coastal foraging

Coastal Foraging 

Coastal Foraging 

To forage is to search widely for food and sustenance, but our search shouldn’t just be limited to the green environments of woodland and meadows, and being as we live on an island it makes great sense to do some coastal foraging too.

Coastal foraging can bring such a variety, from shellfish to sea vegetables and everything in between. Variety also comes with the changing tides, changing seasons and the variety of coastal landscapes that we are lucky enough to have here in the UK.

coastal foragingBefore you do head out to start your coastal foraging be sure to do some research. Make sure that you head to clean unpolluted coastal areas to find your edibles. You can check this out on the Surfers Against Sewage website  https://www.sas.org.uk/map/ who have an up to date map of the UK with its clean coastline guide. Or contact the local Port Health Authority or the Environmental Health Authority in the area that you are heading.

Also be sure to stay safe. Make sure you are aware of the tide times and weather forecast for your location. Stay away from crumbling cliffs, areas prone to rock fall as well as being aware of sinking sand and deep marshy areas, not to mention the slippery rock surfaces you may have to clamber over. And as with any form of foraging make sure you are confident in your identification to prevent yourself ingesting anything poisonous.  

To help with identification of edibles it’s good to be clear on the following terms that may be used in your identification books and apps-

The beach refers to the strip of land above the high tide line. 

The foreshore is the area of land frequently exposed between the low and high tide line.

The sub-tidal zone is the seabed below the low tide line.

Knowing these terms will help you out when coastal foraging anything from plants to shellfish as you’ll learn the best places to find them as well as being sure that you have found the right one and that it is definitely edible and safe. 

Another consideration, and certainly not to put you off, but make sure you up to date with the latest regulation in your area of foraging. Some of the regulations are slightly old fashioned and others are just plain bonkers, such as you can legally forage 5 prawns from a Northumberland shore yet 6 would be illegal! Or you can’t collect mussels in Hampshire east of a line running north/south through the Needles Lighthouse after 4pm during the oyster season! See what I mean, some of them seem slightly obscure so if you are hoping to be making regular foraging trips to your local coastline it’s good to be up to date with any current regulations, and be aware that regulations change regularly depending on environmental changes as well as changes in the law. 

Plants-

The coastal environment is rich in an abundance of varied plant life, many of them packed with beneficial nutrients and easy to identify.

As well as the plants that grow up on the cliff line, such as rock samphire, or through the dunes, such as sea beet, there are an abundance of edible plant species to be found along the foreshore as well as in the sub-tidal zone too.

When coastal foraging you may often come across the term sea vegetables, this literally means types of seaweed. There are no known poisonous seaweeds along the UK coastlines at this time, but it is good to check this regularly as new species are always being found. Seaweeds are rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and iodine.Seaweed

Seaweeds are commonly eaten in their dried form, making it easier to preserve their nutrients but also making them more palatable as many types are very slimy in texture. Though if you don’t want to eat dried seaweed you can add them to soups, stir fries and pasta dishes. With many of them having a salty taste they can add to flavour as well as nutrition. 

Once you have found and identified the plant, be sure to use scissors or a small penknife to cut the small section of plants rather than just pulling at them which can cause uprooting and damage. It is in fact illegal to uproot any plant in the wild so be careful here. Also be sure to consider the wildlife too, don’t remove all that you find, just take a little for yourself but leave enough for wildlife, for the plant to be undamaged and reproduce as well as allowing for others who maybe out foraging too. Always forage sustainably, don’t gather from just one patch, take a little then move on. If you turn and look at the area and you can’t see that you have foraged anything there then that is great, but if you can see where you have been gathering then you have taken too much. As you move along foraging also be aware of the rest of the environment around you, be sure not to trample other plant life or wildlife habitats just in a bid to get your preferred plant. 

Molluscs

Marine molluscs fall into three categories, the bivalves and gastropods which can be foraged from the seashore and the cephalopods which include creatures such as the squid who, I’m sure you’ll agree, are far less forgeable on your average day out. 

Cockles, oysters, mussels and clams are bivalves and are more widely sought after than the gastropods which include the limpet and winkle, though these shouldn’t be overlooked as a foraging option. 

Before heading out make sure you are in an area of clean water, especially as many shellfish are filter feeders, so if the area is polluted then the shell fish will have ingested and be holding on to this toxic waste too, this will increase the chance of making you ill.  

Talking of making you ill, there are certain bacterias that can be present in shell fish that can lead to food poisoning, especially if they are not prepared and cooked effectively. So if you are out gathering certain shell fish be sure to read up on their cleaning and cooking needs.

coastal foragingIt is best to collect from open clean areas where there is greater tidal movement. Avoid collecting from marinas, harbours and ports due to the pollution from boat traffic and any waste that may have been dumped. Also be mindful of agricultural run off too so stay away from narrow estuaries or out flow pipes. 

There is another slightly bonkers piece of advice passed down through generations of fisherman and foragers, and that is, don’t eat shellfish unless there’s an “r” in the month! Yep, it sounds crazy but actually links back to safe times of the year to forage. During the later spring and summer months, which you’ll notice don’t have a r in them, the bivalves are at their most active  which means they are filtering through huge amounts of sea water. This is also the time of year when certain harmful bacterias and algae’s are at the highest levels. As much as algae blooms could theoretically occur at other times of the year, they are most prevalent during the late spring and summer months so it’s best to take this in to consideration. 

