Weekend Away with Wildway Bushcraft

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Countryman

Native
Jun 26, 2013
1,649
68
North Dorset
I responded to an advert from Wildway Bushcraft about a month ago for a discount course for BCUK members.

I and my buddy Nick wanted to take four of our children away for a weekend, ahead of Bushmoot, to shake down some new kit and to get the kids in the groove. Kids as we have all agreed don't take formal instruction particularly well from parents but do listen to teachers in a position of authority. Mine did Bushmoot last year, Nick hadn’t been to anything Bushcrafty but has interest in the subject and is in the Military. I’m an old hand at “Outdoors” stuff and have had old school survival training but I’m getting in to Bushcraft and there are a lot of crossovers in my experience.

John Boe who runs Wildway is I think is quiet into the survival skills side of Bushcraft. The kit list he sent was fairly minimalist. I don't know what he must of thought of our party disgorging 2 car loads of kids carrying full packs and arm loads of everything from teddies to an apparent record for the amount of booze brought on a course. He certainly didn't miss the dirty great Dartmoor I favour and my recent Hill Bill commission. However he was still very welcoming and kind to us all even though we must have looked like nutters.

Anyway we arrived Friday night and after a quick orientation and safety brief set up our group buy DD hammocks. John and Mitch who had been called in as reinforcement with all the kids on hand were kind enough to help get the kids set up. We picked a neat copse of trees where we could be together as a group. My younger daughter decided she wanted to be miles away and John very diplomatically handled this and dissuaded her from being a pain and found her a good spot not so far away the other side of the campfire clearing for her own little wilderness experience.

Having set camp and settled the littlies down for the night we sat around the fire and had a few beers with John and Mitch and after they went off to bed, Nick and I set about putting the world to rights gazing into the flames. Then it was 2am and time to weave my way to my hammock.

I had a lot of reservations about trying out dangling from trees but my DD Camping hammock coupled with Thermarest Neoair was super firm and comfortable despite my two prolapsed discs. So I crashed out until 5am Saturday morning when my son woke up and wanted to get on with the adventure. Grrr Kids!

I resisted for an hour while he pottered. The campfire had been rebuilt and the kettle was on for 7.30. Nick was still snoring.

The breakfast Wildway provided was a help yourself Damper and boiled eggs. I hadn't made this for years but it's so filling, light to transport and easy to make, it will now surely be a staple of our camp breakfast. The tea was a life saver.

John read our group really well. Dads heads were hanging a little and we needed a while longer to get on track while the kids were enthused and raring to go. Their gaudy BG kit urgently needed running through its paces, a Mora Bushcrafter to be christened by my Boy and eldest daughter itching to get to grips with her new Scandi. (pretty much all traded on BCUK.)

So John lead off with a session on Knife safety. The kids eagerly carved up some sticks and learned the basic skills they would need for more advanced projects later, Nick and I were comfortable with these skills. Nick turns out to have a natural affinity with carving and had been making bows for the last few months.

Then we went to for a gentle Foraging walk through the woods and John told us about the various species there and their qualities and uses and in some cases how dangerous or edible they are.

By the time we got back both Dads felt a lot better and that’s good because it was game prep time! Lunch was to be pan fried breast of pigeon and curried rice. At the prospect of ripping the breasts off a wood pigeon I’m afraid we lost the younger kids who lacked the stomach and the strength to process the birds. I have done lots of pigeons over the years but I usually slice off the breasts and so Johns technique was interesting if not a little gory. My 15 year Old Daughter was not to be beaten by this task and pitched in well. Soon a pigeon each was cooking away nicely. Mitch had already got the rice on.

The littlies tried the meat but were a bit squeamish still so there was plenty of seconds for the rest of us. We knocked up an emergency billy can of noodles so the kids didn’t go hungry. (Score one for the Dads and the bags of snacks and just in case grub)

After lunch we went back and prepared rabbits for a long slow stew for dinner. 15 Year old daughter and I have both done this before. I was surprised Nick hadn’t but I guess even people living in the countryside don’t get this hands on often.

