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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Holiday Bushcraft Part 3 (Scotland)

We regularly visit Scotland during our holiday's Dumfries and Galloway and the Southern Uplands is our regular destination during the Easter Holidays;

Hiking the Southern Upland Way
Picking a picnic spot on the Southern Upland Way

Playing on the coast of the Solway Firth

As well as regular Easter visits over the years last year I spent the whole Summer in Scotland, not on Holiday, I was working (briefly) for the Field Studies Council at their residential environmental education centre at Kindrogan but the months we spent there not only meant a brief move to Scotland beautiful countryside and a taste of the Scottish school system for the children but it also  included the children's school holidays and we were able to take advantage of the beautiful countryside and wildlife there;

One of my favourite places in the world and somewhere I could imagine building a little cabin and settling down. 

Foraging for golden saxifrage on a family hike in the rain

Exploring 'The Den of Alyth' on a family hike

Clearing a footpath after windfalls

A bit of whittling 

Michael fascinated by the frogs in our garden 

Crowberries and billberries foraged on a family hike with yogurt and honey .

Kindrogan hill, I hiked this hill about twice a week while working at Kondrogan leading groups of National Citizenship participants to the tops as part of their programme of activities. 
Michael chopping chantarelles  ready for dinner. 
Michael collecting raspberries on the slopes of kindrogan hill

hunting for raspberries, and bears?

Heading of for another hike and some rock climbing. 

Learning about rare breeds of pheasants at the Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace

Investigating aquatic invertebrates with the fly dressers guild again at the game fair at scone palace. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Foragers Diary; August 2018

The fruits of a bit of opportunistic Summer foraging; comfrey, sweet cicely and a single puff ball.

Comfrey leaves in a simple batter frying in oil.

Cooked and ready to eat.

Comfrey leaves are very suculent and are a felicious shade of green once cooked.

Comfrey fritter with cream and fresh fruit.

DISCLAIMER; Comfrey is superficially similar to foxglove which you absolutely must NOT eat, foxgloves contain digitalis and could kill you. Also avoid the purple flowered cultivars of comfrey as they have been linked to cancer the native Common Comfrey with it's creamy white flowers is safe to eat though. Select young succulent leaves rather than the older leaves as these will be tougher and may have developed a bitter taste. 

Foxglove leaves have jagged edges and a more oval shape
Comfrey leaves come to a point and have wavy but not jagged edges DON'T CONFUSE THE TWO!!

In August you may also find one of not only my favourite edible fungi but one of the most sought after culinary mushrooms in the world.

Chantarelles peeking up through the damp grass. 

They were so abundant I was able to collect quite a few and have been back for more since.
The wrinkled appearance instead of true gills is a key identifying feature. That and the fruity, almost apricot, smell and the bright egg yolk yellow colour.

My oldest preparing them for the frying pan.
Although possibly a waste in the eyes of a talented chef fried in butter as an accompaniment to a big breakfast they were great.

Don't confuse them with subtly similar species, the gill's here are wrong as is the colour and there was no smell of apricots, do be careful with fungi even ones which like the chanterrelle seem fairly easy to ID. 

There is no better way to get children involved with the outdoors and wild food than with a bit of wild fruit harvesting, blackberries, raspberries and all manner of other fruits are to be found in the countryside if you spend some time looking.
My oldest; very proud of his haul of red and yellow raspberries. Between us we got about four kilos of raspberries plus some gooseberries and black currants. 

It would have been criminal not to use some of them to make an eaton mess.
Mulberries are my favorite wild fruit, and while they are not native to Britain, having been imported to cultivate silk worms, you can often find them in the grounds of stately homes. I found one recently on a stroll around the grounds of tewkesburry abbey.

It was cordened off to stop people trampling the berries into the abbey.
But there were a few within reach. They do ripen to black eventually but are still delicious when they are like this. There is also a white variety.

And this is why they don't want them trodden into the abbey. They are incredibly juicy!


