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Monday, 13 January 2014

Shelter Building

Shelter building is a great activity for groups learning outdoors, whether as part of a forest schools activity or a bushcraft course shelter building allows great opportunities to help students develop their group working skills, build teams, teach about the properties of natural and man made materials, teach the concept of risk assessment, conduction of heat through different mediums to name a few.  

A few things to consider when shelter building;
       Overhanging branches and dead tree tops are often known as 'widowmakers' as even with no                      encouragement from high wind they can often crash down without warning.  proper survey of a                      shelter building site should be made before shelters are constructed to ensure there are none of these              overhanging hazards.
       Guy lines;
      This picture clearly illustrates the need for care when pitching shelters which require guy lines, young children are particularly likely to forget about guy lines so brightly coloured lines possibly with coloured tassels attached. Glow in the dark lines are also available.

·         Hazards on the ground:
      One site I use is a well-established farm shelter belt planted with a mixture of broad-leafed tree species but part of this belt covers what was an old dairy and  a lot of the concrete foundations and ironmongery from the old building, although now mostly covered and almost invisible under vegetation, still present a trip hazard and could inflict very severe injuries if someone was to fall on something like this. Area like this should be avoided for shelter building. 

              Structural integrity of the shelter:
      Especially with regard to natural shelters which may have heavy poles or a considerable weight of material above the occupants, the shelter itself must be very secure and strong with the frame ideally being made of green wood for strength and any necessary lashings being made very securely. Shelters such as this thermal A frame should be constructed with a strong green wood frame allowing a considerable weight of dead wood from the forest floor to be used to build up the walls of the shelter before leaf litter can be stacked on top to a depth of 1-2 feet. This kind of shelter will keep you warm even without a sleeping bag if you fill the inside with dry leaves or grass. 

Fire and shelter generally don't mix but sometimes you may need to use the fire to heat the shelter such as a lean to style shelter and a long log fire designed to keep you warm without a sleeping bag in winter conditions, or more likely in a Forest School setting as a focal point of an outdoor classroom such as this;

this particular shelter was used as an outdoor classroom, incorporates a fireplace and is made entirely from natural material in small broad-leafed copse surrounded by an area of coniferous plantation. The roof and walls of the shelter are made from strips of cedar bark left over after where a harvester had cut a block of cedar.

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