off to the main area of the Wilderness Gathering is the pond. In here the canoeists have fun, we soak our willow for our fishtraps and I like to sit here watching nature go by. This year my friend Jason Sears decided to use it as a platform to light his tinder bundles – more of this in the last video in this post.

Life on the pond

The Coastal Survival stand was busier than any time I can remember. The crowds gathered outside the stand when Fraser was demonstrating food prep and his hot smoker were fantastic.

Obviously Danny and myself were very professional and serious at all times:-)

Time with Coastal Survival

I shot quite a bit of video this year and made a video of some of the activities we at Coastal Survival got up too – including the ancient and near forgotten art of Basketeering!!!!

One thing I love to look out for at the Wilderness Gathering is all the art – I use the term art here to describe the beautiful work that is always on display.

Below are the stunningly sculpted Kuksas from Jon Mac, the intricately carved spoons by Giles Newman and the finely twisted bottle opener by Dave Budd.

Beauty in many forms

The bottle opener I spotted being made by Dave Budd as I strolled by. Dave was making one as part of a one2one training session and it did not take him long to craft it.

The bottle opener now lives in France with a friend of mine.

Still on the lookout for art I was taken by these three scenes. The first was a basket of beautifully coloured mushrooms on the Bushcraft Magazines stand. The second was spotting this Roman Centurions profile in the flames of our fire (it is something I do looking for fire faces). The last one was all the colours in the flint arrow heads I spotted on the Bushcraft Journal stand.

Art in many forms

Further on on my strolls I came across loads of other sites where learning was going on. This was in the form of demonstrations, one2one’s or class work. I could only spend only a short time away from the stand but my time strolling always threw up little gems of learning.

Loads of Learning

A particular favourite subject of mine is building Log Rocket Stoves and my friend Des Cattys shares this passion. I spotted him one day starting a demonstration and decided to hang around to see how the class went (always looking for new ways of building these stoves)

In the evenings the music got better and better each night. There was a wide variety of artists and a particular favourite of mine was Vojta. Bushcrafters are not normally known for their dancing abilities but the front of the Bushcraft Magazine stand was buzzing each night with revellers.

Night Time Music

After listening to a couple of Vojta’s songs I decided to record his last one of the night and I am glad I went with that gut feeling – a great session.

If you are patient while out and about at the Wilderness Gathering you can usually get a treat or two. The wild food tasting at the Bushcraft Magazine stand kept me hanging around for ages, Fraser’s great smoked sea foods were as usual highly sought after and I got to observe Roli Jones in action baking large loaves in his oven.

Wonderful food

In amongst all this learning and art you will come across the odd and the unexpected. The Scout instructors were the ‘Bog Squad’ and worked hard to keep our loos in clean and working order – I take my hat of to you guys. As they walked by in formation I had to get this shot.

My friend Danny got a soaking while canoeing one day and decided to show off his fine ‘manly’ form to us all – I will leave it to you to judge this 🙂

The final unexpected moment relates back to my first video of JP being ambushed – I captured the moment he was turfed into the pond by the Coyote Kids and is one of my favourite pictures of the whole event.

The Unexpected

My final video was put together to try and capture the essence of the Wilderness Gathering.

Maybe see you all there next year.

Cheers

George

A Spider Snack – A Video Post

Sorting some Adventure Training kit in my garden this afternoon I heard a buzzing sound to my side. Looking down I spotted this little scene being played out.

All I had to film this was my Samsung 7 Edge  phone. I was not disappointed with the results though.

I was enthralled at how quickly the fly was wrapped up and happy to see the amount of detail my phone camera picked up.

Cheers

George

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 😉

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 😉

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 🙂

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

Bushmoot 17 – Bushmoot Life – A Video Post

Over the last few years as I have made videos of the BCUK Bushmoot I have noticed I tend to video the workshops. Looking at the footage I shot this year I saw that I had captured so much more.

This is the 3rd and final video in my Bushmoot 17 trilogy focusing on ‘Bushmoot Life’ outside of the workshops and is dedicated to my wife Alison as she completed the first draft of her latest book during the Bushmoot – Congratulations Alison and look forward to reading it.

The other videos in the trilogy are:

1) Bushmoot 17 – Early Days

2) Bushmoot 17 – Core Days

Cheers

George

 

A Birthday Present – The GoPro Hero Session

This morning I opened a few presents (being it is my birthday) and one contained the GoPro Hero Session camera – thank you Alison :-).

I have been wanting one for quite a while now so I was soon of out at our local National Trust property – The Vyne.

Nothing strenuous or exciting I am afraid as I just wanted to see how it performed under water. Here is a very short video of it in action.

The Hero Session did not take me long to get used to and I really like that it is waterproof without the need for an extra casing. It is not the most expensive GoPro, nor does it have all the features such as the Hero 5 but it is simple to use and waterproof straight out of the box – just what I need 🙂

Looking forward to using it in my adventures in the future.

Cheers

George

Vojta at the Wilderness Gathering 2017 – A Video Post

Over the last few years one of the changes I have seen at the Wilderness Gathering is the quality of the music in the evenings – this year it was particularly great.

Roger Harrington of Bison Bushcraft and Dom Harvey (they run the Wilderness Gathering) had great music playing each night however I was particularly struck by one young musician – Vojta. He is a violinist at heart but somehow brings in many other instruments to his sessions.

Here is the last number he played at this years Wilderness Gathering.

Cheers

George

Dave Budd – Master Blacksmith at the 2017 Wilderness Gathering

While having a wander around the Wilderness Gathering this year I spotted my friend Dave Budd – Master Blacksmith – hard at work.

I was unsure at first what he was making so hung around and filmed the process.

I liked the end result I bought it as a present for a friend.

Cheers for the show Dave.

George

JP & The Coyote Kids Ambush

My 300th Blog Post

This last week I have had a great time at the Wilderness Gathering here in the UK with Fraser Christian of Coastal Survival. I will write a more detailed report on the Gathering later but just wanted to share with you today a little video I grabbed just before I left.

I was approached by Ian Cresswell from Lonescout Bushcraft and told that he had heard that the Coyote Kids group had planned to ambush our friend JP and dunk him in the lake. So at the appointed time I was on hand to see the snatch and witness the dunking – enjoy the video  🙂

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 🙂

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

Cheers, George

Woodcraft School – Stepping Up

it was about 9 years ago or so that I was coming to the end of my Bushcraft Leadership course with John Rhyder at Woodcraft School. With my fellow students we had to prepare a couple of weekends training to visitors to prove we had mastered our bushcraft skills and also that we could pass these skills onto others – in May of this year I was back down at Woodcraft School but as a visitor this time with this years students.

Fire By Friction

I had received an invite and so popped down one morning in late May. All the classes had been set up and after a quick chat catching up with John it was time to get cracking. There was a class on bowdrill by Jack which was great but I was not. I failed to get an ember – excuse – I was not allowed to use my knife to make adjustments as I had not done that class yet 🙁

There were classes on campfire cranes (a particular favourite subject of mine loyal readers will know), safe carving techniques and different methods of using a firesteel.

Cranes, Carving and Birch Bark

Another favourite of mine is the Atlatl (I think I was one of the first students on John’s courses to teach this). We carved our own Atlatl and were soon pinging darts down the range.

I also had a chance to see how all the extras the we had built a couple of years earlier like the kitchen area and the raised fire pit were doing.

Atlatl

Then it was time for a stroll in the woods looking at useful plants. John runs an Ethnobotony course (which I hope to attend one day) and Lucy our instructor had completed this very in depth course previously – her knowledge on plants and their uses really came through on the day.

Ethnobotony

Back at camp Lucy had prepared about 15 plant specimens and we had to identify each plant and note its use correctly – tough but we got 100% after a bit of conferring 🙂

Time for a test

Lucy had also collected up some cleavers which she crushed up and boiled to make a green tea – this was really enhanced with some Elder flower cordial she had made earlier.

Cleaver Tea with a twist of Elder Cordial

My final class was with Lee looking at animal tracks and signs. Lee certainly knew his subject however I had to leave (to run one of my own courses) early and did not get out on the tracking walk he had planned.

Tracking & Signs

It certainly was great to get down to see John and the students at Woodcraft School and I wish all the students well for the future – as to you John, thanks for the invite and as per usual a job well done I think.

Cheers

George

My Kind of Glamping

Family camps tend to be busy affairs for me – setting up the tipi, sorting the fire etc, etc.