Once you have found safe areas to coastal forage there are some amazingly nutritious shell fish to gather and as long as collected sustainably that can be a great addition to your foraged menu. 

Before cooking be sure to give the shellfish time to clean themselves, remove sand and remove their digestive contents as much as possible. It is advised to do this in well aerated salt water, ideally laying them out in a large shallow tray and not stacked on top of each other to give them all space to do this effectively. By using a wide shallow tray this gives greater surface area to allow further oxygen in to the water. This is particularly important for the bivalves who open up their shells once submerged but will drown once the oxygen from this small amount of water has been used. For this very reason it is also advisable to splash the water around regularly to help oxygen levels as well as keeping them cool. It is best to change the water at least once and not leave them in for longer than 10 hours. The shellfish should be cooked immediately afterwards and not stored for later. For safety reasons it is recommended that all foraged shellfish should be cooked thoroughly. 

Once cooked, be sure that they are properly cooked and that there is no sign of life. Do not eat the ones that haven’t opened as they may not be fully cooked and this can indicate that they are still alive and pulling the shell closed. Cooking them effectively kills a lot of viruses and bacteria but be aware that heat does not kill algae toxins which is why you should not forage during algae blooms.

Once you are confident in your identification, how to process and clean the shellfish you can explore the vast array of amazing shellfish recipes. Many of them are great cooked in wine, stock or cream based sources with a selection of herbs and great served with a chunk of fresh crusty bread!

Crustaceans

This is where things ramp up a little, a little more work maybe needed but the increase in excitement and reward is their too. It is when foraging for the amazing crustaceans that you need to double check legislation again but also maybe invest in some specific equipment, whether that is a crab pot, shrimp net or speargun if you are planning to go spearfishing for such beauties as the spider crab. 

It is best to check with your local Fisheries Committee to double check if you need a permit or similar to put out a pot or if there are restrictions on MLS (Minimum Landing Size) or restrictions on numbers you can catch. These regulations are in place to protect species so as much as they can sound limiting they are to help protect and to promote sustainability so we should all take them seriously. 

Depending on how you plan to forage and which crustacean you can take during each season will vary immensely, but safety has to be a priority. Not just being aware of tides and weather changes but also knowing your own limitations. If you are planning on venturing further in to the sea for such adventurous foraging trips as spearfishing, be sure to take someone who is experienced and knows the local seas well. Not only will you stay safer and be less of a burden on the coastguard services but you’ll have more and probably a more successful trip all round.

Once you have made you catch it is important to know about humane dispatch techniques but also food safety specifics here too. Lobsters and crabs produce high amounts of ammonia when at room temperature, even just for a short time. If they are not submerged in water they can not use their gills to effectively remove the ammonia from their bodies. Kept like this they won’t even last 24 hours, but if kept properly at 5 degrees Celsius then they will last 2-3 days. Strong advice from experienced fisherman and foragers is to keep them cool and moist and dispatch them as soon as possible.  

When dealing with crustaceans the ethical forager also has to be mindful of pain. There are many recommended ways to dispatch these creatures in ethical ways, may of the more ethical approaches are outlined by the RSPCA so be sure to research these in more depth. Smaller crustaceans such as prawns and small shore crabs quickly perish when dropped into boiling water so this is deemed OK, yet larger crustaceans such as lobster and brown crab and spider crab take a significantly longer time to die in such situations so research has found that pain is inflicted during this process, so just be mindful of this.  This may be deemed to be overthinking the situation, but for anyone who has seen a lobster thrashing around in a saucepan of boiling water would agree that this subject really does need careful consideration. Commercially lobsters are humanely dispatched by electrocution, so it may be wise to make friends with a commercial fisherman who can dispatch your crustaceans for you if you have any concerns at all.  

So now you have the basics, get reading up about the different varieties and the best places to go in your area but get out there and enjoy furthering your knowledge and exploring the wild larder of the coastline. Be safe, and enjoy!

coastal foraging


Discover the benefits of being outside on our family bushcraft course

Comfort Zone

10 Reasons To Step Out Of Our Comfort Zone

Our comfort zone is cosy and safe, right? It gives us a sense of familiarity, safety and security. This is an adaptation to help keep us safe, but it’s also starting to sound a little boring and suffocating, don’t you think? 

Imagine lying on your death bed and thinking, “Well what did I do with my life……..oh yeh, I stayed comfortable in my comfy comfort zone.” 

We are such creatures of habit that without realising it we set our comfort zone just through daily routine and habits. But to step outside of it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, you just need to include some “new” in your life! Try new food, go to new places, learn new skills or go on new adventures. 

Adventures

We all have a different sense of our comfort zone, but the less we challenge it the smaller it becomes. As it remains unchallenged and reduces, so does our ability to adapt and cope with unexpected situations. But as we challenge ourselves our comfort zone becomes bigger and along with that there are many benefits that help us both long and short term.

But why are we often reluctant to step outside of our comfort zone and embrace new challenges?

It is usually fear that keeps us in our bubble, fear of failure. Whether you see the the failure as a personal failure, letting others down or possibly failing to stay safe and in control it’s important to realise that we learn through our mistakes. But mistakes shouldn’t be seen as failures, just as learning opportunities. After all, FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning.

10 Big Reasons!

1. Growth-

Challenging ourselves, learning new skills or going to new places enables us to grow as a person. Without personal growth you will never achieve your full potential, and what a waste that would be….

office worker2. Boost Self Confidence-

There are many situations in life that can knock us and batter our self confidence, so it is always import to do activities to boost your own self worth and keep your confidence cup topped up.

