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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Bushcraft Boys

I wrote an article which appeared in issue 53 of Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine titled 'Bushcraft Babies' about how even very young children could benefit from taking part in bushcraft; here you will find Martin's first article for Bushcraft Education recounting some of the joys and challenges of raising children who love the outdoors. 


I am pleased to have raised children who are more enthused to be out of doors, than in front of a computer or games console, who can live comfortably out of doors and can feed themselves from the land in times of extremis. It was with some pride that I told a soon to be Daughter in Law, that she would never starve married to my Son but that she may eat some really weird stuff. Depending on your definition of weird, they have eaten some things which would be considered unusual amongst their peers.

A typical Guy family Christmas dinner, roast duck stuffed with
pigeon breasts, all shot and prepared ourselves. 
From an early age, my boys accompanied me to fields and forests much more than to cinemas and movie nights and loved to follow me on hunting and fishing expeditions. They soon gained more knowledge of where food came from and how to convert fish and animals into something fit for the table than any other children I knew. They did and still do, regularly put a meal on the table for their family that has never seen the inside of a supermarket, butchers shop or market and were likely to be the single person responsible for all stages of its ‘processing’ from field to fork.

The challenges or blessings of raising children with this level of interest in the outdoors, are unique, hunting for missing bits of lego and other conventional childhood challenges still occurred but there was an ever present array of knives, billy cans, camping stoves, para cord, canvas, tents, ruck sacks, boots and socks which were far from routine amongst the other houses we visited. Thankfully, the older boys grew up in an area where wilderness was still readily available, as was the great institution of Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Dedicated and inspired leaders supplemented what I could help them with and they accomplished some pretty amazing expeditions with like-minded children.

Richard amidst the dramatic scenery of the Cornish coast during an epic 120 mile expedition.

My father claimed that his greatest joy was to make something from nothing, his interpretation of that was to take something incomplete, useless, broken or not recognisable and turn it in to something useful. For a bush craft boy, this is the essence of his challenge, his joy and satisfaction. A nettle patch becomes a source of soup and string, a bramble patch similarly a tasty snack and surprisingly strong cordage. A river is likely to give life from its water and its inhabitants likely to feed the hungry wilderness traveller. Perhaps the greatest joy to be had by the side of a camp fire is to fashion something from wood, there will be nothing on TV for sure! 

A stick is always a useful companion in the woods and wilderness, it may be a long staff to probe the depths prior to a waded river crossing, a crook to pull berries and fruit in range for harvesting or a pair of poles to aid progress on a steep or rugged trail where the use of big upper body muscles can supplement those of weary legs having travelled many a mile.

The kind of bushcraft related paraphernalia to be found
in a 'bushcraft boys' room
Personalising a stick, staff or walking cane can be a most satisfying and even profitable enterprise but inevitably this pastime will find its way back in to the house when the journey is over. I can’t count the times I have walked in to a son’s bedroom or bunkhouse to be met, not with the beeping and flickering of a computer or games console but the rustling of wood shavings and strips of sandpaper on the floor and a booby-trap of partially completed carving projects and sticks standing in a corner, behind a door or just lying on the floor! Bits of bone, horn, antler or just different colour, shape or texture of wood for a handle just as 
likely to be there or actually anywhere in the house.

So I chose to offer my children, fitness, health, industry, appreciation of nature, with occasional trips to A&E, band aids and steri-strips, my socks or slippers often contaminated with wood shavings against the alternative of  eye strain, RSI, lethargy and a poor level of fitness. Would I do it the same again? 



Thanks Dad for giving me so many opportunities to be outdoors and for teaching me how to take care of myself out there, even if you think some of the things I do are a little strange; to the right you can see me showing Michael how to inflate the skin off a hare ready for curing or tanning. 

Look out for Martins next article on deer stalking a little later in the month. 


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