Not for this weekend last April- my wife Alison booked a Pod at the Durdle Door Holiday Park for us all.  It was a weekend of exploring, swimming and eating – without touching a tent 🙂

Dorsetr Days

The Pods were tall enough to stand in, had two single beds, one double, plenty of storage and electricity. We even had space to put up some hammocks (not an April shower in sight) and treated Finlay and Catherine for lunch at ‘Finley’s‘ cafe in Lulworth Cove.

A spot of Glamping

So after a quick emptying of the car into the Pod it was off around Scratchy Bottom (I love that name) to get the views from Swyre Head down onto Durdle Door. Along the way the Hawthorn trees were all bent into that classic ‘South Westerly’ pose.

Scratchy Bottom

Just to the East of Swyre Head is a crevice with a rope down it. This is an escape route off the beach if you get caught out by the tide. We though decided to take it down to the beach so we could approach Durdle Door from a less busy route.

We spent a little while relaxing by Durdle Door before deciding to pop over the rocks to Man O’ War Cove.

Durdle Door

We told the kids to just paddle as it was evening time but before long they were both saturated and having a ball. For myself I was up and around the cliffs trying to get a good shot of the Cove and some of the local plants.

Man O’War Cove

Saturday

Next morning it was time to head back down to the beach at Durdle Door. It is a pretty steep decent to the beach and Flip Flops are definitely not recommended for the descent.

We were lucky to arrive at a time as a couple were paddling in and around Durdle Door – kinda lent well to photography. The kids though were soon back in the water in their wetsuits having a splash about – not many folk ventured into the chilly April waters so I was quite proud to see them having a go.

Lazy Morning

Then it was back over to Man O’War Cove for a family dip – boy that water was cold.

We ventured East a bit more digging ourselves into the beach and finding bits of driftwood that looked quite artistic.

Along the coast

Along the way I put this short video together.

Before venturing into Lulworth Cove we stopped off at Stair Hole. This mini cove is a delight to photograph with its caves, blow hole and folded limestone strata.

Stair Hole

After a spot of lunch we spent some time at Lulworth Cove. If you have never been here before I do advise a trip as it is quite beautiful (even on a busy day).

Lulworth Cove

At the end of the day we walked up onto Hambury Tout hill. There is a large Bronze Age Barrow on its summit that still stands proud. We hung around for long enough to catch a quite lovely sunset to end the day.

Grand Views

Sunday

After a quick pack up (love this Glamping business) we headed west for an hour to Chesil Beach. Here we met up with some friends of mine.

Firstly we met my friend Fraser from Coastal Survival as he was running a course on the beach. We left him be teaching and went off for a paddle and also met up with an old friend of mine – Dougie Gray (from my days in 15 Para) and his lovely wife Carol. It was great to catch up with Dougie and see all the pictures he had brought along from all these years ago .

Chesil Beach with friends

While we were on the beach we decided to start a couple of Beach Henge’s. This was something we came across on Chesil beach a number of years ago and decided it was time to build our own.

They take ages to complete as you need to scour for the right stones but well worth the effort for the cracking pictures in the end

Beach Henge

After saying goodbye to Dougie, Carol and Fraser we headed East to see our friends Brian and Jane in Southampton. As a treat for us their daughter Annabelle had made the most wonderful cake and scones for us to enjoy

Perfect End – Time for Tea

Thank you Annabelle for putting the icing on the cake of what was a wonderful weekend.

Cheers

George

Tai Chi with Alan Lewis

Okehampton Army Camp on the Northern Slopes of Dartmoor will conjure up many memories for some folks – mostly of a wet and windswept type.

Not last weekend though when I was there with instructors of the Sea Cadets and Royal Marines Cadets. The weather was glorious, there were loads of activities undertaken but they were all started off with a gentle bit of Tai Chi.

The session was led by Alan Lewis who is 79 years young and still attending our trips on a regular basis – I may be looking into this Tai Chi business a bit more in the future then 🙂

Cheers for the great session Alan.

George

Lifting the Lid on The Vyne – A Video Post

A few weeks ago I had some Father and Son time with my lad Finlay at The Vyne National Trust property here on the outskirts of Bramley in Hampshire.

History and Archaeology have always been of interest to me so to get up close to see the renovation work going on at The Vyne was a chance not to be missed. Along the way we also took time to watch the Greylag Goslings and spotted some of the many Lego characters hidden along the way.

If you have not been to see the renovation work then I urge you to pop along to view it before the roof is all covered over again.

Cheers

George

Bushmoot 2016 – A Video Post

I have finally put together the little footage I took last year at the Bushcraft UK Bushmoot.

A nice reminder of what is coming up next August when the 2017 Moot kicks off.

The Grumpy Chums

Groups of friends usually have something in common – with my chums from Crisis it is Grumpiness ;-( The ‘Grumps’ are Rick (1), myself (2), Gordon (3) and Stu (4). Gordon has numbered us however there is much debate about his 3rd place in the grumpiness rankings. We do grumble a lot and it is remarked upon from time to time however we like it and it makes us happy 🙂

We have worked together each Christmas for 20 years or so at one of the homeless centres for Crisis in London. During the year we always try to get away together. This year Gordon organised a trip down to Durdle Door on the Dorset coast here in the UK early in March.

Foggy Friday

I had never been to this part of the coast before so was keen to go. We set up camp at Durdle Door Holiday camp (I insisted on sleeping in my hammock while they all got the tipi) and then headed off towards the coast.

The fog was well in but I insisted we go all the way down to see the arch at Durdle Door. I am glad I did as it looked stunning in the fog.

Once we had finished there we headed on over to Lulworth Cove and Stu and myself headed on down to see Stair Hole. It was a bit of a hike down but it was worth it to get the pictures. The rest of the evening was spent between the pub in Lulworth Cove and the one in the campsite where I was presented back with my Flossie Anne. She had just come back from one of her epic trips with Rick – this time she travelled from Japan through China, Mongolia, Russia and the Baltic states (she must be the most well travelled bear in the world).

Friday Night

The Saturday

I woke up at daft o’clock on Saturday morning to the sound of the Crows roosting above my hammock. The tranquil nature of the rest of my view made up for that racket though. The rest of the morning was a relaxed affair (apart from the Crow poo all over my tarp and tipi) and Stu had brought along some great coffee to brew up.

Once brekkie was over we headed back down to Durdle Door (Rick was very concerned for a young lady as she descended the steps!!) and I got a good look down the coast over the Man O’War beach – it really is quite stunning. We pootled around Durdle Door itself (well I faffed really trying to get a good picture of it) before heading west.

Durdle Door

As you head west you approach a great big headland named Bat Head with an archway called Bat Hole. It is beautiful to look at however there was no way round it for us with the tide being so far in (I have no idea if you can get around the headland at low tide).

Gordon and Stu were not paying attention and were soon ankle deep in swash 🙂 We back tracked and spotted an escape route up off the beach. It was a ravine with a weighted rope in it. After a quick recce everyone was soon up on the coastal path overlooking the beach.

We had a leasurley stroll up the coastal path to Swyre Head where we enjoyed the views and I stalked a crow to get a good shot of him 🙂

Along and Up

From Swyre Head we moved off inland around a natural bowl in the landscape called Scratchy Bottom – there are some brilliant place names in this country. It was here Rick spotted a group of wildflowers. Once I got up close I could see they were Speedwells – this being early March it was my first spot of them this year.

We made our way back to Durdle Door through the campsite (after cleaning off some more Crow poo from my tarp and tipi) down onto Man O’War beach. There were plenty of people on the beach but as we travelled on the numbers soon thinned out. Eventually we were onto rocks and we were the only ones in sight. Looking back Stu spotted the strange rock formation at Dungy Head you can see in the picture below (on the right) – Looks like a large bloke with a big round nose and a woolen hat on his head to me 🙂

Changing Scenery

There were a number of kayakers on the water and they made for some lovely photography but I could see that the fog was starting to come in again. As it thickened up two beautiful yachts came out of Lulworth Cove and headed west along the coast. It was really difficult to photograph them with the fog and because they were both white but I think I got a decent shot in the end.

Sea View

We tried to get all the way to the entrance of Lulworth Cove but it was just not possible. We found a section of Cliff that was easy to scramble up and were soon in Lulworth Cove once again.

I left the lads to potter around the village (code for pub) and spent a half hour down on the cove photographing it. The waves were non existent so I had to get down really low to get a half way decent shot (bottom picture).