3. Improves Mental Agility

By just carrying out the same routine each day, driving the same journeys, doing the same job, seeing the same people navigationwe can become mentally stagnant. By stepping out of our comfort zone it shakes up our mental awareness a little, resolves that stagnation and boost our mental capacity and agility. Regardless of age, learning new skills improves our mental agility and strengthens our existing mental capacity too.

4. Improves Creativity

Stepping out of our comfort zone allows us to think differently, see different opportunities and experience different environments. This in turn allows us to open up to more ideas and let creative juices flow. Also, breaking away from the daily routine will clear your head from the everyday mundane stuff that clogs up our thoughts and enables us to see things more clearly.

5. Improves Productivity

How productive are you? The same routine, the same office, the same journey to work…..you switch off right? It’s harder to be productive and inspired when you are stuck in the same routine. By stepping out and challenging yourself it shakes up your view on life and gives you more enthusiasm. This in turn gets you more focused, which in turn gets you more productive, because you aren’t so bored in your bubble!

6. Adaptable

Let’s face it, we never really know what life will throw our way so any chance of becoming more adaptable will definitely help us out long term. If you stay in your comfy comfort zone then any sudden life event that throws you uncomfortably out of your comfort zone will be far more of a shock to your system than if you regularly step out of it through choice. Or another way to view it, if you never step out of your front door and stay in your warm cosy house, then the day that some life event throws you out there into the the cold it will be far more stressful for you than if you go out there regularly through your own free will.canoeing challenges

7. Stamina

No, sadly this doesn’t mean you’d suddenly be able to keep up with Mo Farah out on your runs, but more an increased stamina for life. Life doesn’t always run smoothly and some times we need to dig deep and keep going through some rough patches. This will be far easier for you if you challenge yourself on a regular basis, you’ll recognise that feeling of discomfort but you’ll also have the self confidence and stamina to know you can keep going.

8. Life Long Learning

It doesn’t have to be as boring as studying for your exams at school, but by learning new skills and expanding your knowledge you are boosting your health and happiness. We all love that feeling of accomplishment when we’ve completed a task or learnt something new. Research has also shown this helps with a deep sense of contentment and happiness as we broaden our knowledge through out life.

9. Reduces Mental Illness Risk

Possibly one of the most important, stepping out of your comfort zone will decrease your long term mental illness risk. With mental illness on an alarming increase, any way to secure a good foundation of mental wellness is definitely worth doing. Although initially moving out of your comfort zone will feel uncomfortable and it may lead to feelings of anxiousness, it will also give you a sense of purpose and boost your self esteem, both of which are essential for our mental wellness.boost your wellbeing

10. Boosts Your Physical Health

As well as improving our mental health, leaving your comfort zone will benefit your physical health too. Feelings of improved confidence, happiness, mental wellness and creativity all act to reduce our physical stress response. This also helps to bring about better sleep and healthier lifestyle habits, which your body will thank you for. 

With so many benefits coming from venturing out of your comfort zone, isn’t it time you planned something to help you do that? Learn a new skill, go to new places, experience new adventures.

Don’t miss out on life just because your bubble is so cosy…..


Family Bushcraft Course

Treat someone to a bushcraft voucher

At Wildway Bushcraft we offer a fantastic range of wilderness living and bushcraft courses. From one-day friction fire lighting courses, through to weekend bushcraft courses and even week-long, wilderness living experiences. Wherever you are on your bushcraft journey, Wildway Bushcraft have something to offer you, we even have family bushcraft courses!

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Bushcraft courses for children

Bushcraft vouchers

With the festive period coming up fast, we offer a range of bushcraft vouchers - perfect Christmas gifts for the bushcraft enthusiast in your life.

Our bushcraft vouchers are available in amounts from £75 to £185, although if you would like to discuss a voucher for a larger amount, please feel free to get in touch using our contact form or email us on [email protected]

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Treat someone to a Wildway Bushcraft voucher

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What can my voucher be used for?

 

bushcraft voucher


Our bushcraft vouchers can be redeemed against any of our courses, provided that they are redeemed within a 12 month period. So whether you want to perfect your fire lighting skills, brush up on your tree identification, or even go on a canoeing trip along the river Spey then our
bushcraft vouchers are for you.

 

How old do I have to be to join one of your courses?

 

Canoeing preparation

 

Our bushcraft and wilderness living courses are open to anyone from the age of 18 and over. Those under 18 are welcome on most of our courses, provided that they are accompanied by an adult,  although a few have specific age limits. If you would like to know more or have any further questions please email us on [email protected] .

 

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Treat someone to a Wildway Bushcraft voucher

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bushcraft knife

Choosing your first bushcraft knife

The phrase ‘bushcraft knife’ is one that is occurring more and more frequently, but what does it actually mean? In this latest blog, we look at why there is no such thing as a bushcraft knife, how to choose a tool best suited to the job at hand and a look at knife law in the UK.

With that in mind, if you are not already familiar with the ins and outs, read our blog on knife law in the UK here

Read on to learn more about bushcraft, knives and what you should be looking out for.

 

What is a bushcraft knife?

