Saturday, 1 June 2013

Woodland Ways Weekender

For my birthday last year I received a voucher for a weekend long Woodland Ways Bushcraft course. I attended the course back March and have now finally got round to posting this write up of the weekend. 

The course I attended took place down in Derbyshire and ran from Friday evening to mid day Sunday, the web site describes the course as 'An ideal starting course for the beginner and for those who wish to try their hand at something different. It is also relevant for those who have an outline understanding of the concept and techniques of Bushcraft & Survival but wish to practice their techniques' and I'd say this is a spot on description. 

Wanting to miss the Friday rush hour traffic I arrived down there early and had a rather ropey sandwich in a nearby pub before heading to the woodland venue. After a quick hello to the others attending the course we took a short wander up to the woods where we found the fire alight and the kettle boiling. We sat and had a brew whilst listening to the introductions etc, these included being given a Bahco Laplander saw and a Mora knife as well as the necessary safety information to go with them. After this we were all given a tarp and some instructions regarding how/where to set them up and off we went to set up for the night.

My bed for the first night:

After we'd set up our tarps it was time to prepare some tea, Pigeon was on the menu for the first night. One of our instructors took us through how to prep them etc, I have to admit I sat this and the Rabbit prep session out, it was interesting to see it done but it's just not my thing... 

Anyway... with that all done it was back to the fire and on went our tea...

It's the first time I've eaten pigeon and I have to admit it wasn't too bad, I think the other ingredients (especially the ginger) helped a lot but the flavour was pretty good. After this we were left to it for the evening so we sat around the fire chatting and getting to know each other a little before retiring for the evening.

I slept pretty well the first night, I think the four days in the Lakes beforehand probably helped as I was pretty tired but the tarp kept me dry and I was plenty warm in my sleeping bag. 

I wasn't the first to rise on the Saturday so by the time I made it to the parachute shelter the fire was already going once more and the kettle rather conveniently just boiled :-)

After some breakfast we were given a bit of a talk about shelter building before being set free in the woods to make our own to use that night if we wanted. After taking a while to find the right spot and the three main supports I cracked on and this is what I came up with, it's no Trailstar but it did keep me dry!


After the shelters were up it was on to lunch, Trout to be exact. 

Again we were taken through how to prep them etc and these were cooked over the fire, very tasty they were too.

After lunch we had a bit of a bimble through the woods and a foraging related talk/show/tell, the instructors were again extremely knowledgable, pointing out things most of us would miss and able to answer any questions the group had for them.

The bimble was followed by a great afternoon session all about fire, starting with the very basics and going through the many different methods of how to get one going before being allowed a good play with everything ourselves.

After this it was on to our evening meal, rabbit. I've not eaten rabbit before and have to admit I wasn't a big fan. The meat seemed a little tough and wasn't particularly flavoursome for me, but again it was good to see how to prepare and cook them from scratch.

On the Saturday night we had a good long talk re sharps, inc the different types, styles, grinds, as well as a look through plenty of different knives the instructors had brought with them. After this it was more cups of tea and chatting around the camp fire before heading to bed fairly late.

I had another good nights sleep, this time in my shelter but woke early, the rain had stopped so I decided to get up straight away and head over to the main camp. Being first up I got the fire going again and the kettle on and I even got to see a little bit of a sunrise :-)

We all made our own Damper bread for breakfast which super easy and was pretty very nice.

This was followed by a really good session re trapping. Martin took this one and you could clearly see it was something he loved and had great experience/practice of.

This pretty much concluded the weekend. The weather was crap all weekend but I managed to stay pretty much dry, in a way I think the rain kind of added to the weekend... or is that just one of those things people say when they've been somewhere and it's rained the whole time?!

I've probably missed quite a lot out but all in all it was a cracking weekend and I'd highly recommend Woodland Ways to anyone looking for this sort of course, the instructors were great and made time for everyone. Woodland Ways do all kinds of courses for all different abilities and you can just tell the instructors love what they do. The instructors were great, very knowledgable and always on hand to answer any questions etc, we had Martin and Matt as our instructors, I think Matt is on a kind of apprentice type scheme with Woodland Ways but you'd never know he wasn't one of their full time instructors.

I guess I should probably leave it a that as this is already a little longer than I intended it to be, hope this has been of interest to some!


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