Standing by a gate in rural Oxfordshire, waiting for one of the instructors to let me into the woodland site, I was already in bushcraft mode, checking out the shaggy ink cap mushrooms at my feet and noticing the subtle change in hue of the leaves above my head, as the trees ease themselves into their autumn colours.
I am a member of The Institute for Outdoor Learning and their Bushcraft and Survival special interest group which gives me the opportunity to attend workshops run through the IOL. The Institute for Outdoor Learning encourages outdoor learning by developing quality, safety and opportunity to experience outdoor activity provision and by supporting the good practice of outdoor professionals. By representing and lobbying on behalf of their members they help ensure the development and progression of outdoor learning. More and more organisations and individuals working outdoors are becoming members and it is well on the way to becoming the representative body.
I was the only student arriving on the Friday night as I was travelling be public transport. But that is how I like it, being able to tune into my environment before an event makes me feel more at ease and for me every night sleeping in the woods is just a great bonus. I got a warm welcome from all the instructors and soon joined in with shooting some of their hand crafted bows.
There was a great selection of workshops on offer including: String/Cordage - Making Good Strong Lengths of String to Do Specific Tasks - Flint Knapping – the organisers brought in Karl Lee, widely regarded as the greatest flint knapper in the country - Spoon and Utensil Carving - Simple Baskets - Throwing Sticks and Bullroarers -Make Your Own Bow Drill Set - Feathersticks and Flowers – Making musical instruments in the wild – Identyfying trees in the dark – Various cooking techniques - butchery and Wild Food. My only regret was that it was not possible to attend all the workshops which were being run by some of the finest exponents in the country. As well as being excellent in their own right they were a masterclass how to teach the subject.
All of us taking part work in the outdoors and the atmosphere definitely encouraged sharing knowledge rather than just being ‘taught’ by the instructors.
I also attended the special interest group AGM and took part in the archery and stick throwing competitions.
Thank you to Craggers for my train fare to Oxford and I have already been able to put some of the things I have learnt to use in the Bushcraft sessions I have been running for Craggers.