Seriously behind on my blogging now – life has lots of distractions for me at the moment (trying to learn Coding and French to name two). Looking back on my photographic filestore I came across some pictures of a cadet campcraft come bushcraft weekend from last Easter.
The Sea Cadets were only joining us on the Saturday so the Friday was a relaxed day of set up in the beautiful Pippingford Park in the Ashdown Forest. I was working with my friends Dave, Alan and Jess.
The cadets joined us first thing and thankfully brought the breakfast along with them – courtesy of the camp chefs. Then it was straight down to classes such as erecting tents, mapwork and kit. Evening time was spent around the campfire – these introductory campcraft weekends are for some cadets the first time they have ever slept out in the countryside.
After the cadets had bedded down for the night I tried out a little night time photography with my Samsung phone camera – I was surprised that the lens captured all the detail of the tree tops.
Early Sunday morning found me with a cup of coffee in my hand – supplied by our very own Warrant Officer – Dave Lewis – not often a Petty Officer receives such an honour – I did think he was after something 🙂
Straight after breakfast it was back into class. The cadets covered some First Aid, cooking on stoves, packing kit away and some more nav.
A Bit of Bushcraft
While out and about I did come across a Badger Set that was covered in tracks and other sign. The other sign included spotting their latrine and the snuffle marks their snouts leave in the humus layer.
There was little in the way of fungus at this time of year except for the big Bracket fungus and the Birch Polypores. I also spent time turning grass into rope and looking out for early buds starting to poke out.
As per usual there was time to have a brew (and gave me an excuse to use my cranes).
It will not be long to the next cadet camps in 2019 however I am told it will be an Advanced Campcraft course in the mountains of North Wales – looking forward to that one.
It has been one busy summer this year and I am just now catching up on all my travels. Way back in July I spent a weekend at a military training area called Mereworth Woods with Northern District Sea Cadets for our Adventure Training (AT) competition.
My friend Dave Lewis organises this competition for our District and what a cracking weekend it turned out to be.
The cadets arrived on the Friday night and set out on the Saturday on a route to test their navigational skills. Along the way there was always something to see, hear or smell. Sometimes that was beautiful, intriguing or sad. As all the cadets are from London so this is a great location to get immersed in nature.
Thankfully we had plenty of staff on hand to be out and about observing all the teams (we had 7 teams entered). As it was a hot weekend there was plenty of water at the checkpoints and staff were continually checking that the cadets knew where they were going.
The Sunday morning concentrated on activities to test the cadets. The Atlatl proved a particular favourite but there were others to test teamwork and the likes of their First Aid skills.
There was a ropes section and also a stance on hypothermia though there was always time to chill and hang about in the trees.
It is important to run the event like this as some of the teams would be going on towards the London Area AT competition – Chosin Cup – later in the summer.
Now the Sea Cadets have a saying – Serious Fun – I think our competitions try to embody that saying – none more so than the stalking stance. It is fun for the cadets and the staff however it is also serious as there can be good points earned here on the way to winning the District AT cup.
After all the points were totted up Waltham Forest unit came 3rd, Newham unit came 2nd and Enfield unit came 1st.
Well done though to all the cadets and staff who took part. We did not make the competition easy for them however we did make it fun.
All the units who attended this year were:
City of London, Edmonton, Enfield, Harringay, Newham, Waltham, Forest and West Ham
The 16th of May was a perfect day for a bimble around the village with the kids. They decided to take the scooters and even managed to keep them going on the rough woodland tracks.
Looking good now is the common bistort and the yellow iris. I found the large sow thistle up near the Clift Pavilion.
I passed by many dandelion seed heads but this one caught the light just perfectly.
The meadow by Lane End proved a good place to explore.
The wild strawberry leaves and flowers are well out around the whole village but I saw my first buttercups and red clover this week.
This large horse chestnut is one of the trees I am monitoring for the whole year. The sun looked nice as it shone through it. The blossom is still looking good on the horse chestnut and at the foot of it I found these ferns uncurling.
We had a good look around the meadow but there are not too many plants flowering yet.
I did spot that the cherry tree near the pond is starting to produce its fruit now. Catherine and Finlay were also on the lookout for tracks (this one is deer) and tadpoles.
One of my favourite snacks while out foraging is the pignut. I found that they had just started to flower in our area now.
I do not really know my birds but Catherine and Finlay took some time out to lie back and see what flew over them.
The orchids in the Frith are still hanging in there but I expect to see them disappear over the next few weeks. In the damp ground we did find a pheasant track and spotted that the Brooklime was appearing now.
The bluebells have started to die back now but still make a beautiful sight. The stichwort and mayweed are looking at their finest though at the moment.
The kids had soon had enough of lying about and started scrambling over the alder and willow trees.
The ash is finally out: it must be one of the last trees to burst into life in the Bramley area. Out near the playground by the new estate the white campion is in full bloom and in the Frith we spotted what looked like a badger print, deep in the wood well away from dog walking tracks.
Still to be found there are the lovely yellow wood avens and blue forget-me-nots, and the grass seed heads are standing tall.
Needless to say Finlay needed to get in on the tree climbing act.
I found what looks like a water hemlock by the stream next to our house. Beautiful but deadly.
