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

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

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

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Bushmoot Nature

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

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

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The Playground

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

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

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

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Variety

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

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

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

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Keeping the balance

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

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Great instruction

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

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

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To forage or not to forage

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

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Stunning flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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Bushcrafters plants

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

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

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The Cycle of Life

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

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

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Observing

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

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A Bugs Life

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

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Unseen Nature

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

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

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The Moot

Cheers

George

Spring Weekend with Coastal Survival

It was great to be back down at Fraser’s place once again, it is a proper playground

Every now and then I head off into the hills with some friends. This time it was to be Gordon and Rick, whom I have worked with for a number of years at the Crisis Open Christmas shelters, and I had arranged with my friend Fraser from Coastal Survival that we would come down and spend time at his place in the woods in Dorset.

Rick drove us down there in his campervan so it did feel as though we were off on a holiday from the start. I took this picture as we neared Fraser’s place. The angle is such that you can’t see the horse and it looks like the little dog at the back is pushing the Barrel Top along.

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Arrival in Bearminster

I found myself a nice spot for my hammock, on a bit of a slope so slightly slippy but the view was worth it. I had also brought along a couple of other hammocks for Gordon and Rick to use.

The rest of the Friday was spent teaching the guys how to put their hammocks and tarps up, carrying all the kit up to the site and chilling around the fire eating excellent food cooked by Fraser.

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My home for the weekend

Food is always a dominant part of any visit to Fraser’s place. Breakfasts were a slow relaxed affair with plenty to eat and the coffee was excellent as well.

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Breakfasts were good

As usual whenever I spotted some beautiful plants out came my trusty phone camera. I am very impressed with the results I get from the camera on my Nokia Lumia 820 phone (not being sponsored to say that!).

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Figwort, Horsetail and Scarlet Pimpernel

That first morning was spent collecting ramsons, or wild garlic (Allium ursinum), to pickle for later use. I’ll do a separate post on this later.

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Ramson forage

Lunch was a tortilla cooked on the open fire with the ransom adding that lovely garlicky flavour.

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Ramson tortilla lunch

One of my main aims of the weekend was to find some chill-out time. I did that with my trusty EDC hammock chair from UKHammocks. The views were wonderful.

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Post-lunch relaxing in my EDC hammock chair

Saturday afternoon was spent down on the coast near Bridport foraging for crabs, small fish, limpets and seaweed. We met some other friends on the coast – Paul Burkhardt and Paul Newman – while we were there. Both Pauls were also looking for fossils. This part of the coast is full of fossilised sea creatures and it doesn’t take long to find them once you get your eye in.

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Coastal Forage

The walk along the coast was a very pleasant affair but I was ever mindful of the risk of the clay cliff faces collapsing. With all the recent rain they did look rather unstable, with lots of collapsed areas.

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Man’s best friends

I made a couple of videos on the Saturday:

Easter with Coastal Survival – Foraging

Dinner that night was a lovely risotto made with shellfish stock and a garnish of seaweed, topped with a chop for the non-vegetarians. It all went down a treat.

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Seafood risotto and pork chops

The Saturday evening was a quiet affair chilling out around the fire and testing out Fraser’s large gas wood burners (or more properly re-burners, as the gases produced are recirculated and reburned). I got a few fire faces and particularly like the Ent’s face (Lord of the Rings tree giant) in the one on the left.

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Fire faces

On the Sunday morning we had a beautiful walk through the woods looking at the new growth, the animal tracks and the views. I took the top two pictures that morning just to see what kind of detail my phone camera could give me. The crab picture was from the day before.

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I took a video that morning but encountered a few problems making it.¬†The problem with the second video was that I managed to delete¬†the original files before saving the clip in iMovie. I could then only view the clip in iMovie and couldn’t¬†upload it to YouTube. To get round this I ran the clip on the iMovie app¬†and re-videoed it with my phone camera (I hope that all makes sense). Not as high¬†quality as the first one but I still want to post it here.

Easter with Coastal Survival – Day two walk

After the woodland walk I brought my bows up for a bit of stump and target shooting.

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Bringing up the bows

I do like wandering around just shooting at stumps or the bases of trees. While I was out with Gordon that morning we stumbled across two large fallow deer. It was quite a sight, but they were too quick for me to get my camera out.

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Archery time

Three of the more unusual things I spotted over the weekend: some hazel coppice growing through an artist’s fungus, scores of these beautiful snails, and fresh-water tracks in the blue clay of the beach.

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Wonderful finds

Some lovely close-ups of bugle, bluebells (top row), ramsons and alder (bottom row).

