bow drill set

Making a Bow Drill Set

Making a Bow Drill Set

Being able to create fire by friction is a fundamental skill in bushcraft. Not only is it a fire lighting method that has been used for thousands of years but is a technique that could save your life out in a survival situation. Making a bow drill set can seem daunting to some but there are some tips to make it a bit easier for yourself. So let’s take a look at how to make a bow drill set. 

The bow drill set is made up from the following parts each with its specific job-

The Bow- this should be about the same length as half of your arm span, though some prefer it slightly shorter. It can be made of any dry wood but needs to be slightly curved. Attach a piece of paracord tying it off to both ends of the bow. The cord shouldn’t be as tight as a guitar string but needs to be relatively taught.  

bow drill setThe Drill- this is the upright section of the bow drill set and is in contact with the bearing block at the top for stability and pressure, and the hearth board at the bottom where the friction and heat production takes place. 

To make the drill you need to select a straight piece of dry wood, Hazel, Sycamore, Ivy and Willow are all great wood choices for this.

Start by bevelling and rounding one end of the drill, this is the end that will work with the hearth board at the base. On the other end carve a taper, slightly like an Eiffel Tower shape, so you can minimise the friction caused at the top of the drill in contact with your bearing block. By making the contact point at the top of your drill smaller than the bottom one you will reduce the chance of creating heat at the wrong end of your bow drill set.

The Bearing Block- this is the section of the bow drill set that stabilises the drill at the top and enables you to provide downward pressure. This can be made from anything from a block of wood, seashell or antler. It needs to be a strong enough material to take the downward pressure but also needs to be slightly curved or have a small cup like shape carved in to stabilise the top of the drill. 

The Hearth Board- this is the base of the bow drill set which sits on the ground to not only provide the stable platform but is the other point of friction along with the base of the drill. This is also where the wood dust collects as the result of the friction along with the heat which will combine to create the ember. 

Sycamore, Ivy, Willow, Alder and Cedar are all great wood choices for making the hearth board. The board needs to be about 5cm wide and long enough that you can make it stable with your foot. 

A small bowl like indentation needs to be made for the drill base to fit in to create the point of friction so it’s important that it fits well to maximise area of contact. To make this, push the tip of your knife in to the wood and twist the knife in a drill-like action to form the indentation.

Next, to improve the fit of the drill in to the hearth board you need to load your bow with your drill, so the drill is running on the outside of the string. Place the bearing block at the top and put the base of the drill in to the hearth board indentation. bow drill set

bow drill setNow start to use your bow back and forth to help to bed in the base of the drill in to hearth board creating a better fit. Once you reach a point that they fit together nicely, and you’ve probably created smoke by this point, you now need to cut a V-shape in to the circular indentation of the hearth board. Cut out a small pizza slice shape piece that should take out a small section of the indentation with it too. This allows the hot wood dust to collect in one place to help focus the heat and fuel together, which will then become your ember. It is a good idea to place a piece of bark or wood under the hearth board to make it easier to collect the ember once you get it.

Now all you need to do is get practicing, remember to be patient, this rarely works first time and takes some effort and determination to get it, so be persistent.


Introducing Your Family To Bushcraft

Introducing Your Family To Bushcraft

Daily family life can be hectic. Rushing to work, school runs, clubs, pressures from bosses and meeting family needs can leave you all stressed and frazzled. Fitting in quality family time, away from screens and stresses can be hard, and often feels too much hassle to sort, but it’s worth it.

Time as a family doing an activity together improves communication, strengthens relationships and reduces stress. Learning a new skill together makes this time even more valuable as it boosts self esteem and promotes resilience and adaptability, all essential life skills. Family bushcraft course

Introducing your family to bushcraft can spark engagement with nature while boosting their confidence as they expand their horizons, as well as learning about and assessing risk with some of their new found skills.

Children naturally love to explore, learn and move and bushcraft harnesses all these qualities. Whether it’s building a shelter, lighting a fire or learning about the forest around them, children of all ages thrive and strengthen as they engage in fun activities out in the woods. 

family bushcraftOn a basic level, just the activity of walking and exploring the woodland develops balance and co ordination as they jump ditches, balance on fallen trees and swing from branches. Then learning skills such as fire lighting requires logical thinking, observation skills and fine motor skills too. All of these factors transfer into positive qualities outside of the woods with better mental health, increased self esteem and improved concentration. So introducing your family to bushcraft has so many benefits to their health and well being as well as their personal development. 

Activities involving focus and time in the fresh air also promote better quality sleep, and let’s face it, that is something all family members will benefit from. It is also amazing to see how many ‘fussy eaters’ will devour a whole meal because they are hungry from outdoor activities and food cooked on the campfire tastes amazing! family bushcraft

As family members learn and develop their bushcraft skills they can learn food prep and campfire cooking. Often family members who aren’t keen to cook at home in the kitchen are suddenly enthusiastic to cook over the campfire, and who can blame them, it’s great fun and the food tastes better.

