I had come up with every excuse of why we didn’t ‘need’ to go camping as a family, and yet the kids were still desperate to sleep outside in the great outdoors. I’d even tried “Why not just build a den or sleep in a tent in the garden? Your dad will sleep out there with you.” They did it. They loved it. Now they wanted more. My next response was, “Why don’t you go away to a campsite, your dad will take you.” They did. They loved it, but it was too tame, they wanted to experience camping in nature.


Would a few chilly nights under canvas put them off?

My plan really wasn’t working, I thought a couple of chilly nights out under canvas would really put them off of camping. It had certainly put me off when I was a child. I remember being freezing cold in a wafer-thin sleeping bag, on an even thinner excuse for a roll mat and waking up damp and miserable. “Never again,” I had said to my equally cold and miserable friend next to me. Needless to say, I never went camping again……until now.

Being a Mum changes you, and your kids have special powers over you it seems, in more ways than you often realise. “Please Mum, we loved camping, please come with us this time.” The look on their little faces, I couldn’t disappoint them and say no yet again.

I’m always nagging my husband about the importance of family time, especially when he’s been working late, again. So they had me cornered on this one, they were asking to do something together, this is what I’m always saying we should do more of.

I hate to admit it but a family camping trip ticked all of the boxes as far as things I’d preached were important for our family; Quality time together- Tick Fresh air is good for you- Tick The kids need less screen time and to be more active- Tick I had no more excuses that I could use. “Please Mum, please can we all go camping together, as a family?” I caved, “Ok, I’ll try it one more time.” “Yay!” was the reply, accompanied by excited bouncing around, from the kids, not me. I poured myself a large coffee with a sense of impending doom, what had I agreed to. I reassured myself with the saying What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but actually, that wasn’t helping.

Family bushcraft courses

A camping experience…

My husband said he would sort the trip out for us and soon after said that he’d booked us an amazing camping experience where we’d learn new skills and have quality family time. The words camping experience got my heart racing, and not in a good way!

We made a trip to the camping shop, I’ve never seen my husband and children so excited at the prospect of shopping. There were lots of very enthusiastic families there buying all sorts of gadgets, I felt very out of place. My husband bought me a luxury roll mat and the thickest sleeping bag I’d ever seen, OK there was hope for this trip yet. Apparently, this gift was an anniversary gift, I did explain that I was happy with the usual flowers or chocolate option, but no, this year I was the lucky recipient of a roll mat and sleeping bag, yep, I’m a lucky lady! Now that I knew I’d be comfortable and warm, I tried to be more open-minded and excited about this trip, after all, it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

The fateful day of our trip away arrived. “It’s just one night away isn’t it?” “Yes,” was the reply from my husband who was now just as excited as the kids. They’d packed their bags the week before, without even being asked, I only usually get this amount of enthusiasm at the mention of Christmas or sweets. My kids clearly loved sleeping out under canvas far more than I ever did.

As we loaded our kit into the car the excitement levels grew, though my stomach was now churning, what had I agreed to? This feeling wasn’t helped by the following conversation. “Have you packed the tent Dad?” “No, we don’t need it on this trip,” …….what?! No tent? this clearly meant one of two things, either he’d seen sense and booked us into a hotel, yes I hope it’s that option. Or…. we are sleeping out under a shelter, full on Bear Grylls style! The colour drained from my face as my husband confirmed it was the latter option, yep, we were, in fact, camping out under a tarp! He’d booked us on to a family Bushcraft Course he announced proudly. “Yay!!!!” was the response from the back of the car. “You are joking right?” was the politest response I could muster. “It will be fun,” he said with a grin. “We’ll be having quality family time together and learning new skills at the same time, it’s a win-win. It will also help engage the kids in nature more and keep them off of their screens.” I couldn’t argue, these are things that I had said we needed more of as a family….

We arrived at a woodland where we were met by our instructors for the weekend. They were friendly and made us feel welcome. These guys were clearly used to excited children and anxious looking parents. With a couple of other families, we walked into the woods and found our camp area. The kids were very excited about this adventure, I’ve never seen them so keen to learn, which was echoed by my son’s, “I wish school was this exciting.”

family bushcraft courses

A family bushcraft experience

Once we were at our camp we sat around the fire as our instructors welcomed us and talked us through the weekend. Though still feeling out a place a little I was interested to hear what we were going to be taught and to

see what all of the excitement was about. I was also pleased to learn that it wasn’t compulsory to eat bugs or in fact drink our own urine as my son had joked on the way here, so things were looking up.