We had an evening of watching rugby and trading grumps before heading back to camp. Somehow I ended up getting Stu to do ‘shadows’ in the tipi and when I looked at the picture below his shadow looked to me like a giant ginger bread man 🙂

Saturday Evening

The Sunday

We had decided the night before to de-camp straight away and head on over to the New Forest on the Sunday morning. It did not take long to pack everything away (after cleaning of more Crow poo) however due to the rain overnight (Rick ended up a tad damp in the morning) we had to have Stu’s VW van pulled off the campsite.

Once in the New Forest we stopped off in Lyndhurst for lunch and where I got myself a proper camp coffee pot for hanging over the fire – I did though leave it behind in the cafe and had to go running back 🙂

We drove onto the carpark by Beaulieu Rd Railway Station and headed off to the woods by Denny Lodge. There were plenty of ponies around and quite a few deer – though the first lot were in an enclosure (all stags in an enclosure called Stag Park). I spent some time making up some birch firelighters and looking for fungi and burrs.

Sunday New Forest

There was still plenty of standing water on the heathland so a detour here and there was required and just as we headed back to the van we spotted a herd of female deer in the open.

I took my time and got as close as I could to them. They were very flighty and soon they were off but I did manage to get a decent picture.

A Great Bimble

I liked the campsite in Durdle Door so much I am back down there in a weeks time with my family to stay at one of the camping pods they rent out – fancy a break from always having to put the tent up.

Thanks to Gordon for organising the weekend and for all my fellow Grumps for being ………well so Grumpy 🙂

Cheers

George

The Strange, The Sad, The Stupid and The Stunning

You stroll down a country lane and something catches your eye!!

From time to time I get to go out on a bimble on my own (no kids in tow). When I do I really take my time and explore what is going on around me. In doing so I spotted some strange, sad, stupid and stunning scenes on my travels today.

Today was the first spot for me of this years crop of Bluebells. They were just popping out amongst the Wood Anemones. This combination of white, green and blue was great to see after the drabness of winter.

First of the Bluebells – ‘Stunning’

We have our share of stupid people here in Bramley as well it would seem. There is a spot that is hidden from the main road and this burnt out car has been rusting away there for years.

I visit this area as there are lots of wild flowers appearing at this time of year – I was expecting to see a little bit of colour – just not this colour combination.

I classify this one under ‘Stupid’

As I headed off onto a footpath I came across this sad scene by the side of a field. I have no idea what had happened here however nothing good I would imagine.

Oh so ‘Sad’

I put this under the ‘Strange’ category due to the sign – ‘Ground Nesting Birds’ – somehow I don’t see too many nesting birds.

These signs appear everywhere around our area with others saying to keep out as the woods are conservation areas. Most of these woods from what I see (and hear) are breeding grounds for pheasants.

Very ‘Strange’ indeed – Ground Nesting Birds – Seriously!!!!

As the weather has been good these last couple of days the insects are up and about. The bees were busy today and this little fella was shopping on some Forget-me-nots – quite stunning.

BumbleBee at work amongst the Forget-me-nots – ‘Stunning’

You stroll down a country lane and something catches your eye!!

Not sure what else I can say here other than they looked pretty new and were caught up on the hedge – a pretty colour combination I would say 🙂

Another one for the ‘Strange’ category

On my bimbles around ‘The Frith’ woodland I like to stop at a little pond and have a snack. When I got there today I was saddened to see that the local farmer had now closed the area off to everyone.

As I took a picture though I spooked a Heron – you can just see him taking off over the pond.

This for me is so ‘Sad’ – Also spot the Spooked Heron

In contrast to the very bright and showy bra I was also drawn to this very delicate subdued scene. I have a soft spot for some reason for taking pictures of ‘Down’ caught up on plants. It is the simplicity of it all that makes it so perfect to photograph and a fitting one to end on.

‘Down’ on the Wind – ‘Stunning’

Cheers

George

Spring Bimbles

Spring is a time I am normally found out and about with my camera looking to see what is afoot. This year my work has kept me much busier than usual so my usual bimbles have been curtailed slightly – though some may disagree 😉 I did though get out a little and here is a little taste of my bimbles this last month.

Early in March I was at a conference in Lincoln and as all the town centre hotels were full I ended up at the Branston Hall Hotel on the outskirts of Lincoln. As soon as I booked into the hotel I was straight out to explore its beautiful gardens.

There was not much in the way of wild flowers about but the local birds put on a fantastic display. The Black swan was majestic, the Cormorant stayed aloof and kept an eye on me and the Heron came blasting by.

Lincoln Life

When I am out and about I keep a little pocket hammock seat (the EDC Hammock) in my bag. As I was out on a couple of trips with the kids and their pals I needed to carry an extra hammock with me.

We did lots of exploring but we did a lot of relaxing as well – the kids just loved using the hammocks and I was always hard pushed to get them out of them.

Hammock time

Over the last two weeks the early spring flowers like the Wood Sorrel and the Wood Anemone have started to appear. They are so easy to pass on by but when you get down close their beauty really shines through.

Rustling through the leaves we came across quite a few frogs and occasionally the odd boy 🙂

Exploring nature

Last weekend I was in our local woods at Pamber with my family and our friends Katie and William. The weather was gorgeous and the gorse was in full bloom making for a blaze of colours to photograph.

I took the picture of my shadow as it struck me I looked like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle – comes with having a nine year old son in the family I suppose.

Family time

As we move into April there will be another riot of colour and I hope a few more bimbles.

Cheers

George

Everyone Needs a Field Farm Day

Life is all hustle and bustle at times – so when it is you need some time out. A great place for this time out can be found at the Field Farm Project.

Our friends Mollie and Nick run this project and I feel as if I have entered a different world when I pop into visit. They certainly live up to their business tagline: Grow – Study – Make.

A Field Farm Day

I met Mollie on a Bushcraft instructor course at Woodcraft School and part of the course was to undertake the Basic Expedition Leadership (BEL) award. I did not do this part of the course as I was already a qualified Mountain Leader however as I run this BEL course myself now Mollie wanted to do a bit of a refresher on her navigation as she runs lots of outdoor classes.

Along for the day’s training as well was my wife Alison, daughter Catherine, Mollie’s friend Debbie and her young son. It was a lovely sunny day but with the northerly wind it was bitterly cold at times. Before setting off we were fortified by some hot home-made celeriac/parsnip soup with a side of freshly baked breadsticks.

Lots of Nav

It was not all map and compass work (though there was a fair bit of it), we had lots of fun along the way.

The snowdrops were still in full bloom and we investigated the colourful world that is their underside, had a stomp around a flint/chalk pile and petted the odd Llama and Alpaca.

Explorations

Eventually we wound our way through the footpaths and country lanes to one of Mollie’s outdoor training areas. The central Beech tree was festooned with woodland art that Mollie’s classes had made, there was a small shelter and plenty of benches.

Personally I prefer to use my hammock seat however my daughter Catherine soon had me out of that 🙂

A bit of bushcraft

The weather changed in the latter part of the walk with some heavy showers but that did not dampen our spirits. We were soon back at the farm where I took a little time out just to photograph the animals.

As we arrived home we were treated to a fantastic double rainbow over our house – a fitting end to a great day.

Back on the Farm

So if you are looking for somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of life then I thoroughly recommend spending some time with Mollie and Nick at the Field Farm Project.

Cheers

George

Dining Out – Brecon Style

The beginning of this year was the end of an era for the Adventure Training team in London Area Sea Cadets: our bosses Perry Symes and Graham Brockwell were standing down from their roles as Area Staff Officers after many years of hard work.

So to celebrate we headed off to the Brecon Beacons here in the UK for a ‘Dining Out Weekend‘.

Dining Out

It was a weekend of many parts – once we had settled into our bunkhouse at Gilfach Farm it was time for a ceremony of handing out certificates to those students who had recently passed their Basic Expedition Leadership Award.

Kev Lomas awarded Perry and Graham a cuddly neck teddy each to carry about for the weekend. Then it was off to the pub to get some dinner (a beer or two) and to plan for the next day.

Friday Fun

After a good breakfast I had a wander outside and was greeted by a cracking view of Pen Y Fan in the distance. She had a light smattering of snow however the skies were clear.

We were soon off in the cars and mini bus heading for our start point at Cwm Gwdi car park (old soldiers may remember this camp). This spot allowed us easy access up onto Pen Y Fan without all the masses you will find on the route up from Storey Arms.

Saturday Start

The majority of the group were outdoor instructors and all had worked with Perry and Graham in one way or another over the years . Today though the emphasis was on ‘doing your own thing’.

Alan and Dave Lewis went for a low level walk as Dave was carrying an injury while the rest of us set off up the Cefn Cwm Llwch track on the northern slopes of Pen Y Fan. The going was wet underfoot at first however we soon climbed above the snow line.

