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Winter Survival Kit Recomendations

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Foragers Diary; March 2018

Sometimes March can still be a bit sparse, in fact in March of 1942 the Norwegian commandos tasked with destroying a heavy water plant had to resort to some really strange wild food; 

In Norway in 1942 the scarcity of food posed a challenge to the Norwegian commandos of Operation Grouse. Jens-Anton PoulssonKnut HauglandClaus Helberg and Arne Kjelstrup, arrived by parachute in advance of a larger force of British airborne troops. They were to prepare for the attack on the heavy water factory in Rjukan, an attack which failed when the gliders carrying the troops crashed. The Grouse party spent months surviving on the Hardanga plateu while another attack was planned and Operation Gunnerside could be launched. This operation was a success and played an instrumental part in preventing the development of nuclear weapons by the Nazi's. 

While waiting for the arrival of Gunnerside the Grouse team survived thanks to their skills as outdoorsmen, their ability to hunt reindeer and their resourcefulness in eating the partly digested reindeer moss collected from the rumen of the deer they killed.  

Reindeer moss is common in upland areas throughout the UK and Europe. 

The reindeer moss was one of the few plant foods they could forage at that time of year and humans can't digest it properly. The grouse party instead survived by using the partly digested moss from the rumen of the deer. Not something I'm in a hurry to try.

Much more palatable are the occasional 'confused' fungi that sometimes pop up thanks to the often strange British weather.

I'm not sure weather this wood bluet was early, late or just confused but it was nice to see it although I wouldn't expect any of them at this time of year. 

With the pheasant and partridge and duck seasons now long over I have to look to other sources of wild game meat, muntjac are always in season and in March you can still shoot Chinese water deer, roe does and in fact all deer except roe bucks during March in England and Wales. That will change at the end of the month when all the hinds and does (except muntjac) and buck and doe Chinese water deer go out of season. This protects them during the later stages of their pregnancies and fawning. 

As well as deer rabbits and other 'vermin' are still available to foragers and wild food enthusiasts, but with venison and other tastier meat's available I find I am less enthusiastic about rabbit now than I used to be. That's not to say it's not nice, but it does have that rabbity flavour and smell which I'm sure those of you who have eaten lots of them will be familiar with. 

To make the most of rabbit my favourite way to cook them is as a stir fry or in spicy home made samosas with wild herbs and spices. I've got to wait another month or six weeks for all the ingredients I need for that to grow so I will share the somosa recipe with you later in the year but for a rabbit stir fry try this;

3 3/4 grown rabbits (this is enough for a meal for my whole family and the smaller ones are nice and tender) skinned and gutted. 
Soy sauce 2 table spoons
fresh ginger (to taste)
red and green chillies (to taste; I use two or three)
spring onions
honey (plenty, I use a bout half a jar, this will give you a nice sticky glaze to the meat)
bean sprouts 
water chestnuts
sesame oil

Remove the meat from the bones and chop evenly. Marinade the rabbit meat in the soy sauce, finely chopped ginger, chillies and honey for a couple of hours. Finely chop the onions and add them to the other vegetables. Once the marinade is complete heat some sesame oil in a deep wok or pan and cook the meat and veg together for a few minutes until the rabbit is cooked through. Serve with rice or noodles. 

For those of you who want to eat more wild food, and with a particular interest in trying game meat there are some exceptional books out there on the topic, I always say that it is best to save money on kit and buy books instead so give some of these a try; 

 You will start to find more and more wild greens in March going into April and I will dedicate next months foragers diary summary to wild greens.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


Reconnaissance isn’t just for the military, it’s for deer managers and wildlife photographers and should be for everyone in my book, it’s very therapeutic!

Camera collection is a task which has to be done periodically, if I had my way, every child in the land would have one of these instead of a Gameboy or X-box! We use it as a tool to collect data on the wildlife in the area but what a fascinating way to learn about the world around you. We put them in key positions, close to a game trail, a hole in a fence or hedge (or even in my barn roof). It will tell us what wildlife uses a particular trail and what time, so you can establish patterns of use so that you can be in the right place at the right time. We don’t always get what we expect either, on a high use deer trail, we get all kinds of other things, like fox, badger, hare, rabbit, squirrel and even smaller things like stoats, hedgehogs or rats, all making a guest appearance on the camera.