You may have concerns about introducing your family to bushcraft because some of the activities and skills require the use of knives. But learning proper and safe knife handling skills teaches family members to respect knives and how to use them sensibly and safely. Sat around the campfire learning how to safely carve, promotes concentration, respect for tools and is a relaxing and mindful activity to engage in. It also brings about a feeling of satisfaction and achievement as carving skills develop and different items are made. So whether it’s learning to make a basic tent peg to secure your shelter or carving an intricate spoon, this skill is a great activity to de-stress and connect with your family group.  

 

So what are you waiting, come out to the woods with your family and learn some new skills!

family bushcraft


Bushcraft axe

Basic Axe Care

Basic Axe Care

The axe is an essential bit of kit, whether you’re heading out to the woods for the day or off on expedition. Having an axe with you is the difference between being able stay warm and cook food or not! But how do you look after it? Let’s look at the steps of basic axe care.

Why should we maintain our axes? 

A well maintained axe is a safer axe and a more efficient axe too. They are often exposed to all winds and weathers, used repeatedly and transported around a lot, these factors can cause the axe to degrade if not cared for. The axe head is made from steel, but not usually stainless, so this leaves it at greater risk of rust, especially if not stored correctly and left damp and dirty. The axe handle is made of wood and if not properly cared for will warp and change in size meaning the handle could break or the head could become loose, which is not safe or ideal in any situation. Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

Basic axe care for the axe head-

Corrosion is the axe’s worst enemy, it makes it unsafe and reduces longevity. It also means it is more likely to chip and become blunt. Rust disintegrates the metal causing it to weaken, so to prevent this the axe head needs to be properly maintained. 

First of all the axe head needs to be cleaned, it can often get covered in sap, tannins and dirt so this needs removing before further maintenance and storage. This can usually be wiped off with hot water and a cloth and then dried with a dry clean cloth. Once cleaned, it is good practice to oil the axe head, this keeps it in optimum condition and adds a protective layer. There are many oils that can be used but in an ideal situation an oil such as gun oil would be the oil of choice. This type of oil dries after application rather than leaving and wet slippy coating which can attract dirt as well as wipe onto other equipment and the sheath. The application is simple, apply to the clean axe head with a dry clean cloth. Use small circular motions to work the oil into the surface and to insure good coverage. Leave to dry for a short time before removing any excess with a clean dry cloth before replacing the sheath.

 

If any patches of rust have developed then use some wire wool along with the oil to gently work through the rust, then apply extra oil in this area for added protection.

(We will cover axe sharpening in a different blog) 

Spoon scarvingBasic axe care of the sheath-

The sheath, or mask as it’s sometimes known, needs care too. This piece of equipment helps to prevent damage to the axe head but also to you when handling it and to stop damage to equipment when stored or transported with it. As the sheath is made of leather it will dry and split easily if not cared for. Try and keep it clean and dry, but when it does get dirty, clean it with hot water and a cloth. Once dried apply a protective layer with a leather conditioner, oil or aqueous wax, this will improve its longevity and give protective barrier. 

Basic axe care of the handle-

Most axe handles are made from hickory wood, this is strong and reliant but still needs maintenance and care. A poorly cared for handle is unsafe. It can warp or shrink which means the axe head can become loose making it unsafe and ineffective. 

Clean surface muck and grime off with hot soapy water and a sponge before drying thoroughly. If it needs deeper cleaning then some hand sanding may be necessary. Handles should be regularly treated with boiled linseed oil to keep the handle in good condition. It should be noted that only boiled linseed oil should be used rather than raw linseed oil as the raw version does not dry. This would leave the handle slippy and therefore unsafe to handle for obvious reasons! 

Important- it is well documented that rags soaked in boiled linseed oil can spontaneously combust if left, especially if bundled or scrunched up together. Please do NOT leave these indoors or near anything flammable. Once finished with we burn ours, but if this is not an option for you then the next safest option is to hang them outside to

basic axe care

 air dry. Hang them unfolded away from anything combustable and then dispose of them safely once completely dried. 

Ideally your axe needs to be stored out of the elements in a climate controlled building. Too warm and dry will cause shrinkage of the handle, too cold and damp and it will warp and degrade. Also be sure to store the axe correctly too. Do not stack equipment on top of it as this can deform the handle and damage the head, the same applies when transporting your kit. 

Basic axe care needs to be part of your kit maintenance. It is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will buy for bushcraft. No matter how great your knife is, it can’t fell a tree or split firewood. And without firewood you won’t have a source of heat or ability to cook food. So take care of your axe!


Canoeing preparation

Canoeing and Bushcraft

Canoeing and Bushcraft

The strong link between canoeing and bushcraft has been around for generations. Initially relied upon as a main mode of transport, canoeing for many indigenous people was a part of daily life. Often made out of birch bark, or expertly carved out of logs, traditional canoes are a far cry from the modern canoes we use today.Canoe the river Spey bivvy on its banks on our bushcraft course

Some native tribes had to travel great distances along waterways in search of food or to transport goods so bushcraft skills were essential to enable them to thrive on such journeys. Many skills such as fire lighting, trapping and providing shelter were common everyday skills to them in their home environment but they also needed to transport such tools and skills on a smaller scale. This is key for successful bushcraft on such journeys. 