We snaked along the path, well spread out, enjoying the views and chatting as we went along. I decided to record my very first Live Facebook video on this part of the walk. The videos were not top quality because of the weak signal and wind noise but I enjoyed making them.

Pen Y Fan – The Approach

I spent most of my time scouting out good photography positions and ordering the lads to pose for me 🙂 Kept me happy and I think everyone liked that they could for once go at their own pace and do their own thing.

The final bit of the track up to the summit was quite icy but safe enough if you took your time. Once on the top it was like Piccadily Circus with all the folk coming up from the Storey Arms. We soon got the pictures taken and Ben found time for a few push ups before we set off.

Pen Y Fan – The Summit

It was at this point we broke up into three groups. The first set off at breakneck speed to ascend Cribyn and Fan Y Big. I bimbled along with the middle group but soon left them, ascending to the saddle below Cribyn. After a break on Cribyn I descended off the hill on its Northern slope down the Bryn Teg track where I met the third group being led off the hill by Jacques.

Descent Time

Soon the teams met up again and while Jacques sped off to pick up the minibus James produced a rugby ball from his bergen (there was not much else in it). I asked him why he had not produced it on top of Pen Y Fan and he said he forgot (would have been an excellent photo opportunity). Anyway the guys had a good half hour mucking about and doing the odd ‘Dab’ on the side of a bridge.

Waiting for a bus

The Saturday evening was spent in the Red Lion pub in Llangorse enjoying a slap up meal. We were given the upper floor to use and it was probably a good move on the staff’s part – it got pretty noisy at times.

When I arrived though we were all downstairs in the bar and some of the guys were playing pool. They had been there a couple of hours to watch England play in the Six Nations rugby championship. I was standing at the bar when one of the locals approached. ‘Be careful,’ he advised me, nodding at my kilt, ‘There’s a bunch of rowdy English fans in the bar.’ I looked over his shoulder – then back at him – and said that it was OK, those rowdy English fans were my so-called mates 🙂 His face was a picture!

Dinner Time

The evening was a great success with good food, plenty of wine, speeches, and a few war stories before retiring to the bar downstairs.

In the morning there may have been one or two fuzzy heads as we packed up and made our way to Dinas Rock located in the South of the Beacons. The plan was for some of the guys to do some Mountain Leader ropework on the rocks while the rest of us headed off to the waterfalls at Sgwd Yr Eira. In the end no one got there as we all kind of split up (after going the wrong way initially) and did our own thing.

I found a nice spot to sit in my hammock by the river while Jacques as usual dived in.

Sunday Stroll (top left picture courtesy of Ed Juanrude – top right courtesy of Dave Lewis)

It was a fantastic weekend and it was great to be part of it. I think the pictures confirm that Perry and Graham had a great time. Below, pictured in between Perry and Graham, is Ben McDonald, the latest Mountain Leader to the team who has taken over Perry’s role as Sea Cadet Area Staff Officer (ASO) for Adventure Training in the London Area. Perry aims to stay on as the Assistant ASO for a year before stepping back totally.

A Salute

The guests were (in no particular order):

  • Paul Kelly
  • Kev Lomas
  • Deano Nicholas
  • Jacques Daragh Moore-Hurley
  • James Rawlings
  • Ben McDonald
  • Ed Juanrude
  • Duncan Boar
  • Jim Stilgoe
  • Jacob Leverett
  • Jennifer Burdett
  • John Kelly
  • Alan Lewis
  • Dave Lewis
  • Chris Bonfield
  • Chris Cook
  • Graham Brockwell
  • Perry Symes
  • and myself 🙂

Cheers

George

Contrasts and Colours – Experiments in Photography

As a bushcrafter I like to keep an eye on what is going on around me. As an amateur photographer – ditto. This habit of always looking for an interesting shot has led to a few comments recently about my ‘Geek’ levels 🙂

Perusing my albums over the last few months though I felt a number of shots lent themselves to this blog of contrasts and colours – Geeky I may be but I enjoy it.

In Profile

The two ‘In Profile’ pictures above are of my kids Finlay and Catherine. Both shots were in separate locations but truth be told they were well posed. It was great to walk past a site – see its potential at that moment in time and then get the shots I wanted.

Up High – Down Low

Recently I was with a group of friends in the Brecon Beacons having fun in the mountains. I spent a fair bit of time scouting around on my own to get what I think are decent shots like the top picture above. I had fun ordering the guys around on the mountain until I was happy with the shot but it was hard work.

In contrast the picture of the guys sitting on the bridge, low down in the valley was at the last moment after an impromptu group photo. They all just decided to do a ‘Bolt‘ at the end of it and I just clicked away – easy.

Woodland Wanderings

I love to photograph my children and they love to be photographed. Colourful pictures in the late autumn and winter can be hard to find at times but they are out there.

The two pictures above were shot on different days however with a bit of good sunlight coming through the different colours in the woodland really stand out – a bit of action always helps to 🙂

Closed in – Opened Up

I really liked the contrast of the two pictures above. I stalked the deer for quite a while and waited until I could get the best picture of her as she finally noticed me. The woods were very closed in with lots of underbrush and noisy from the leaf litter.

The field though was different in every way and I only decided to take this shot as I passed by. It was so quiet and open however when I looked at the picture later I could see the subtle greens of the weeds coming through. Even though the pictures are so different there are similarities with the colours of the weeds and moss in both pictures.

Curves and Corners

The ‘Curves and Corners’ pictures are stills from some video I shot at the Surrey Hills Wood Fair last October. Not the greatest quality however these were two scenes that had me entranced.

The skills needed to form the glass bowl over the log and the carving of the links out of a single trunk make my mind boggle.

Woodland Skies

I went for a walk with my family in Basing Wood at the end of last year. It was a dark and dreary winters day – the type that could really do with a great dollop of snow to cheer you up.

Not to be put off with this greyness I kept looking for something a bit cheery. I found this where the trees met the sky when the sun finally came out.

The kids woodland play park arch came alive when shot from below – its depth really stood out at this angle. The bottom picture I love because of the bands of colour you can pick out in the weak afternoon sun. My wife Alison was the one who suddenly stopped me and pointed me in this direction – so easy to just walk on by…………

Same Spot – Different Angles

Last weekend I was teaching near the River Thames and in the evening spent some time standing by the river waiting to see what happened. One Swan swept by and I managed to get a shot of him clear of all the buildings. I enhanced the evening skyline to make the picture warmer and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

In contrast the B&W picture below I nearly deleted. It was a nice enough picture in colour but nothing special I would say. A niggly thought bugged me as I hovered over the delete button so I went with it. Glad I did as the B&W version really works for me.

Alison

A single last picture – no contrast – would not dare 🙂

I love this picture of my beautiful wife Alison as she led the Christingle service at our local church – St James here in Bramley last year. I could not use a flash and relied on a zoom lens. The colours and the smile really make this picture for me and a fitting one to end on.

Good luck with your experiments.

Cheers

George

Looking for that Moment

Looking for that moment‘ – always something at the back of my mind when I am out and about. These last few months I have been extremely busy at work so my Bimbles have been severely curtailed however there were one or two ‘Moments‘ over the last few months.

The thing that the three pictures below have in common (apart from the obvious) is that I walked past each location and then purposefully double backed to get the shots – I am glad I did now 🙂 The colours came out beautifully in my opinion.

Natures Colours

As the nights have been drawing in I have tried to get a few night time shots in as well. The two shots of the moon I took using my DSLR however the Christmas Reindeer (outside Cardiff Castle) I took using my Sony mobile phone. I think I will be trying out a bit more night time photography in the future.

Light at Night

Walking in the woods on my own I find very relaxing as I can wander wherever my interest takes me however taking the kids out brings the woods more alive I think. There is something magical with the light in the autumn that the kids really love and I think it makes them more adventurous than when we have a heavy canopy of leaves – it certainly makes for easier photography.

Childhood

As winter approaches (strange saying that in January) I hope we get some snow here in Southern England to get out to explore and photograph.

Cheers

George

2016 in B & W and a Happy New Year

Over the last year I have dabbled with some of my pictures to see how they they fared in Black and White. I did look for pictures that gave me good shadows and high levels of contrast. I have no idea if that is the best way of going about it but I had fun along the way.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and wish you all a Happy New Year.

Port Beach – Isle of Lews
A Room with a View – Edinburgh
Fungi Forest – Banchory
Figure Four Deadfall – Merthyr Mawr
Fire Faces – New Forest
Family Faces – Brittany
Re-naturing – Bramly, Hampshire
Little Towers – Big Towers – Isle of Lewis
Chillaxing – Isle of Lewis

Have a great New Year Folks.