Knives are tools. As far as we are at Wildway Bushcraft are concerned, knives are designed to do certain jobs, provided that they do these jobs then they are good by us. There is no need to fetishize knives; ones that are kept locked up and perfectly clean are for show, not for practical use. We like our knives to be practical, not an object of art. 

choosing your first bushcraft knife


It is really a matter of skill 

Despite the huge amounts of discussion surrounding ‘bushcraft’ knives online, it is really a matter of skill. The highly trained, skilled woodsman who is equally at home in the woods as he is in his living room, can be more useful with a penknife than an amateur with a rambo-esque machete. Keep this in mind when first using your bushcraft knife. Before you get to make the first cut, there is a huge amount of skill involved. You need to be able to identify the best material to use, how to use it and for what ends.

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Learn knife skills, friction fire lighting , shelter building and more on our
weekend bushcraft course.

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Choosing your first bushcraft knife

Sharpen your bushcraft knife


On all of our courses, our pupils use a
Morakniv Heavy Duty Companion. These quality knives cost about £15 and can be obtained through places such as The Bushcraft Store. These knives have a 3.2 mm wide carbon steel blade and will withstand tough use. Remember though to always use it safely, particularly around children. Our blog on knife safety and children can be read here.  If you are interested, Wildway Bushcraft use Bear Blades, learn more about Bear Blades here.

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Carbon steel and stainless steel bushcraft knives 

Some knives, such as the Mora Heavy Duty Companion are made from what is known as carbon steel, while others are made from stainless steel.  While the pros and cons of each vary from knife to knife, generally speaking, stainless steel knives are easier to sharpen and much better at resisting rust and corrosion than carbon steel knives. On the other hand, carbon steel knives hold their edge a lot better, meaning that they stay sharper for longer, they also get much sharper.  While they need a bit more TLC to keep them in good condition, this is a good thing as it teaches care and responsibility - two things that are important for any serious bushcraft practitioner. 

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Learn knife skills, friction fire lighting , shelter building and more on our
weekend bushcraft course.

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Learning how to use it effectively and responsibly

Bushcraft knife Bear Blades


If you are over 18, the minimum legal age at which you can buy a knife in the UK, then it is worth learning how to use it effectively and responsibly. So, before you dash off and spend your cash, learn the knife skills that you will need for basic (and more advanced) bushcraft skills on our
Weekend Bushcraft Course, if you can’t spare the time then we highly recommend our One Day Bushcraft Course as an alternative.

 

Learning to look after your knife 

The following blogs will help you to look after your knife, keeping it sharp, clean and ready for action.

 

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Learn knife skills, friction fire lighting , shelter building and more on our
weekend bushcraft course.

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friction fire course

Making your first bow drill

Being able to use a bow drill to create fire is a cornerstone of bushcraft. This method of making fire by friction has been used by humans since prehistoric times since the 4th or 5th millennium BC. The mechanical element of the bow drill gives an advantage over other methods of friction fire lighting, such as the fire plough. 

In this latest blog, we will help you to construct your own bow drill from scratch. Read on to learn more. 

 

Making your own bow drill

bow drill being used in the woods

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Like most things in bushcraft, constructing your own bow drill begins with a deep understanding of the natural world. Being able to identify the trees and understand how and when the different woods from each can be used is a cornerstone of bushcraft.

 

Understanding the component parts 

A bow drill is composed of the following parts:

  • The drill
    The drill is the piece of the bow drill that comes into contact with the hearth and bearing block. It is rotated by the bow itself and more specifically the cord attached to the bow.
  • The hearth
    The hearth is the piece of wood that the drill rotates into, it is a rectangular block in which the drill sits and where the embers are produced.

  • The bearing block
    The bearing block is the piece of the bow drill in which the drill sits. It should be carved so that it fits into the palm of your hand. 
  • The bow
    The bow is the part of this friction fire lighting device which gives the bow drill its name. The cordage or string that you will be using will be attached to this bow, like on a hunting bow. Unlike a hunting bow, the bow on a bow drill should be slightly curved with as little spring in it as possible. The bow gives the bow drill its mechanical advantage.

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                   The image below shows the component parts in more detail. 

http://www.wildwaybushcraft.co.uk/product/one-day-friction-fire-lighting-course/
The different parts of the bow drill.

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Choosing wood

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Bushcraft is about living in harmony with nature, not overcoming it. It is about so much more than just survival. Being able to identify and choose woods for a bow drill is a key part of bushcraft, as is choosing wood for your shelter, spoon or anything else that you need to make while living in the woods.

What follows is a list of woods that are suitable for making a bow drill. This list is not exhaustive and is limited to UK woods. The best way to find out what woods work for you is to experiment. Try a mixture of woods to find out what works for you.

  • Elder (Sambucus nigra)
  • Willow(s) (Salices)
  • Hazel (Corylus avellana)
  • Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
  • Field Maple (Acer campestre)
  • Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Learn more about these trees in our blog Choosing Wood for a Bow Drill.

Choosing wood for a bow drill in the UK

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                           Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course

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Carving your bow drill

A bow drill works, as with all friction fire lighting techniques, by rubbing two combustible materials against each other until the material is taken beyond its auto-ignition temperature.  In order to do this, it is important to carve the component parts of the drill correctly.

 

The drill 

The drill should be around 20 cm in length. It should be around 2-3cm thick and as straight as possible. One part of the drill will be in contact with the hearth and the other in contact with the bearing block. The end of the drill that is in contact with the hearth needs to be carved into a blunt point, while the end in contact with the bearing block needs to be carved into a sharp point.  The bluntness of the hearth end increases the amount of friction being generated. The sharp point reduces the amount of friction being generated in contact with the bearing block. 

