Autumn and winter in the UK can seem like a time of inactivity in the woods. For those who know where to look and what to look for there are plenty of things going on. In this blog, we’re going to take a short look at a few of the plants that make an appearance during autumn and winter in the UK.

Read on to learn more or click on the links below to skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Lesser celandine

Plants for autumn and winter

Ficaria verna, commonly known as lesser celandine

Lesser celandine is related to the buttercup family. It’s yellow flowers, which resemble stars, bloom from late February into May. Look for lesser celandine carpeting the woodland floors as winter begins to relax its hold on the earth. It is one of the plants that is used to provide an indication of the passing of seasonal events, for this reason, the flowering of lesser celandine is seen as a sign of spring. The flowers of lesser celandine provide an important source of nectar for bumblebees and other insects that begin to emerge in early spring.

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Mistletoe 

Plants to identify in autumn and winter

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is so much more than just a plant for awkwardly kissing under at Christmas.  This parasitic plant typically grows on plants such as hawthorn, blackthorn, and rowan. The white berries of mistletoe appear in winter while the plant itself flowers in at some point between February and April. Many animals depend upon mistletoe throughout the winter and it forms a key part of the surrounding ecosystem.  The plant has associations with fertility and vitality in western medieval culture. 

 

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Primrose

 

Plants to identify in autumn and winter

Primrose

 

Primroses typically flower between late December and early May and are often found in woodland clearings. They are found throughout Europe, stretching in distribution from the tip of North Africa to Norway. The flowers and leaves of primroses are both edible and can be used in soups and stews. 

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Dog’s Mercury 

 

Plants for autumn and winter in the UK

Mercurialis perennis, commonly known as dog’s mercury

Dog’s Mercury is common throughout the UK, most often found carpeting the floor of ancient woodlands.  It often spreads to such an extent that it crowds out species such as Oxlip, shading woodland floors. Dog’s Mercury flowers in February through to April, although it bears leaves throughout the year. It is also, and most importantly, very highly poisonous. Eating Dog’s Mercury can lead to vomiting, the victim falling into a coma and then death.  

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Kit

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them.

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

In this blog, we’re going to have a look at some of the things that change in our woods in autumn. As all skilled bushcraft practitioners know being in tune with nature is the key to improving one’s skill set. Every time we go out into the woods it is important to look around and take it all in, this blog will help you do just this by providing you with some autumn characteristics of UK woodlands to look out for.

 

Animal behaviour 

autumn in the UK woods


Autumn doesn’t just bring with it a change of colour in the leaves, it also brings a change in animal behaviours. Here are a few to look out for.

  • Birds
    Falling temperatures and declining availability of foods cause some species of birds to migrate throughout the autumn.  Keep an eye out for birds such as Swallows which migrate from Europe to Africa in the winter, returning to their feeding grounds in spring.  There are other less long-distance migrants, altitudinal migrants – those that migrant short distances from north to south – include Skylarks, Meadow pipits and Snow buntings.
    For more information see the RSPB’s website here.
  • Hedgehogs, dormice, and bats
    Hedgehogs, dormice, and bats consume large quantities of fruit, nuts, and insects in the run-up to winter in order to increase their proportions of body fat and prepare for their hibernation.
  • Deer and Boar
    For larger animals, such as deer and boar, autumn can be a busy time of the year. These animals are all seeking mates, so while it is a good time of the year to see them it is best to keep your distance.

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Fungi 

Mushrooms in autumn in the UK woods


Autumn is a great time of year to spot fungi. Remember though, never eat anything that you have not 100% positively identified as safe. The kingdom of fungi is an enormous one, with over 15,000 species in the UK alone. The Woodland Trust outlines several of the most common types of fungi found in the UK,
here on their blog

 

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Trees

Alder trees for bushcraft 

The UK woodland is a fantastic sight in autumn. The deciduous trees are losing their leaves and the woods are carpeted with an amazing array of colours. Identifying deciduous trees in autumn and winter is a key bushcraft skill that will help you with other bushcraft skills including friction fire lighting and shelter building.  The Woodland Trust has an introduction to identifying trees in the UK in autumn and winter in their blog here. 