Cheers

George

Bushcraft Birthday Bash

There has been a lot of skullduggery going on in the Aitchison-Jones household recently and it all came to a head in September 🙂

My wife Alison made sure that a certain weekend in September was kept well clear in my diary. I was told to pack for a family camp to celebrate my 50th birthday (location unknown) – hard to believe I have reached such a lofty age, I know 😉

So after packing we set off on a magical mystery tour that stopped off at the Arrivals lounge at Gatwick Airport. Passing through the gates was ‘Darling Barney’ all the way from Southern France to celebrate my birthday with us.

The pictures in this blog are a mixture from Tony Bristow, Ian Woodham, Alison Jones and myself.

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The Bushcraft Birthday Bash

The magical mystery tour continued to our friends Philippa and Phil’s farm just outside Dorking in Surrey. I was directed to a field to set up camp and we soon had our hammocks up and fire on. That night Phil came down to join us around the fire, there was a Harvest Moon and real ale and I was happy as Larry.

Phil asked Barney and myself if we could help him and a couple of friends complete a bridge at his girls school the next morning.  I thought nothing of this as I normally help out Phil’s farm when I camp there and Barney is a carpenter/cabinetmaker anyway so his skills were needed.

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Friday Night – Saturday Morning

It was a good morning mucking about in the mud building the bridge and we even stopped off for a couple of pints on the way back.

Unbeknownst to me Alison had set up a secret Facebook page and invited lots of my friends to the bash. While I was away folks started to arrive and needless to say that when I was in the car coming back down the field to the camp I was feeling slightly bemused.

There followed a lot of hugging and generally turning around with a startled look on my face as more and more folk popped out of the wood. These Saturday morning arrivals were friends from various parts of my life. Barney and Steve from Raleigh International, Liz, Rick, Stu and Gordon from Crisis, Alan and Dave from the Sea Cadets, Tony, Shelly, Robin, Jenna, David, Ian and Archie from Bushcraft UK

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More Surprises

Alison had arranged for a delivery of groceries to be dropped off at the farm and a feast was quickly prepared. David Willis (Bushcraft With David Willis) used his bushcraft baking skills to make bread and our resident Sea Cadet chef Alan Lewis got on with prepping the skewers for the barbie.

I had gone from quite chilled out (must have been the two pints in the pub) to frantically running around getting the fires going, maintaining them and trying to chat with everyone who arrived. Those of you who know me personally know that multi tasking is not my strong point.

Added to all this confusion my friend Graham was spotted coming down the hill carrying a massive present all wrapped up. He told me I could not open it until later that evening around the fire.

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The Feast

After a few more beers (I kept opening one, putting it down, chatting, losing it, opening another……and so on, repeating the process) the food was ready and a lovely birthday cake produced.

Thanks to everyone who brought a present along – every one was appreciated and I am still working my way through all the single malts you brought along Rick, Gordon, Stu, Dave and Alan.

The wooden ’50’, Cliff, sits with my medals and other personal bits and bobs. It is a lovely piece of carving buddy.

Still not used the old military canteen, Barney, in case I damage it – it too will live on my bits and bobs shelf.

As for the Harrier knife carving, that log Graham that may take a while. (The massive present Graham brought me turned out to be a rare Harrier stamped knife together with a log from which to carve my own twelve-piece dinner service).

Thanks Phil and Philippa for the lovely honey you had just jarred 20 minutes before. As fresh as you can get I would imagine.

Thanks for all the Go Outdoor vouchers – I spent a happy couple of hours in there getting some extra kit.

Lastly to Alison for getting me that rather nice laptop I was really looking for (cheers for organising that Dave). It works a dream and I can process pictures so much quicker now.

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Partying

The rest of the evening was spent chatting and from time to time Alison managed to extract some stories from folks about myself – many had the ending of me being hit in some way 🙂

A real highlight of the evening was listening to Robin and Jenna singing Happy Birthday to me in Welsh – I am not normally an emotional person but that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.

A surprise evening arrival to the party were my good friends John and Caron of Woodcraft School (apologies I did not get a picture of you at the party). They just sort of appeared out of the dark while I was chatting away (just when I was sure there were no more surprises I was proved wrong).

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Activities

Sunday morning soon came and those that had decided to stay for the night rose to a breakfast of bacon rolls and sausages before cracking on with some archery and Atlatls and posing for a Survivors’ picture.

Packing up was a sad business as everyone prepared to travel back home but I was still reeling slightly in a happy way from the whole surprise party.

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Survivors Photo

I am still amazed at the distances people travelled to come to the party – France, west Wales, Leeds and more. Some came for the day and others stayed overnight. Thank you to all those who could not make the weekend but sent me there heartfelt wishes instead.

Thank you everyone who came and a special thanks to Alison and Philippa for all your organisational skulduggery 🙂

Cheers

George

An Epic Scottish Road Trip

We clocked up nearly 2000 miles on the road this summer galavanting around Scotland visiting friends and family. Every couple of years we travel up to the Isle of Lewis to visit my family however this year we decided to call in at a few more friends en route.

Balquhidder

Our first port of call was to stop off at Balquhidder Church in the beautiful Trossachs in the Highlands of Scotland. This is where my Father’s side of the family come from and where Alison and I got married. Buried in the local graveyard are my Gran and Grandpa and the falls above the church are well worth a visit.

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Balquhidder

Isle of Lewis

Then it was off to Ullapool to pick up the ferry over to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. My mother Joan and stepfather Abby live in the village of Port of Ness at the northernmost tip of the island. This was to be our base for the next week.

Our kids Catherine and Finlay were really looking forward to this visit as they had not stayed at their Grannie Port’s house before.

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Port of Ness

Much of our time was spent down on the beach at Port or at Stoth as the weather turned out to be glorious. This is where I spent much of my childhood and it was great to see my children loving it as well.

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Beach Time

I took the family and my brother Finlay to visit my Dad Freddie’s grave. It is located on the Machair right by the coast and the view are stunning. My Dad was also a part-time lighthouse keeper at the Butt of Lewis so it was a pity that it was closed to the public – the views are fantastic from the top.

It was great to catch up with everyone such as my old mate Peche and his wife Jean who I had not seen for many a year. The kids spent a lot of time with their cousins Kenny John, Courtney and Lauren. Kenny John in particular was very excited that Finlay was coming to visit and the two of them had great fun, playing hide and seek and climbing trees together.

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Family and Friends

We spent time most days with my sister Tina, my niece Natasha and her lovely little daughter Lily Mai. As we only get to go north every couple of years the difference in the little ones is always amazing – the last time I had seen Lily Mai she was still a babe in arms.

My sister Tina is a keen walker and is out for a five mile walk most days. I decided to photograph her one day on the coast and was really chuffed with the results. It is not all play though as the peats were calling and I went out a couple of evenings to lift and turn them with my brother-in-law Kenny – the midgies won in the end on both evenings and we were forced to beat a hasty retreat.

It was also great to catch up with Andy Burns each day as we were out and about. Andy is a great photographer and gets some incredible shots as his croft overlooks Port Beach.

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Wanderings

While we were on Lewis my Uncle Dods was once again leading the annual Guga hunt. They arrived back the day before we were due to leave. I popped over to Stornoway to catch them offloading the Gugas. That night the kids, Abby and myself enjoyed a good feast of Guga.

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The Guga Hunters

Before we left we managed to get out to visit the Black House at Arnol where I had a great time talking with the wardens about traditional crafts and how they were made and used (for example making rope out of heather).

The time had flown by so fast and it was soon time to say goodbye to my Mum, Abby and the rest of the family.

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Farewells

Banchory

After picking up the ferry back to the mainland we headed for Banchory over on the East Coast of Scotland. Our friends Kate and John live there now. We met Kate on a Raleigh International expedition to Chile in 1996 and have been great friends since. They have two lads – Chris and Matthew.

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Banchory

We spent three days exploring the local area and managed to get a real feast of blueberries on Scolty Hill.

Stopping off at the Thundering Falls of Feugh we were hoping to spot some leaping salmon however we were amazed to spot an otter fishing in the falls below our feet – it was quite a sight.

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Otters and Adventures

Thornhill

Our next stop wasThornhill in Stirlingshire to visit our friends Kate and Roddy. Alison has been friends with Kate since University and we always try and visit them when we can.