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Holiday Bushcraft Part 2 (Solo)

A big part of bushcraft is using those skills to make journeys and expeditions possible, one of the first people to adapt bushcraft skills to major journeys and explorations was British Explorer Samuel Hearne. During a failed attempt to find and map a route to the copper mine river he was robbed by some Indians and left with nothing more than a knife, awl, razor, needle, file and soap. Despite the apparent inconvenience the misfortune turned out to be a stroke of luck as he found the return journey with such a light load much more tolerable, and even enjoyable than the outward journey laden down by equipment and supplies. 

Samuel Hearne - Project Gutenberg etext 20110.jpg

Public Domain, Link

After the revaluation about travelling light he tried again to find the coppermine river, with the help of a Dene Indian named Motonabbee.  This time rather than relying on equipment and supplies they travelled a circuitous route staying within the wooded areas where they could find food during winter before heading out over the tundra in Spring following herds of migrating caribou and moose which provided them not only with food but with leather for repairing their boots and other essential material. 

A Map of Part of the Inland Country to the North West of Prince of Wales Fort Hudon's, Bay Samuel Hearne 1772 (1969).jpg
Samuel Hearne's map of his expeditions (By w:Samuel Hearne, flickr upload by [1] - originally posted to Flickr as A Map of Part of the Inland Country to the Nh Wt of Prince of Wales Fort Hs, By Samuel Hearne 1772 (1969) Uploaded using F2ComButton, CC BY 2.0, Link)

Samuel Hearne was the first European explorer recorded to have used first nation skills in his explorations and not only did it pay off but it caught on and many expeditions and explorations that came later learned from his. 

I've been lucky enough to be able to attempt some solo expeditions of my own on my holidays and during my spare time over the years and have seen the benefits of using bushcraft skills to help me travel lighter, further and without reliance on modern kit;

Light weight kit and a willingness to adapt and improvise served me well while hiking in the Brenta Dolomites after a conference and meant that I could fit all the kit I needed to teach a workshop on outdoor learning in my rucksack as well as my hiking kit;

Being able to trap and skin possums while I was working in New Zealand several years ago allowed me to earn some extra money and make the most of my free time while I was there;

The extra cash meant I was able to travel extensively and practice and learn even more bushcraft skills;

Climbing in the Southern Alps

A week as a volunteer ranger for the Department of Conservation on the Tiri tiri Matangi bird reserve looking after Takahe's one of the worlds most endangered birds. 
A visit to Rotoroa and the Maori school of carving and weaving where I learned how to make cordage with flax. 
Bushcraft skills mean that not only can you pack light, safe in the knowledge that your simple tarp will keep you sheltered at night but you can even build your own shelters from natural material. 

My home on my nights off from teaching at a residential environmental education centre in Devon a few years ago, it wasn't strictly a holiday but it was a very busy and hectic Summer and my nights here felt like a holiday. 

Building an A-frame shelter on a solo trip, although this one is probably big enough for two. 
Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, is one of my favourite places, having spent several years living and working there I jump on any available chance to go back; 

Contemplating the crossing of a frozen lake on the way to the 'cabin' I was heading for. Not worth the risk at that time of year. 

Travelling light, bushcraft style, on this trip meant carrying a knife, hatchet, sleeping bag, wool blanket, change of clothes, cup and fork. A shopping trip to Lidl after arriving gave me a tin of soup, among other things, which I then used for the rest of my trip to cook all my meals in. 

Sweden is a bushcrafters paradise with it's Allamansrätten laws allowing for hiking and camping almost anywhere and a deeply ingrained love of the outdoors. 

On top of Kopparhaugene on a trip to Oslo 

Using bushcraft skills is only a part of going on trips and expeditions during holidays, learning about bushcraft skills is a great attraction too;

Bow drills for working wood and bone in the Fram Museum of polar exploration in Oslo

A boyhood dream come true, a visit to the Kon Tiki museum in Oslo.

Beautifull carvings, in bone and walrus ivory. 

The Fram, one of Roald Ammundsens Polar exploration vessels. 

Meeting Ă–tzi the iceman in Bolzano

Bushcraft Education Videos