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Spring bloom

A lot of Sunday, though, was spent under the parachute staying warm by the fire and listening to the rain hammering down. In the bottom picture you can see the different traps Fraser has made for fishing and catching small animals on the ground.

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The classroom

After all that rain we decided it was time to head off down to the local pub for a few beers and a game or two of pool.

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Wood gas re-burner

I now have one of Fraser’s gas wood (re-)burning stoves that you can see in the above picture and intend to really test it out over the summer.

On that final evening in the pub I edited the last of my clips to make this short video:

Easter with Coastal Survival – Bimbling and Bows

Monday morning was a pack-up-and-away day to try and miss the Bank Holiday traffic. It was great to be back down at Fraser’s place once again, it is a proper playground.

Cheers

George

Bushcraft Memorable Meals – Part 3 – Dinner with Coastal Survival

This theme of ‘Memorable Meals’ is a subject that is very close to my tummy. To watch my wife Alison cooking a meal for me is an absolute joy but I have to accept that though she loves the outdoors and camping – bushcraft is not quite the same passion for her as it is for me. ¬†I do try to cook well for myself when Alison is not around but being of a military mind I usually end up tucking into a standard issue MOD rat pack.

Thankfully to help counter this laziness of mine I have a number of friends Рboth military and civilian Рwho happen to be excellent outdoor chefs.  Looking at my picture library I was struck by all the pictures I had taken over the last couple of years of some fantastic meals I have eaten while bushcrafting.

One of these excellent chefs runs his own outdoor cookery school РFraser Christian of Coastal Survival. Fraser is a qualified chef and expert forager who actually lives off the land and the sea. I have recently bought his superb book Eat the Beach on Kindle. As well as covering all the edibles on the shoreline it goes into detail on how to identify and cook plants found further inland.

I will try and explain what all the dishes were but I will mostly let the pictures speak for themselves. (I can’t remember all the ingredients.)

For me nothing beats sitting around a fire chatting and watching a great meal being produced. I usually end up with getting lumbered with cleaning the dishes but that is a fair price to pay I think.

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Time to chat

It is always good to stop for a brew. I love my tea and coffee but a foraged brew tastes that much sweeter.

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Time to brew

As well as Fraser, another expert chef and forager is Alan Smylie. Thankfully these two guys get along when it comes to cooking and foraging. They seem to complement each other somehow without any of the drama I have seen with co-chefs in the past.

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A bit of this and that

A recurring theme in this post will be the Meat Feast pictures. Apologies to all the vegetarians reading this ūüôā

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Meat Feast 1

As a forager it is always good to munch as you go along, and we are not just talking plants here – shrimps and fish eyes, anyone?

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Seashore nibbles

On trips with Fraser we catch quite a few crabs. They make an excellent stock.

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Maritime Stock

Breakfast is something I tend to get left with so at least there is something I cooked here.

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Breakfast

Fraser and Alan live off the land and they showed me an excellent way to cook sea bass parcelled up in the embers of a fire. This method of cooking ensures the fish stays very succulent.

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Sea Bass delight

I made sure not much remained of the bass.

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Cleaning out the bones

Walk on the sea shore and you will see limpets everywhere. They do not take long to cook and are great on their own or added to a stew.

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Limpet cooking

I think the patties were made up of the leftovers of a previous day’s meal.

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Homemade patties

All these meals included foraged ingredients.

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Fireside Food

Cooking rig experiment – pots set at different heights for boiling and simmering.

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Stew

Some more protein.

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Meat Feast 2

I took this picture after Fraser had done a class on cold smoking mackerel in a cardboard box. After this we broke up the smoked mackerel and added it to a stew.

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Smoked Mackerel

Before and after pictures.

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Chops (top) and Seaweed Stew

In between classes a quick and easy meal is an omelette

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Pepperoni omelette

The stove in the picture below is actually an old cutlery drainer and we were using pine cones as fuel.

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Midnight cooking

Last of the Meat Feast pictures. I enjoyed every one of these roasts.

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Meat Feast 3

Omelette for breakfast this time………..

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Breakfast omelette

…..sometimes it can be¬†fish, potatoes and eggs………..

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Fish breakfast

…..but there are days when only a bacon buttie will do.

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Bacon Butties

Even the cat eats well here.

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Feed me!!!

I hope you enjoyed these foraged food and feasting pictures.

I am aiming to get back down to see Fraser again in the near future for some more fabulous bushcraft-style belly fuel.

Cheers

George

For more information, see:

Coastal Survival

Eat the Beach – by Fraser Christian