Bringing it forward to the modern day, we now do these journeys for pleasure rather than necessity, but some of the fundamentals remain the same. Pack light and pack the essentials, but it’s also about skills too. Skills in both bushcraft and paddling grow with the journey.

Canoeing and bushcraft navigtion
Hazel knows where she' going.

Combining canoeing and bushcraft can expand your horizons and opens the doors to many new adventures. Getting to see many places that aren’t accessible by foot only water makes the adventure extra special. Even exploring areas you may be familiar with on foot can be so different when explored on the water. It is one of the best ways to de-stress, slow down and connect with nature. While on the water you are moving along more peacefully and are less likely to disturb the wildlife. Not only is this better for the environment but it gives so many great opportunities to see wildlife that you’d never otherwise spot. Many of these creatures are easily spooked or easily missed so this calmer quieter method of exploring increases your chance of having some amazing wildlife encounters.

Many of our Canadian canoe expeditions take place in Scotland on the beautiful River Spey or the incredible Great Glen. The Scottish wildlife never fails to amaze us with some incredible sights, from Ospreys to Buzzards, Red Deer to Red Squirrels, Otters and Pine Martens, they all look spectacular to see out in their natural habitats. 

We also take expeditions to Sweden with its incredible landscapes, abundance of wild blueberries and beautiful wildlife, canoeing and wild camping is a great way to visit this amazing country too.

Canoeing for a day can be great, but canoeing for longer periods allows you to explore further and find some amazing wild camping spots, many that you’d never discover on foot. After a great day paddling, pulling your canoe up on to the bank and setting up camp for the night is part of the joy of the journey. 

As well as ensuring it is a safe spot to camp, make sure it’s a beautiful one too, after all you want to put your feet up and enjoy the scenery that nature has to offer.

Having made sure there is no risk of flooding or soggy sleeping bags, set up your bed for the night, light your fire and start cooking.Bushcraft is about more than survival On expeditions we always advise to take food rather than relying on foraging for food along your journey. You may be able to make the most of a few foraged berries or herbs, but be sure you know what you are eating and don’t take them all as the wildlife need some too. Don’t underestimate how much food you will need, paddling all day burns calories and you won’t enjoy the journey if you are hungry and your energy is depleted. 

Make sure your shelter is adequate too, the weather can change rapidly overnight, so just because it’s dry when you set up camp don’t cut corners on your shelter just because you are tired from a days paddling.

For me one of the best bits of a canoe trip is waking up in my hammock and watching the sun rise and listening to the wildlife as the dawn chorus starts, this is the time that nature seems to burst in to life. 

You may often feel a reluctance to emerge from your warm sleeping bag, but lighting a campfire to cook breakfast and make coffee makes it that little bit easier. Once fuelled from a campfire breakfast and your kit packed away, make sure you you have left the camping spot without litter, hopefully how you found it. For the safety of the wildlife, the protection of the environment as well as the respect of fellow adventurers. 

Then it’s time to push your canoe back in to the river and continue your adventure. 


Family bushcraft course

Family Bushcraft

Introducing Your Family To Bushcraft

Daily family life can be hectic. Rushing to work, school runs, clubs, pressures from bosses and meeting family needs can leave you all stressed and frazzled. Fitting in quality family time, away from screens and stresses can be hard, and often feels too much hassle to sort, but it’s worth it.

Time as a family doing an activity together improves communication, strengthens relationships and reduces stress. Learning a new skill together makes this time even more valuable as I boosts self esteem and promotes resilience and adaptability, all essential life skills. 

Introducing your family to bushcraft can spark engagement with nature while boosting their confidence as they expand their horizons, as well as learning about and assessing risk with some of their new found skills.Family bushcraft course knife safety children

Children naturally love to explore, learn and move and bushcraft harnesses all these qualities. Whether it’s building a shelter, lighting a fire or learning about the forest around them, children of all ages thrive and strengthen as they engage in fun activities out in the woods. 

On a basic level, just the activity of walking and exploring the woodland develops balance and co ordination as they jump ditches, balance on fallen trees and swing from branches. Then learning skills such as fire lighting requires logical thinking, observation skills and fine motor skills. All of these factors transfer into positive qualities outside of the woods too with better mental health, increased self esteem and improved concentration. So introducing your family to bushcraft has so many benefits to their health and well being as well as their personal development. 

Activities involving focus and time in the fresh air also promote better sleep, and let’s face it, that is something all family members will benefit from. It is also amazing to see how many ‘fussy eaters’ will devour a whole meal because they are hungry from outdoor activities and food cooked on the campfire tastes amazing! 

