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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 wildlife can still be shot bellow 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 an 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! 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Drop Leg Panels for Bushcraft Knives

Drop leg rigs are the topic of this months gear review, they will also aim to teach in this review a little bit about how to choose a knife for bushcraft and how to set yourself up to comfortably carry your bushcraft knife.


Drop leg 'rigs' are normally associated with tactical equipment; pistol holsters and the like. I am normally dead against using 'tactical' style equipment for bushcrafting but for the last year I have been carrying my bushcraft knife on a drop leg rig and have become firmly converted, it has turned out to be a very practical solution to knife carry even if I'm not really keen on the way it looks. Aesthetically I'd much prefer a leather sheath on my belt, but I have found drop leg carry to be very practical.

First lets consider what to look for in the sheath of a 'user' knife; these criteria will be important as the review progresses. Next month I will address the difference between a 'user' knife and an 'ideal' knife as although the criteria below set out what I look for in a knife I would need for every day use a knife I would really WANT may be slightly different.

  • A hygienic sheath which will not soak up blood, fat and other contaminants from skinning and butchering game or preparing food (realistically this means a plastic like kydex)
  • A sheath which will not be uncomfortable when worn in conjunction with the hip belt of a rucksac (so no 'scout style' which honestly is a ridiculous way to carry a knife whether you are wearing a rucksac or not (sorry Tom Brown Tracker fans)) .
  • A sheath which is accessible without unnecessary 'faf' even when wearing winter clothing.
  • A sheath which I can wear directly on my person  (ie; on a belt or around my neck or on a baldric style over the head under the arm arrangement) rather than strapped to my rucksac. This is important so I can't be separated from my most important survival tool if I was to loose my rucksac.  
  • A sheath which is easy to detach from my person without un-threading my belt so it can be stowed in a rucksac while I'm travelling to and from places or situations where I need or can justify wearing it on my person.
  • A sheath which is secure and doesn't dangle, swing, rattle or bump (ie; securely on my belt not around my neck or on a baldric under my arm).
  • A sheath which is easy to access without unnecessary contortion.
So these are my basic requirements of a bushcraft sheath, notice that none of those requirements is that the sheath also contain a fire steel, sharpening kit etc... sometimes that is nice but it's not essential. I've come to realise that a drop leg arrangement is the best way to meet all these requirements. I have been using Maxpeditions 'low profile drop leg PALS panel' to mount knives on for about a year now and I'm as happy as I have ever been with my bushcraft knife carry arrangements.  
Maxpedition Low Profile Drop Leg PALS Panel
Maxpedition low profile drop leg PALS panel
Image result for blade tech molle lok
Blade Tech MOLLE LOk
These panels come in two parts a nylon belt loop which can be threaded onto your belt and forgotten about and the panel it'self. The two can be joined by  a robust plastic buckle. The panel also has a loop at the bottom to allow a cord to be threaded through to be tied around your thigh to secure the panel in place. Because these panels are equipped with 'PALS' or 'MOLLE' attachment points some sheath will not immediately fit them. A lot of quality Nylon sheaths are already MOLLE compatible so can be easily attached to these panels without modification but as I have mentioned before they are not my favourite option as they are very absorbent and can easily soak up fish slime, blood, fat, plant juices, oil and other contaminants presenting a potential food hygiene risk which would be undesirable at best. Avoiding that hygiene risk and making your knife compatible with these panels if it originally came in a leather sheath is a simple fix though; Blade Tech Molle LOk's can be easily attached to most kydex sheaths and used to secure your sheath to the panel. As kydex (or at least some non-absorbent material, zytel or other plastic material is equally acceptable) is one of my requirements for a general purpose bushcraft knife I haven't had to think about how I would attach leather sheaths to one of these panels and it isn't a problem I intend to spend any time solving or thinking about as if I intend to use the knife for general bushcrafting I will always make a kydex sheath for it if it doesn't already come in one. I know this might go against the grain for those who like their bushcraft kit to have that 'traditional' appearance and there is a lot of good to be said for traditional materials like leather, canvas and oilcloth but as I come from a deer stalking and gamekeeping background the need to keep my knife clean and hygienic is really important and something I always stress with my students that good practice requires them to use knives with impervious handles to avoid contamination of the meat they may be selling into the food chain. This has stuck with me and although I wont dispute the beauty of a full grain leather sheath my personal preference for reasons of practicality and hygiene is a plastic sheath. 