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Kit 


Autumn is a fantastic time to get out into the woods and practice your bushcraft skills. We’ve listed some equipment below that might come in handy when practicing your autumn bushcraft.
Please note that aside from Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the brands or pieces of equipment listed below – we don’t get anything extra if you choose to purchase one of these items!  

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blog posts that might interest you. Use the arrows to navigate. 

Practicing bushcraft in the UK can be a fantastic activity to introduce to your children and wider family. Not only is it an enjoyable and practical skill for children to learn it can also have wider learning applications, teaching skills such as a greater respect for nature and each other as well as giving them the ability to make decisions independently.

Here are our top tips for introducing your family to bushcraft, as always feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most. Remember, the best way to perfect these skills is on a bushcraft course. Find out more about our family bushcraft course here.

 

Start small

Family bushcraft course


When it comes to introducing your family to bushcraft it is best to start small. Don’t try and load everything that you know on to children or, if you are also starting your bushcraft journey, don’t expect others journeys to take the same path as yours.  It is best to start small, pick a skill that can be easily practiced and work on it together. Skills such as tree and plant identification (although remember never to eat anything you’ve not 100% identified), knots or animal prints. 

 

Shelter building

Shelter building family bushcraft
Children love dens and teaching them how to build shelters is a great way of introducing them to bushcraft. Depending on the age of the children you might not want to introduce them to the knife or axe skills required for shelter building. What you can do though, however, is pre-cut the wood and then practice shelter building with them. Or, if you are not confident using an axe or knife, why not just try making shelters with the materials that you have to hand, or just get used to sleeping out under a tarp with your family.

 

INTRODUCE YOUR FAMILY TO BUSHCRAFT WITH OUR  FAMILY BUSHCRAFT COURSE 

 

Fire lighting 

Fire lighting family bushcraft course

When it comes to fire lighting one of the best things that you can teach children is to respect the fire. Teaching respect of the fire when getting into bushcraft as a family will mean that, as your children become more involved with different aspects of fire lighting they are less likely to mess about and hurt themselves. Other than that a good method of fire lighting that can be taught is with a steel striker and a ball of cotton wool used as tinder. For more information on fire lighting tips and tricks have a look at our blog post here

 

INTRODUCE YOUR FAMILY TO BUSHCRAFT WITH OUR  FAMILY BUSHCRAFT COURSE 

 

Tool use

family bushcraft course

If you and your family are starting your bushcraft journey, or if you are already on your journey and you want to teach your family, then tool use is a great place to start. Teaching the correct way to use a knife and, if children are old enough, and axe can be a great way of increasing independence and teaching responsibility. It should go without saying though that it’s best not to let children use knives and axes unsupervised.

What to expect on our family bushcraft course

Family bushcraft course

Our family bushcraft course costs £100 per adult or £80 for those under 18. The course is aimed at the whole family and is designed to allow children to explore and learn new skills in a safe but fun environment. As a family, you will learn to build your own shelter, track woodland animals, make fires, cook over an open fire, find safe walking drinking water and lots more.

It’s what you make of it

Our family bushcraft weekend can be as adventurous as you make it. You can choose to sleep in a hammock, under a tarp, or in the shelter that you made as a family.  Of course, if you would rather you’re welcome to bring your own tent.

 

Kit mentions 

Here is some kit that you might find useful when learning bushcraft with your family. 

 

In certain situations, the ability to source clean, drinkable, water from seawater is an essential survival skill. This blog looks at this vital coastal survival skill in more detail, as always feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most. While we don’t yet cover desalination on our current courses we do look at water sourcing and water purification on our weekend bushcraft course and our intermediate bushcraft course.

 

What is the problem with seawater?

Seawater into drinking water

‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink’ as the Ancient Mariner said, but what exactly is the problem with sea water? Basically, seawater contains salt and humans can only ingest so much salt. The salt content of seawater is much higher than what we can safely consume. Our kidneys have to produce urine that has a lower quantity of salt than salt water, therefore in order to get rid of the amount of salt consumed by drinking salt water we would need to urinate more than we drink. This would mean that we slowly dehydrate ourselves while becoming thirstier.

