Good grief, as Snoopy might say. What was envisioned as quite a small scale activity ended up with 25 people signed up.
We put some people on a waiting list, some people didn’t come (early start, very nice weather?) but then people we didn’t know were coming, turned up, so an attendance of about 20 people during the course of the day.
We had advertised the totally free session to Craggers, Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project and Woodchips and the venue was the Unemployed Centre’s three allotment plots.
Honey bees and Red Admiral butterflies were making the most of the unseasonably warm October weather to gather nectar from the ivy flowers. We were in the centre of Brighton and yet felt surrounded by the natural world and were treated to views of the South Downs to the north and the sea to the south.
After a brief introduction to the subject of Bushcraft, it was time for a bit of a walk about, pointing out the uses of the plants we passed.
For the adults and older kids the mission was to collect mature nettles for making cordage and thistledown to use as tinder.
We all clustered around a table and it was pointed out that the nettles next to us had been cut back throughout the summer to keep them in check and therefore continued to produce fresh growth. By assertively grasping the tip of the nettle and scrunching it up between finger and thumb one can then eat it raw – it doesn’t sting, tastes sweet and provides lots of nutrients.
We decided to take advantage of the sunny day by using a parabolic mirror to direct focused sunlight onto a piece of King Alfred’s cake fungus, it started to smoke instantly and in a couple of seconds was glowing. We placed it onto the thistle down we had collected, which was nestled into a bed of dried grass cuttings and we soon had a blaze to get the Kelly kettle started.
We set to with the nettles and soon had the outer fibres drying for later use before making cordage with fibres which had been processed the day before.
It was explained that cordage of various strengths and thicknesses could be made with a variety of natural materials. Clematis bark was demonstrated.
Meanwhile the younger kids were making dream catchers out of hazel and maple and jewellery and whistles out of elder.
Back with the adults, things were getting serious with a safety briefing and demonstrations before using knives and bow saws to make craft items.
This was a great way to use various techniques including sawing, battening to split wood and various ways to use a knife, whether to remove large amounts of wood or to do fine work. We decided to carve leaf necklaces using actual leaves as a template.
We also discussed how to make spoons and cups and the session was over.
It was great day out in the sun working sustainably with natural materials. We gained new recruits for Craggers and the feeling that everyone wants to carry on doing Bushcraft projects.