So now that we have our kydex sheathed knife firmly attached to the drop leg panel lets see if this carry option meets all my requirements;

  • A hygienic sheath which will not soak up blood, fat and other contaminants from skinning and butchering game or preparing food (realistically this means a plastic like kydex). Yes we've already discussed this one at length above. 
  • A sheath which will not be uncomfortable when worn in conjunction with the hip belt of a rucksac (so no 'scout style' which honestly is a ridiculous way to carry a knife whether you are wearing a rucksac or not (sorry Tom Brown Tracker fans)). Yes; check out the picture to the right showing my homemade sheath which contains my British Army Survival Knife and attached survival kit being carried well out of the way of my rucksak waist strap. The fact that the nylon belt loop is so thin is important here as a bulky strap would cause irritation even if the knife it'self hung clear of the waist belt. 
  • A sheath which is accessible without unnecessary 'faf' even when wearing winter clothing. Again see the picture on the right, in this arrangement the knife hangs well clear of even quite long Winter coats. 
  • A sheath which I can wear directly on my person  (ie; on a belt or around my neck or on a baldric style over the head under the arm arrangement) rather than strapped to my rucksac. This is important so I can't be separated from my most important survival tool if I was to loose my rucksac.  Yes as you can see it's attached to my belt and is therefor independent from my rucksac, I could loose my bag but still have my knife to hand. 
  • A sheath which is easy to detach from my person without un-threading my belt so it can be stowed in a rucksac while I'm travelling to and from places or situations where I need or can justify wearing it on my person.
    The picture to the right shows the panel detached from it's belt loop and showing the buckle for attaching the two pieces together. This can easily be undone to allow the knife to be stashed in a rucksac while you are on the way to the woods or until you reach the jumping off point of your expedition.                      
  • A sheath which is secure and doesn't dangle, swing, rattle or bump (ie; securely on my belt not around my neck or on a baldric under my arm). With a leg strap these drop leg panels are easy to secure and do not cause the frustration that carrying knives around the neck does. 'Dangler' style sheaths have become popular among bushcrafters but I personally can't get on with them, they bump against your leg and need to be held still with one hand while the knife is removed and replaced with the other. Among the Sami people living in the Northern latitudes of Scandinavia dangling knife sheaths are popular but the way they carry their knives is very different, generally outside of winter clothes rather than on a belt threaded through a pair of trousers so the bump, bump, bump of the knife against your leg isn't an issue and oriented more to your front than to the side so it's more accessible. An excellent picture of this kind of sheath can be found HERE.  

The top of the handle sits
right next to your pocket. 
  • A sheath which is easy to access without unnecessary contortion. The handle of the knife secured to a drop leg panel sits roughly at the level of your trouser pocket (although this can be adjusted depending on the position of your attachment between sheath and panel) which is an ideal position to reach it without having to reach all the way up to the handle of a knife in a deep carry sheath mounted directly to your belt.  

So all my criteria are met and I'm entirely happy carrying my standard bushcraft knife on a drop leg panel. That doesn't mean I'm opposed to other styles of carry, in actual fact from an aesthetic point of view I think it looks a bit silly, but it just suits my needs better than any other options. 

Real Steal Bushcrafter, Eikhorn Nordic Bushcraft and Viper Tank all on drop leg panels ready for carry. 

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

BushScience; Binomial Nomenclature

You will all have heard that plants, animals and all organisms in fact have 'Latin names' in fact for those of you who may be particularly interested in fungi you may well have encountered fungi which do not have a 'common' name at all.

So why are things assigned 'Latin names'?

First of all they are not! While Latin was the language of academia at the time the system known correctly as binomial nomenclature was established a lot of the names are not really Latin and take their names instead from the person who discovered them or even from other languages. 

