Currently I am on holiday in the North West of England. I was reflecting on the fact that the 2020 Bushcraft UK Bushmoot had to be cancelled due to Covid when I suddenly realised that I had never got round to writing a blog on the 2020 Wintermoot that took place last February – pre-Covid, of course. I had published plenty of videos from the event but not actually written it up – probably due to the fact I was still digesting the enormous amount of food I had eaten in that week 🙂
The Wintermoot is held at the same place as the summer Bushmoot, at Merthyr Mawr in South Wales, and as it is a smaller affair (around 45 folk in comparison to the 200-300 at the summer event) it feels very homely. I soon had my camp set up (seemed strange with no leaf cover over me and no family with me) and the kettle on.
Tony – the boss – settled on two main areas for cooking and food preparation and after a bit of strange rope work (in terms of the kitchen tent on the right) we were soon set up and the fire lit. Folk arrived over the first two days and prepared to get on with the cooking – well not me personally (I just do not have that artistic sort of mind) – my focus was on photography, video work and building campfire cooking constructions.
Not sure who obtained the deer for us but after setting up the tripod it turned into a butchery class (led by Wayne) and then a shorter class on preparing the hide for tanning. Before long the ribs were slowly roasting over the fire on the rotisserie.
It was great to see everyone getting involved and trying out new skills.
Throughout the week I had fun alongside a few others coming up with different set ups for cooking.
A Rotisserie with reflector
A Hot Smoker
A Campfire Crane
All these alongside the usual cooking with Dutch ovens, skillets, frying pans and in foil.
The Wintermoot, like the full Bushmoot, is family orientated with lots of chances for the kids to get involved if they wish. Even without any snow the February temperatures were low but everyone was kept warm with the great food on offer.
As I am no chef I struggle to describe these different meals – I can but try with my photography skills – as an experienced eater I can say they were brilliant 🙂 – Lots of people helped out with the cooking but special mention must go to Beth Shepheard, Andy Illsley and Wayne Jones – as well as cooking continuously they demonstrated butchery, baking and food preservation.
In amongst all this cooking and eating we managed a few other activities including fun on the range, constructing a Windlass and a bit of Jedi training.
As it is a long time until next year’s Bushmoot I do hope we can have another Wintermoot next February.
Stay safe and hopefully see some of you next year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other workshops included Baking, Pottery, Rocket Stoves, the Starter Course, Basketry and Wood Spirits (to name just a few).
Watch the video to get a feel of the subjects we cover at the Bushmoot.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 😉
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.
My last video on the Bushmoot looks at this ‘Bushmoot Life’.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
No series on the Bushcraft UKBushmoot would be complete without a mention of ‘Ye Naughty Corner’ – I will refer to it as the NC in the rest of the post.
The NC is many things to many different people who visit the Bushmoot. There is usually a fire on the go at most hours however it is in the evening that the NC really livens up. Some folk love the place and spend a lot of time there, some folk just pop in for a visit every now and then, however some folk steer well clear as it can be busy and noisy. I personally like to visit the NC of an evening and catch up on the days goings on around the fire while enjoying a medicinal tot or two.
Cap’n Badger and Mad Dave (our resident Pirates) normally manage the NC though Dave had to miss the Bushmoot last year. The NC has been around for a number of years now and it has grown in size as each year has passed. Some say that is a good thing and others do not – you will need to decide for yourself.
It has always been a noisy place in the evenings (folks are warned about it if they camp near it for the first time) and as a regular over the years I am quite comfortable there however as the feel of the NC has changed from a small to a big community some folk have drifted off elsewhere on an evening.
The central point of the NC is the fire and it makes for a great woodland TV. On some of the busy nights you will be lucky to get anywhere near it however if there is a decent stock of wood it is soon lit up well. I have snapped many a fire face picture in these flames over the years.
One thing you are guaranteed is the option to try out a number of different tipples while sitting around the fire. There is usually a bottle or two of Kraken rum, meade, port or whisky making the rounds to try. The nost memorable one for me was when I was passed a bottle of Dave Budd’s Chilli rum – never to be forgotten.
I think one of the reasons the NC has become so popular is that there is usually some music and food on the go.
