Using Bushcraft

Between Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone there is an unprepossessing patch of deciduous woodland sandwiched between a stream on the southern edge, the River Medway to the north, fields to the west and an industrial estate to the east. Along the perimeters the rusting detritus of agribusiness is being subsumed into the landscape. I can just make out DANGER stencilled onto one of the disintegrating barrels. We are led into the trees and soon come to an open area where a parachute canopy has been strung out to provide shelter in case the weather turns. We are there for an Institute of Outdoor Learning (IOL) workshop. We were intrigued by the title of the workshop ‘Using Bushcraft’ and we were looking for new ideas to bring to the Craggers Bushcraft sessions, fun ways to engage both children and adults. The workshop was intended for current Bushcraft practitioners looking for inspiration or different ways of doing things. There were two main instructors and we were split into two groups so that sessions could be run in parallel. Session 1. After introductions we talked about how we would structure our activities and what the learning outcomes would be. We had an energetic discussion led by one of the instructors, filling up a whiteboard with key points including thoughts on risk – perceived and actual, engagement, tailoring the sessions but allowing flexibility. The structure should be realistic in terms of time, aims, group knowledge and progression. We talked about preparation and using rolling risk assessments. We swapped instructors and went through tool use and maintenance including knives, axes, various saws etc. I have to admit that I have my own tried and tested ways of doing things which were not always the same as the ones being shown – I will stick to my own. Then it was time for lunch which was a big disappointment for vegans. Eschewing trout and butter we were left with not very nice boiled potatoes in a plastic cup. Actually that was not quite all as Becci and I had a bit of a forage and came back with nettles, ransoms and a few other bits. After lunch we took part in perhaps the most enjoyable part of the day, because we got to play games (educational, of course). We did a few exercises developing peripheral vision before the blindfolds went on we played more games, tracking and hunting each other and finding individual remembered trees – great stuff and certainly games I would love to use at the Adventure Camp to get people tuned into the environment. All change again and we finished off with the other instructor on a tracking exercise. All in all a great day and we certainly got good pointers on incorporating Bushcraft into other sessions and learned some fantastic games.