For example Caerostris darwini, Darwin's bark spider, an orb-weaver spider discovered in Madagascar takes it's name from Charles Darwin and the long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus attenboroughi) takes it's name from Sir David Attenborough. Both these giants in their respective fields have many other things named after them too.

Now that we have established that plants and animals do not necessarily have Latin names what is that strange double barrelled name that they have? And what is it for? 

That doubled barrelled name is part of a taxonomic system (a system of collecting, grouping and naming  things) known as binomial nomenclature, that means a two part naming system. The two parts refer to somethings genus and species. Let's look at an example;

Red Deer; Cervus elaphus

The first part of it's binomial name refers to it's genus, within a genus there may be several different species, for example red deer share their genus with sika deer (Cervus nippon), Thorolds deer (Cervus albirostris) and North American elk (Cervus canadensis). The genus is always presented with a capitalised first letter. the second part of the name is it's species, the combination of genus and species is unique to a particular organism although species names may apply to more than one species for example Reeves muntjac (muntiacus reevesi) and Reeves pheasant (Syrmaticus reevesi). An organisms species name is always presented entirely in lower case. These binomial names are always italicised in text although they can also be underlined if hand written to show that they are a scientific name. 
Portrait of Linnaeus on a brown background with the word "Linne" in the top right corner
Carl Linneaus the father of binomial nomenclature
By Alexander Roslin - Nationalmuseum press photo, cropped with colors slightly adjusted, Public Domain, Link

Binomial nomenclature is part of a larger taxonomic structure which was established by Carl Linnaeus as Swedish Zoologist and Botanist who lived from 1701-1778. Since his work the system of binomial nomenclature has been used consistently. An organisms genus and species though fit at the very bottom of a larger system of classification, we'll use red deer again as an example;

Kingdom; Animalia (animal)
Phylum; Chordata (got a back bone)
Class; Mammalia (mammals)
Order; Artiodactyla (even toed ungulate; an ungulate is a mammal with hooves, even toed ungulates include deer, cammels, cattle and believe it or not hippopotamuses)
Family; Cervidae (deer)
Genus; Cervus
Species; elaphus

The highest level of classification is Kingdom where organisms are split into their five kingdoms of plant, animal, fungi, monera and protista. Next an animals phylum (plants have domains instead of phylum) within the animal kingdom it is at this level of classification that organisms are split into molluscs, animals with a backbone, animals with an exoskeleton, worms etc.... Next; class, within the phylum chordata their are five classes; mammal, fish, bird, reptile and amphibian. Within the class mammalia (mammals) there are twenty six orders including carnivores, rodents, bats etc... After that things get much more specific with family and then on to genus and species which you are already familiar with. 

The reasons for this sort of naming system are many, one major need being a need for scientists to communicate across language barriers. Common names are clearly not going to be the same from one language to another. If I was to tell you not to eat a röd flugsvamp for example you may not know what I mean but even if I couldn't speak English I could tell you not to eat an Amanita muscaria and you could work out which species to avoid. Nowadays I suppose you do have google translate at your finger tips on a smart phone to help you but it isn't always accurate or helpful, while google did know that a röd flugsvamp was fly agaric it was confused by dovhjort (which means fallow buck in Swdish);

Also scientific names do away with any doubt over species which may share a common name or go by various different colloquial names depending on where in the county you are, take hadge garlic for example which might be called any of the following; Garlic Mustard, Garlic Root,Hedge Garlic, Sauce-alone, Jack-in-the-bush, Penny Hedgeand Poor Man's Mustard.

So there you have it 'Latin names' avoid confusion, cross language barriers and aren't Latin. 

    Thursday, 25 January 2018

    Foragers Diary; January 2018

    I originally set up the foragers diary as a regular series here on the Bushcraft Education blog before it became a stand alone 'micro blog' which you can access through the link at the top of the page or HERE. The micro blog allowed me to post small regular updates on the foraging I was doing and the wild food I was eating directly from my phone. 

    Since setting it up I haven't really done much about wild food on the Bushcraft Education blog but from now on there will be a monthly update here on the wild food that is available at that time of year, these posts will be longer and more detailed than the micro blog posts and will contain tips for finding, identifying and cooking wild food as well. 