This is just a small portion of the footage that we have taken in and around Riddy wood and other places we watch and manage the wildlife;





As a deer manager of course, it's the deer that get most of my attention but I love the other species too, I just love being out there with nature all around me. 


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

ReadyMan Survival Card

There are very few pocket 'cards tools' that I think are worth carrying or using, most of them are basically just odd shaped pieces of metal featuring tools so small or blunt that they are completely useless. 

There is one that I have been carrying for well over a year now though and have found very useful, it is different from most tools though, most of it's features are not just shrunk down versions of full size tools, which is great because there is eventually a point at which a tool becomes too small to be very useful. It doesn't feature screw drivers or other features which lets face it you should have access to on a pocket knife. What it does feature is a lot of small consumable items useful for outdoor survival, fish hooks, collars for snares, arrow heads, needles and a frog gig. 

It's produced by READYMAN, a company founded by American special forces veterans and outdoorsmen. They produce a lot of other products including tourniquet's and other wallet tools which honestly don't hold the same appeal or usefulness to me as many of them feature lock pick tools and escape and evasion kit which I'll never have a use for, if you do want to learn a bit about kit for escape and evasion have a look at Martins old post about what he used to carry sewn into his combat jacket. One product Readyman produce is even a folding stove and you'll find out my opinion on man portable wood stoves in  review on day, SPOILER; I THINK THEY ARE POINTLESS!

Their wilderness survival card is great though and the reason I like it so much is that I have used it regularly, not because I've been in lots of survival situation recently but because my career outdoors presents me with plenty of opportunities to use some of it's features. 

This is the card with it's full compliment of tools, there are two arrow heads, a saw, a three barbed frog gig or fishing spear point, three single hooks, four double hooks, two sewing needles, an awl, tweezers and four snare collars.
                                   All the tools detached from the card. there are weak points in the card which allow you to work each piece back and forth to snap it off as if it was an old airfix model kit. 

You will need some additional tools or a bit of improvisation to make use of all these tools as the saw feature on the card is fairly useless, it might cut string but certainly wont cut the wood you need for your arrow heads or spear shaft. It isn't large enough to grip and is too flexible. 


The inner strands of some paracord will provide all the lashings you need to secure your arrow heads and even as improvised fishing lines. 

Arrow heads ready for use
The frog gig, fitted to a shaft ready for use.
The snare collars have been quite useful to me as I use snares quite a lot for work and a couple of times I've found that I've been a few locking collars short and been able to use the ones here instead. For a post about the legal use of snares in England and Wales follow this LINK. One key difference between my regular use of snares and improvising them in a survival situation though is that my snares are all made of wire, in a survival situation they will be improvised from shoe laces, paracord, natural fibres or whatever else you can find, the 1/2 mm thick steel of the wilderness survival card will bite into a slice through these fibres rendering your snare useless. A snare collar is useful when you are using wire snares as wire is impossible to knot so these collars allow you to lock the snare securely onto a peg or anchor securing the snare to the ground without the need for knots. In a survival situation your snare material will probably allow you knot it so these collars are largely useless. However they can be improvised as little spinners and combined with your hooks for catching fish. 

The inner fibres from paracord are more than strong enough for average fishing tasks. 

Although I am keen on the hooks and there is no doubt that they will work, they are flat rather then round steel which means they will be weaker, also the flat eyes of the hooks and needles are quite sharp and may cut through your thread or line if you aren't careful. 

The arrow heads, snare collars and the needles do exactly what they say on the tin although some of the other features are less useful. I've mentioned the saw already but perhaps it could be fitted with a little handle to make it more useful. The awl is far too flexible to be really useful and the 'tweezers' don't really work at all. What the awl and tweezers can do though is be improvised as larger needles as they both have holes in that would make a good eye. 

Perhaps it's more because other survival card tools are so useless that this wilderness survival card appeals to me so much but it has proven useful a few times already, the needles and snare collars have certainly come in useful and overall I'm impressed by it. 

Monday, 5 March 2018

EMERGENCY BLOG POST; Winter Survival Tips

Although the thaw is now in full swing here in the South West of England the effects of Storm Emma are still being felt across the UK so I felt I had to break the normal schedule of posts on the Bushcraft Education Blog to put up a post about Winter survival.

