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

Foraging with Finlay

My little lad Finlay is a member of the Bramley Cub pack and when he was invested recently we received a little book on all the badges they can work towards.

There are badges for hiking, navigation and nature observation (amongst many others) so we decided to get out last Sunday and start earning some.

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Not the usual bimble

Now this was not a usual bimble around the village but a proper hike. Finlay packed his rucksack with water, food, suncream, waterproofs, map, compass and a first aid kit. The manual stipulated that the hike needed to last for at least three hours and have a purpose.

Our hike was to be around Wasing Wood near Tadley in Hampshire and our purpose was to learn to navigate and to forage (and throw in lots of fun in the middle).

Our hike around Wasing Woods
Our hike around Wasing Woods

Very soon we spotted a clump of white flowers which turned out to be three-cornered leeks ( the leaves have three distinct corners) and some very fresh-looking beech leaves.

At this time of year the leaves of certain trees are quite edible, beech being one of them. Over the years Finlay has often foraged with me so I was not worried about him having any sort of reaction to anything he would be nibbling on. The walk was more about him learning the key features of certain plants for future safe identification. We left the leeks alone but had a munch on some of the really fresh beech leaves.

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Leeks and Beech – Spring greens

One tree that Finlay knew well was the oak, but to help him remember its leaf shape we likened its lobed leaf structure to that of his ear lobe. Also we investigated the very fresh-looking gall we found on one of the oaks. There was no hole in it so we concluded that the gall wasp had not hatched yet.

The next tree we came across was the hawthorn and Finlay’s first observation about it was that the leaves were much smaller than the oak leaves and had smaller and sharper lobes. As this is an edible leaf  we were soon munching again.

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Edible and non edible

I introduced Finlay to the Ordnance Survey map for our area and soon he was busy identifying different features on it and tracking our route. We looked at setting the map using features on the ground and using the compass. Also we discussed the scale of the map and features we would expect to find along our route.

We devised a route that was on public footpaths around Wasing Wood (and which had been well documented in a local guide book) however it soon became apparent that the footpaths we were using had been used little recently. The path was overgrown with hawthorn trees and it had also been cut in half by a local business as a testing area for diggers. Soon we were well off our intended route but by looking at the features around us we were able to keep track of where we were.

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Map reading and adventuring – The path that disappeared

It was not all hard work as the hammock seat came out when we stopped for a snack (Finlay got it, not me). As well as trees we spent time identifying flowers.

There were plenty of bluebells, a few wild strawberry flowers but we did get down close to look at some Greater Stitchwort – a beautiful little white flower that has medicinally been used to help with the treatment of broken bones.

Strangely, when we were crossing a stile we came across a pair of boxer shorts lying on the ground. Not sure what to make of this, we hurried quickly along :-).

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Strange and beautiful sites

Now no trip out into the woods is complete without a little extra iron. There were plenty of new-growth nettles around and we picked a few ‘tops’ (the smallest leaves from the very top of the nettle), rolled them up to kill off the needles and munched away.

Finlay is happy to eat nettles now (he takes delight in doing this in front of other kids) though I am still working on him collecting them himself without gloves.

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A little extra iron

Nettles though have a habit of biting you if you do not keep an eye on them 🙂 Finlay was picking a leaf from a ‘Jack by the Hedge’ plant for a little nibble when one of them sneaky nettles popped up and bit him on his arm.

Now a number of years ago he would have let out a loud wail and run about looking for a dock leaf. Now he knows to simply tell me he has been stung and I will grab a couple of the bigger nettle leaves and squish them up to a pulp. It is the juice of the nettle/plantain/dock (to name just a few) leaf that negates the sting – not just rubbing a dry dock leaf on a sting, which I have seen countless people do.

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First Aid and final leg

Before we knew it we had been out for over three and a half hours and diner was calling (Alison had insisted we be back in time for tea as we were expecting visitors). Out came the compass and after another quick lesson we were off through the woods and back to the car.

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Tired but happy

Finlay had collected a few of the leaves from the trees we had studied but they soon wilted with the sun because they were so fresh. He collected holly, oak, hawthorn, birch, beech and sycamore leaves and spotted bluebells, stitchwort, leeks, wild strawberries, Jack-by-the-hedge and nettles.