    I hope you enjoy January's post and maybe you'll even be inspired to do a bit of foraging yourself or expand your current wild food repertoire. 

    January is part of the 'Hungry Gap' the time of the year when little is available for animals or humans to eat, the seeds, fruits and nuts are all gone, the season for most fungi is over and hardly any edible greens are available at all. This is the time of year that demonstrates the importance of meat in the diet of hunter gatherers. Although vegans are entitled to make their decision not to eat meat I guarantee not many of them would stand by their conviction at this time of year if all they had to eat was what they could forage. 

    Luckily for meat eaters there is plenty of variety over winter and this 'hungry gap' coincides conveniently with most of the UK's game bird shooting seasons and some of the deer seasons too. In January Chinese water deer, roe does, muntjac, red, sika and fallow deer are all in season as are pheasants, partridge ducks and geese. Even before seasons for game were implemented and non native game species were introduced to the British Isles the lack of fruit, veg and other food during during this hungry gap would have necessitated a reliance on meat and preserved foods. 

    Without preserved food from last year though what wild food can you eat in January;

    Scarlet elf caps and jelly ear fungi are some of the few edible fungi available in January and are one of those unmistakable wild foods which unlike some other fungi are more or less impossible to mistake for something inedible or poisonous.
    Scarlet elf caps grown on the floor of damp woodlands, on decaying wood and amongst moss, the bright scarlet colour inside the caps gives them away and their lack of any gills or pores makes them really easy to identify. Jelly ear fungi can be found growing on dead and live wood alike and seem to have a particular preference to elder. I have found the best way to make use of jelly ears is to slice them fairly thinly and add them to stir fries, some specimens can seem to have quite a rubbery texture but they do go well in stir fries. 

    Scarlet elf caps are also quite good in stir fries but are delicious on their own as well, I would describe their taste as something between a field mushroom and a very mild radish. Although I have been eating them for quite some time I'm still undecided as to whether the radish taste is real or whether I'm imagining it because they just happen to be a similar colour. 

    I quite enjoy filling scarlet elf cups with beetroot chutney and winter cress leaves, cress plants which are part of the brassica family produce basal leaves all year around so if you know what  to look for you can forage some greens in winter.
    Cress comes in many shapes and sizes but what you won't see in January are any flowers, hairy bitter cress has small clusters of white flowers to help in it's identification in spring and summer but in January you will be looking for leaves and nothing else. 

    Collecting scarlet elf caps and cress leaves. 

    You will also occasionally be able to find oyster mushrooms in January and my favourite way to eat those is to use them in a stroganoff. Their firm meaty texture makes them a perfect substitute to the beef that would normally make up the bulk of a stroganoff. 

    Oyster mushroom stroganoff. A delicious dish of  oyster mushrooms, peppers, creme freche and flavoured with paprika and mustard. 
    While the jelly ear fungi and scarlet elf cups are easy to identify oyster mushrooms as will any gilled fungi require a little more care in their identification. They grow exclusively on decaying wood and in my experience seem to have a preference for dead horse chestnut, willow and poplar although I have seen them on other species. 

    To identify them look first for the oyster shaped caps which will generally be of white to quite dark grey, their gills are decurent which means that they are not only present under the cap but that they continue down the length of the stem, if there is a stem present. The stem on oyster fungi is not typical and they will often be twisted, short and curved as a fungi will grow on the side of logs as often as on top, where stems might grow in a normal upright shape. As well as decurent gills where a stem is present there will be no ring around the stem like you might find on a shaggy parasol or horse mushroom and no sack around the base. Additionally although the cap may be quite dark grey the flesh should always be white. 

    The fungi that can be found in January are a treat for the wild food enthusiast as is the food that can be hunted but pheasants are much easier to identify than fungi. 

    Pheasant, pigeon and vegetables ready for roasting 

    A delicious meal and while the pheasant and pigeon can be foraged from the wild other parts of this meal obviously weren't  
    Follow the posts on the foragers diary blog for regular updates on the wild food I have been foraging and eating and you can expect another more detailed wild food post here for the month of February.