Removing salt from salt water

Seawater into drinking water
Removing salt, from salt or rather saline water, involves separating the salt particles from the water particles. The easiest way to do this in the field is through evaporation. This process involves heating the water in one container until steam forms and can be collected in another container. The easiest way to do this is to run a piece of tubing from the first container through which the steam condenses when entering, into the second container.

This may not always be practical though so be prepared to improvise the tubing with plastic sheeting angled so that it catches the steam from the first container and allows the water to run into the second.

 

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Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire


Other considerations

Drinking water in the bush
Desalination is a complex and energy-intensive process. It can be difficult to get right and consumes fuel supplies. When looking for sources of water in coastal area desalination should be a last resort. Some other methods of gaining fresh water are outlined below.

  • Transpiration
    Water moves through plants, including coastal plants, from its roots through to its leaves, stems, and flowers where it evaporates. If the coastal area in which you are looking for water has a lot of vegetation or there is nearby vegetation inland then these plants are an excellent source of water. Simply throw a bag, such as a survival bag over the leaves of a nearby plant. Tie the bag off at the opening over the branch, then wait. In a few hours, the water from the plants should have evaporated and gathered in the bottom of the bag.
  • Search for other water sources
    Coastal areas have water running to them, through the form of rivers or streams. Finding where one of these water sources comes out and then tracing it back upstream will provide you with a source of freshwater. Be warned though that if you select water from a stream close to the beach then it is likely to be saline.

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What to expect on our bushcraft course 

Discover our weekend bushcraft course
On our weekend bushcraft course, we will introduce you to the principles of water filtration. Although we won’t introduce you to desalination we will show you how to source water and create a basic filter using natural materials.

We will also introduce you to the principles of shelter building, friction fire lighting, food preparation (fin, feather, and fur), knife skills, axe skills and many other bushcraft essentials. If you would like to develop your bushcraft skills further then our intermediate bushcraft course is for you. 

 

Click here to find out more about our intermediate bushcraft course. 

Kit mentions 

Here is a run through of some of our favourite kit, while we don’t use this for water purification we do take it out in the woods with us. 

 

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Intermediate bushcraft course

Further reading 

Use the arrows below to navigate these related blogs.

 

LEARN HOW TO USE AN AXE, BUILD SHELTERS, LIGHT FIRES AND MORE ON OUR IOL ACCREDITED WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

This year, we’ve introduced our Intermediate Bushcraft Course. This course is designed to help you to improve your bushcraft knowledge and practical ability. It is a great progression for all of those that have taken part in our accredited Foundation in Bushcraft and Wilderness Living Skills Level 2 Course.  

 Our intermediate bushcraft course runs over five days and provides the foundation for intermediate to longer term living in the woods. This blog looks at what you will learn on the course and how this provides you with knowledge for intermediate-term living in the woods.

As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

What will I learn on the course?

Bushcraft courses from Wildway Bushcraft

 

In short, too much to cover in just one blog! More broadly speaking though our intermediate bushcraft course will cover the following topics; skinning and butchery of large game, primitive food preservation techniques including smoking and curing, how to make glues, long-term shelter building, green woodworking, spoon carving, advanced fire lighting, traps and snares, foraging, basketry and much, much more.

We can’t possibly cover all of these topics in this blog but we will touch on a few of them in the sections below. The best way to learn these skills though is to sign up for our Intermediate Bushcraft Course.

 

Long-term shelter building

Intermediate bushcraft course

On our intermediate bushcraft course, you will be living in the woods for five days. This requires that you build a longer term shelter, we will also look at shelters for winter survival.

By the end of our course, you will have a shelter that is not only wind and waterproof but that is also equipped with a bed, a stool, and a table to work off. Remember, our intermediate bushcraft course is designed so that you can unlock your ability to thrive in the wilderness.

It is not a survival course! Instructors from Wildway will be on hand to give you advice, assistance and more than a few cups of tea and coffee.