The purpose of our hike was to study some trees, flowers and learn about the map and compass. I think you could say we managed that.

Cheers

George

Nature Challenge – Day 6 – Family Fun

Yesterday I picked the kids up from school and instead of curling up in front of the Xbox or the iPads off we went to the woods.

I know we get out to the woods on a regular basis however not normally on a school night. I did not know what we would do with our limited time but as it turned out it was surprisingly a lot.

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Tracking

As soon as we got into Morgaston wood the kids picked up some deer tracks and after sitting for five minutes we were rewarded by spotting a deer crossing one of the paths.

As we trundled along I got them to find some fungi. There was not much around but we did get some King Alfred’s Cakes, some Birch Polypore and some Artists fungi.

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Finding Fungi

The Bluebells were really coming out and there were plenty of Primroses around. Just on the edge of the wood though we spotted our first Cuckoo flowers by a ditch. This is a sturdy little plant as it grows in some really exposed areas however it does have a very dainty look about it.

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Wild Flower Spotting

It was not all learning – there was plenty of time to just explore and get muddy – as you do 🙂

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Just Fun

This was a challenge to myself as I had to watch every step I took in case I re-opened my torn calf muscle – It was worth the effort though.

Cheers

George

Picture of the Week – Week 14 – Climbing amongst the Bluebells

This afternoon I spent some time in the woods introducing my son Finlay and his friend William into the intricacies of shelter building (a post will follow on this).

We did have fun building the shelter however it was not free fun. I let the lads zoom off into the woods (I am still hobbling along) only to find them as usual at their favourite perch.

A favourite perch
A favourite perch

This perch is all that remains of the root system of a fallen tree. It looks horrifying with all these spikes but they know only to climb up and down it from the back where it is smooth. I thought it looked rather lovely today in amongst all the bluebells.

Cheers

George

Colours of Spring

Spring is well and truly under way now and I have been getting out as much as possible either by myself, with my family or with friends.

There is a lot to see if you look close enough as my son is with this suspended feather trap. I love feather traps (that is anything that catches a feather) as they make for beautiful pictures.

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Feather Trap

While reviewing my spring pictures I noticed there were dominant colours coming through. Below (from left to right) are the purples of the snakes head fritillary, two emerging and an emerged early purple orchid, and a lovely red campion.

I was particularly pleased to capture the orchids just emerging from their leaf sheath.

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Purples

The woods and the hedgerows are awash with small white flowers at the moment. I was pleased to see that our local woods (The Frith near Bramley, Hants) sports such a wide range.

For a few weeks at this time the wood anemone’s can be easily spotted (top left) and if you look close enough you will spot the delicate wild strawberry flowers (top right) just coming through. One day I will take the time to work out whether they are the barren or the fruiting types.

Also hiding out in the woodland glades are the beautiful but tasty (the leaves that is) wood sorrel (bottom left). Like the wood anemone the wood sorrel is best viewed on sunny days while it is fully open.

Bottom right is stitchwort (‘greater’ I think). I have been finding this in great patches alongside hedges where they receive a lot of sunlight. I particularly liked this picture with the single stitchwort being framed by the dandelion.

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Whites

As I write this the early dog violets (top right) where I live are on the wane but the beautiful bluebells are really coming through now in great carpets.

Bottom left is the often overlooked blue flower of ground ivy. As this little plant grows easily on disturbed ground you find it in your vegetable patches if you do not clear it out regularly. I like it though as it does add a lovely tinge of blue to an otherwise mass of green.

One of the nicest blue flowers (even more than bluebells I think) out at this time is the forget-me-not (bottom right). I took this picture by a riverside outside Dundee as it clung precariously to an old stone wall.

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Blues

The last dominant colour I have noticed this spring is yellow. One of the earliest and for some reason this year one of the most abundant (top left) is the primrose. I am finding this delicious little plant everywhere.

The other three (top right), the cowslip, the buttercup and the male goat willow catkins are just coming out around here. There are so many dandelions out at the moment so it is good to see that carpet of yellow being broken  up by other yellows.