    Wednesday, 17 January 2018

    There is Always Something

    Another regular series that is being resurrected here on the Bushcraft Education Blog is Martins regular 'from the highseat' series where he shares his latest encounters with wildlife as he goes about hes deer management work and other outdoor excursions. We hope you enjoy todays instalment and you can expect regular updates on a monthly basis. 

    We start the year with a reminder that there is always something out there worth seeing in the countryside and some of Martins rules for 'doing it right' when it comes to deer stalking. 

    My work as a deer manager takes me along hedgerows and ditches, through woods and scrub and I know pretty much what can be found and where at any time of the year. I see the trees blossom and come into fruit, I watch them ripen and I take some home. My quest may be a deer but I am happy to come home with a rucksack full of apples, plums or cherries, a photograph or a memory, hunting is a journey not a destination, the secret is to enjoy the outing, not the outcome and I do.

    Until November, hardier crops such as Apples, Crab Apples and Sloes are still on some of the trees and ready to eat or be converted into Jellies and sauces for the meat crops which come during our peak deer season. I love fruit sauces with meat and Bambi and Cranberry is my favourite roast! But sadly the Elder Flower cordial from the summer is long gone and the blackberries are already in jam or been eaten in pies.
    a haul of blackberries and rosehips picked opportunistically while out looking for deer.
    It saddens me that people think that all a deer manager does is kill deer because it is a whole lot more complicated and involved than that and it starts with many miles of walking, interspersed with picking fruit and watching birds in my case!

    First of all we need to know what species we have on the land (we have three, Roe, Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer) then we need to know how many and where they are, how many we need to take out during the season to maintain a healthy and sustainable population but which won’t cause too much damage to crops. A happy farmer is the key to coming back and doing this each year, it is a privilege not a right and it has to be done right!

    Doing it right means:

    · Doing it safely! Safety will always be the top priority, we have to share the countryside with everyone and our presence cannot impact on their safety or enjoyment of the environment.

    · Safety is closely followed by humanity, if we have identified a poorly looking animal, taking this one will be our top priority, one with a limp is the most obvious and common sign of something being amiss and only a close inspection will reveal the cause. The most common cause is old age and/or bad feet, arthritic joints, and overgrown feet are common place, encounters with agricultural equipment can be a factor although many of those are fatalities during the harvest, where young animals just sit tight until it’s too late to flee. Fighting and road traffic collisions are other causes and just occasionally, a deer peppered with bird shot, where someone has exercised poor judgement.

    · With all of these other factors in place, marksmanship, stealth and an understanding of the weather (wind in particular will betray your presence) all add up to a unique experience. 

    practising regularly is important if you plan to humanely and safely harvest deer or other wildlife from the countryside. 

    · I believe that one of the greatest obligations on me and anyone who engages in any form of ‘meat harvest’, is to ensure that there is no waste, or at least the very least possible.

    · Finally, leave the countryside devoid of evidence that a deer or I was ever there.

    For someone who knows and loves the countryside, there is always something to eat, something to watch and a myriad of things to appreciate, from a sunrise to a sunset, from a fruit bush to a mushroom patch, a pigeon pie or a venison steak.

    Wrap up warm and get out there soon, you will never regret it!


    Wednesday, 10 January 2018

    Applied Bushcraft; Outdoor Education

    Now that we are posting regularly again on the bushcraft education blog we will be resurrecting the regular series that we used to run. The 'Applied Bushcraft' series will be one of them and today's topic for the applied bushcraft series is Outdoor Education. 

    As a postgraduate student I studied Outdoor Education (OE) and because of my background and interest in bushcraft often looked for ways in which bushcraft could be integrated into OE programmes. I have also regularly looked at the benefits of teaching bushcraft as an educational activity, in fact that is the whole premise of this blog. I will use some excerpts from my post grad essays here to give a little bit of history of OE and how it intertwines with bushcraft. 