 

The hearth 

The hearth should be about 40mm wide, 5 mm thick and around 30 cm long. Once the bow drill has been made, the hearth should be broken in by rubbing the drill into the hearth until a charred depression has been created. Once this has been satisfactorily achieved you need to cut the notch. This should be a straight ‘V’ extending from the depression to the outside of the hearth. Underneath the notch, place a piece of bark to catch the coal and the embers.

 

The bow 

The bow, as mentioned, should not be springy. It can be made of any wood that you like and should be about the length from your fingertips to your sternum. The cordage can either be made of any string that you have at hand, or you can make the cordage yourself - you can learn about making cordage on our intermediate bushcraft course.

 

The bearing block

The bearing block works best if carved in hardwood. It should be big enough to fit comfortably in your hand. Carve a small depression into it for the pointy end of the drill. There needs to be as little friction as possible between the drill and the bearing block. Waxy leaves such as holly can be rubbed into the bearing block in order to reduce friction.

 

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                           Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course

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Fire lighting in damp conditions


Introduction to Friction Fire Lighting

Introduction to Friction Fire Lighting: Bow Drills and Hand Drills

 

The history of friction fire lighting is bound up with the history of human civilisation. The ability to light a fire when needed provides security, warmth, the ability to cook food and many other tenements of human civilisation. The ability to light a fire by friction is a cornerstone of bushcraft and a key part of our weekend bushcraft course .  This blog provides an overview of friction fire lighting and an introduction to getting started.

 

 

friction fire lighting with W

A short history of friction fire lighting 

The ability of humans to make and control fire was a huge turning point in human history. There is evidence that humans were able to control fire from about 1.7 million years ago. This control of fire would have most likely been around wildfires.

 

Learn the art of friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course.

 

 

Making fire

The ability to make fire, as opposed to controlling naturally occurring fires, was thought to have occurred about 700,000 years ago. It allowed humans to change their locations, provided security, warmth and lead to massive changes in diet.  The ways in which people made fire was through friction, using devices such as the hand drill or fire plough.

 

Impact on human evolution

The impact of fire on human evolution is enormous. It allowed people to migrate to cooler climates as they were now more able to survive the cold winters. The ability to make fire also provided protection from animals and, it is argued, helped humans to clear out caves prior to living in them. The ability to fire also played a key part in tools and weapon making, as well as ceremonial occurrences and art.

 

An introduction to friction fire lighting

Friction fire lighting is a large and complex topic. The ability to make fire by friction is not something that can be learned quickly or even mastered. Rather it is a lifetime of learning and honing skills. Like anything in bushcraft, the ability to make fire by friction begins with understanding materials.

 

 

Understanding materials

 

Bushcraft in Dorset using a bow drill

 

Being able to identify trees, plants, fungi, animals, etc is the cornerstone of bushcraft. Without the ability to identify the best material for the task in hand, you are unlikely to be successful. 

Suitable woods for the bow drill/hand drill

The following are the most suitable woods for the bow drill and hand drill. For the sake of simplicity and relevance, we are only focusing on European woods.  Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list!

Woods for bow drill

  • Elder
  • Field Maple 
  • Willow
  • Hazel 
  • Oak 
  • Popular 
  • Yew
  • Sycamore
  • Ivy

Woods for hand drill

  • Elder 
  • Juniper 
  • Pussy Willow 
  • Sycamore

Learn more about choosing woods for the bow drill and hand drill in our blog:
Choosing Wood For a Bow Drill

 

 

Bow Drill

The bow drill is perhaps the best-known friction fire lighting tool. It is thought to date back as far as the 4th or 5th millennium. They were used by cultures around the world including Native Americans, Eskimos, and Aborigines in Alaska and Canada

The bow drill has one massive advantage over other friction fire lighting methods - it’s mechanical nature; that is, the drill is turned by a cord, not by the user's hands.

 

 

Making your bow drill

A bow drill works in the same manner as all other friction fire lighting methods. That is two combustible materials being rubbed together until the material is taken beyond its auto-ignition temperature which creates an ember. This ember is then used to ignite tinder.

Component parts of the bow drill

The image below shows the component parts of the bow drill - the bearing block, bow, drill and hearth. We will then look at each of these parts in detail.

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The different parts of the bow drill.

The Bow

The bow for your bow drill can be made of any wood that you have to hand. As the name suggests it needs to be slightly curved and should be the length from about your fingertips to your sternum.

The Drill 

The drill should be around 20cm in length and between 2 -3cm.  The wood for the drill should be made of one of the woods identified earlier in the blog. The end of the drill in contact with the hearth should be carved into a blunt point, while the end that is in contact with the bearing block should be carved into a sharper point.

The Hearth

The hearth of a bow drill should be made of one of the woods identified previously. It does not need to be made of the same material as the drill. It helps to play around and find the combination of woods that works the best for you. Ivy and Hazel are two types of wood that we particularly enjoy using. The hearth needs to be carved into a rectangle about 4cm wide and 5mm thick. Narrow a depression into the hearth in the centre of the blog then, using the bow, wear down this depression into a smooth bore then cut a V shape extending towards and over the edge of the hearth.

The Bearing Block 

The bearing block can be made of any wood that you have to hand. It should fit comfortably in your palm. You will need to carve a notch into the bearing block for the sharper end of the drill to sit in.