As family members learn and develop their bushcraft skills they can learn food prep and campfire cooking. Often family members who aren’t keen to cook at home in the kitchen are suddenly enthusiastic to cook over the campfire, and who can blame them, it’s great fun and the food tastes better. family bushcraft course

You my have concerns about introducing your family to bushcraft because some of the activities and skills require the use of knives. But learning proper and safe knife handling skills teaches family members to respect knives and how to use them sensibly and safely. Sat around the campfire learning how to safely carve, promotes concentration, respect for tools and is a relaxing and mindful activity to engage in. It also brings about a feeling of satisfaction and achievement as carving skills develop and different items are made. So whether it’s learning to make a basic tent peg to secure your shelter or carving an intricate spoon, this skill is a great activity to de-stress and connect with your family group.  

So what are you waiting, come out to the woods with your family and learn some new skills!


Signs of spring

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

We are all looking forward to spring more than ever before. Having had another lockdown, but this time through the darkest bleakest part of the year, the thought of longer warmer days and nature bursting into life is more appealing than ever. The sights and sounds of the natural world starting to wake up will give us a feeling of new hope for the year ahead. But what are the signs of spring? 

As winter turns to spring many of the birds who have migrated here for our colder months head back to their summer homes. This also means that many birds who migrated away return for the summer months. One of the first birds to return to our shores is the Chiff Chaff, they usually arrive in March with the swallows, house martins and cuckoos following in April. The birds start to return to their British nesting sites ready to breed as the days lengthen once again. You’ll know they are home as you’ll often hear them before you see them. buzzard spring

If you are lucky enough to have an outside space to escape to, head out at dawn and as the winter turns to spring you’ll notice that the bird song increases as more birds return home but also as they start to shout the loudest to attract a mate and defend their territory. The birds will become more physically active too. A great example of this is the buzzard that we are lucky enough to have in our woods, usually seen just casually gliding or perching, once the longer days start to arrive he starts to show off his skydiving skills to attract a mate, he’s a very impressive show off!

As you look down to the woodland floor, the small green shoots are starting to burst up through the leaf litter showing bright vibrant greens as the early flowers start to emerge. Many herbaceous plants rush to flower before the leaf cover of the canopy blocks out the light once the tree’s leaf growth emerges.

SnowdropsSigns of spring are often first to be seen in January to February. Their botanical name, galanthus nivalis, translates as ‘milk flower of the snow’ both because of the white carpet of flowers it produces, but also as the plant commonly gets covered in snow after blooming because of its early appearance.  

Lesser Celendine, crocuses and primroses are also early flowers bringing colour to the woodland and food for insects starting to venture out as the days get longer. We are seeing the early shoots of the bluebells bursting back into life here but these won’t be blooming until May, though when they do, the bees go crazy for them.

As well as signs of spring on the woodland floor the trees are not to be outdone with buds starting to open to make the most of the increasing daylight hours and milder temperatures. Some trees develop their new leaves before flowering while others flower first to attract in the early insects and pollinators before putting their energy into new leaf growth. The hazel, birch and alder catkins are all visible at this time before the leaf cover becomes dense.

As the vegetation bursts into life so do the insects. With the milder weather you may get early sightings of brimstone, peacocks, commas and red admiral butterflies as they come out of winter having hibernated as adults. Orange tips and holly blues are true signs of spring, they winter as chrysalises emerging as the weather warms and days lengthen. These are often found near woodland and mature gardens as they use holly and ivy as larvae host plants. 

The first bumblebees are a great sign of spring and can usually be seen from March. These are the queens who have survived winter and are in search of early flowers for food and suitable nesting sites. Once the queen has found a suitable place she then lays her first clutch of eggs which become the first batch of female worker bees. The larvae are fed by the queen, so through spring she’ll be seen busily collecting pollen from the spring flowers so she can feed her increasing army of workers. These young emerge as adults in the summer months. To support our vulnerable bees why not plant a variety of flowers that bloom throughout the year? That’s one of jobs here in the woods to ensure the local bees have a variety of food sources……as long as the deer don’t eat them first.

With the increasing numbers of active insects sparks increased activity of mammals that feed on them. Another sign of spring is the sight of bats at dusk. After a winter of hibernation the bats come out on the milder evenings to enjoy the spring feast. They have used up their fat reserves through winter so look to replenish and nourish themselves, especially the pregnant females who mated in Autumn. 

We also have badgers here in the woods, though they don’t hibernate through winter their activity is greatly reduced in an attempt to conserve energy and escape the winter weather. As spring arrives they start to venture out as their main food source, the earthworm, comes to the surface as soil temperatures increase.
Badger cubs are typically born in February so there will be more activity around the sett as there are more hungry mouths to feed.

In ponds and ditches a classic sign of spring is the distinctive clusters of frog spawn appearing from January onwards as the temperatures become milder. Females lay their eggs in well vegetated ponds and ditches then as the eggs swell they float to the surface. She lays thousands of eggs, each one is a tiny tadpole embryo surrounded by a protective jellylike layer, but only 40-50% make it to adulthood, most succumb to predation.   

 

So whether you are out on a walk, heading for new adventures or practicing your bushcraft skills, take time to look around you. Spring is well and truly on its way, enjoy it, immerse yourself in it and let it recharge you to get you through these tricky times. 