    Throughout the first half of the 20th Century pioneering outdoor education programmes were established all around the world to address a range of perceived needs of the youth of their respective  countries and generations. Some of the reasons for the establishment of these programmes included; 

    • Development of moral fibre and desirable character traits (Cook 1999)

    • Developing active lifestyles through games and recreation (Smith 1997a)

    • Combat social decline (Loynes 2007; Richards 1990)

    • Development of 'Character' (Baden-Powell 1908)

    • preparing boys to be MEN (Baden-Powell 1908)

    • prepare boys physically and mentally for service in war and/or the community (Baden-Powell 1908; Loynes 2007)

    Emmeline Pethick's country holiday programme for girls, Baden-Powell's Scouting movement, The Woodcraft Folk and Kurt Hahn’s Outward Bound schools are all examples of these outdoor education movements. It may have been the moral panic of the Victorian era and concern over a perceived social decline amongst the working classes that led these and other influential 'social entrepreneurs' to begin developing early forms of OE (Loynes 2007). These early forays into OE were informal, in that they were not established in a recognised or nationally endorsed curriculum or delivered in schools or as part of any formal training. Although many became very popular and some are certainly now recognised on both a national and international scale.

    Scout stone Brownsea
    A stone on Brownsea Island in Dorset commemorating the first scout camp.
    By Adrian Pingstone (Image:Scout.stone.750pix.jpg) [Public domain]
    Even though the outdoors was a common theme whatever the specific objectives of these early programmes there were significant cultural clashes within the field of OE from it's very inception.

    Kibbo kift althing 1927
    A ceremony of the kindred of the kibo kift, an early outdoor education movement based in the UK.
    Image courtesy of The Kibbo Kift Foundation 
    The Kindred of The Kibbo Kift was a breakaway group from Scouting. Leaving behind what it's leader John Hargrave felt was an overly militaristic approach to engaging boys with the outdoors, although interestingly according to Smith (1997b) this is the same reason given by Baden-Powell as to why he stopped his involvement with the Boys Brigade and focused on his Scouting programme. Kibbo Kift focused more on living an open-air life and would eventually become The Woodcraft Folk in 1924 and which still exists today..

    The Woodcraft Folk were also heavily influenced by Ernest Thompson-Seaton, who was born in Britain and brought up in the USA and had developed a strong appreciation of Native American culture and teachings. Seaton was a founding member of the Boy Scouts of America and his writings and his Woodcraft Indians organisation heavily influenced the establishment of the The Woodcraft Folk (Woodcraft Folk 2010), although Smith (1997b) claims that Baden-Powell was strongly influenced by Seaton as well.

    Scouting pioneers
    Seaton, Baden Powell and Dan Beard, another influential figure in the Boy Scouts of America and the founder of an organisation known as the Sons of Daniel Boon which merged with the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. 
    Seaton's overarching philosophy was that the outdoor experience should be more recreational (Seton quoted by Smith 2002), but in the classical Latin sense relating recreation to social education rather than time out from work or responsibility (Glyptis 1991). Seaton also had a fascination with the Native American Indian cultures basing a lot of the principles of his Woodcraft movement on their teachings of harmony and balance in nature, He was also a supporter of instinct psychology and rather than directly addressing the development of the moral, physical and character of young people he allowed them to exhibit a 'boyish savagery' as part of their developmental journey (Hall 1999) towards 'civilization'. He eventually accepted the Indian way of life as an end goal without there being a need to look further for civilisation and by 1915 was encouraging the teaching of Native American religion and ceremonies (Smith 2002).

    Seton Book Woodcraft knots.jpg
    An Excerpt from on of Seatons books; The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore, Doubleday (1912)
    It only takes a cursory glance at the books by Baden Powell and Ernest Thompson Seaton and at the  curriculum of these various societies and organisations to spot the links with bushcraft. There is more to the history of OE than the British and American contribution though, rather than the key goals of preparation and character development in the programmes discussed here so far there is another approach to the outdoors which is deeply ingrained in the Scandinavian culture. This culture of outdoors engagement is so ingrained within the culture of those nations who practice it that it has become part of the vocabulary.