Initially folks would cook there own food and come along to the NC for a drink and a chat. Nowadays our resident Phil is on the go all night cooking and serving a wide range of excellent food (we do run a group kitty to cover the cost of the food).
A couple of years ago Tim Neobard ran a class at the NC to build a cob oven for baking pizzas. The pizzas proved to be very popular with the residents of the NC so everyone was looking forward to having some pizzas the following year.
When we returned last year we found that someone had decided to destroy the pizza oven. Un-dettered Neil re-built the oven this year out of brick instead of cob so hopefully it will be there this year.
I like to pop by the NC during the day to see what is going on. Sometimes it is pretty quiet as folk are off at all the classes however sometimes you will find a class or two going on at the NC.
A few years ago one of our regular NC residents Drew Dunn passed away in a road traffic accident. This tragic loss really affected many of us at the Bushmoot as we had grown to love Drew. When I met Drew for the first time his first words to me were ‘Where can I find the Naughty Corner’.
Drew loved the NC so much that Cap’n Badger and Mad Dave organised the planting of a tree and plaque in his honour. The tree and plaque sit just behind the NC where Drew used to camp.
The NC does throw up some strange sights I must admit. A few years ago this massive net was strung up and it was termed the Mammock. I have no idea how many folk got crammed into the Mammock in the end but it proved a star attraction.
Each year a fancy dress themed night is run. Last year it was Monty Python, the year before it was a Victorian explorer theme and I think next year it is a horror theme.
Not something I have gotten round to doing but there are plenty of folks who do and they do put in a lot of effort to look the part.
As the evening gets on though the reason why the NC corner gets its name starts to become apparent. It might be that you find yourself getting covered in lots of little clothes pegs if you are not careful, you may inadvertently get passed the bottle of chilli vodka, or you may get buckarooed if you fall asleep.
There is an skill to buckarooing as you need a steady hand. The poor soul who is asleep has tins of beer (empty) and pegs (and other adornments) heaped on top of them before a picture is taken. Everything is then taken away so that when the poor soul wakens up they are none the wiser until they see the picture the next day.
I appreciate that the NC is not for everyone as it can be a busy and noisy place however I personally like to spend an hour or two of an evening there.
To me it is one of the highlights of my year where I can relax and have a bit of fun while catching up with my friends.
There are plenty of campfires to visit at the Bushmoot where you can sit and relax and chat. The NC is just another one of them however it is one of the livelier ones.
A big part of any Moot is food and at the BCUK Bushmoot it comes in all forms.
Looking back over the pictures I have taken I was quite staggered at the range of food you can find at the Moot. I cannot profess to being any sort of cook (I prefer to build cooking constructions) however I appreciate good food when I see and smell it.
Many years ago at the Moot I would help out with teaching how to butcher rabbits and pigeons so that they were ready for the pot. Many of the instructors at the Moot will do these classes and each year you are bound to find a class going on somewhere preparing some meat stuffs for the pot.
I leave the butchering of Deer and such like to some of the members more competent in this field though I could quite happily run a class if I had to.
Up until a few years ago at every Moot we had a Hangi – an underground oven. A large pit would be dug in the sand and it would be lined with non porous stones (to avoid stones exploding). A large fire would be lit above it and kept going for a few hours.
Once the fire died down pre-prepared food parcels would be placed on the hot stones and covered in sand and hessian to slowly cook.
This is a great group cooking method and we had many a fine meal out of the Hangi
The Hangi has not been run for a few years as it has been superceded by Ponnassing. We try to buy in some salmon or other similar large fish and cook them as you see below over an open fire.
In the picture below at the top right you can see some Dutch Ovens that Neil was using to cook some food. Neil creates such an intense fire that the pots with regular turning can be used as cooking vessels without being on the actual embers at all.
The Ponnassing did not happen this year because of difficulties in getting fish however I hope it will be back on the menu next year. All the fish when it is cooked is added to the group meal.
About five years ago we introduced to the group meal some Dutch Oven food. Many of the members of the Moot cook a meal in a Dutch Oven (or similar type of pot) and bring it along to the group meal. Each dish is clearly marked with its ingredients so we do not get any allergy issues.