Bushcraft Coffee

Bushcraft Coffee

If there is one thing that makes campfire bushcraft coffee taste even better, it's drinking it in the woods. Coffee made over the campfire just tastes so much better. Here at Wildway we have perfected the art of making our coffee over the fire with nothing but a billy can. No need for anything fancy, no presses, grinders or filter papers. Simple.

First off make sure you have bought a good brand of coffee in to the woods in the first place. We were sent afree sample by Rave and boy was it good. We had not heard of these guys before but they are UK based company that ethically source coffee from around the world. They also seem very keen on the environment with the no nonsense packaging which is a massive plus for us. You could do a lot worse than giving them a try. I am working my way though their range as we speak. Anyway on to the process.

So once you have got your coffee sorted lets get this bad boy made.

Step 1

Empty the coffee into the billy can, one large spoonful for each person and one for the pot is how I measure it out. At this stage I should add that the best ground for this is espresso but it's not the end of the world.

Step 2

Warm the grounds over the campfire, this really adds to the flavour. Don't burn them or it will taste like bitter.

Step 3

Add cold water into the warm billy can.

Step 4

Bring to the boil, until you can see the coffee start to bubble around the edges.

Step 5

Remove from the heat and stir with a hand carved spoon or a stick!

Step 6

Gently tap the side of the can allowing the coffee grounds to settle.

Step 7

Add sugar and milk to taste. Black and one sugar if best!

 

There you go simple campfire bushcraft coffee, so next time you head to the woods keep it simple and give this a go you never know it might change your world, or at least give you less to carry!


Wild Summer Edibles

Wild Summer Edibles

10 Wild Summer Edibles

As we continue to navigate our way through this strange and crazy year, even more of us are finding solace in the great outdoors and learning the benefits of foraging wild summer edibles.

Whether heading off for adventures, or just exploring the areas near our homes, we will all be noticing the changes in the seasons, maybe even more so this year as we have been forced to slow down and stay closer to home.

Noticing the seasonal changes not only helps connect with nature more but also opens up our eyes for opportunities, the wild summer edible kind!

As spring edibles have passed, now is the time make the most of the summer abundance. Ensuring that you leave enough for the wildlife and have the landowner’s permission, foraging at this time of the year is incredibly rewarding. But be very sure to get your plant identification correct as there are plenty of poisonous plants around too!

Wild Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)Wild Summer Edibles

Found in open woodland and scrubland, or on the banks of chalk downlands, these little red fruit are summer treasures.

The plant and fruit look like small versions of the cultivated fruit that we know and enjoy from our gardens, shops and farmers markets. Though it is worth knowing that the wild strawberries aren’t as sweet as the cultivated fruits and are just the size of a 5 pence piece.

The wild strawberry plant produces the same white flower as the cultivated strawberry plants. Once pollinated the small red fruits develop and are then ripe and ready for picking, just ensure that you leave plenty for the wildlife too as these are a great energy source for small ground mammals and birds.

These berries are packed. Full of vitamins and can be enjoyed raw, added to a summer salad or smoothy or cooked into jams and puddings too. I think these are one of the best wild summer edibles around.

Meadowsweet ( Filipendula ulmaria)

The Meadowsweet plant is found across Northern and Southern Europe and is often used in herbal medicine for its health benefits as it is said to treat colds, ease digestive discomfort and to reduce inflammation.

This perennial herb grows in damp meadows, hedgerows and ditches, growing up to 120cm in height. The leaves are dark green on top and greyish underneath, and are deeply veined and toothed along the edges.

Meadowsweet flowers are small and white, growing in clusters. As the name suggests, this sweet smelling flower blooms from June through to September with the white flower clusters up on a long stem. These flowers are often described as having a fuzzy or frothy appearance due to the clusters of longer pollen stamens and are often used in wines, beers and vinegars. Eaten raw the young leaves add extra nutrients to a summer salad or can bee cooked into soups and stews.

Although this plant has many health benefits, make sure you do not get it confused. When foraging at any time of the year plant identification is key. If in doubt, don’t risk it. You must be sure what wild summer edible plant your eating!

Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)

Rock Samphire is best foraged from May to October. This salt tolerant, hardy succulent is found along rocky coastlines, growing on cliffs and in crevices. Care needs to be taken when foraging this nutrient rich perennial herb, so we advise not to harvest from cliffs but to forage from rocky flats, but be aware of incoming tides.

Not leaf like at all, this plant has spraying antler like protrusions that are circular, like multiple stems, not to be confused with the unrelated but similarly named marsh samphire.

The ‘leaves’ of the rock samphire have a strong carroty or herb like taste and make a great nutrient rich addition to a summer salad, as can the flowers that bloom from June to September. From August to October the seed pods can be harvested and pickled making a great substitute for capers.

Rock samphire are high in vitamins and minerals and historically used by sailors to help stave off scurvy due to its high vitamin C content. Though it is worth knowing that this plant is very much like Marmite, due to its distinctive flavour you’ll either love it or hate it!