    In Scandinavia the word 'friluftsliv', literally 'fresh air life', encompasses all forms of outdoor and nature based activity and is not a discipline, subject or means of facilitation but rather a way of life (Stormeldeting 1972; Swedish Ministry of Culture 1999). I would argue that the vast majority of those people in the UK who go outdoors, whether that involves walking, rock climbing, fishing, canoeing or bushcraft do it in the spirit of friluftsliv even if we don't have a specific phrase for it. However, on the whole it seems to me that in the UK, instead of outdoor and nature based activities being an integral part of our culture and society we are in fact drawing further away from the natural world. As demonstrated by recent studies which indicate that the amount of time children spend playing outdoors has dwindled to between five and a half (JCB Kids 2013) and as little as 30 minutes per week (Mothercare 2014). This is not just the case in the UK, In the USA The Nature Conservancy conducted a poll in 2011 to gauge how 'connected' America's youth are to nature. Key findings included the fact that 88% of American youth claim to spend time on-line every day, with 69% playing video games or watching TV with that same level of frequency. Contrast that to the fact that less than 40% of American youth spend time taking part in outdoor activities on a weekly basis (The Nature Conservancy 2011). With all these distractions and easily obtained entertainment, and with the temptation for parents to use the TV and games console as an 'electronic babysitter' to get a bit of peace and quite or a free minute to prepare a meal in addition to the risk averse culture we now live in (Gill 2007), we are certainly not immersed in the spirit of outdoor life like those who practice 'friluftsliv'.

    Perhaps this reduction in outdoor engagement is due to the advance of modern technology? Perhaps the outdoors does not provide the convenient, easily accessible recreation of a games console? Or perhaps it's just too muddy? Maybe Marinetti got something right in his Futurist Manifesto? Maybe there would be a time when technology and 'progress' is all that matters and nature is but a hindrance and a dirty place to be avoided? (Marinetti 1909)

    Games consoles and other modern entertainment distracts fro outdoor experiences.
    By Evan-Amos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

    The poor voluntary engagement with nature indicated by the studies cited above may well be one of the reasons for including OE in the modern national curriculum; so that it can be used as a tool to engage children and facilitate learning with the outdoors as an arena for development. Much in the way that Gösta Frohm established Skogsmulle in Sweden in 1957. As a response to what he saw as a population that was becoming more and more urbanised and less in touch with the natural world than the increasingly mechanised industries of forestry, trapping, mining and agriculture would previously have necessitated (Friluftsfrämjandet, nd). Although the skogsmulle programme is not officially part of school curriculum in Sweden outdoor play and nature based learning is (Ärlemalm-Hagser 2006), as it is in other Scandinavian countries, in particular in the Norwegian education system. In Norway outdoor learning was formally recognised in the curriculum in an attempt to improve the overall pedagogy of schooling and deliver a rounded programme using the outdoors and nature to provide situated learning (Lave & Wenger 1991) rather than de-contextualised learning (Säljö 2001). Outdoor learning achieves this by teaching about nature in nature, about society in society and about the local environment in the local environment (Jordet 1998) instead of trying to teach children about things outside of the classroom from the classroom. Outdoor learning as it is delivered in the Norwegian curriculum should be a course of prolonged exposure to the outdoors directly linked with the theoretical subjects being studied (Jordet 2009) not just one off activities with short term objectives and impacts. This approach and it's origins as part of the curriculum is different to the way OE has developed and been applied in the UK. OE as it is applied in the English Curriculum. This might be due to the existing culture of friluftsliv in Norway compared to a different culture perhaps best described as one of outdoor avoidance or nature deficiency (Louv 2005) in the UK.

    Another cultural difference, comparable to that difference between the friluftsliv attitude in Scandinavia and the more contrived involvement with nature, through OE, in the UK. Is the difference between the UK and other countries with no memory or remnant of first nations and those countries with a preserved tradition of ancestral skills and remnant populations still living by means of traditional skills. Outdoor education could be considered a concept unique to first world countries where the general populace are disconnected from the outdoors to the point where it has some sort of novelty value. But where a nations prevailing or remnant culture embraces or demands a closer connection with nature and the outdoors does the concept of outdoor education exist at all?

