With much trepidation we arrived in total darkness on the Friday night in the middle of nowhere to meet Gary, the owner of Jack Raven Bushcraft, and our fellow bushcrafters. Every pastime or sport has it's uniform and it turns out that bush-crafters are no exception. We stood staring at each other - them in earth colours with well worn, checked woollen shirts, carrying just a small rucksack - us ladies standing there in our brightly coloured coats, pink hats, cashmere scarves and carrying very large bags… it was clear to all that we hadn't done this before.
We set out to find our camp. "Bushcraft is about living like our ancestors in the forest, Gary explained as we walked up the hill through a muddy field and into the woods. I was tempted to comment that my ‘ancestors’ had actually originated from West Ham, but chose not to, given that they were clearly worried enough about us anyway.
I'm not sure what we were expecting that warm July when we agreed that sleeping in hammocks in the woods was a good idea. Much hilarity followed as we were given a quick lesson in ‘mounting and dismounting’ a hammock. In true cartoon style we swung uncontrollably in the dark and performed numerous accidental dismounts in various orientations and with different degrees of elegance. I apologise to my friends for not helping much at this point, I was on the floor laughing.
|Curled up asleep in the hammock|
The next morning we awoke at dawn and pottered bleary eyed over to the main teepee, where we filled our mugs with hot tea from the massive iron kettle hanging over the fire. Bleariness quickly vanished as we set about out first task- using sharp knives and saws to make a honey spreader out of a log. If I was stuck in the woods I'm not sure how essential this item would be, but I really enjoyed the carving process none the less. The final object looked more like a cross between a wonky ruler and a helicopter propeller, but despite being terrible I was still very proud of it!
Having been up at dawn, I returned to my tent exhausted for an early night - Confession time, being in the middle of a big training block I had chosen a tent over the hammock (coaches orders). I snuggled down into my sleeping bag, belly full of delicious chilli with earplugs stuffed in my ears to block out the noise of the rain and fell instantly asleep. Apparently it rained a lot in the night and everyone was a bit damp come morning. But no one seemed to mind- it all added to the adventure and hilarity of the weekend. Luckily the fire was roaring and the heat from the fire cooked comforting bacon butties and also dried us out and warmed us up. Foraging and tree identification had us traipsing after Gary, hanging onto his every word. There is something deeply satisfying about having to search for and spot a half hidden edible leaf or fungus (Shopping in Waitrose will never be the same again as all their food is just so obvious!). My anti doping catalogue doesn't have a section for "brown mushrooms that look like rubbery ears" or "leaves with stimulant effects", so I stuck to bananas foraged from the fruit bowl, just to be safe.
|Mushrooms that look like ears|
|Girls make fire!|