Wild Cherry (Prunus avian)

Wild cherry, a popular native tree is often treasured for its abundance of summer berries by humans and wildlife alike. Historically also treasured for its hard wood for building, as well as its source of food, cherry trees can grow up to 30 meters living for up to 60 years.

As well as in gardens, cherry trees can be found in parklands, woodlands and hedgerows. The propagation of the trees relies heavily on the birds eating the cherries and spreading the seeds, hence the second part of its botanical name being avium.

Once pollinated by our insect pollinators the sweet smelling distinctive blossoms of spring develop in to green berries. In a short time these ripen in to the red gems, once ripe there is a small window of opportunity for foraging before the birds have a glut themselves.

If you are lucky enough to share with the local wildlife and don’t miss out, then you’ll discover that they are smaller and more tart than the cultivated species of cherry that we enjoy from the shops.

These vivid red fruits are nutrient rich and commonly used to relieve coughs, colds, digestive symptoms and reduce the discomfort of gout. They are very tart in flavour and, when eaten raw, to many can cause digestive upset in some people. Wild cherries can be added to jams, pies and tarts as well as making a great sauce to accompany game.

Once you can identify a cherry tree, you’ll soon recognise them around when out and about on your adventures. They are certainly trees to be treasured and produce some of the best wild summer edibles about.

Red Currants (Ribes rubrum)

The red currants are a member of the genus Ribes in the gooseberry family. This shrub is easy to identify and commonly found in dark shady woodland, hedgerows and riverbanks, especially across the southern half of England.

These plants grow up to 1-1.5m in height and are upright in stature with a woody stem and leaves that are similar to a small maple leaf. Once you know what you are looking for they are easy to identify, but often confused with the black currant which has a larger leaf of about three times the size.

In late spring the plant produces dull and disappointing flowers of a yellow-green colour, but in early summer small clusters of up to twenty green berries form in each cluster. As the berries ripen and become a vibrant red they are ready for foraging, but just as with many berries, there is a small window of opportunity to enjoy them before the wildlife have had their fill.

Red currants are backed full of nutrients that aid circulatory health and energy. They can be enjoyed raw or added to many recipes including jams, tarts or sauces to accompany cooked meats.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)Wild Summer Edibles

The Bilberry plant is found in woodland, moorlands and forests in temperate and subarctic areas of the Northern Hemisphere. This deciduous small shrub prefers acidic, well drained soil with partial shade.

The bilberry, also known as the whortleberry, huckleberry and European blueberry, is in fact part of the heather family and as well as producing the edible berries, bilberry has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years.

So what is the difference between bilberries and blueberries? Traditionally blueberries were more of a cultivated type of berry, where as the bilberry was only ever found in the wild, though these days there are cultivated bilberries too. Blueberry flesh is light in colour whereas the bilberry flesh is a deep purple red. The bilberry plant is a low growing shrub so can be easily confused with blueberries, but both are edible so can both be enjoyed. Which is a bonus when collecting wild summer edibles!

Wild growing bilberries are packed full of nutrients and are partially beneficial for eye health. The berries can be enjoyed raw or added to recipes such as jams, sauces or pies.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed is a perennial flowering plant that can be foraged for food or dried to be used as a cooling herb for herbal remedies. It grows in a variety of places from shady parks, grasslands, under trees and in the cracks of pavements too. If you look closely you’ll see that the plant has a single line of hairs down just one side of its stem making it slightly easier to identify.

Commonly deemed as a weed by gardeners, this foraged green has a fresh grass like flavour and no bitterness that is common in other foraged leaves. At this time of year look out for its small white star like flowers that can be eaten too. Both leaves and flowers can be added to salads, soups or pesto to give added nutrients to popular dishes.

When foraging pick the young lush leafy tops as these are the most tender, nutrient rich a delicious part of the plant. The older leaves can be a little tough and stringy. Similar to spinach these leaves are high in iron and can be eaten raw and cooked, though if eaten raw in abundance can lead to digestive discomfort. As with all foraging be sure to get your plant identification correct before you tuck in.

Elder Flowers & Berries (Sambucus nigra)

The Elder tree is steeped in history and folklore. Regarded as a protected tree because of the ‘Elder Mother’ residing in the trees trunk this was often grown next to gateways and entrances as it was regarded to keep away bad luck. For this reason the trees were rarely cut down or burnt.

Elders were also closely protected because of their medicinal benefits too. Not just the berries, but the flowers, the bark, roots and leaves have been used for centuries to treat a number of ailments and illnesses.

Often found in hedgerows and woodland, the Elder tree can reach heights of 10-12 metres. The trees are found to rarely live longer than 80 years and are characterised by their short trunk and greyish-brown farrowed bark.

From May, bunches of tiny white flowers hanging in sprays the size of saucers develop with a distinctive sweet smell. These flowers can be foraged and used to make classic summer drinks such as sweet elderflower cordial, elderflower champagne, sorbets or cakes.

If left, once pollinated, these small white flowers turn into a cluster of small purple-black berries. These sour berries are packed full of nutrients but should not be eaten raw as they induce vomiting and diarrhoea. However they are often taken in cooked supplement form to boost the immune system, reduce stress and support heart health.