 

bow drill being used in the woods

Hand drill

The hand drill works on the same principles as the bow drill, although it lacks the mechanical advantage. The drill is composed of a drill and a hearth. It works as the drill is spun between your hands and is spun with downward pressure being applied. As the smoke begins to appear, increase the speed until you have produced a small ember.

fire lighting Dorset

The Drill

The drill for the hand drill is largely a matter of personal preference, experience and what type of wood you are using. It should be made of one of the woods identified previously and be between 40 and 75 cm long with a diameter of 9mm to 13mm. It needs to be as straight as possible to work effectively.

 

The hearth

The hearth should be made in a similar fashion to the bow drill but slightly shorter. Once again, it should be made of the same wood as those mentioned previously in the blog.

Friction fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course

On our weekend bushcraft course we introduce you to the art of the bow drill. If you have never used a bow drill before, we will talk you through how to carve each of the component parts and how to correctly use it. If you are familiar with the bow drill then we can help you to troubleshoot any issues that you are having and give you tips on how to perfect your bow drill technique.

 

 

Wildway Bushcraft Owner John blowing an ember into fire


Bushcraft courses in the UK for family

Wider Bushcraft Learning

Wider Bushcraft Learning

At Wildway we believe that bushcraft is about more than just survival. It is not about overcoming the elements or battling with nature, it is about living in harmony with it. For both children and adults, bushcraft can provide important learnings beyond just the skills needed to light fires or build shelters.  We believe that whether an adult or a child, a bushcraft beginner or an old hand, there is something to be learned from living in the woods, in harmony with nature. This is what we mean when we talk about wider bushcraft learning.

Respect for nature

beautiful woodland

 

Bushcraft teaches practitioners of all ages a deep respect for nature. By learning the names of the flora and fauna around us, their uses and their limitations bushcraft practitioners are more connected with the woods than many other people. Trees stop simply being ‘trees’ and instead become useful sources of sustenance, or firewood, or wood for bow drills. The skilled bushcraft person will also understand how the tree fits in the ecosystem around it and therefore only use its resources in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

 

Connection with nature

Mushrooms in autumn in the UK woods bushcraft courses in the UKAccording to recent reports, seven out of 10 people admit they’re losing touch with nature. And more than a third of parents admit they could not teach their own children about British wildlife.  If people aren’t connected with something then you can’t expect them to care about it. Bushcraft teaches children to develop a connection with nature and look after the planet.

 

Patience and importance of proper technique

Sharpen your bushcraft axe


Nothing in bushcraft can be rushed. It is not about acting without thinking, it is about patience and proper technique. Without patience and proper technique, selecting the right woods, making the right cuts, etc. whatever technique you are trying to perfect is likely to fail. The skilled bushcraft practitioner will approach each task in a calm manner, confident of their skills and ability.

 

Stillness and quiet

Get away from it all on a bushcraft course

Being comfortable in the woods is key to bushcraft. Once comfortable in the woods, the skilled bushcraft practitioner will find stillness, peace of mind and quiet. Something that is so difficult to find in the modern world with its 24/7, always-on culture.  The ability to sit outside and find quiet in the woods is not just a ‘nice to have’, studies suggest that it is also beneficial for your health. It is even thought that regular time outside can reduce stress, improve academic performance and improve mental wellbeing

 


Ancient Briton bushcraft imagined

What The Woods Meant to Our Ancestors

Bushcraft is about more than just survival. It is about living in harmony with nature. It is about understanding the natural world around you and how it can be used to your benefit and comfort. At Wildway Bushcraft, we promote wilderness living and encouraging understanding of the natural world. Bushcraft is about learning and perfecting the techniques that our ancestors used to keep themselves alive and to thrive in the ancient world.

Read on to learn more about what the woods meant to our ancestors.

Ancient bushcraft


Ancient Briton

The Paleolithic period, also known as the Stone Age is used to describe human prehistory and dates from around 3.3 million years ago. Mesolithic period describes a period around 9000 to 4,300 BC. During this period, ancient Britons - a mix and match of peoples from throughout what we know as Europe and further afield - were hunter-gatherers. It was not until the Neolithic period, around 4300 - 2000 BC that people first began to domesticate animals and plants. It was during this period that people began to settle down into more fixed communities. These timescales make the Iron Age (750 BC - 43AD) seem positively recent!

 

The Ancient Landscape

The landscape during the Neolithic and Mesolithic period would have been very different from the landscape today. Rather than the rolling hills and urban centres we see today the landscape would have been thickly forested with small areas of grassland. Animals such as reindeer, wild horses, and pigs roamed the landscape, and elk, red deer and wild boar formed a large part of people’s diets.  In addition to this meat, people also ate shellfish and a large number of plants.

old wood, ancient Briton imagined

Ancient intuition

Our ancestors would have been in tune with this ancient landscape, knowing which plants and vegetables were safe to eat, which ones were dangerous, where animals were likely to be found and where water was likely to be.  It is this understanding of the natural world around us that bushcraft practitioners seek to cultivate.

 

Ancient Britons and fire

The ability to make fire was a key moment in human history.  Not only was it used to keep potential predators away, it was also used for cooking meat and even defrosting meat from kills during the long and bitter winters. Evidence of controlled fire by humans dates back to around a million to 200,000 years ago. Bow drills have been thought to date back to the 4th - 5th millennium BC.  The ability to use a bow drill to generate fire as and when one wanted would have been key to ancient people’s survival. 