Last picture is of a couple of tracks from I have no idea what animal: any ideas?
This was an excellent bimble around Bramley and I am now looking forward to seeing all the early summer flowers that will soon be appearing.
It was magical to lie there and watch the snow falling in the perfectly quiet woodland.
It was on a wet weekend back in November 2012 I first went to visit my friend Fraser from Coastal Survival at his woodland in Dorset. I was reviewing my photos as I will be visiting him again soon and thought that the ones I had taken on this weekend warranted their own post even though the trip was over a year and a half ago.
The snow you see in the picture above did not arrive until the Sunday but I did have a great time even with all the rain and mud before the snow arrived. The weekend was a relaxed affair with no formal teaching planned, just a get together to relax and explore the beautiful Dorset hills.
The gang below included (from the left) Steve, Rich, Fraser, Si and myself.
We did a little bit of work on the weekend but only a little. That work included sawing up these logs for classroom seats and pitching properly what was one massive tarp.
After sorting my hammock out, Friday night was spent sitting around the fire chatting and watching our dinner slowly roasting over the fire. You may have noticed with previous posts about Fraser that food seems to play a central role in everything we do 🙂
After breakfast Fraser prepared a side of pork and set it up on a stake to slowly be smoked by the side of the fire. The pork remained there most of the day, gradually absorbing the woodsmoke.
After a few brews we struck out to do a bit of foraging and tracking. I think I am a better forager than tracker and may one day have to find the time to study tracking under the likes of JP and Pablo from Woodlifetrails. In the bottom picture we found what looked like badger tracks in some soft ground.
On the left you can see the claw marks made as the animals scrambled up the bank and on the right a possible badger paw print. The picture at the bottom right was scat from a fox, I think. It was full of yellow maize/corn so the animal may have visited a farm recently.
Another sign we came across was grazing by deer. The top two pictures show the tell-tale deer nibble, where the bite is not clean. Fraser found these woodpecker feathers in a pile and they still had all the points on the quills suggesting a kill by a bird of prey. I found all the nutshells in the bottom right picture and it looks like a dormouse or something similar has been nibbling away.
We foraged quite a bit over the weekend and even though this was November there was still a lot to be found. The water mint was destined for the teapot and the large burdock root was chopped up and added in with the other vegetables for the evening meal. The bottom left picture shows hogweed seeds which Fraser collected for using later.
After all this hard work of spotting signs and foraging we relaxed by wandering around the woods doing some stump shooting.
Fraser has a large paella pan that he wanted to use for cooking that night. It was a tad blackened from previous use so he used mud and small pices of gravel as a scouring agent to get it clean. It worked a treat as you can see in the other pictures. After the cleaned pan was rinsed with fresh water he heated it up and put the side of pork on it to start cooking.
The fork you can see being made on the left was actually for using as a stand for the pork to be smoked during the day. Once the pork was cooking they made excellent tongs for mixing all the vegetables. Si had flattened a piece of one of the logs for me to use as a chopping block for cutting all the vegetables up on. As he had just stripped the bark and the wood was still green it was a very clean surface to work on.
While all the food was cooking we made a fresh herb tea. The ingredients included sloes, haws, ground ivy, water mint and mullein. Very tasty it was too.
Fraser as usual managed to make a banquet (well, what I call a banquet) in very cramped conditions with minimal tools and taught us all along the way.
During the day we came across some live mullein (also known as Aaron’s Rod) that had not produced a stalk as yet but we also found one mullein that had grown a stalk and had died. The stalk was dry so Fraser took the time to release the seeds and spread them around to promote future growth. I like to use this stalk as a hand drill for making fire by friction but another use for this plant in the past was making torches. The seed head would be dipped in fat, grease or tallow and then set alight. For speed we stuck with some vegetable oil and soon had a good flame going.
The picture on the left shows how much light the candle actually throws out. I took the picture on the right with the focus of the camera directly on the flames. When you do this you can get some interesting shapes. I see a climbing fox in this one. It has a long tail, distinctive legs and you can just make out its snout – and I am not talking about Fraser’s face in the background 😉
One of my favourite pictures of this candle is the one that produced Pegasus the winged horse.
While I was compiling the pictures for this post I was struck by these two pictures. I have inverted the right hand one and call it the Crimson Climber. The pictures were taken one after each other. You can clearly see the figure on the left about to start climbing but look closely and you will see on the right with two small arms and a hunched back a figure at the top of the flame.
Sunday morning was a relaxed affair at first. I could hear the pitter patter of rain on my tarp as I lay there but it all went quiet soon after. As I turned in my hammock I glanced out and saw the view you see in the top picture. It was magical to lie there and watch the snow falling in the perfectly quiet woodland. This magic did not last long as the snow started to accumulate my tarp started to droop. I had set it up on a shallow angle more suited for the good view rather than to shed lots of snow.
So it was time to get up and over the next half hour I had to keep clearing snow from all the tarps to stop them collapsing. Steve eventually got up wandering what all the racket was about.
Breakfast was soon on the go and it was time to pack up to head home.
A few pictures to finish on. It was a great weekend chilling out in the company of some great guys.
I am hoping to pop down and visit Fraser in the next couple of weeks and see what changes he has done with his site.