Tag Archives | flora

What’s happening at Camp Wildfire?

Last year’s Camp Wildfire was a great success, half adventure camp and half music festival for adults only. Located at a secret woodland location in Kent, with easy access from London, there was a huge range of activities to engage with; zip wires, archery, sword fighting, knife throwing, horse riding, yoga, painting, crafts and loads more and then music, dance and partying into the small hours.

David provided the natural shelter building workshops in 2015, teaching the curious adventurers how to construct cosy shelters using the natural woodland resources – we built quite a lot in the woods too! David is really pleased to be invited back again for 2016, he will be providing Bushcrafty activities and workshops throughout the weekend!

Example of a natural shelter

Example of a natural shelter

At sunset on the Friday evening, David will be providing a “Sleep tight, Stay Warm” talk. Last year some campers got really cold, so this session will ensure they can stay warm at night and get a good nights sleep!

Both Saturday and Sunday mornings will start with guided woodland walks; a journey through the woodlands, reawakening the senses and become a little more connected with nature. No longer will there be a wall of trees, we will get to know the trees individually and recognise their differences and personalities. Similarly, we’ll take a look at the woodland plants and show you how to become familiar with them too.

Hodgemoor Woods in June - guided woodland walk

Guided woodland walk – learning about the flora and fauna

David will also be providing natural shelter / bivouac building workshops in the morning and in the afternoon, there will be wood whittling classes, with the opportunity to carve a piece of wood foraged from the woodlands.

Woodland Crafts - Cups and Spoons

Woodland Crafts – Cups and Spoons

And on Saturday evening, David will be providing fire lighting demonstrations, using fire by friction (rubbing sticks together) and other methods, there will be plenty of opportunities to join in around the campfire!

Fire-by-Friction - blowing the ember into life to make fire!

Fire-by-Friction – blowing the ember into life to make fire!

Camp Wildfire “Winner Best New Festival AIF Awards 2015″ – watch their fab Offical Wildfire Trailer put 17-19 June in your diary, check out their website to see more activities: www.campwildfire.co.uk and book tickets and save £10 on each ticket using this special #discountcode / #vouchercode: Bushcraft10 (just enter it at checkout for £10 off a weekend ticket) – see you there!

Discount Code for Camp Wildfire: Bushcraft10

Mothers day – family friendly guided woodland walk

Mothers Day - Family friendly woodland walk

Mothers Day – Family friendly woodland walk

A few of the regular attending families had asked if they could bring their mothers along for the walk – what a lovely idea and it meant we had three generations enjoying a walk together! There is something quite special about taking families out for a walk in the woods. With our own children now young men, it’s lovely to see other peoples children enjoy the simple things in life and be inquisitive about nature.

Whilst not yet Spring, it felt like the end of Winter was behind us and Spring was definitely around the corner. We had another lovely Sunday morning walking through the woods, the weather was kind to us again, with a chill in the air and a little sunshine to remind us of the changing seasons.

As well as looking at creepy crawlies, shapes of leaves, sticks and stones, here are some of the many things we looked at in detail as we wondered through the woods.

Beech-buds - long and pointy like arrow tips

Beech-buds – long and pointy like arrow tips

Stinging nettles - hollow needles of silica

Stinging nettles – hollow needles of silica

We looked at the buds of the huge beech trees –  their pointy buds, sharp to the touch, long and narrow rather like an arrow tip. We carefully looked at the stinging nettles, getting up close to see the ‘hundreds’ of silica needles just waiting to sting the unwary. Stinging nettles are fabulous plants, packed full of goodness, great for teas, soups and you can make string from the stalk fibres later in the year too.

Silver birch, horizontal lines & flaky bark

Silver birch, horizontal lines & flaky bark

Pussy willow - fluffy buds

Pussy willow – fluffy buds

There were some lovely silver birch, we looked closely at the bark, it’s silvery whiteness, the horizontal lines (lenticel) that allow the tree to breath, and the flaky bark that can be used to light campfires. The pussy or goat willow was already blossoming, the bud bursting open, soon they will be fluffy like a cats tail.

It was yet another lovely walk, a beautiful morning, nature awakening for Spring and wonderful families, all young at heart.

If you’d like to join the next walk, just register your family via this page: Family Friendly Guided Woodland Walk they are free to attend – if you have any questions do get in touch.

Field studies fold-outs

Natural history is an integral part of Bushcraft. In fact without an appreciation and understanding of flora and fauna, would really be missing out in a big way. Bushcraft covers a wide range of topics, I like to think that these fall broadly into the three areas of teaching; outdoor living skills, natural history and woodland crafts. There areas all overlap. To be successful in living outdoors you need to understand at least some natural history, for instance which plants provide good tinder. Studying trees and plants help you appreciate the environment you are in and perhaps understand a little of it’s history. Similarly, when carving a spoon or fashioning a pot knowing which tree the wood came from or the properties of the bark you are using is fundamental to  the object you create.