 

Bow Drill

 

bow drill being used in the woods


The bow drill is one of the ancient technologies that form the cornerstone of bushcraft. Our ancestors would have been able to use the bow drill to make a fire in all but the worst circumstances. It is also thought that people would have carried fire with them as they traveled. This fire would be carried by means of an ember bundle.  This is a glowing red ember in a tinder wrapped around in moss and carried like this. By carrying fire in this method ancient people would be able to light a fire in a new location without having to expend large amounts of energy.

 

Resources for learning the bow drill

Here is a list of resources that might be useful in learning the art of friction fire lighting:

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Using all of the kill

Bushcraft cooking in the UK with Wildway Bushcraft


For our ancient ancestors, killing animals was no easy manner. It was often dangerous and used up a lot of energy, something that would be hard to replace if you had to work for every calorie that you were consuming. This is why our ancestors would use every part of the kill for something. The skilled butchery of  large and small game enables every part of the animal to be used, from the hide for clothing to the sinews for cordage.

Food preservation

Primitive peoples would also preserve their food through methods such as smoking and curing. This would enable them to use all of the animal, and not waste any food. In our Intermediate Bushcraft Course we teach participants how to skilfully skin and butcher game as well as making pots and pans to cook their food in and, of course, transport it.

 

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Our intermediate bushcraft course


Our five-day intermediate bushcraft course gives participants a chance to learn and to perfect these ancient bushcraft techniques. Running over five days, this course truly lets you live and breathe wilderness living. It will build significantly on any knowledge that you have gained on our weekend bushcraft course. The course will cover skinning and butchery of large game, food preservation techniques, the making of glues, tar and pitch. Additionally, we will look at long term shelter building, green woodworking, advanced fire lighting techniques, traps and snares, basket making and much, much more.

 

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friction fire course


Cook Over an Open Fire with Your Family

There’s nothing better than being outdoors, cooking over a fire with your friends or family. There is something almost primitive in sitting around a fire and cooking. It links us with our ancient ancestors who would have been doing something essentially similar since man first discovered fire.
In this blog, we are going to take a look at how to cook over an open fire with your friends and/or family. We are going to cover safety and responsibility, which type of fire to choose, and some ideas for recipes.

 

Safety and responsibility when cooking over a fire

Fire lighting damp conditions


The most important thing when setting out to cook over an open fire is doing it in a safe and responsible manner. Fires can spread, especially in the dry weather of summer, and easily get out of control.  There are several things that you can do to reduce the risk of your fire spreading out of control. Ultimately though, you have to make a decision as to whether or not it is okay to have a fire. Ask yourself, has the weather been dry? What is the state of the surrounding vegetation? What is the soil, is it a type liable to catch fire such as peat?

 

1. Clear the ground

Make sure that the ground where you intend to have your fire is clear of vegetation and debris. Be sure to look up and around and make sure that there are no overhanging branches, bushes or anything else that could catch fire. 

2. Keep water to hand

Keep a bucket of water nearby your fire so that should a gust of wind catch it or a log fall off you can extinguish it. You should always keep an eye on your fire to make sure that it is always in control.

3. Treat the environment with care

Bushcraft is not about overcoming your environment. It is about living in harmony with the natural world. This approach to bushcraft is important to keep in mind when cooking over a fire with your family and friends. Use only dead standing wood, never chop down anything or use any living wood. Ensure that your fire will not scar the earth by clearing the ground underneath it, as with point two. Practice principles of leave no trace, douse the embers of your fire after extinguishing it, check the ashes are cool and then disperse of them by scattering them in a large area. 

4. Keep it small 

Only build the fire to the size that you need. For cooking outdoors you don’t need a roaring bonfire, you just need something small enough to do the job. Make sure that any children you have with you don’t feed the fire unnecessarily, making it bigger than it needs to be. 

 

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    Choose the best type of fire for cooking on

    friction fire lighting from Wildway bushcraft


    Not all fires are created equal. Some constructions are best suited for keeping warm, while others are best designed for cooking on. It’s the latter type that you will want to build.


    Whatever type of fire you choose to construct, be sure to follow the basic principles of fire lighting. That is, ensuring that you have enough suitable tinder and fuel of progressively larger diameters close to hand. After all, you don’t want to be running around looking for fuel once the fire has started.

    Remember, when cooking over a fire, use the embers - not the flames. 

     

    The Hunter’s Fire 

    One of the most useful fires for cooking is the Hunter’s Fire.  This fire can easily be adapted for different types of cooking such as baking and grilling. This fire works by building fire between two logs the same distance apart as your cooking utensils. Be sure to use green wood or, if none is available stones. If there are no stones to hand a trench will be equally as practical.

    The Star Fire 

    As its name suggests, the Star Fire is made with four or five logs arranged into a star shape sticking out of the fire. Each log should be 15cm or thicker. As the fire slowly burns, push the end of each log further into the fire thereby providing more fuel. This fire burns for long periods of time and the thick logs make them ideal for supporting cooking pots, such as mess tins.

    The Indian’s Fire 

    The Indian’s Fire is, essentially, a collapsed tipi style fire with long logs, about an arm's thickness, sticking out of it. These logs which make up the collapsed tipi are then slowly fed into the fire to keep it burning. One of the differences between this and the Star Fire is that the logs used for this fire should not be as thick as those used in the Star Fire.  

     

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    Ideas for recipes 

    Here are some favourite campfire recipes from Wildway Bushcraft.