The queue for this meal is massive with everyone looking to get a taste of something new. I am always amazed at what people can produce over an open fire – a real banquet is produced each year.
Baking is something I love to do around the campfire. At the Moot it happens all over the place.
The baking classes can be over subscribed so we usually have a number of instructors running classes. Everything is covered from simple twizzle stick bread, dampers, loaves, rolls and even cakes (cheers Ian Woodham for the cakes).
I love the look on someone’s face when they open up a pot and look upon their first loaf baked over an open fire – about as magical as when you create your first flame from a bowdrill. My friend David Willis (Bushcraft with David Willis) ran the class you can see in the picture below and it was enjoyed immensely by everyone.
As I said I do not do much cooking at the Moot and that is because I am rather spoiled by certain friends. For example my friend Fraser Christian (Coastal Survival) is a top rate chef and loves to cook.
Fraser likes to forage on land and sea for his food and then to cook rather amazing meals. I have no wish to upset that routine so I am happy to help out in the gathering and cooking process with the ultimate aim of getting a fantastic meal.
For many years at the Moot I would come along on my own and so would keep my own cooking fairly simple (whenever I could not cadge a meal off someone else). Over the last couple of years my family have started to come along so I have to start to think about cooking a bit more.
I am not bad at a good breakfast however thankfully my wife Alison is an excellent cook so I am not stretched too far 🙂
Looking at my pictures I came across these ones from my friend Mark Oriel who is a butcher by trade. One year he managed to spit roast a whole pig which went down a treat with everyone.
He also ran an excellent class building a smocker in the woods so as to preserve different meats.
One thing I have learned coming to the Moot is that Bushcrafters do not generally tend to go hungry – quite the opposite could be said in truth.
To make all this happen you need people with different skills. We come together and share these skills to make some truly memorable meals in what many others may say is an inhospitable environment – we just call it home.
There are many other classes going on in terms of cooking and foraging so the best way to see what is on offer is to come along to the Moot. Next year it will be at the beginning of August on the coast at Merthyr Mawr in South Wales.
The next instalment of Bushcraft Memorable Meals. The theme is ‘Before & After’ – I’ve paired up pictures of food ready for cooking with the finished product.
I went for a visit to Dingly Dell at the BCUK Bushmoot last year and had a great chat with Steve Mesquite Harrall and John Fenna. John had this pot of pre-prepared nettle soup thawing out by the fire for the group meal we have. Unluckily I did not get to taste this as the hordes beat me to it but I was told it was a good soup. However…………..
Previously I was at one of the Moots at Mark Beer’s site and Jon Searle poured me out a quite extraordinary bowl of nettle soup.
One of my favourite ways to cook fish is to Ponasse it over an open fire. This one was prepared for the BCUK Bushmoot group meal.
It is gently cooked over an open fire and this time I did get some and it tasted a treat.
Every year my sister sends me down a Guga in the post. This is a young Gannet and my family still are allowed to undertake the annual Guga Hunt to a rocky island called Sula Sgeir off the coast of the Isle of Lewis every August. This is my favourite food. I have put a link to a website at the bottom of the blog that explains the hunt.
The guga is boiled for half an hour and the water is then changed and boiled again for another half hour. Alison does not let me cook it in the kitchen as the house reeks of guga for days – personally I don’t see the problem with that.
Thankfully though my kids love this annual feast.
I was taught by Ian Holt Jones at John Ryder’s Woodcraft School how to butcher venison and prepare it.
We had some memorable meals on the Woodcraft courses.
I love to bake bread and have a savoury tooth.
After sitting the pot in embers the results can be quite delightful.
My cadets love pizza so being outdoors is no excuse for not having any. Thanks to Simon and Helen Hunt for experimenting with this campfire pizza oven at Ferny Crofts this year.
The results were brilliant. I only got a little piece as the cadets kept getting in front of me.
For the perfect bushcraft breakfast, split one green log, peg on some bacon and……….
Lay it by the fire and enjoy.
To finish pop out and collect some blackberries (get others to do the job if you can) and…………
…hopefully some excellent cook like my wife Alison will bake you a beautiful crumble.
I hope you enjoyed this little ‘Before & After’ blog: I know I certainly enjoyed eating it all.