 

Large game butchery

Large game butchery

While our IOL accredited Weekend Bushcraft Course covers the butchery of small animals and birds, our intermediate bushcraft course covers, in more detail, the butchery of large game.

In this case, it is likely to be a deer, one of the most commonly available large game animals in the UK. Our course is designed to provide a complete overview of woodland living, therefore the large game butchery lessons will also cover the skinning of large game and the preservation of food using primitive skills. Read on to find out more about primitive smoking techniques.

Primitive smoking techniques

Primitive smoking and curing techniques are just one of the elements of wilderness living that you will learn on our intermediate bushcraft course. These are some of the oldest techniques for preserving meat and fish and help you to maximise your food supplies.

Advanced fire lighting

advanced fire lighting

Building on from the fire lighting techniques we demonstrate and teach on our weekend bushcraft course our intermediate bushcraft course covers more advanced techniques. This includes traditional fire lighting methods, including the bow drill, and teaches this technique from a complete basis – from wood selection to getting an ember. Our instructors work closely with you to help you get the most out of your time in the woods.

Traps, snares, and foraging

Living in the woods on an intermediate to long-term basis means being able to find, catch and prepare your own food. We will cover trapping, snaring and foraging so that you are better equipped for living in the UK woods on a long-term basis.

Book your place

Book your intermediate place

Our Intermediate Bushcraft Course runs from 24th to 28th of September. Places are £335 for the entire week. If you would like to discuss payment plans or the opportunity to put down a deposit and then pay the outstanding balance later, please contact John Boe on john@wildwaybushcraft.co.uk.

When choosing a spot on which to have your campfire it is best to make sure that it is close to a water source or that you have plenty of water to hand. This will come in handy when it comes to clearing up your fire in the morning.Bushcraft is about existing in harmony with nature, not about overcoming or conquering it. This harmony means working with what nature has made available and not damaging it, unless absolutely necessary. This is particularly true when it comes to fire lighting. Campsites and woods are often littered with the remains of fires, charred ground and, more often than not, tin cans and the remains of meals.

In this blog, we’re going to look at the bushcraft skill of fire lighting without damaging the surrounding environment. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or click on the links below to skip to the section that interests you the most.

 Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more. 

Minimising your impact 

light a fire leave no trace


In reality, any interaction with the natural world is going to alter it in some way. From gathering dead wood to make a fire through to digging a latrine our very existence in nature, which we are part of, alters it in some way. As
bushcraft practitioners, however, we need to ensure that we minimise our inevitable impact on the natural world.

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Preparing your fire 

Leave no trace
When it comes to leaving no trace of your fire it is all about thinking ahead. This section shows how you make sure that you minimise your impact on the environment with a little bit of prior planning.

  • Ensure that you’re close to a water source
    When choosing a spot on which to have your campfire it is best to make sure that it is close to a water source or that you have plenty of water to hand. This will come in handy when it comes to clearing up your fire in the morning.
  • Choosing your materials
    When it comes to choosing materials with which to light your fire you should look for those that not only minimise your impact on the natural world but, also, of course, are suitable for fire lighting. Look for dead standing wood rather, than cutting anything off trees; not only is this good etiquette but also green, recently cut wood will not easily burn. When collecting firewood it is important to correctly gauge the amount that you need;  come the morning you don’t want to leave a smoldering pile of half burned logs.

Prepare your fire lighting materials in advance so that you are not scrabbling around for extra materials once your fire is going.

 

  • Preparing the ground
    After having gathered your firewood, it’s time to prepare the ground.  Begin by clearing the ground of all dead leaves and debris. Lay down a base of dead and dry wood, around a few centimetres in diameter. This base will not only improve the air flow to the fire but will also protect your kindling from the damp ground.

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more

Clear up after the fire

Leave no trace when wild camping
After having had your fire it is time to clean it up. Having carefully gauged the amount of wood that you will need on the fire you should be left with only a few embers in the morning, not half-burned logs.