The first session was shelter building, who knew there were so many different types. Sadly a hotel wasn’t mentioned at this stage but when the instructor spoke about the importance of staying warm, dry and comfortable then I began to relax a little as those were definitely my priorities too. Having watched the instructor demonstrate and talk through the different shelter types it was our turn to try. The kids were straight into it, collecting all of the right vegetation needed to make a natural shelter, even making a bed area out of moss that was surprisingly comfortable. We then put up our tarp shelter, this was our ‘home’ for the night. Even I had to admit that once we’d set up our roll mats and sleeping bags ready for tonight it did actually look cozy and inviting, or maybe that was the fresh air affecting my judgment.

Our next session was fire lighting. This seemed to be the one my son was most interested in, it seems he’s secretly a caveman, I’ve never seen him listen so intently. This was another hands-on session where we all had a go at lighting fires using different techniques. There was an edge of competition amongst our family to see who could light their fire the quickest amongst us. Seeing the look on our daughter’s face as she beat us all was priceless, she was so proud. Here she was, our usually shy little girl, asking the instructor questions, confidently lighting her own fire out in the woods and fully embracing this weekend. I could learn a lot from her.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner, where had the day gone. We headed back over to the main campfire to be welcomed by fantastic smells of cooking. While we were learning about shelters and fires there had been an amazing stew prepared and bubbling away over the open fire. Obviously, it’s amazing to have a meal cooked for you at all. I hate the daily grind of prepping and cooking meals day-in-day-out at home. So to be presented with a bowl of stew cooked by someone else was a treat, but cooked over the campfire just made it that bit more special and taste even more amazing.


Spending time outdoors

family bushcraft courses

One of the things I have always loved about time spent outdoors and immersed in nature is how it relaxes you. You have that calm physical tiredness at the end of the day rather than that stressed and frazzled tiredness that comes from juggling work, home life, and general commitments. So here we were, sat together, calmly eating our stew around the campfire. There was no rushing, there was no arguing, no tv in the background, no homework to be done, no work phone ringing, no washing machine needing to be emptied. Just us, together, talking, laughing, eating, relaxing and reconnecting.

As the daylight started to fade we headed towards our shelter, our “home for the night. We made our own little campfire and sat down together to drink our hot chocolates before bed, then “Look!” our daughter whispered pointing towards the edge of the woods. As we sat quietly together we saw a herd of deer slowly making their way through the woodland. They obviously came through here regularly, this was their home. We sat still just watching them, not wanting to scare them, for their own benefit as well as our own. I watched the children’s eyes widen with wonder as they sat perfectly still and silently together, I realised they had never seen deer out roaming in the wild before. Yes, we’d read about them, but where we live in the city there was never a chance encounter like this. It was humbling, a far cry from being stuck in the office or battling the rush hour traffic, just us together watching these beautiful creatures wander through the woods.

Once the deer had gone on their way the kids willingly got ready for bed, this was some kind of miracle, the fresh air and our learning sessions had certainly worn them out. They snuggled down into their sleeping bags as the light began to fade, and drifted off to sleep listening to the owls hooting overhead. Seeing the children so cosy in their sleeping bags made me want to get into mine. Well, here goes, my first time sleeping out in nearly 30 years, I was apprehensive but my cosy sleeping bag soon engulfed me in its warmth and I drifted off into one of the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long time.


Waking up naturally


At home the sound of the alarm always gives rise from an impromptu groan from both my husband and I, dragging ourselves back into the daily grind with an element of rushing from the moment you force your eyes open, but not here. If you have never been gently woken by the sun starting to rise and the amazing sound of the birds singing, you really must try it. I felt like my body had naturally woken rather than being jolted awake by an alarm. I laid there in my warm cosy sleeping bag, listening to the birds singing and seeing the sun breaking through the trees above us, no rushing, no stressing, just gently easing our way into another day of outdoor fun. Yes, I think I’m liking this outdoor stuff a little bit more. We all had slept well and after getting dressed we headed over to the main camp area to find the kettle boiling on the campfire and breakfast being cooked for us, I can’t remember the last time breakfast had been made for me. As we all sat together eating our warm breakfast the instructors told us about today’s teaching sessions.