Once cooked these berries can be made into jams, juices and pies and enjoyed with a glass of elderflower cordial, the taste of summertime.

Crab Apples (Malus sylvestris)

Found in hedgerows, gardens and woodlands these small ancestors of the cultivated apple tree can live up to 100 years old. These smaller trees favour moist soil and when exposed to the elements become twisted and gnarled with the twigs often developing spines. It is thought that this spined and crabbed appearance is one of the reasons that it has its name.

These smaller native trees are spherical and irregular in shape with a wide canopy. Though commonly a smaller tree, the Woodland Trust state that some have been found at 10 meters in height.

The small sweet smelling pink and white blossoms bloom from spring into summer, then once pollinated develop the tree’s fruit in late summer. Crab apples can be a variety of colours ranging from golden yellows, greens to russet reds when they are ready to harvest in late summer into early autumn.

Eaten raw these fruits can be incredibly bitter and can cause some digestive discomfort, but when cooked with sugar they make a great addition to summer puddings and to jams and jellies too.

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)

The bramble plant that produces the blackberries can grow just about anywhere. They make up dense hedgerows, cover scrubland, are found in woodland and are capable of growing pretty much anywhere in our climate.

As well as making the perfect habitat for a variety of wildlife these hardy prickly plants produce tasty and nutritious sweet berries from late summer into autumn.

The white blossoms that bloom from spring into summer develop into juicy edible berries from July to late August. They start as small hard green berries then as they ripen and grow in size they change from pink, to red and when fully ripen they are a deep purple-black colour and ready for harvesting.

These tasty, nutrient dense berries can be enjoyed raw straight from the plant, added to smoothies and salads or cooked into recipes such as pies, crumbles and hedgerow jams, or frozen to be enjoyed through the winter months.

 

So whether you are foraging greens to boost your summer salads and soups, harvesting berries to boost your health or picking fruit to freeze for comforting winter puddings, summer is the time of abundance.

Remember to forage your summer edibles responsibly and carefully insuring you have identified the plant correctly. Make sure you have the land owner’s permission, that you only take what you need and leave enough for others. But most importantly leave enough for the wildlife as they will be feeding young and themselves to make sure they are strong and healthy ready for the winter months. So get out there and enjoy your wild summer edibles!


Bushcraft at Home

Indoor Bushcraft

Indoor Bushcraft- 5 Things To Do Right Now

This is a tricky time for all of us, we are doing the right thing by staying home and staying safe. Only venturing out once a day for your daily exercise can feel so alien when you are used to spending most of your time out in the woods or away on expedition like the team here. So we thought we’d share a few tips and give you 5 things to do right now during this lockdown period to stay busy, stay focused and stay positive. A sort of indoor bushcraft so to speak!

We are all missing the great outdoors and the adventures that we were supposed to be away on right now but lets look at how you can still be doing bushcraft and adventure related stuff at home.

1. Sharpening Tools-Bushcraft axe

Knives and axes are both essential parts of bushcraft kit. A blunt tool is going to make your life more difficult when out in the woods, and a badly maintained tool is a dangerous tool.

So use this time to go through and assess your tools. Are they safe? Are they in full working order? Take this time to sharpen the blade, strop the blade too if needed, then ensure the blade is dry before putting it away to avoid rust.

Assess the handle too, it maybe in need of some TLC. Oiling the wooden handles of your tools will help with their strength and longevity and keep them safe and effective to use.

Also take a look at the protective sheath too, if it is leather give it an oil to keep it supple and strong which will keep your blade protected and ensure the longevity of your tools.

2. Sort Out Your Kit-

Make the use of this time to pull out all of your kit, and I mean all of it. Take a good look at each item, does it need some maintenance? Do you actually use it or is just taking up valuable space?

Also look at how you store your kit and pack your kit too. Sometimes life can be so busy between work, family and heading off on adventures that taking the time to properly sort and store kit is less of a priority, but now is the time to do it. Kit that needs maintenance leave out and carry out some repairs on each piece. This is also a great time to waterproof wet weather kit too, even if it doesn’t look too warn, use this time to get another waterproof layer on, you’ll be glad of it next winter.

3. New Kit-

A favourite subject of the team, new kit! Everyone loves getting new kit but no one likes buying duff kit or being ripped off. So use this time to work out what you actually need then research the product, speak to friends who use the kit and read plenty of reviews. A perfect indoor bushcraft job!

4. Expand Your Knowledge-

It’s always good to expand your knowledge and update your skills, no matter how long you’ve been doing bushcraft.

There are some great books and online resources so you can read up on most elements of bushcraft. Whether it’s improving your plant identification, updating your navigation knowledge or learning more about water filtration, then now is a great time to expand your knowledge.

Also, check out our Facebook Page and YouTube Channel for further info, tips and video clips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Practice Your Skills-

OK, so this one is a bit more limiting in this current situation of lockdown, but there are still some skills that can be practised in your own home. Obviously if you have garden then there will be skills you can practice outside such as firelighting and tarp set ups. But inside you can still practice your carving skills, work on your map reading and navigation knowledge as well as practising natural cordage.