 

  • Douse the embers
    Using the water that we mentioned earlier, dowse the embers. After having covered them in water put your hands into the mix to check that the ground below is cool.
  • Distribute the ashes
    Having checked that the ashes are cool scatter them in the area surrounding the campsite. Be sure to scatter them well, don’t dump them all in the same place.
  • Cover up the site of the campsite
    Having distributed the ashes cover up the place where your campfire was with surrounding materials. Do this is a way that is fitting with the natural environment.

Key pieces of kit

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when out and about in the woods.Please note that, with the exception of Bear Blades and Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors, Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

  • Knives
    Bushcraft knife Bear BladesWildway Bushcraft uses Bear Blades.
    “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
    http://bearblades.co.uk/

  • Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors
    bushcraft a family guide Whether it is a mini adventure into the woods and countryside, a camping trip or simply exploring your own back garden, it’s hard to get enough outdoors time, so what better way to do that than with the art of bushcraft? This beautifully illustrated book written by Wildway Bushcraft’s John Boe alongside Owen Senior, contains everything that both children and adults need to know to have fun and be safe in the outside world, including instructions on building shelters, foraging, tracking, tying knots, navigation and much more!
    Buy it on Amazon here
  • Fallkniven DC4Fallkniven DC4This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
    https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/ 
  • Tarps
    Tarp set-ups, how to set up a tarp from Wildway Bushcraft

    Here at Wildway Bushcraft we’re big fans of DD Hammocks and regularly use their 3 x 3 tarp; here’s what DD has to say about it.
    “ DD Tarp 3×3 offers reliable protection wherever you go. Its 19 reinforced attachment points offer a huge number of setup options, and it’s the tarp of choice for bushcraft & survival schools, the military and countless wild campers worldwide!”
    https://www.ddhammocks.com/ 
  • Axe
    Gransfor Bruks Small Forset Axe

    Copyright Gransfor Bruks

    John Boe, owner and founder of Wildway Bushcraft use the Gransfors Bruk Small Forset Axe which weighs in at only 900 gram (2lbs) and is small enough to fit in a rucksack whilst still being powerful enough to do most jobs.
    https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/

Further reading

Read more about the topics covered in this blog via the links below:

 

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more

Spring is in the air and nature is blooming. In this blog we’re going to take a look at five key trees for bushcraft in the UK. We’ll also cover some common bushcraft uses for these trees. As always, feel free to read the entire blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Bushcraft and nature 

Trees for bushcraft


Unlike what is shown on some popular TV shows, bushcraft is not about overcoming or conquering nature; it is about living in harmony with it. Key to living in harmony with nature is understanding it, particularly when it comes to the trees around you. By knowing the names and uses for the trees which you come into contact with your time in the woods will be much more enjoyable and productive.

Silver Birch

Trees for bushcraft Silver Birch

One of the most useful trees when it comes to bushcraft the Silver Birch is easily identified by its white bark. Silver Birch often hybridises with the downy birch, the latter of which is, in terms of the UK, most commonly found in Scotland.

  • Bushcraft uses for the Silver Birch
    One of the most versatile trees in terms of bushcraft. The Silver Birch can be tapped for refreshment in early spring (for more information about tapping a silver birch read our blog here [link to: How to tap a Silver Birch]. The bark is also an excellent fire lighting resource, to learn more about using birch bark for fire lighting watch our video below.

  • Lighting a fire using birch bark

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Hazel

Hazel trees for bushcraft

 

Hazel is native to the UK, when it is not coppiced (as they often are) hazel can reach heights of 12 metres. In ancient mythology, a rod of hazel was used to protect against and ward off evil spirits.   Hazel is an incredibly springy wood and can easily be bent into a variety of shapes, which as we shall see, makes it excellent for bushcraft.

Alder

Alder trees for bushcraft

Alder is native to Britain although it is also found as far East as Siberia. Alder is known for its role in improving the fertility of the soil in which it grows. This is due to the bacterium found in the roots. This bacterium, Frankia Alni absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. The tree then provides sugars to the bacterium which it produces through photosynthesis.


Common Ash

Ash tree

The Common Ash, also known as the European Ash or simply the Ash is native throughout mainland Europe. When fully grown, Ash trees can grow to heights of 35 metres and live for around 400 years. Ash trees provide homes and/or food for a variety of species such as bullfinches, owls, redstarts as well as a variety of caterpillars and moths.