In the afternoon we did natural cordage making from Bramble and Nettle and some Yukka that John bought along. This required too much attention span for the kids so they went off and John taught them how to make a super strong lean too shelter. There was talk of them spending the night in this but they were all new to hammocks and excited enough over the prospect of this alone to take up the offer. During the weekend our Boys (both 8) played in the hammocks often and they were canoes and boats in a lot of imaginative play which proved them very robust along with the fact that Nick and I are big lads. It was great to see them out in the woods playing like this and not stuck to Nintendo or Ipad. My favourite toy as a child was “Outdoors”

Dinner followed, rabbit stew, which was delicious and copious. Everybody had an appetite.

After we cleared away the sun was still shining and John got out the fire making box. The kids loved it as we made fire with their new fire steels on Cotton wool, Birch Bark, Coal Fungi, char cloth and Vaseline soaked cotton balls. John got out a parabolic mirror and the coal fungi which was interesting. A 9 volt battery and wire wool got the kids all going “Wow!”. Potassium Permanganate and Antifreeze got Nick talking of alchemy and even I didn’t know you could get an exothermic reaction by grinding Potassium Permanganate and Suger! I did however repay that nugget with a good reaction from the magnesium powder I got off a recent group buy.

Then came fire by friction. I very much like that John didn’t reach for a well tried and trusted set. We all saw how hard this was to get a fire going like this, though certainly not the 2 days it took the boys on “The Island “ TV Series. Nick got one going and I tried but because of my back, I couldn’t get into the required shape so easily so this escaped be this time. Finally we all got a fire going with Flint and Steel. I was surprised by the finesse this required but got there under guidance. Lastly I produced the £1 Clipper lighters I had bought for my kids and suddenly they all realised why a lighter is a useful bit of kit.

As the littlies got settled for bed my eldest daughter joined us as we enjoyed the late sun carving spoons. I have started to find this therapeutic since the Moot last year. Nick with his superior eye for detail and craft skills turned out a corker but we all managed decent usable spoons before we lost the light.

After dark the beer came out and I was glad that John and Mitch kept Nick company and they finished the last of it (Nowhere near the epic from the previous night). John is a top guy and he and Nick had seen a lot of the same ground in the forces. I needed to catch up on the lack of sleep from the night before and settled to a really solid 8 hours and they nattered away until a lot later.

Sunday morning and the kids were already in the swing of making Damper when I arose. They did so confidently and cleaned up afterwards. Camp routine had clearly started to establish itself.

We had a few short light showers early in the day but stayed lucky with the weather.

John ran us through traps, snares, and knife law before we finished the morning making fish spears. A lot of the knife skills the kids had learned the previous day came to the fore. Everybody produced a really passable spear that was amusing to transport home.

Nick and John went to fell an Ash tree that Nick had spotted would make great bow staves. My lot seemed to take ages to pack away their kit. None of us really wanted to leave the woods but finally it was time to go and we said our farewells.

As you can tell this course covered a lot of content.The pricing with the BCUK discount was modest and was super value. John dealt with the mixed needs of our group incredibly well. He was personable, likable and demonstrated a real knowledge and passion for the subject.

We all came away from the weekend with new skills, some keepsakes and stories. Besides this I have returned home tired but very chilled out. We are all keen to go back and cover some more topics with Wildway Bushcraft. John clearly had a mountain more material lined up but we were grateful he was lead by our needs and kept a pace the kids could hack.

Our kit all had a good shakedown. Even the kids noticed there was equipment they loved using and some stuff that was a dead weight. We will sort through this during the week once it’s all aired out and finesse our gear for Bushmoot.

Great weekend thanks to John, Mitch and Wildway Bushcraft.

Photos Here: https://www.facebook.com/WildwayBushcraft?fref=photo
 
Last edited:

Mick721

Full Member
Oct 29, 2012
748
2
Sunderland
Great write up. Sounds like an excellent course with great staff. I've been wanting to do something like this for quite a while but never seem to get the time. Hopefully next year. Thanks for sharing.
 

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