So stay positive, practice your skills as much as you can, expand your knowledge and plan your next adventures.


Wild Garlic

Spring Edibles To Forage

Spring Edibles To Forage

After the gloom of winter the early spring edibles to forage are a welcome sight. After a period of slim pickings during the winter months you can start to gather some highly nutritious edibles from February onwards. As the young leaves and shoots come through there are some tender sweet greens to gather.

As always though, when foraging be sure to have the land owner’s permission, ensure you have identified the correct plant and don’t take it all for yourself, after all the wildlife have had a long hard winter and need nourishment too.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) 

Wild GarlicWith the leaves appearing from February the aromatic wild garlic is a welcome sight early in the season and a delicious and versatile spring edible.  They grow in clusters and can be found in shaded woodland and hedgerows, and when the flowers are in bloom you will smell them before you see them!

Before the flowers appear, if you are unsure if you have the right plant or not, just crush a leaf in the palm of your hand and if it is wild garlic it will have distinctive onion-garlic scent.  

Both the long pointed leaves and the fragrant white flowers are edible and can be enjoyed in many forms. Add to sauces or stews, make your own wild garlic pesto, or maybe try making wild garlic bread on the camp fire. The flavour is incredible.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) 

Also known as Jack-by-the-hedge, garlic mustard is another vibrant spring edible found from February-March onwards. The leaves have a milder garlic flavour than wild garlic but still make a great addition to an early spring salad or stew. 

These heart shaped leaves have a toothed outer boarder and are hairless with a glossy sheen. When crushed they also release an onion-garlic scent, but it is not as strong as that from wild garlic. As these leaves are harder to spot, and smell, than the wild garlic be sure you have got your identification right before tucking in.

Nettles (Urtica dioica) 

Nettles with their distinctive leaves are easy to spot and grow just about anywhere. New growth emerges from February onwards and it is the tender young tips that are the best parts of the plant to forage.

Packed full of iron and vitamins A & D this wild edible is very similar to spinach in nutritional value and has a similar flavour. Add to soups and stews, or make into tea or beer.

Famous for its “stinging” ability, you may prefer to wear gloves when foraging these beauties.

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

HawthornHawthorn is known for its tough and prickly exterior, commonly used as an effective barrier and hedge line of farmland. But in early spring as the tree springs in to life its fresh delicate leaves and buds make tasty additions to salads and fresh dishes, or can be enjoyed straight from the plant. 

Historically these were a commonly foraged spring edible and the fresh young leaves and buds where referred to as ‘bread and cheese’ by foragers. The tender young leaves acting as the bread and the tasty flower buds being the cheese.

From summer onwards the leaves become tough and not as enjoyable to eat, so forage early.

Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

GorseFound in well drained and sandy areas such as heathland, cliff tops and scrubland, the gorse bush with its distinctive floral bloom provides vivid colour in the early spring. The vibrant yellow flowers are edible and sweet with their enticing coconut scent and almond flavour.

Care should be taken when foraging these flowers as they are well protected by the sharp thorn like leaves of the gorse shrub, but they are worth the prickly gamble!

These bright yellow flowers can be enjoyed raw eaten straight from the plant, or added to salads and puddings. Or enjoy steeped in hot water brewed as tea.

Cleavers (Gatium aparine)

CleaversCleavers, or Goose Grass, are easily found from February onwards, emerging along hedgerows, paths, parklands and woodland areas too.

These spring edibles can be treated just as a vegetable, an ideal addition to soups and stews. The early young plant tops are the best part to eat as they are tender and tasty. As the plant matures it becomes bitter and fibrous, and it is better to harvest the plant tops before the seeds appear in early summer.

Once the seeds have ripened and hardened these too can be harvested, best enjoyed roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Don’t be put off by its name, this spring edible is packed full of nutrients and regularly used in herbal remedies. This broadleaf weed has egg shaped leaves with pointy tips. The white flowers with elongated petals are edible too when they appear later in the season. 

These make a nutritional addition to an early spring salad, stew or smoothy.

Not to be confused with the poisonous yellow pimpernel. A key identification feature to look for in the chickweed is a visible single line of hairs running down one side of the stem, if there isn’t, don’t chance it.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Commonly found on grass verges, through out parklands, meadows and woodland dandelions are easy to forage. Their distinctive shaped leaf makes them easily recognisable, and even more so when their bright yellow flower appears in early spring too making this plant the ideal spring edible to forage. Dandelion

Both leaf and flowers are edible and can be enjoyed in salads or stews, or steeped in boiling water to make a tea. Just be mindful of their diuretic properties when consumed in larger quantities.  

So now the days are getting longer and the new growth is coming through, it’s a great time to get out exploring and see what delicious and nutritious treats nature has to offer this spring. Just remember to forage responsibly, enjoy your findings and be sure of your plant identification- If in doubt, leave it out!