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Hawthorn
Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a native tree to the UK. The Hawthorn tree is also known as the May-tree, as it flowers in this month. For an interesting pub quiz fact, Hawthorn is the only tree in the UK to be named after the month in which in flowers

 

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Key pieces of kit

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when out and about in the woods.
Please note that, with the exception of Bear Blades and Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors, Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

  • Knives
    Bushcraft knives
    Wildway Bushcraft use Bear Blades.
    “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
    http://bearblades.co.uk/ 
  • Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors
    bushcraft a family guide
    Whether it is a mini adventure into the woods and countryside, a camping trip or simply exploring your own back garden, it’s hard to get enough outdoors time, so what better way to do that than with the art of bushcraft? This beautifully illustrated book written by Wildway Bushcraft’s John Boe alongside Owen Senior, contains everything that both children and adults need to know to have fun and be safe in the outside world, including instructions on building shelters, foraging, tracking, tying knots, navigation and much more!Buy it on Amazon here 
  • Fallkniven DC4
    Fallkniven DC4
    This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
    https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/
  • Tarps
    DD Tarp and HammockHere at Wildway Bushcraft we’re big fans of DD Hammocks and regularly use their 3 x 3 tarp; here’s what DD has to say about it. “ DD Tarp 3×3 offers reliable protection wherever you go. Its 19 reinforced attachment points offer a huge number of setup options, and it’s the tarp of choice for bushcraft & survival schools, the military and countless wild campers worldwide!”
    https://www.ddhammocks.com/
  • Axe

    Gransfor Bruks Small Forset Axe

    Copyright Gransfor Bruks


    John Boe, owner and founder of Wildway Bushcraft use the Gransfors Bruk Small Forset Axe which weighs in at only 900 gram (2lbs) and is small enough to fit in a rucksack whilst still being powerful enough to do most jobs.   https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/

Further reading

Read more about the topics covered in this blog via the links below:

 

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Stinging nettle tea is a staple of wilderness living. The tea is easy to make and the ingredients are bountiful at this time of year. Read on to learn more about how to make stinging nettle tea. As always, please feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Why make stinging nettle tea?

Make stinging nettle tea

 

Stinging nettles have been used by native peoples for a variety of uses throughout history. Native Americans harvested nettles and used them for food in spring when other sources of food were scarce. In the UK, the nettle was one of nine plants mentioned in the ‘Nine Herbs Charm’. An Anglo-Saxon charm aimed at treating poisoning and infection. Stinging nettles are also thought to promote lactation, stimulate hair follicles, treat kidney disorders, reduce joint pain and even act as a remedy against hay fever.  

Best time to forage for stinging nettles

Where to look for stinging nettles
When foraging for stinging nettles to make stinging nettle tea it is best to pick the leaves before they flower. When making stinging nettle tea, go for the leaves that are the youngest and therefore the most tender. This makes spring a great time to start foraging for stinging nettles. If you would like to know more about foraging, as well as other uses for stinging nettles read our blog Start Your Spring Foraging.

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What to look for when picking stinging nettles

Nettles are very high in vitamins A & D, particularly the younger leaves. When picking stinging nettles for stinging nettle tea it is best to pick the younger and fresher leaves. Don’t forget that when picking nettles, as with foraging for anything, don’t take more than you need and don’t take regularly from the same area of plants.

It is best to choose nettles that are further away from the beaten path and higher off the floor than might make them popular for animals to relieve themselves on!  

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Making stinging nettle tea

Make stinging nettle tea

Making stinging nettle tea is a very easy business. You will need about one cup of nettle leaves for every two cups of water. Simply add the nettle leaves to the water and bring to the boil. The tea can be made stronger or weaker by adding more, or less, water. Once the water has been simmering for a few minutes strain the mixture into a cup, being sure that no nettles go through the strainer. Once the mixture is prepared it can be drunk straight away.

Further reading

Read more about some of the topics covered in this blog via the links below.