We spent a great afternoon at Doune Castle exploring its secrets and walking in its grounds. Apart from its rich historical past in recent years it has attracted many tourists for its use in the film industry: Monty Python and the Holy Grail featured the castle and scenes from the TV series Outlander were shot here.

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Thornhill and a bit of Monty Python

Located nearby is the beautiful Flanders Moss nature reserve. It is one of the last blanket lowland peat bogs in the country and is home to some rare flora and fauna.

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Flanders Moss

Family Visits

The next stop was to visit my Uncle George in Crieff. It was also great to see my cousin Leanne and her son Robbi – another one who has shot up :-).

The we popped in to Callander to see my Aunty Catherine and Uncle Fred, who had just celebrated his 90th birthday the day before.

Our final night was spent back in England visiting Alison’s mum Beryl in Stockport. It was great to stop off there as no road trip North up the M6 would be complete without stopping off and letting the kids spend time with their Grandma.

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Family Visits

It felt like we covered a lot of ground on this holiday however it was over in a flash. I caught up with many folk I had not seen in a long time (it was hard to recollect names at times) but I left Scotland with some great memories – I hope my kids felt the same as well.

Cheers

George

The Wilderness Gathering with Coastal Survival

Catching up with friends, learning skills and getting some new kit – that is what the Wilderness Gathering is to me.

Coastal Survival has been attending The Gathering for quite a few years and this was a busy one for me as they went. I could tell that as most of my pictures this year were of what we were up to and not about what everybody else was up to. I was working alongside Fraser Christian, Danny Stocks and Chris Lundregan (we were also joined by Lorna Stocks).

Food and skills were the order of the day for us at this years show.

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At The Gathering

Over the weekend we kept a hot smoker going producing smoked mussels and mackerel. This kept a steady stream of visitors coming up to the stand. So much so that I did not get a great deal of time to wander around the rest of the show.

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Food on the go

There is something quite beautiful about the simplicity of smoking food that is attractive to folks that makes them want to just come in and try some – it certainly is not for our good looks 😉

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A busy stand

There was some time to get out though and catch up with folks. I missed Steve’s class on prepping rabbits but by the look on his face it went well.

Dave Budd was as usual working away but unusually he was having to be his own pump monkey on the forge – Where were you Emily? He needed you 🙂

Our neighbours at the show were Sonni and Angela from Beneath The Stars Leathercraft – the nicest set of neighbours than you could wish for.

Also spotted frequently was Jason bowdrilling away for the visitors. I sat beside him for one of his demonstrations and got some cracking pictures that I made into their own blog – Jason and the Ember Extender.

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Catching up with friends

Regular readers will know I am a fan of Damp Log Rocket Stoves and Des was there this year firing them up. This particular Log Rocket was very damp but he persisted and soon had a hearty stove that produced plenty of brews.

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Log Rockets with Des

As well as producing smoked food we spent time giving various classes such as this one on making a Bamboo Fishing Spear. This simple device does not take long to make and really packs a punch.

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Building a quick fishing spear

No Coastal Survival course would be complete without a bit of net making. Once again Fraser was up in the classrooms demonstrating his skills and getting the audience netting – I was meanwhile back tending shop – except for sneaking out to take some pics 🙂

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Net making

The Masterclass this year was on constructing a Stick Fish Trap. This was planned to take 3 hours but it took most of the day for the students to complete (and for some part of the next day) but it was worth it, These traps are designed to work and do the job of catching your dinner.

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Stick Trap making

These Stick Fish Traps are featured in Fraser’s new book Coast Hunter. This is the 2nd book in his coastal series and his copies sold out at the Wilderness Gathering. Look it up in Amazon if you are interested in all things coastal hunting.

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The new Coast Hunter book

I have been attending the Wilderness Gathering every year since 2005 so here’s to seeing some of you there in 2017 – An extra day I am told for next year 🙂

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 🙂

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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

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.

Cheers

George

Bushcraft, Bimbles and Beaches

Currently I am sitting in my mothers house in Port of Ness on the Isle of Lewis on holiday with my family.  I have had a very busy summer however I have had a very fun summer as well. Over the coming weeks I will catch up on writing up all my trips however I have realised I have not posted in over a month so thought I might just summarise the last few trips.

Bimbles

I spent many a day over the summer wandering around my village of Bramley exploring all its nooks and crannies with my kids and their friends.

Bramley Bimble
Bramley Bimble

The Sea Cadets

The middle of July found me in East Sussex with the Sea Cadets and our annual Adventure Training competition. Even amongst all this navigational competitiveness we found time to spend listening to the rustle of the Poplar trees.

Sea Cadet time
Sea Cadet time

The Bushmoot

The first two weeks of August I spent with my family at the annual Bushcraft UK Bushmoot in South Wales at Merthyr Mawr. We calculated that we had ran about 110 bushcraft classes in that two week period so the odd cup of freshly brewed coffee over a log rocket stove proved a must.

The Bushmoot
The Bushmoot

The Wilderness Gathering

Soon after the Moot I found myself helping my friend Fraser Christian from Coastal Survival at the Wilderness Gathering in Wiltshire. It was a weekend of wind, rain, sun and great fun as we helped our friend run all his classes.

The Wilderness Gathering
The Wilderness Gathering

The Isle of Lewis

Straight after the Wilderness Gathering I set off with my family up to the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. So far the weather has been great and my kids have been down swimming in the sea every morning. I am hoping for a few more great days before striking out to visit other friends on this trip across Scotland.

The Isle of Lewis
The Isle of Lewis

On my return I will be posting up more detailed reports on each of the trips but for now I will end with the hope that everyone else is having a busy and fun summer as well.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 26 – Special Cuddle

This last week has been a busy one so I have not been out and about with my camera much. I had a look back at my pictures from over a week ago and noticed on my Facebook page a comment on this intimate moment atop a Hogweed plant.

The insects are Red Soldier Beetles and they are having a ‘Special Cuddle’ as my wife mentioned to her friend Brian 🙂

A Special Cuddle
A Special Cuddle

It is so easy to pass on by scenes like this – see how many ‘Special Cuddles’ you can spot in nature tomorrow 🙂

Cheers

George

Finlay – The Naturalist

For the last three months I have been out on regular bimbles with my son Finlay to observe and learn about nature for his Naturalist badge at Cubs.

This is not an easy badge to obtain and takes three months to complete with a number of different standards to meet (some of the standards have different options to choose from).

The standards/options Finlay chose to do were:

  1. Observe a natural area over a three month period a number of times to observe and record changes in nature
  2. Learn to identify six trees and six wild flowers
  3. Learn the Country Code
  4.  Build a Bug Hotel

Rather than just observe one natural area we spotted three good areas around the village to observe.  We visited each area five times  over three months to observe the changes occurring in nature.

Area 1 – Scrubland

This site was next to one of his playgrounds and initially seemed very promising (in the hope we would see a variety of different spring flowers) with all the Dandelion seed heads. They were still there on our second visit however the thick grass seemed to be inhibiting the growth of many of the spring flowers we were hoping to see.

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Area 1 – Scrubland – Visits 1 & 2

Over the following visits we spotted a few White Campion flowers and some Green Alkanet however it was the grasses,  Docks and Cleavers (Sticky Willy) that seemed to dominate in the end. Finlay seemed happy with that as I usually found loads of Cleaver strands stuck to my back when we got home 🙂

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Area 1 – Scrubland – Visits 3, 4 & 5

Area 2 – The Pond

I have been observing a particular pond in our village over the years and knew it would be good for Finlay to observe changes in nature.

The pond is full Reedmace (aka Cattail), Iris, and ringed by Marsh Marigolds and Mare’s Tail.  Initially all the growth was very subdued however you can see in the second picture below (2nd visit) that there was far more shade as the plants had started to grow. Finlay is in the same spot in each picture to observe and act as a measure to the growth.

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Area 2 – The Pond – Visits 1 & 2

There is always something happening at the pond with wildlife. Usually we disturbed a duck or two but we did spot plenty of frogs and insects. One visit we found a dead pidgeon by the side of the pond and noticed that the Iris had started to  produce its seed heads near the end of our visits.

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Area 2 – The Pond – Spots

Over the last 3 visits the Iris and the Reedmace soon came to dominate the pond and the outer ring of Marsh Marigolds generally died back.

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Area 2 – The Pond – Visits 3, 4 & 5 

Area 3 – The Stream

We have a culvert near our house and there is a good patch of Reedmace growing beside it. This spot I thought ideal to show Finlay how quickly this plant grows.

Initially it was the last years growth that dominated the stream with a lot of Hedge Garlic growing beside it. Over the subsequent visits the spring flowers all died off and the Reedmace shot up.