Family bushcraft course
The first session of the day was spoon carving. Personally, I was apprehensive about letting my children have a knife and do any kind of carving, but the instructors stayed near, taught them thoroughly and instilled specific rules to keep everyone safe. It wasn’t a skill I’d ever considered learning before but actually, once I started I found it really enjoyable and quite therapeutic. It was a peaceful calm session, sat around the campfire carving our creations. The session flew by and the kids loved the fact they’d made their own spoons that they could take home, oil and use themselves.

On each course you can ask for certain sessions, my husband had been keen to try game prep so had booked this for us. I wasn’t keen on the idea myself so I watched from the back of the group but I couldn’t believe how involved the kids were. They both got stuck in learning how to prepare, gut and pluck a pigeon ready to be eaten. Being as my kids were really getting stuck in I had to at least show willing, so I opted to help them with the fish, or should I say, they helped me. We all gutted and prepped fresh trout ready for our lunch which we then cooked on the fire. I truly didn’t believe my children would eat this for lunch, we’d had enough problems at home with fish fingers, let alone fresh fish that they had gutted themselves. But it seems that actually giving your child that connection with their food can work in your favour. They both squatted down next to the fire with an instructor and cooked our fish over the flames then promptly tucked in without hesitation. I silently stood waiting for the “Err I don’t like this” but actually the response was very different. “Wow, this tastes amazing. Food tastes much better cooked on the fire I think,” my daughter said as she demolished an entire trout fillet and then asked for more. I could take it personally that my cooking actually isn’t that great, but then I tried it too and definitely agreed with her, fresh trout cooked on the open fire is certainly the tastiest way I’ve ever eaten fish.

After lunch, it was time to start dismantling our shelter and packing our things. I know we’d only been here for twenty-four hours but we had done so much in that time and it had gone so fast, the sign of a good time. We’d had an amazing time together and learned some great skills.


Bonding as a family

family bushcraft course

We walked back out from the woods back to our car, we were all calm and content. My husband commented to the instructor how great it is to escape into the woods, and that really summed it up. We get caught up in the fast pace of daily life being pulled from one commitment to the next, never truly stopping or at least slowing down to have proper time together and explore new skills. The look of contentment in the kids as they put their bags into the car boot said it all, we’d all had a good time, yes, even me. This had been good for us, we had needed this time together, to reconnect. “So can we do this again Mum, as a family?” “Yes, I really think we should.”



Discover our family bushcraft course


Being able to light a fire by friction, using a bow drill is often seen as one of the key bushcraft skills. In this blog, we’re going to show you how to choose the correct wood for a bow drill and have a quick look at which types work best together.

Remember, the best way to learn how to light a fire by friction is to sign up to a bushcraft course with an experienced instructor. Click the following links to find out more about our friction fire lighting and weekend bushcraft courses.


Bushcraft in Dorset


Anatomy of a bow drill

A bow drill is composed of four main parts – the bearing block, the drill, the hearth, and the bow.  At it’s most simplistic, a bow drill works by grinding two combustible materials which are rubbed together until the material is taken beyond its auto-ignition temperature, this then creates an ember which is used to ignite timber. To find out more about how bow drills work and the anatomy of them read our blog Bow Drills a Beginners Guide.



Choosing wood for a bow drill


Suitable lists for your bow drill

What follows is not an exhaustive list of woods that are suitable but rather a selection of those that we consider some of the best suited to making a bow drill in the UK.

Remember, never take live wood. Look for dead wood that has not yet started to decay.
Bushcraft is about living in harmony with nature, not overcoming up.


Learn the art of fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course
Click here to learn more


Elder (Sambucus Nigra)

Elder is native to the UK and is thought to be named after the Anglo-saxon ‘Aeld’ which means fire. This is because its hollow stems were thought to be used to blow air into embers. 

Choosing wood for a bow drill in the UK


Willows (Salices)

Willow (Salix or Salices) is a very varied genus. The Salix Fragilis crack willow is one of Britain’s largest native willows and grows to around 25 metres. 

Salix fragilis


Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel is a tree that is native to the UK. Not only is it native, but it is also one of the most useful trees for bushcraft.  Throughout the ages, Hazel has been thought to protect against witchcraft, protect against evil spirits, in ancient Ireland it was considered to be the tree of knowledge.


Hazel trees for bow drill


Silver Birch (Betula Pendula)

Silver Birch is incredibly useful for bushcraft. It is also heavily bound up with Celtic mythology. In the past, it symbolized renewal and purification, love and fertility.  Silver Birch is also great for fire lighting using sparks. 

Silver Birch Bark trees


Learn the art of fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course
Click here to learn more

In this blog, we’re going to be looking at knife skills for bushcraft. In particular, we will be looking at how to use a knife to make feather sticks. Feather sticks are a great fire lighting tool and can help you to get a fire started in damp or even wet conditions. Read on to learn more about the bushcraft knife skills needed to create feather sticks.



First, a word on knives


Knife skills for bushcraft

A knife is often seen as a key part of a bushcraft enthusiast’s kit. Topics on ‘which’ knives are popular on many bushcraft internet forums, and knives are often fetishized among certain groups of bushcraft enthusiasts. We believe though that a knife is a tool and, like any tool, a knife is made to be used – not locked away and only ever taken out to look at. Also, like any tool, you need the skills to use it. Read on to learn more about knife skills for bushcraft and how to make feather sticks. 



Making feather sticks

bushcraft knife skills


When it comes to knife skills for bushcraft, feather sticks, like almost everything else, doesn’t start with the knife, it starts with choosing your materials.  Whatever you are doing in bushcraft, you should be looking to be using standing, deadwood. Bushcraft is about being in harmony with nature, not overcoming it.

Choosing wood for feather sticks

The wood that you should be looking for when it comes to feather sticks should be standing dead wood. The wood should be around the thickness of your arm and about the length of your extended middle finger to your elbow.


Knife skills for feather sticks

The first bushcraft knife skill that you will need for making feather sticks is battoning. Battoning is splitting wood by placing your knife on top of the wood and then, making sure that about an inch or so of the tip of the blade protrudes over the edge of the wood. Gentle tap the blade, being sure to hit it along the centre, into the wood. Keep bashing the knife into the wood until it splits, then repeat the process until you have split the piece of wood that you have chosen into four. 


Using your knife to make feather sticks

The next knife skill that you will need involves making the curls that form the feather sticks. To learn how to do this, watch the video below.



Weekend bushcraft course

Sharpen your bushcraft knife

On our
weekend bushcraft course we will introduce you to some basic knife skills. We will show you several knife techniques that you need for basic bushcraft skills and how best to put these into practice.  Our Intermediate Bushcraft Course will introduce you to more advanced techniques in a way that enables you to live out in the woods for a week. 


The ability to light a fire by friction is one of the fundamental skills of bushcraft. It is a skill which our ancestors perfected over millennia, before, sadly, losing these skills in the face of industrialization. Mastering this skill though can give you a huge degree of freedom. Once you are truly comfortable with bushcraft, you will be able to go into the woods with nothing other than what you are wearing, and live comfortably. As we like to say here at Wildway Bushcraft, it’s about more than ‘just survival’.

Read on to learn more about the origins of friction fire-lighting, what you can learn on our weekend bushcraft course, how to perfect your technique, and how we can help you.



Origins of friction fire-lighting

Learn friction fire lighting on our course

Friction fire-lighting is a skill that has been around as long as humans. There is even evidence of fire being used by Homo Erectus around one million years ago. The fact that our ancestors were able to light fires and, importantly, replicate this technique whenever they were called upon to do so, ensured the survival of our species. There is a range of academic theories that believe fire lighting began with exploiting natural fires, such as lightning strikes. This then evolved into our ability to transport embers, then, eventually master the art of friction fire lighting.  


Friction fire-lighting on our weekend course

Friction fire lighting UK

Our weekend bushcraft course, held in beautiful woodland on the Dorset/Hampshire border, introduces you to the basics of friction fire-lighting. If you already have a degree of knowledge around friction fire-lighting, then our instructors are willing to work with you to help you to develop your skills further.  


Introduction to bow-drill

Bow drill ember



On our Weekend Bushcraft Course, we will introduce you to the basics of bow-drill techniques. Having shown you how to use a knife in a way that enables you to make the cuts needed to construct a bow-drill. From there, we will show you how you can use your bow-drill to hopefully get an ember.  If you’ve never heard of a bow-drill before, have a look at our blog on perfecting your bow drill technique.


Develop your technique further

Our courses are very flexible. As we’ve said, if you have a basic level of understanding, then we are willing to work with you to help you to get the most out of our sessions.  If you would like a specialist fire lighting session then book on to our one day friction fire lighting course.


Let us help you!

friction fire lighting from Wildway bushcraft
Have a go at making your own bow drill and practice your technique at home. Upload photos to our Facebook group here and let us know how well you are getting on with your bow drill. We will try our best to help you from a distance!

We at Wildway Bushcraft are excited to announce the dates of our courses for 2019. It’s an exciting year ahead with highlights including our River Spey Canoe Trip, Women’s Only Bushcraft Course and our Intermediate Bushcraft Course to name but a few. Read on to find out more about our courses and click on the links below to book your space!  

Foundation in Bushcraft Skills and Wilderness Living Course Level 2 – Weekend Bushcraft Course. (IOL Accredited Course).

Course dates for 2019

8-10 February
8-10 March
12-14 April
24-26 May
7-9 June
26-28 July
9-11 August
13-15 September
18-20 October
22-24 November

One Day Bushcraft Course

Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

9 February
9 March
13 April
25 May
8 June
27 July
10 August
14 September
19 October

23 November

Spoon Carving Course

Sharpen your bushcraft axe

30 March
21 September

River Spey Canoe Expedition

Seawater into drinking water
Takes your breath away.

27 – 31 May

Women Only One Day Bushcraft Course

Friction fire course

16 March
17 August

Friction Fire Lighting Course

family bushcraft course

17 March
18 August

Intermediate Bushcraft Course

Clothing for winter camping

28 September – 2 October

After a hard day walking in winter conditions, there is nothing better than a hot brew. That’s why, in this blog, we will be looking at how to make the most of your stove in winter conditions. When we’re looking at winter conditions we are looking at those in places of the UK such as the Brecon Beacons, Dartmoor, and the South West in general. We will not be considering winter conditions in mountainous regions or Scotland where winter conditions can be equivalent to the Arctic. Read on to learn more about maximising your stove use in winter.


Key considerations 

Making the most of your stove in winter

This blog is simply an overview of the different types of stoves and their effectiveness in winter. It does not compare stove types nor the enormous number of variations which can impact on the stove’s effectiveness. These variations include things such as, the altitude that the stove is being used at, the type of windshield being used, the temperature of the fuel beforehand, the wind speed/direction and of course the experience of the person using it. 


Solid fuel stoves 

Solid fuel stoves use either fuel blocks, such as ‘hex’ blocks or alcohol gels. One of the main drawbacks with these types of stoves is that the fuel is not readily available in your local camping store, nor can you control the heat output of the stove. The fuel is unlikely to be affected by winter temperatures but is obviously prey to the conditions that affect all stoves in winter.



Unpressurised liquid stoves

Unpressurised liquid stoves, such as the Trangia, typically run on a methanol, parrafin, or kerosene fuels. Typically these have a lower burning temperature than gas or multi-fuel stoves and, once again, the temperature can be hard to regulate. They can be impacted badly by cold weather although there are several things that you can do to improve their performance in winter. These include, insulating the stove from the ground, using more fuel to heat the stove first, keeping the fuel insulated and warm while carrying it and while at camp.

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Gas Stoves

Gas stoves light instantly, without the need for priming, and are largely maintenance free. The fuel for gas stoves is generally widely available and can typically be found in local hardware stores as well as camping shops. Their performance in winter is more to do with the fuel that is being used than the stove itself.  




Pure butane is a poor fuel for use in stoves in winter as it stops vapourising (e.g. the gas will remain liquid) at around – 1 degrees celcius. Propane, on the other hand, can be used at temperatures down to – 42 degrees Celcius, making it an ideal choice. However, it is extremely difficult to manufacture pure propane canisters that are suitable for camping. This leaves us with a butane/propane mix, typically canisters of this type will use a 70/30 butane/propane mix.  Even using this mix, however, effectiveness can be reduced in cold weather as the stove empties.



Pressurised liquid/multi-fuel stoves

Stoves of this type, such as the MSR Whisperlite, are excellent performers in all but the most extreme conditions.  These stoves can be used with both gas canisters and a liquid fuel known as ‘white gas’, a pure form of gasoline. These stoves, however, can be difficult to use for novices as they typically require priming and can be prone to flare-ups, making them less than ideal for using inside one’s tent.




Cooking on a fire in winter

Provided that you are able to light a fire in winter (have a look at our blogs
here and here) then they can be a great source of heat, light and can be easy to cook on.  However, you do need to be mindful of the environment in which you are having a fire. Provided that you are not in a genuine survival situation where anything goes then you need to consider if you have permission, the environmental impact of having a fire and, of course, how you can have a fire without leaving any trace. 

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Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year. 


Further Reading 

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



As we move into autumn and then into winter here in the UK, the weather gets colder and, more often than not, wetter. In these conditions, it can become more difficult to find dry wood with which to light a fire. The true bushcraft practitioner, however, has no difficulty finding dry wood and kindling with which to light a fire in the winter. Read on to discover more tips on how to source dry wood in wet conditions. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most

Don’t forget the basics

Fire lighting in damp autumn conditions
Before we look at finding dry wood in wet weather in more detail it is worth stressing that just because the weather conditions have changed there is no reason to forget the basics.  All the principles that normally apply to good fire lighting practice apply double in the winter. Take care of your tinder and use lots of dry and suitable kindling. When it comes to kindling the amount that you use in wet weather should be several times more than you would use in dry conditions. Don’t also forget to build a small platform of twigs on the floor in order to raise the fire off the damp floor.  



Importance of keeping your kit dry

Fire lighting damp conditions

In wet or wintery conditions it is of vital importance to keep your kit dry at all times. This applies equally to sleeping bags, tents, and everything else that you might be carrying. When it comes to fire lighting it is important that you keep your tinder, whether you have gathered it as you have gone along or bought it from home, it is vital that it is kept dry. When gathering tinder and fuel as you go along one of the easiest ways to keep it dry is to put it in the pockets of your waterproof jacket or trouser pockets underneath your waterproof trousers. Care should be paid to keeping your fire lighting tools – such as matches or Swedish firesteel – dry. It is always worth carrying several methods of fire lighting in your kit, for example, a fire steel, matches and lighter. 

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Gathering as you go

Leave no trace after camp fire is finished

One of the easiest ways to find dry fuel for the fire while out in wet weather is to gather it as you go along. Rather than trying to find it all in one place at the end of your journey, gathering fuel as you go along not only saves you time when you reach your camp but it also enables you to look for fuel in different sites along your route, often when the weather conditions are more favourable.



Making feather sticks 

One of the best sources of dry wood in wet weather is in feather sticks. While the outside of the wood might be wet the ability to make feather sticks will help you to access the dry wood on the inside. Provided that the wood is not saturated with water then feather sticks can be an excellent way of lighting a fire in damp conditions.  

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Learn more about making feather sticks in our video. Watch via our YouTube channel or in the blog below.



Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year.


Further Reading 

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



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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Plants to identify in autumn and winter


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. 






Plants to identify in autumn and winter



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. 



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.  




Further Reading 

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



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.




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





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. 





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. 

As autumn draws in around us and thoughts turn to winter our bushcraft practices adapt and change with the seasons. Though we might not have as much snow this year as we did at the start of 2018 there still might be enough to practice one of the most essential winter bushcraft techniques; lighting a fire on snow. In this blog, we will briefly recap the basics of fire lighting and then discuss some techniques for lighting a fire on snow. Read on to learn more or skip to the section that interests you the most.


Fire lighting essentials

Lighting a fire on snow
We’ve covered the basics of fire lighting in detail here, but essentially it comes down to correctly gathering and preparing your materials, not rushing or skipping any stage of the process and ensuring that you have all of the materials that you will need before lighting your fire.

If you are interested in more advanced fire lighting techniques then why not join us on our one-day friction fire lighting course or our weekend bushcraft course.


Is it worth the effort?

Before starting to attempt to light a fire on snow it is worth asking yourself it is worth the effort. If you are already cold, tired and wet, in short, if it is coming close to a survival situation, then you need to be sure attempting to light a fire will not exhaust your remaining energy reserves. You will need to judge each situation on its own merits and make your own decisions based upon the situation and your confidence in your skills.



Lighting a fire on snow

When it comes to lighting a fire on snow the key thing to remember is that it melts. This means that building a fire directly onto the snow itself will not only get your tinder wet but will also, should you manage to get it lit, melt the snow beneath it and disappear into it.

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Building a platform

One of the easiest ways to construct a fire on snow is to build a platform, either consisting of split logs or stones and place your tinder on top of it. This will give you a dry and firm base on which to light your fire.


Digging down

If the snow is of a reasonably shallow depth, like the kind that we might experience in the south of the UK in winter, then it is a better idea to dig down. Removing the snow until you have reached the level of the earth and then constructing a base on this earth (so as to keep the moisture out) will not only insulate the fire but will also ensure that it doesn’t melt the snow.

Preparation for lighting a fire in the snow

Lighting a fire on snow

Successful fire lighting depends on good preparation, in any weather, however, this goes double when there is snow on the ground. Ensure that you have plenty of dry tinder with you, and ideally keep it in your clothes where it can’t get damp, and plenty of firewood to keep the fire going throughout the night.




Lighting a fire on snow

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when lighting a fire. 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.