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Yellows

The final picture is of the odds and sods I have taken over the last few weeks. The horsetail and the female goat willow catkin up close look very striking but it is the picture of the kids getting out and about from their usual digital world and enjoying a bit of sun and flowers that I love the most.

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Odds and sods

Cheers

George

Bramley Bimble – 4th May 14

I took my whole family on my rounds of Bramley last weekend. The kids as usual had fun climbing, wobbling and generally getting muddy.

This was the first time that Alison was able to come on my rounds and she was keen to explore the village wildlife in more detail.

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Checking out nature

I took a short video of the walk which I titled Happy finds and sad finds.

A few new flowers made an appearance this week.

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Yellow pimpernel, lady’s smock and white campion

I particularly like the bottom right picture. You can actually see the the probiscus of the fly. Not bad for a little phone camera.

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Feeding time

The moth was found in a bowl of water by my daughter Catherine and seemed to be recovering well as it dried its wings out. In the bottom picture you can just see a solitary bee emerging from its underground home.

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Rescued moth and emerging bumblebee

The crab apple tree on my rounds is finally in leaf now. I will be recording the growth of the apples closely over the following months.

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The family under the apple tree

The yellow coltsfoot flowers (top left) have gone now and all that is left are the distinctive leaves and the beautuful puffy seed heads. Also the lungwort flowers have gone leaving only the distinctive white spotted leaves (top right).

At the bottom though I found that the orchids were still standing strong.

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Coltsfoot seed head, lungwort and orchids

While we were looking for orchids Alison spotted a dead deer nearby. I couldn’t see any obvious cause of death but lying nearby were some deer leg bones recently stripped of flesh. As the deer (as you can see) still had all its legs I assume there must have been another dead deer nearby at some point as well.

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A sad sight

It was nice to see the willow and oak finally coming through this week (left-hand pictures). The reedmace leaves seem nearly full grown now so I will be looking out for the stems and flower heads starting to appear.

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Willow, oak and reedmace

Looking beautiful still were the bluebells.

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Bluebell bliss

Cheers

George

Bramley Bimble – 27th April 14

I managed to get out around Bramley this morning before all the rain came in and it was well worth the effort.

The bluebells are looking particularly impressive at the moment but if you look closely you will find so much more.

Here is a little taste of what I found this morning.

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Iris – yellow flag leaves
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Hawthorn blossom buds
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Bluebells
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Young alder catkins
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Willow catkins gone to seed
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Wood spurge and wood anemone
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Wild mignonette and a bursting pine cone
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Possible large oak gall
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Horse chestnut blossom
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Fresh nettle leaves and bugle
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Early purple orchid
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Ribwort plantain and elderly primrose
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Cow parsley

I made a short video of the walk.

Cheers

George

Spring Growth – 16th of April 2014

As the spring growth is coming thick and fast I popped back out on Monday to see what was coming through around Bramley.

I found that the ash had started to burst through but only on some trees. The top two pictures are of ash as well as the bottom right picture.

Bottom left is lime and in the centre (bottom) I found one English oak tree that was starting to push its leaves out.

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Bursting buds

That English oak had just one solitary leaf showing when I photographed it so as I write this three days later I expect it will be well covered now. The beech tree (bottom left) that I have been monitoring had been chopped in two as they had been doing some mechanical hedgecutting in the area. Thankfully as you can see the bottom half of the beech is managing to push some leaves out.

The silver birch in the middle picture has produced masses of leaves and they taste exceptionally good at the moment. On the right looking very shiny the lime tree I have been watching has just a few leaves showing now. Finally on the bottom right the alder is well established with leaves as it had started two weeks ago.

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Young leaves

There are plenty of flowers out there still, including  primroses, stichworts, wood anemones and wild strawberries to name a few, but two caught my attention this trip. The top two show the early purple orchid and the bottom two the masses of bluebells that have appeared over the last week.

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New Flowers

My kids had a great time looking for these orchids so we decided to make a little video of it.

Orchid Hunting with Catherine and Finlay

Cheers

George