The growth you can see below happened over a two and a half month period.

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Area 3 – The Stream – Visits 1 to 4

On our last visit we spotted that the pollen spikes of the Reedmace had appeared. These are a great plant for any bushcrafter as the young spikes can be boiled and eaten, the roots are edible as well as the young plant shoots.

As this plant grows frequently beside (as seen by the pond) its lookalike poisonous neighbour – Iris, learn to 100% identify both plants before attempting to forage Reedmace.

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Area 3 – The Stream – Visit 5

Trees and Flowers

Over the last three months we studied our trees and wildflower as well as Finlay had to learn to identify six trees and six wildflowers.

For trees we focused on Oak, Hawthorn, Sycamore, Beech, Holly and Hazel. We started this on our first forage way back in  in May when we went out on our first foraging hike together – Foraging with Finlay. He is pretty confident with most of the trees now however he still has to think about some of them. We remember them by shapes i.e. the star for Sycamore, ear lobes for Oak, spikes for Holly etc.

Some of the flowers we saw regularly included White Campion, Forget-me-nots and Herb Robert. I think he struggles with White Campion as that one disappeared early but then again not many people can easily identify it.

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Trees and Flowers

One he does remember easily is Green Alkannet (something to do with the blue flower and it having the word ‘Green’ in its title I think), Self Heal and Wild Strawberries. The white flowers of Strawberries he remembered well, in anticipation of the feast we had on the last visit.

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Flowers and Foraging

It was not all learn, learn, learn as we had lots of fun along the way. Sometimes his sister Catherine joined us, there was lots of time spent in the parks , some beautiful insects were spotted and best of all we got muddy and spent quality time together.

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Extras

The Countryside Code

We spent time talking about how we treat the countryside while out and about. When I was a young lad we all had to be able to recite the country code however that list has now fallen out of favour now. The main aims now are to ‘Respect, Protect and Enjoy’ the countryside. Our trips would touch on these aims and a good pamphlet on the current code can be found here at the Peak District website.

The Bug Hotel

The last  standard for the badge was to build something for nature. We opted for a Bug hotel in the garden. Finlay, Catherine and one of his friends (another Finlay) spent a long time collecting and building their Bug hotel. I wrote a separate post on this titled – Building the Bug Hotel.

The Bug Hotel

It has been great fun working on this project with Finlay. He really deserves his Naturalist badge now and I look forward to working on some of these more challenging badges with him in the future. One day he will no longer need me to help him but in the meantime I intend to get out and about with him as much as possible.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 25 – Sundew Snack

Last week found me tabbing around the Tors of Dartmoor with the Sea Cadets on a training week for a Gold DofE Expedition.

As I was observing the cadets from afar I had plenty of time to look for the little details that make up nature. I found that detail with this scene where a fly had been trapped in the sticky glandular tentacles of a Sundew plant.

Sundew Snack
Sundew Snack

The fly had not been caught long as it was still struggling. Within about 15 minutes of being trapped they normally expire with exhaustion and are slowly dissolved by the Sundews enzymes. You can find out a lot more about this beautiful little plant at carnivorous–plants.com

I come across hundreds of Sundews at this time of year alongside the upland streams however it is not often I spot one having a snack.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 24 – Armed Forces Week

My local church St James here in Bramley held a wonderful flower festival last week. Each display linked to a particular hymn and the one that really caught my eye was the display for the armed forces.

Eternal Father
Eternal Father

The armed forces display was split into three parts. There was a separate display for the Army, Navy and RAF and the hymn they all related to was Eternal Father however it was the RAF display set against the Brocas Aisle window that really caught my attention.

As an old soldier and a serving member of the cadet forces I was particularly pleased to see my church remembering Armed Forces week in this beautiful way.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 23 – A Simple Moment in Time

A picture from a week ago in the depths of Pippingford Park in the Ashdown Forest. I chose this picture due to the perfect framing the canopy gave the cadets and the reedmace you can see on the left.

Adventuring On
Adventuring On

I had stopped to photograph something else and as I turned around I spotted the cadets moving off, so quick as a flash I snapped this simple moment in time before it disappeared forever.

As a photographer I am continually looking for these moments in time, they are rare but they are out there.

Cheers

George

Forest Flammage

Flammage – A phrase I heard for the first time at Woodcraft School when I was studying for my Bushcraft instructors certificate. I love the word as teaching firelighting has always been a passion of mine. Over the last couple of months I noticed I had gotten some excellent flammage shots.

I teach firelighting using many different methods however when you have lots of kids to teach and not much in the way of time then firesteels do the trick. They do make for some cracking pictures as demonstrated below by my friend Dave Lewis at a recent Sea Cadet camp. When teaching firesteels to very young children I liken them to fairy lights and you can see why below.

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Fairy Lights

Now it is not all just one big firelighting fest as we do teach everyone to respect fire and how to be responsible in using it. Charlie got the kids in the picture below to use firesteels to strike onto char cloth and then blow it all into a flame using some dried grass. The resulting fire was kept contained in a fire tray and soon produced plenty of tea and chocolate cakes.

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Flammage

Some flammage fun here – we were given some offcuts of soft wood to burn by one of the other Sea Cadet instructors and I had brought along a pre-drilled fire face log rocket stove. With a criss cross fire lay and a well lit log rocket with the parachute in the background taking a picture seemed like a good idea.

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Log rocket fire face

I can spend hours watching a fire and when I think the flames are right out comes my camera and I start snapping away. I may take a hundred pictures in the hope that something will appear in the flames.

I call these pictures Fire Faces and in the two below I spotted two old men of the woods – see if you can spot them?

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Old men of the woods

I have plenty of pictures of the cadets and my own kids sitting around a fire toasting marshmallows and this simple act is something I never tire off. This evening though really stands out in my memory with the Fire Faces adding that bit of extra light and ambience.

Marshmallows by candelight

Taken in late spring down at my friend Fraser’s (Coastal Survival) during a rather stormy night was this picture of a bunch of hairy bushcrafters sitting snugly around the fire. Needless to say a dram or two helped pass the evening along nicely.

Stormy nights
Stormy nights

My favourite fire picture of the last couple of months though is this one. It is the fire the cadets were sitting around and I played around with the settings of my camera to try and capture the picture as best I could without a flash. I then just waited until a piece of wood split in the flames to capture all the sparks spiralling upwards.

Woodland TV

No doubt there will be a few more Flammage pictures coming up over the summer as the Bushmoot and the Wilderness Gathering approach so I will leave you with these for now.

Cheers

George

Life & Death with a Touch of Decay

Sometimes when I review photographs I have taken on trips a pattern or a theme starts to emerge. On my recent trip to the New Forest here in the UK with the Sea Cadets one of life and death with a touch of decay thrown in for good measure started to appear.

Take for example in the two pictures below. The cadets are sitting in the shade by a pond in the top picture with all the late spring growth going on around them. While in the bottom picture in amongst all the new iris shoots the bracket fungus on the alder trunk is slowly doing its bit for the cycle of life breaking down wood fibres into sugars. Two lovely pictures but ones I could too easily have overlooked.

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Water life

While the cadets were getting to grips with the art of map reading in various huddles, around them nature was getting on with its business. A rather forlorn looking spiders web seemed to be full of leaf shoot casings and the roots of some trees seemed to be tying themselves into some weird knots. Quite beautiful to see however I only spotted them when I stepped back to photograph the cadets.

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Stopping places

My friend Charlie spotted this little rabbit skull by the side of the pond you saw in the first picture. It was such a delicate little thing and we could so easily have trod on it. I have no idea how it died – maybe it was a fox……………………….

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Death – the prey

Well we found the fox – well, we found a fox :-). One of my cadets spotted some bones in the undergrowth and after a little bit of exploration we put together pretty much all of the skeleton.

The skull still had some of the fur and whiskers still attached to it so I assumed that it had not long since died. The cadets I was with were mostly city kids so they were very excited to find the fox. They wanted to take the skeleton back with us but I did not feel that that was right to do so we left ‘Foxy’ to be discovered by some other woodland adventurers.

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Death – the predator

The trees themselves were painting a beautiful picture in this cycle of life. We came across some pretty massive artists fungus (top left below) that really stood out against the skyline when you looked up from under it.

There is a certain spot I pass most times when I visit the New Forest where there are a number of holly trees (bottom left). For some reason the forest ponies like to gnaw at the bark. They leave some great markings on the trunk and I love to get the cadets guessing what causes this strange site.