I’m fortunate to have a pretty good selection of books and field guides from which to reference and study. So what would I recommend you put in your pack when out for a walk?

I’d recommend a fold-out field studies guide from the Field Studies Council. They produce a wonderful selection; fungi, woodland plants, trees, British mammal tracks and signs and many, many more.

The field studies fold-out guides are beautifully put together with flow charts, clear pictures and reference information to help you identify what you are looking at. They are practical too, arguably more so that a reference book, because they laminated, so they are weather proof and robust, just what you need when out on a county walk or ramble.

Field studies guide fold-outs

A few of the wonderful field studies fold-outs provided by the Field Studies Council – check out their website and buy some!

Natures Detectives – Woodland Walk in June

Hodgemoor Woods in June - guided woodland walk

Hodgemoor Woods in June – guided woodland walk

Thank you to the families that joined me for this guided woodland walk – it was great to see the youngsters engaging in being natures detectives, they did rather well too.

The aim of these walks is to educate, help youngsters and adults to identify plants and trees. Sometimes it’s nice to go for a brisk walk through the woods, perhaps for exercise, to keep fit and breath in some fresh air and relax. Today, we were doing things slow, stopping and taking a close look at plants, noticing the shapes, textures and smells and comparing them to others that at first glance may seem similar.

Here are a couple of clues to help you identify the hornbeam; the clusters of seed pods hanging below their leaves, the hornbeams distinctive bark, this is a particular ‘deeply cut’ example, more commonly, you will just see a flow of vertical lines up and down the truck of the tree.

Lovely shapes on this hornbeam, note the vertical flow of lines

Lovely shapes on this hornbeam, note the vertical flow of lines

Clusters of hornbeam seed pods, ready to fly away later in the year

Clusters of hornbeam seed pods, ready to fly away later in the year

We often think of a thistle as just being a spiky plant, that should be avoided, but take a closer look (click on any of the images to see the bigger picture) and see it’s beautiful structure and lovely flowers.

We can probably all recognise a buttercup, but have you sat down next to one and studied it for a while?

Getting up close to a buttercup

Getting up close to a buttercup

A spiky spear thistle, lovely colours with vicious spines

A spiky spear thistle, lovely colours with vicious spines

As we walked along the woodland paths, in a damp shady area, there were many tracks and trials, here is a clear example of a squirrel track. By contrast, there was a beautiful iris, almost certainly an escapee from a garden – perhaps fro the Polish community that lived here after the Second World War!

Squirrel tracks by the side of a muddy path

Squirrel tracks by the side of a muddy path

A beautiful iris, perhaps an escapee, rather than wild

A beautiful iris, perhaps an escapee, rather than wild

Honeysuckle grows through much of Hodgemoor woods. It winds its way up the trees, growing around the tree trunks and across out-stretched branches. We were busy looking at the early honeysuckle growth only to be greeted by a single flower making the most of the sunshine.
In the damper, shaded areas of the wood, we find what remains of the ransoms or wild garlic. The smell is still distinctive, the leaves less are less vibrant in colour, but with the flowers withering you can clearly see the clusters of three seed sitting on top of the flower stems.

Honeysuckle the first flower in June

Honeysuckle the first flower in June

Ramsons gone to seed by June - note the seed clusters

Ramsons gone to seed by June – note the seed clusters

We did plenty of tree hugging, feeling the textures of the bark, comparing one tree with another. The yellow lichen on the silver birch was such a bright yellow, it was growing on many of the trees. The downy birch, again if your get up close you will see its beautiful colours and see how its bark was peeling back. It is this paper thin bark, packed with oil that makes a wonderful tinder for starting a fire.

Downy birch its bark peeling back

Downy birch its bark peeling back

Silver birch with orange lichen

Silver birch with orange lichen

Sometimes it’s good to push a few plants back to see what else is growing. In amongst the long grasses, nettles and ground ivy was a few stalks of bugle. There was also a few stems of greater stitchwort with its five white split-petals!

Bugle in June

Bugle in June

Greater stitchwort in June

Greater stitchwort in June

Along a track, there was a lot of burdock, none had put any flower shoots up as yet. The bluebells have just a few signs of their withering flowers, but now are putting their energies into producing seeds for next year!

Burdock growing well, as yet not putting up any flowers, a ladybird looking for food in the middle!

Burdock growing well, as yet not putting up any flowers, a ladybird looking for food in the middle!

Bluebell going to seed

Bluebell going to seed

Thank you again to everyone who joined this guided woodland walk – the aim is to do these walks regularly and provide the opportunity to learn about the plants and trees throughout the seasons.

By all means take a look at the events calendar to see when the next walk will be, you are welcome to bring along friends too!

If you would like to arrange a guided woodland walk for you and your colleagues,  a youth group or perhaps a school class or any other group, then do get in contact here – thank you.