     

     

      • Bannock Bread
        One of the favourite recipes of Wildway Bushcraft pupils is Bannock Bread. This simple to make flat bread is a favourite of bushcraft practitioners and hikers the world over.  You can discover our amazing recipe for Bannock Bread in this post here.
      • Stews
        Whatever your dietary preferences, you can’t beat a good stew. Easy to make and scale up or down to feed as many people as you have camping with you, the stew is a campfire classic. If you are in a survival situation, or somewhere where hunting/trapping is allowed, then the addition of rabbits or pigeons can add an extra dimension to your stew.

      • Steamed Trout
        Steamed trout, cooked over a campfire, is an outdoor classic. It is the stuff that boys’  own novels are made out of. After gutting and cleaning the fish, stuff it with wood sorrel. Wrap the trout is sphagnum moss, big handfuls of it, then carefully place the trout on the embers of your fire. Keep an eye on your fish and it should be ready until you see steam rising from the moss.

     

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    Learn fin and fur preparation and campfire cooking on our weekend bushcraft course.

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    Tarp set ups learn more on our one day bushcraft course

    Tarps - 5 Top Tips For A Good Tarp Set Up

    A tarp is one of the handiest pieces of kit when sleeping out in nature. Whether you are hiking, cycling or generally exploring and looking for a wild camping spot, a tarp will give you a waterproof comfortable shelter for the night.

     

    Why choose a tarp rather than a tent?

    Firstly, they are lightweight and small to carry, this will minimise the weight on your back and the valuable space in your bag. There is no excess packaging, no inner and outer layer to wrestle with. It’s just a simple, minimalistic, user-friendly shelter. Perfect.

    To ensure a comfy night’s rest don’t just throw your tarp up anywhere, there are a few considerations to be made:

    Your kit;

    Check your kit before you go, it would certainly make your trip less enjoyable to discover you have a big hole in your tarp or haven’t bought any paracord with you for your tarp guy lines. Likewise, with your sleeping system, check the zips on your sleeping bag as these can perish over time and it’s best to find that out in the warmth of your home rather than the cold wet moorland after a long hike.

    Tarp set ups learn more on our one day bushcraft course
    Hazel approves of the tarp set up.


    Tarp Configuration
    ;

    The tarp configuration is usually a combination of personal choice combined with the environment you are sleeping in. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with a few different set-ups before you go on your trip and often handy to have some notes to remind you, especially if you are still new to using a tarp. You may plan to use a certain configuration but arrive at your spot for the night to discover it wouldn’t be appropriate for that environment.

     

    We all have our favourite set-ups but these are usually discovered through trial and error, so make changes, play around with your set up, find what works best for you. You’ll then find that you want or need to make changes in certain weather conditions too and if you’ve experimented with different set-ups and made alterations then you’ll be more adaptable and able to keep yourself warm and dry under your tarp.

    Learn about tarp set-ups in our latest blog


    Check the ground; 

    Avoid marshy areas, no one likes a soggy sleeping bag. Check the vegetation around you, this will give you clues. If bog-loving plants are growing in the area this is a sure sign that the ground beneath your feet is soggier than it looks and is likely to make your tarp set up more unstable. Just because it’s not squelching beneath your boots doesn’t mean it won’t soak up through your kit if it isn’t properly waterproofed.

    Pitches close to water also need to be considered carefully too, especially if it’s next to a river. You need to ensure your spot is not at risk of flash floods because as the name suggests, they happen in a flash and you really don’t get a warning that they are about to rush through your camp. This puts you in a dangerous situation.

    Being near water increases your chance of having unwelcome guests, midges! Anyone who has wild camped in Scotland will know that these guys can be more than just a nuisance, and it’s amazing how big they can so think carefully about your location before inviting these little critters as dinner guests.

     

    Environmental features;

    Don’t tie yourself in knots and make life too difficult for yourself, take advantage of environmental features around you. If there are trees of an appropriate distance apart then use these rather than faffing with poles and extra lines. Or if there is a bank or large boulder that naturally provides shelter then why not incorporate this in to your tarp set up for more stability and extra shelter.

    Direction of your tarp;

    Consider the direction of your tarp, even if it isn’t windy when you are pitching it, that doesn’t mean that the weather won’t change through the night, you don’t want to be sleeping in a wind tunnel. Set up as if the weather is actually bad now, pitch as if the wind is strong with extra securing measures, this way if the wind does pick up in the night you won’t have to scrabble about in the dark when you are half asleep trying to prevent your tarp from turning into a parachute. Look around you for natural indicators to determine the prevailing wind direction, the trees are a good indicator for this, if the treetops are windswept and growing in a definite direction then this will tell you there is often a strong wind passing through that area so direct your tarp accordingly.

     

    Tarp set ups from Wildway Bushcraft

    Have fun

    The most important thing though is to have fun. Packing lightly with just your kit and tarp can allow you to explore off the beaten track and discover areas you wouldn’t usually find. Obviously, follow the rules of wild camping and make sure you have the land owner’s permission to be there if on private land. So what are you waiting for, pack your kit and get out there to explore, discover and have fun.

     

    Re-cap 

    1. Check your kit is in working order
    2. There are many different Tarp configurations, find which works best for you
    3. Check the ground is OK to pitch on to avoid a soggy night’s sleep
    4. Where appropriate use environmental features to help your set up
    5. Get your tarp direction right to avoid sleeping in a wind tunnel

     

    LEARN MORE ABOUT SLEEPING AND EATING OUTDOORS ON OUR ONE-DAY COURSE 
    CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE