Last weekend I took my first trip out of the new year and ventured out to the local woods. This trip was going to be a chance for me to try out my new hammock and rigging technique, so I was a little nervous as I set off from the car park, not knowing whether I would be getting a good night’s sleep that night, but hey oh, in for a penny in for a pound as they say!
I walked through the woods enjoying the peace and quiet and thinking about how I was going to get this hammock off the ground, when I was interrupted by a ‘TAP TAP TAP’ sound just above my head. I looked up just in time to see a woodpecker fly off. What better time to take a break, hide myself away and see if it would come back.
I waited for about 30 minutes but it did not come back, so I set off again to try and find a good place to set up camp.
I came across a nice little corner of woodland and set about making camp. As the weather was nice and dry I went about hanging the hammock, as it turned out my previous worries had been unfounded. I tied a bowline knot in one end of some old climbing rope I had packed and then tied a timber hitch round the trunk of a suitable tree. After a few downwards tugs on the rope to make sure it did not slide straight to the floor, I tied a Marlin Spike Hitch in the hammock cord and clipped a carabineer though it and the Bowline and HEY PRESTO!
All I had to do then was stick up the tarp and my camp was all set up and ready to go.
With the camp all set up, off I went to explore and see what wildlife and goodies the wood had to offer. It was not long before I came across a rhodendrum shoot growing out of a felled pine tree, on its own nothing magnificent, but it made me think of nature’s endless cycle of life and death.
Right, less of the hippy stuff! I moved on and got off the beaten to see what I could find and came across a load of sliver birch trees. If you don’t already know, birch bark makes a great tinder and easily takes a spark, so I peeled a small amount off a tree and put it away in my pocket to dry out as it was still a bit damp. Removing the already peeling bark does no harm to the tree at all, but with all things in bushcraft you should do so responsibly, only take what you need.
Further in to the birch wood I found a fungus growing on the side of a standing dead birch tree.
Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) is also called razor fungus and can be used as a strop to give a blade a razor sharp edge. As well as giving your blade a super sharp edge it can also be turned in to a plaster. By slicing out a piece of the underside of the fungus and peeling it off you can make yourself a bushcraft plaster! Funny how nature works, the same thing that keeps your knife sharp also keeps your blood in when you cut yourself!
I started to make my way back to camp and came across loads of deer tracks. I followed them for a while but unfortunately I did not catch sight of any, but that’s how it goes sometimes. It is always a real treat to see a large wild animal in its own habitat and I must confess to being a little disappointed as I made my way back to camp.
Just as I was nearly back at camp, I found an owl pellet, I could not believe my luck. I have never found one before and this made me forget all about my lack of deer sighting success. On opening up the pellet it had two skulls inside it, one looked like a squirrel but I have no idea what the other one was.
I got back to camp and got a small fire going in my homemade hobo stove and got a brew on the go. Whilst I was waiting for the water to boil I made myself a little pot hanger to pass the time, it is a great little project to practice some cutting techniques and at the end of it you have a nice little pot hanger to hang your bushcraft billycan on!
So with the fire on, a warm meal and hot drink inside me, I retired to my hammock for the evening (which I am glad to say held), to listen to the birds and the sounds of the forest. This is one of the best times of the day when I am out in the woods, it is a time to reflect on the day’s events, jot down a few notes and reminders about things I have seen or things I need to look up and learn more about and above all, just be.
As the sun set and the fire burned itself out I laid there swinging gently in my hammock all warm and content with the world, and drifted off to sleep. I woke in the morning with the sunrise and the sound of a deer calling out and more importantly a great big smile on my face.
I packed all my kit away and made sure everything was as I found it and that no one would ever know I had been there, and left feeling refreshed and revitalised.
So if you have not ventured out for an overnight camp yet, get out there and enjoy, relax and if you’re really lucky, spot that deer that was teasing me! If you are new to camping, or want to test out your bushcraft skills with experienced instructors, then have a look at our Wildway Bushcraft courses and have yourself an adventure.