 

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

In this blog, we’re going to be looking at how to tap a silver birch.  When it comes to bushcraft in the UK, knowing how to safely, responsibly and correctly tap a silver birch for its sap is a fantastic skill to have under your belt.  Read on to learn more, as always feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Intro to silver birch

Betula pendula

 

The silver birch is one of only two native birch trees in the UK. Its Latin name is Betula Pendula in Celtic mythology the tree came to symbolise renewal and purification. The tree has strong fertility connections and is linked to the ancient Celtic celebration of Beltane – which has now morphed into May Day. The tree is one of the most useful trees for bushcraft in the UK. Its bark can be used for fire lighting, and, as we’re going to look at it this blog, it can be tapped for sap among many other uses.

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How to identify a silver birch 

Silver birch bushcraft UK

A silver birch is perhaps one of the easiest trees to identify in the UK. Its bark is, as you might expect from the tree’s name,white-ish/ silver and often sheds layers like paper. When mature, trees can reach around 30 m in height and form a light canopy, its leaves are light green, small and triangular-shaped.  Both male and female catkins can be found on the same tree throughout April to May. Silver Birch often hybridises with downy birch, the other native birch to Britain. 

Why tap a silver birch 

Birch sap can be consumed either fresh from the tree of naturally fermented. It contains only 18 calories per 100 ml, that’s less than ever coconut water for those that are interested in such things. It is also loaded with vitamins, proteins, amino acids, and minerals.  It has a variety of uses in folk traditions across Eastern Europe and in the UK was traditionally used to treat everything from rheumatism to the prevention of baldness.

How to tap a silver birch 

Birch sap is best collected during early spring, however, the recent cold snap might have delayed the prime time from collecting sap.  However, as spring comes on its way so does the time for collecting sap. The most important thing, however, when it comes to collecting sap from birch trees is to do it in a manner which does not damage the tree. The easiest way of doing this is to snip off one the narrower branches, where it splits off and forms another. This will enable the sap, if tapped during the tapping season, to seep out of the tree at quite a rate. Cuts can be made in the bark about an inch deep on a 45-degree incline, this will enable the sap to flow out at a steady rate. However, it is preferable, for the tree, to use the first method described.

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Respect the trees

Silver birch trees provide shelter and habitats for around 300 species of insects while woodpeckers and other hole drilling birds often nest in the trunk. Bushcraft is about living in harmony with nature, not overcoming it or battling against it. Whatever aspect of bushcraft your practicing you should treat nature with respect, this goes doubly when tapping birch. You should never over harvest one particular tree if you have to take the sap from the trunk itself then be sure to stop it up properly to prevent infection getting into the tree. It’s always better to just take it from the branch as we suggested earlier.

Key pieces of kit

Here are a few pieces of kit that might help you with your bushcraft in general and tapping a Silver Birch in particular. Have a look below and feel free to buy them via the links below. Keep in mind that, with the exception of Bear Blades.

Knives
Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft

Wildway Bushcraft use Bear Blades. “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
http://bearblades.co.uk/   

 



Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors

 

Bushcraft-family-guide

 


Whether it is a mini adventure into the woods and countryside, a camping trip or simply exploring your own back garden, it’s hard to get enough outdoors time, so what better way to do that than with the art of bushcraft? This beautifully illustrated book written by Wildway Bushcraft’s John Boe alongside Owen Senior, contains everything that both children and adults need to know to have fun and be safe in the outside world, including instructions on building shelters, foraging, tracking, tying knots, navigation and much more!

Buy it on Amazon here 

Further reading

Read more about the topics covered in this blog via the links below:

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.   

Preparing and cooking a fish in the wild is not only a great bushcraft skill, it’s also fantastic fun.
This blog won’t cover how to catch a fish, you can find more information about that here, but it will show you how to gut, prepare and cook a fish in the woods.

Read on to learn more.

As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.


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Gutting a fish in the wild 

Gutting a fish in the wild


What better than sitting down to eat a fish that you’ve just caught and cooked over a campfire. It is a truly special experience that pulls together several bushcraft skills and immerses one in the wilderness.  


This wonderful experience begins with, having caught your fish, correctly gutting it. Read on to learn more.