    I would argue that it does not, at least not in the same way. Think of first nations and the research which exists into the continuation of their traditional skills and knowledge. For them teaching those skills, such as Polar Bear Hunting (Pearce, et al., 2011), making skin clothing (Kritsch & Wright-Frazer, 2002), Fur preparation, hunting, fishing and trapping (Ohmagari & Berkes, 1997), is a necessary continuation of their traditional way of life and an exercise in cultural heritage. Whereas if we were to deliver a similar or even identical activity in the UK it would fall in the realm of OE, or be illegal/impossible due to environmental changes, extinctions and modern legislation.

    Today we are far removed from the ancient skills that would once have been used by native peoples living in the British Isles; the hunter gatherer societies of the Maesolithic (10,000-5,500 years ago) were the last people in the British Isles to operate without agriculture and would have used their own bushcraft skills to survive (Darvill, 2010). In other parts of the world primitive survival and bushcraft skills have been used by native peoples in living memory and in some parts of the world is still a way of life (Wescott, 2001). As Pearce et all (2011), Kritsch & Wright-Frazer (2002) and Ohmagari & Berkes (1997) explain, the successful transmission of these skills is a vital part of preserving the skills, traditions and way of life of surviving native peoples. Where these traditional cultures are threatened or dwindling formal schools have even been set up to ensure these skills can be taught to younger generations such as the Samernas Utbildningscentrum (The Sami’s Training Centre) in Jokkmokk, Sweden, and the TePuia in Rotoroa, New Zealand (Te Puia , 2010). These types of skills have already been lost, or at least only practiced by a very small minority in the UK. They may be primitive skills based on stone age technologies or more modern methods and techniques used well into the 20th Century as part of woodland management practices, but to teach them now is to re-introduce them rather than to preserve them. While these skills are of heritage value elsewhere here they would certainly be classed as part of bushcraft in the UK which has emerged over the last twenty to thirty years as an increasingly popular part of the outdoor recreation and education scene. Other than the obvious cultural value of retaining or re-learning traditional skills are there also educational benefits.

    Fassbauen Kollega hat Durst 1935
    Traditional crafts and skills such as coppering and other skills with a much closer relationship with the raw materials required are largely lost in the Western world. These skills are practised by a few artisans in little more than cottage industries with few people learning to carry on those skills.
    Image By Josef Reichenberger (Scan von Fotografie aus eigenem Besitz) [Public domain]
    Just as the field of OE claims that there are educational benefits to being involved with adventurous activities such as rock climbing, kayaking and expeditions I would suggest that the same benefits can be seen and objectives met through the use of bushcraft. Although there is limited, if any, conclusive evidence of this I conducted a brief study in 2013 looking at the benefit of including bushcraft in countryside management studies as a way of improving students performance in specific element s of their course, including plant identification (Guy 2013). My research suggested that this was the case although it was based on a small sample size and would benefit from further exploration. I presented the talk in the video bellow at the 2014 Bushcraft Show at Catton Hall in Derbyshire summarising the findings of this research.

    In preparation for this research I had to justify that bushcraft was relevant to the curriculum of the BTEC Extended Diploma in countryside management that I was teaching. This highlights the current culture in education of standardized testing and delivery of a prescribed curriculum rather than focusing on the potential developmental benefit of an activity or experience even if it does stray slightly beyond they bounds of the conventional curriculum. Fortunately the field of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Wisdom (TEKW) is closely related to bushcraft and there is plenty of research to suggest that traditional knowledge and skills are valuable and valid even when you consider the availability of modern land management methods and improved scientific knowledge (Agrawal, 1995) (Colorado & Collins , 1987) (Posey, 1990) (Schultes , 1988) (Hunn, 1993) (Ellis, 2005) (Berkes, et al., 1993) (Richards , 1997).

    So that is a little bit about Outdoor Education and it's relationship to bushcraft, I hope you enjoyed it or at least found it interesting. The references will be available below for those of you who are interested. 

    We will be posting new applied bushcraft articles fairly regularly and I'm even working on a new book titled 'Applied Bushcraft' which I am hoping to finish by the end of the year. 

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