This wont be a post on backwoods winter skills for travelling and bushcrafting in the winter but rather advice and pointers on how to stay safe and well in Winter conditions as you go about your daily activities in severe Winter weather. 

One of the most important things to understand about coping in cold conditions is the potential effects of the cold on your body;

Hypothermia, frost bite and other conditions are all very real risks in cold weather, especially when the windchill is so severe. There were times over the last few day when the still air temperature was only a few degrees bellow zero but the windchill brought it down to ten or fifteen below. We'll come back to combating wind chill shortly but first of all it's important that you can recognise the effects of hypothermia and frostbite and be able to prevent and treat them if necessary.

Dive hand signal OK 1
Divers 'OK' signal By Peter Southwood (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the first signs that you are getting too cold is the loss of dexterity in your hands, it’s very important that you halt and reverse this as once chilled to the point of your hands being useless you are much less able to affect a self-rescue in emergencies. In fact the divers hand signal of touching index finger to thumb to form an ‘o’ comes from a test of dexterity to prove you are able to use your hands in the cold.

Beyond loss of dexterity loss of feeling and your skin taking on a pale waxy appearance are early signs of frost bite. These signs are most likely to appear in your extremities, fingers, toes and even nose and ears. If you spot these symptoms you need to act at once, gradually warming the affected area is vital, not over the direct heat of a fire but preferably by using your own body heat. Take an affected hand and reach into your armpit or groin and your bodies heat will warm the hand. If your foot is affected you may have to use a companions armpit! Realistically for most of us this might mean holding our hands up to the hot air vent in the car but that's where common sense needs to take over, if you know what to do to survive when you have nothing then when you have a resource as large and versatile as a car and it's potential contents of survival aids you should have no problem. 

Frostbite is a relatively rare occurrence in the temperate climate of the UK but it is a possibility and each year there are on average 30-60 cases of frostbite reaching UK hospitals, in severely cold years this may be much higher such as the Winter of 2010-11 when there were 111 frostbite related admissions. Frostbite is basically the effects of your tissue freezing, as your body tries to make sure your internal organs are kept warm and supplied with enough blood the vessels in your extremities narrow restricting blood flow to those areas and making them more susceptible to the cold. The fluid in your cells can freeze under these conditions and the ice crystals that form do severe damage to the cells. Thawing out frost bitten areas is extremely painful and should be carried out under the supervision of a medical professional, the NHS provide some details of the treatment and prevention of cold related injuries and conditions on their website HERE.

The affects of frostbite on your cells; By BruceBlaus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Severe frostbite can lead to the death of cells and tissue which may need to be 'debrided' (removed) or even require the amputation of digits or limbs.  

Hypothermia is a drop in your bodies core temperature, between 32 and 35 degrees centigrade you are hypothermic and below 32 degrees you will stop shivering and probably pass out. Hypothermia may manifest itself as a loss of dexterity, tiredness and confusion and needs to be treated immediately before it gets worse. It can be fatal and eventually those suffering from it will just want to sleep and when they do they won’t wake up. Hot drinks, exercise to increase your temperature and warming is what is required, getting into a sleeping bag, ideally with someone else as well to share their warmth and body heat should be enough to bring your temperature back up but it must be treated immediately.

In both cases hypothermia and frostbite prevention is much better than cure and to ensure you prevent these conditions think first about your clothing;

Dress for the cold

While on your commute to work in the Winter, your car, the bus or train may seem likethe first line of defence again the elements. But what happens when you find yourself stuck for hours or even days as some people have been over the last few days. Perhaps the train or bus can't continue, perhaps your get stuck in the car, what then? Are you dressed for the cold, will you need to walk far? Can you leave your car heater on indefinitely? 

The best approach to staying warm in the cold is to use layers not only do these layers trap warm air against your body but they can easily be adjusted and removed if you get too warm unlike a single heavy garment. This is important especially if you do end up walking or being outdoors in the snow, perhaps digging your car out of a drift or walking a few miles from where the bus or train had to stop. IF you are exerting yourself you will sweat and managing moisture is very important in the cold to prevent yourself from becoming chilled by the effects of the wind wicking your sweat away from you. So windchill gets you in two ways, by making it feel colder anyway but doubly so as it chills you even more if you are wet or sweaty for this reason you must have dry clothes, either by keeping yours dry in the first place or by carrying a change. An outer windproof shell is very important as is carrying a spare change of clothes in your car. 