 

Gutting your fish in the wild: a step by step guide 

Having caught and killed your fish, you need to gut it. This should be done when the fish is as fresh as possible. Ideally, you will have a fire already burning or if not at least prepared and ready to light in a quick and effective manner. 



Learn more about preparing fin, feather, and fur as well as knife sharpening, shelter building, and fire lighting in our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Step 1: prepare your fish for gutting 

The first thing that you will need to do before gutting your healthy looking fish is to wash it and scale it. Depending upon the type of fish you might need to be careful around the fins which can often be sharp. In order to remove the scales from a fish, you will need to scrape a blade (gently and you don’t want to damage the fish) from the tail to the head of the fish.

Step 2: Cut open the fish

Select your sharpest knife and cut, from tail to head, along the length of the belly of the fish. It is important that your knife be razor sharp for this task, you just want to open the fish up – not impale it! To see how to sharpen a knife, take a look at this video that we did as part of our Facebook live series.

Step 3: Remove the entrails 

Slowly, using your finger in a ‘come hither’ motion, remove the fish’s entrails.  You may prefer to use a spoon for this task but however, you do it make sure that all of the entrails are fully removed. 

Step 4: Rinse the inside of the fish

Rinse the inside of the fish simply by pouring water and letting it run over and in the cavity.

Remember…

Don’t leave fish entrails just scattered about your campsite. Not only is this untidy and disrespectful it can also lead to animals, such as rats or even foxes, frequenting your campsite. Burn the entrails of the fish or seal them in a plastic bag and carry them out with you. 


Cooking a fish in the wild

Cooking a fish in the wild

 

With your fire lit and your fish gutted it’s time to start cooking your fish. There are several methods for doing this and we run through a few below. The most important thing to do though is to find out what works for you and what you enjoy!

Read on to find out more about bushcraft and cooking a fish in the wild.  



Learn more about preparing fin, feather, and fur as well as knife sharpening, shelter building, and fire lighting in our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Cooking fish in the wild:  split stick

Perhaps the best know bushcraft method for cooking a fish is the split stick.  Here is how to cook fish using this method.

  1. Choose a length of non-toxic wood,  such as willow or hazel, around 2m long and 5 cm thick. Split the stick lengthways down the middle for around 30 cm.
  2. Butterfly the fish so that it opens out and can be laid flat with the inner flesh exposed.
  3. Make cross sticks. These should be around the thickness of your finger and around double the length of the width of the butterflied fish. Remove the back from the sticks and sharpen them into a point at each end.
  4. Bring it all together – thread the cross sticks through the butterflied fish and fit the fish, now held open with the cross sticks, into the split stick you made earlier.
  5. Now, make a tripod to hold you split stick, or simply stick it in the ground with a supporting stick along the length of the main split stick, and cook your fish over the fire.

Cooking fish in the wild:  steaming

Steaming fish might seem like an elaborate method of cooking fish, but bushcraft is about being in harmony with nature; not ‘surviving’ or ‘overcoming’ it.  

  • Start with the fire

    Start cooking when your fire burning down to the embers, or use a ‘keyhole’ shaped fire pit from which you can scrape the embers without impacting on the fire. Lay several handfuls of sphagnum moss over the embers, so that the roots and mud of the moss face toward the fire. Place your gutted fish on top of this moss then cover with another handful of moss, placed with the roots facing towards the sky.
  • Wait for the steamWait until steam begins to rise from the moss, once it begins to steam then leave your fish to steam for around thirty minutes before testing if it is ready to eat. If the fish is ready then the skin should slip easily away from the flesh.



Learn more about preparing fin, feather, and fur as well as knife sharpening, shelter building, and fire lighting in our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Key pieces of kit 

Here are a few pieces of kit that we mentioned on this blog. Have a look below and feel free to buy them via the links below. Keep in mind that, with the exception of Bear Blades,  Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

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Knives

Bushcraft knife Bear Blades
Wildway Bushcraft uses Bear Blades.

“Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
http://bearblades.co.uk/   

Fallkniven DC4
falkniven DC4

This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/ 

Further reading

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