Lastly we spotted this strange tree (bottom right) we dubbed it the Easter Island tree due to its likeness to the statues found there. These growths known as burls/burrs are caused by the tree trying to protect itself from some sort of infection (if I remember my university courses correctly). My bushcrafting friends know they can make for some quite exquisite bowls.

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Tree life

Last but not least are these two little critters. The toad below was spotted by the cadets and he tried very hard to pretend he was invisible. The cadets and myself lay down to observe him when we realised he was not running away. After a few minutes we left him in peace to get on with his business (I say ‘he’ but have no idea if that is correct).

A last little visitor to our camp (you can see the camp chair legs) was this little Chaffinch (bottom picture). She was not bothered by us as she searched our fireside for some morsels. I was quite content to just sit and watch her potter about while I put my feet up.

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Critters

I never set out to write this blog based on this them of life, death and decay but I was sure glad I spotted it.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 22 – My Kind of Classroom

Classrooms are places I spend a lot of my time, some are well equipped, some are just glorified storage rooms however some are just perfect.

A perfect classroom
A perfect classroom

This spot known as Hill 170 made for a perfect classroom for Jess to teach some of our cadets the art of navigation.

Classroom Hill 170 on a day like this has it all as far as I am concerned – a view, shade and the promise of adventure.

Cheers

George

Building the Bug Hotel

One of the requirements for Finlay’s Naturalist badge at Cubs was to build a Bug Hotel. So off to the woods we went with his friend Finlay (yep, two best friends called Finlay) and his sister Catherine to get supplies.

We collected a range of material including twigs, spruce cones, elder shoots and bark. We only took a little from each area we visited but we did visit a lot of different areas and soon had a good haul.

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Collecting

I had prepared some extra material including bricks, timber, drilled logs, plastic plant pots and grass. I got some good ideas from the RSPB Giving Nature a Home project and also from the blogs shown on the 30 Days Wild site.

To begin with the kids dug up a load of dirt to help build up the base and then set to building the base of the hotel.

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Laying the foundations

They built two layers of material to attract different insects. I got them to hollow out the pith from lots of elder sticks and they also stuffed grass inside some plastic plant pots. The plant pots have holes in the bottom of them so the hope is they will make good bug nests.

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Building the Bedrooms

I had found some old roof tiles at the back of the shed and we used four of them to create an overlapping roof to keep the rain out. These heavy tiles also helped lock the rather wobbly bricks into place.

Each of the tiles though had some residents already in place on their undersides 🙂

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On goes the roof

To finish off they stuffed more material into the hotel and tidied it all up a little.

The longest part of this whole process was the collecting of the material however combining it with a good walk in the woods worked well. I did a little bit of work in the garage sawing the timber to length and drilling holes into the tops of two birch logs. Other than that the kids did most of the work.

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Finishing touches

I am looking forward to seeing if we get any residents over the next few months. I do hope the hotel provides a snug over-wintering spot for our local bugs and that it is teeming with life next year.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 21 – Quality Time

Reviewing my pictures this week I kept on coming back to this one. I would not say it was in anyway a brilliant shot however it is a shot of ‘Quality Time’ – that is time well spent with my daughter Catherine teaching her to use her new camera. She was really taken with all the yellow iris flowers and last years reedmace stalks.

Quality Time
Quality Time

Catherine I feel has a good eye for a picture so it is not hard to work alongside her. This was the first time she had tried out the monopod stand with the camera. Here’s to lots more Quality Time out and about 🙂

Cheers

George

Nature Based Bushcrafting

Over the last few months I have not done much in the way of bushcraft so there has been a slight lack of How To …. tutorials coming out. I plan to change that after the Moot (where I will be looking for inspiration) however I have been getting out on little trips recently to photograph nature.

This post is just to record some of the moments I have had over the last few months. Starting with an accidental shot of a very wet and bedraggled willow catkin. It was a damp day and I was trying to get a close up of a bug but after looking at the picture found the catkin to be of more interest.

Pussy Willow

Not long after ripping a muscle in my calf I hobbled out into my garden and applied the 20 metre rule. That is stand still, kneel down, sit down and lie down but continually look around you for approx 20 metres and you should see something worth shooting. When I eventually laid down I came up close and personal to these beautiful little Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots

There was a re-wilding theme on the BCUK website a couple of months ago and I was stuck for ideas. Not long after the closing date I remembered this place outside our village. Proper re-wilding you could say 🙂

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Re-wilding

Back in April I went out for a walk with my kids in Morgaston woods and the bluebells were just coming through. I spotted this slightly thicker patch and after getting the kids to lie down (it was a job with all the pricklies) I got this rather nice shot. The angle of the shot made the bluebell patch seem much thicker than it actually was.

Peek a boo

Another one from my garden during my hobbling period. I was particularly taken with the water droplets on the primroses.

Spring days

My son has been undertaking some nature observations for his naturalists badge at cubs. we have been getting out and about as much as we can identifying trees and flowers such as these lovely Ramsons.

Naturalist badge – IDing the Ramsons

Spring would not be the same without a picture or two of some fluffy creatures. I thought this Greylag geese family looked particularly impressive at The Vyne National Trust property.

The Greylag family

This was a ‘face off’. I spotted this deer in the shadow of the woods while out looking at the bluebells. I had to change the lens on my camera as she was a fair distance away. Normally they run off by the time I change lenses but this one kept me square in her sights the whole time.

Staring contest

We moved on from just identifying plants for Finlay’s naturalist badge to tasting them as well. We tried out a whole range of leaves including the likes of these Jack by the hedge plants.

Naturalist badge – IDing the other garlic – Jack by the hedge

Some of the best finds were literary stumbled on like this complete fox skeleton in the New Forest. It was found by some of my Junior Sea Cadets and we laid it all out onto this log to get a real good look at it. Many of these kids have never been out of the city before so this was quite a find for them.

A Foxy find

I spotted this little butterfly sitting on a Herb Robert flower while visiting my friend Fraser from Coastal Survival a couple of weeks ago. Normally these little devils are away before you can get near them but this one just seemed to be soaking up the sun.

Delicate beauty

One of my favourite pictures was taken last weekend at The Vyne National Trust property. I heard a splash by the side of the lake and turned to see this Coot with a large Signal Crayfish in its beak.

The joy was not to last for the Coot though as another Coot came along and stole the crayfish away – such is nature sometimes I suppose.

A top spot

So although I have not been out doing practical bushcrafting much I have been getting out and observing nature with a keen eye – so you could say it was the more nature based side of bushcrafting.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 20 – The Secret Garden

I had to stop and ask myself – ‘Did I just see that?’

Have you ever had one of these moments when you were bimbling along a quiet country lane? Well I did last weekend while down in Dorset on holiday with my family.

The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden

After passing by this little portal in a wall I had to go back for a closer look. It did not feel as though there was anything wrong with peeking into someone’s garden as the portal framed it beautifully. The view went on down a meadow slope, through some trees and finally to a lake.

Now that is a garden I would appreciate 🙂

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 19 – A Hot Date

Got myself a hot date last night 🙂

I got out for a rare date with my gorgeous wife Alison to celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary.

One Hot Lady
One Hot Lady

We lead such hectic lives so this was a great time to relax and spend some quality (and child free) time together 🙂

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

Picture of the Week – Week 18 – Birthday Girl

It has been a weekend of heavy rain and parties here in Hampshire. However it is my lovely daughter Catherine’s Birthday very soon and we had her party today.

Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl

It was a day of girlie spa treatments and cake. Alison also made a fantastic chocolate cake with an icing Hot Tub on top. I liked this picture of the cupcakes with the candles best and it definitely is my picture of the week.

Happy Birthday Catherine 🙂

Picture of the Week – Week 17 – Fire Face Guardians

Last weekend found me in the New Forest here in Hampshire in the UK. I was with the Sea Cadets and we were running a full on weekend of Adventure Training activities and we were based at Ferny Crofts Campsite.

My picture of the week though goes to a more relaxed moment as some of the cadets were sitting around the campfire toasting some marshmallows under the watchful eye of these fire faces.

Fire Faces
Fire Faces

I will be writing a full report on the weekend sometime soon however I thought I would share just a little bit of what was a magical weekend with you.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 16 – Flying High

One that I was not expecting tonight. I was out with my lad Finlay to observe some plants as part of his naturalist badge at Cubs. He asked if we could have a quick play in the local swing park and so in we went.

Flying High
Flying High

Now when I took this pic I thought he was sensibly holding on but after looking at it properly when I got home I could see he was testing out some centrifugal forces by the looks of it.

Fun was had though with a little bit of learning thrown in 🙂

Cheers

George