As well as your layers and an outer shell to keep out the snow and protect you from wind remember that your extremities are the most susceptible to the cold, fingers and toes soon loose dexterity, if you have chosen to be outside, perhaps on an expedition in Winter conditions loss of dexterity is a major issue as you will lose the ability to tie knots, use a knife or erect your tent which will put you in a very difficult situation. Even under everyday conditions that loss of dexterity might make it harder to change a tyre, or refill your washer fluid bottle or even put your gloves on. Make sure you protect your hands and fingers, mittens are better than gloves for this and even better is a thin glove, that allows you enough dexterity to perform simple tasks and a thicker mitten over the top. 

To keep your feet warm wool socks and a trick I discovered while living in the Arctic North of Sweden was to use heavy wool or felt innersoles in my boots. Don’t wear so many socks or lace your boots so tight that your feet are squashed though otherwise the circulation to your feet will be reduced and you will start to feel numbness in your toes. 

Be Prepared

As well as your clothing there are a few other things that will make a difference in a Winter emergency. You should always carry a few supplies in your car as your are quite vulnerably during your commute, especially as has happened a lot over the last few days, if you get stuck. 

I would recommend carrying the following in your car in case of emergencies, especially in Winter. 

o Winter sleeping bag
o Insulative sleeping mat
o 2* Wool blankets
o Snow Shovel
o Blizzard Bag or similar mylar survival bag. 
o 2* 5 litre water containers
o Hexamine stove and fuel
o 5 tins of soup 
o 2 tins of hot dogs
o Large first aid kit
o Spare wheel and tyre pump
o Water for radiator
o Spare oil
o Spare bulbs for headlights and tail lights
o Extra washer fluid

The washer fluid in particular is something often overlooked, but after several years of living in Sweden, washer fluid was the most vital spare item to carry in the car in Winter. When it is really cold and you are driving in the snow you will get through washer fluid very quickly as the snow will stick to and freeze on your windscreen and you will only shift it with plenty of washer fluid well loaded with de-icer.


While an 'Englishman's home is his castle' as the saying goes that doesn't mean you are immune to the effects of the Winter chill at home. People have been without power and water over the last few days through frozen pipes and the weight of snow bringing down branches and trees on cables. While you might not be able to fix the power supply or phone line if it comes down in bad weather you should be able to thaw frozen water pipes. To do that you will need to have a stock pile of stored water, a cupboard under the stairs is perfect for this and a few plastic water containers will allow you to store dozens of litres of water to either use to heat up and defrost pipes with or to drink. 

If your boiler packs up due to the cold or frozen pipes and you can't get it going again, you should have a couple of electric halogen heaters or fan heaters which can be picked up cheaply from places like B&M. If the power is out completely, extra duvet's, blankets and warm clothing are a must. Also in case of powercuts make sure you have torches and spare batteries, candles and the ability to cook and heat water. If your home cooker is out of commission because it is electric or for any other reason make sure you have something you can cook with inside, I can make a fire in the garden to cook with if things got really dire but you can cook with a gas camping stove in a kitchen just as safely as cook on a gas stove indoors so make sure that is something you have available, especially those of you who only have an electric cooker. 

Although this post does depart from the normal topics covered on the blog I hope it has been useful to you. BE PREPARED AND STAY SAFE


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Bushcraft Babies; Owl Pellets

I know teachers shouldn't have favourite students but I do, my favourite students are my children. I love sharing bushcraft and the outdoors with them and I'm constantly thrilled by their fascination with nature and wildlife. 

One thing they particularly enjoy is a bit of nature detective work, working out what is inside owl pellets is an exciting piece of detective work for them to undertake. I ran a workshop on owl pellet dissection for children at the Wilderness Gathering a few years, owl pellets are fascinating and dissecting them to see what they have been eating doesn't just satisfy idle curiosity but is a method used by ecologists to study small mammal populations. The contents of an owl pellet can reveal not only what an individual owl has been eating but the rough abundance of it's prey. 

Although they get called owl pellets, pellets are not only produced by owls in fact a lot of birds produce them, certainly all birds of prey produce them and so do corvids. Just as cats produce hair balls as the indigestible fur they collect when they clean themselves is coughed back up birds of prey do the same, the hair, bones, teeth and other indigestible parts of their prey are coughed back up in compacted pellets. Typically we think of these pellets as compacted masses of hair and bones but jackdaw pellets are often just lumps of seed husks and beetle shells, little owls eat lots of beetles too and their pellets are often made up largely of  beetle shells. 

