Ever wondered how to survive in the wild? When we were in the middle of applying for a new TV show in Alaska* called ‘The Claim’, we realised that we needed to up our outdoor wilderness skills, so we booked on a one day Bushcraft course…
A search on Google told us that there were a few Bushcraft course providers in South / West Wales. We did a bit of a comparison with prices, locations and dates before picking Dryad Bushcraft.
Off we went to the Gower one weekend to learn some new skills. Luckily, the weather was perfect. The sun was out and there was barely any wind. This meant that we had a comfortable day messing about in the woods.
As soon as we arrived, the big old metal kettle was boiling away on the open fire. Time for a quick cuppa while we got to know the other people in the group. Some were really local (Swansea) but another couple had travelled from Oxfordshire.
Our first task was to head into the trees and collect some wood for the fire. The bushcraft instructor explained different varieties of trees to us, and how they’re responsible for coppicing the area of land that they run the courses on.
We got introduced to hazel, sycamore, and we even had a chew on some hawthorn leaves. With armfuls of wood we headed back to camp and were provided with bush knives.
We were taught how to safely use the knives, and how to use them efficiently when whittling, cutting or carving the wood. Both of us were proud to have worked on a piece of hazel each. We crafted them so they had one sharp end, one round end, a ‘bird mouth’ cut and stripped it of bark.
“As complete newbies to bushcraft, we came away with a new set of skills and the confidence to use them”
The highlights of the course were making fire and cooking food over the camp fire.
We were introduced to quite a few different methods of fire making:
- The ‘flint rock & steel’ method
- The ‘bow drill’ method
- The ‘fire steel’ method
- The ‘char cloth’ method
- The ‘friction’ method
Who knew there were so many methods! The flint rock and steel method produced great sparks which, when combined with a piece of char cloth** and nestled into some dry grass set fire easily.
The bow drill method was something that we had wanted to try for ages, but it was much more difficult than it looked! Andrew Price, the owner of Dryad and one of our instructors for the day, made it look easy. We struggled to get to grips with the bits and pieces so quickly moved on to a simpler method.
Our favourite, and easiest way to make fire was by using the fire steel method. That involved striking a piece of carbon steel against a flint rod. Coupled with a piece of cotton wool and dry grass, it was easy to make fire!
Lunch was provided in the form of fresh rainbow trout or sausages for the non-fish lovers (Amy). We were taught how to prepare a fresh fish by fully gutting it and removing all the bones. It was much simpler than we imagined.
Then it was time to prepare the sticks to cook it on. I crafted a split stick with two cross sticks to hold the filleted fish open so that it cooked nice and evenly. I also took the opportunity to make my own fork!
Amy crafted a stick into a spear shape and stuck a sausage on the end. Nice and simple. We had a delicious dinner with boiled potatoes and fresh wild garlic picked from the woodland. Hands down one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten.
We had a full day from 1030am to about 530pm with Dryad and would highly recommend it as a way to learn new skills and build your confidence for bushcraft skills. If you’d like to see how we got on, check out our short video of the day here!
Find out more:
Dryad Bushcraft website
Dryad Bushcraft Facebook
*Unfortunately, we didn’t get picked to be on the TV show in Alaska, but we’ve come away from our Bushcraft course with a whole new bunch of skills and knowledge!
**Char cloth can be made by taking a piece of material, sticking it in a tin with a tight lid, make a small hole in the tin and pop it in a fire. The lack of oxygen in the tin coupled with heat from the fire chars the cloth. With only a small spark, the cloth ignites, making a great fire starting tool