Short eared owl pellets are particularly large. You can see the bones and hair of it's prey here and a fragment of a voles jaw bone identifies at least one of it's recent meals. 
Teeth are particularly useful when it comes to identifying the contents of an owl pellet and the children love spotting the tell tale colours and patterns that help them identify what little mammals the owls have been eating. 

The broad skulls and 'zig zag' patterns of voles teeth give them away while the narrow pointy muzzles of shrews and their pointed red teeth make them obvious, a bit of judgement and a keen eye is required to tell the difference between, water, common and pygmy shrews. Their teeth really are red too, all the mainland UK shrews have red teeth, also as carnivores their teeth are pointed to deal with their insect diet. All the skulls above came out of the same barn owl pellet, barn owl pellets rarely contain mouse remains, as their diet is based largely on shrews and voles. 

I've always found that children are fascinated by owl pellets, my children certainly love dismantling them and investigating the contents. They have got very good at spotting what species of mammals the owl has been eating and even at what part of the animal the bones they find come from. 

The worksheet from our owl pellet dissection workshops allows the children to catalogue and identify what they have found in their owl pellets. 
If you ever happen to find an owl roost you will have a ready supply of pellets gate and fence posts are a good place to start for barn owls while the others are a little less predictable. Give it a go though, the looks of disgust from children as they decide whether they are looking at owl poo or owl  sick are worth it. 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Foragers Diary; February 2018

February is another lean month in the Foragers Diary. The 'Hungry Gap' is in full force and the wildlife are struggling for food, this is the time of year that you will see deer and rabbits eating tree bark when their preferred food is scarce. 

The pheasant and partridge seasons are over, although wildfowl can still be shot below the high water mark until the 20th so there is still scope for some duck and goose in the diet. The last of this seasons pheasants and partridges have been eaten or frozen for later in the year. 

Pheasant and Partridge being jointed to go in the freezer or strait into a game curry after the last days partridge and pheasant shooting on the 1st . 

Jelly ear fungi are still available in great quantities in February and are a good addition to stir fries. 
I love getting the children involved in preparing wild food, here my youngest has helped prepare some pheasant and jelly ear fungi for a stir fry

Just a few shop bought veg and the meal was ready. 

Next month you will start to see wild greens start to reappear in the foragers diary, there are a few things that can be had at this time of year but not much. Next month though wild greens will be back, in fact I've already seen bluebells, dogs mercury and other plants starting to make an appearance and the crocuses and snowdrops are already flowering, the wild edibles will follow soon.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Preparation Pays!

To write about scenes from a high seat, first they have to be installed! Well before the season started some like-minded friends and I went to the farm and installed some high seats, these were mounted 8 to 10 feet above the ground and usually secured to a nice solid tree and access gained via an integral ladder. The purposes are multiple but primarily to facilitate observation over a wider field of view than would be possible from ground level and second, to permit the bullet to go downwards harmlessly into the ground after it has passed through the target or, heaven forbid, if you should miss!

The location of the seat is decided based upon multiple observations during the closed season, how many deer have been spotted in an area which can be overseen by the seat, is it safe, away from public access and is there a tree to attach it to. The locations for the 2 seats we set up pre-season  had been carefully considered based on the points above.

The first was placed against a big old oak tree, slightly withered by a lightning strike at some time in its history. The size of tree and softness of the ground required some ingenuity to get it rock solid but we got there in the end, aided by a ratchet strap for further solidity, a chain and padlock for security and a little pruning to improve the view! Job done.

On our way to the next tree we saw a big old buck Chinese Water Deer standing defiantly and looking at us all in turn, in a couple of weeks, such a defiant posture at such close range will have him in the freezer but all we could do was watch and smile!

Murphy’s Law is alive and well in the countryside as we found out on arrival at tree 2! We found that there was something already living in it, a wasp nest deep in the tree had a continual stream of busy and threatening looking workers entering and leaving through a hole where a small branch had rotted off. None of us felt like sharing, so we found an alternative tree close by!

Always good to have a plan B! Whatever plan you’re on, enjoy it! 

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