Tag Archives | Foraging

Home Education Group

Following on from our fun sessions throughout the summer holidays, David has been running more Environmental Learning and Bushcraft sessions at Shortenills Environmental Centre in Chalfont St Giles. The morning sessions are with children aged up to 7 years and those in the afternoon for age 7 and above. They have proved to be very popular, with sessions regularly fully booked.

Making natures dream-catchers with home-education group

Making natures dream-catchers with home-education group

In this weeks session, the younger children made dream-catchers, with a little help from their parents who are actively involved throughout. We gathered pieces of green-hazel and bent them into hoops and then created a web of jute string and wool – the n fun began with weaving in things found in the woods: leaves, feathers, pieces of bark and more. It was lovely to seem them turning in the breeze.

We finished off with cups of nettle tea, with the kettle boiling over the campfire and nettles foraged from the edge of the woodland.

The older group were introduced to the safe use of knives. Each child was shown how to whittle a tent peg, with the younger ones receiving one-to-one instruction and supervision to ensure they had fun and successfully made their tent peg! More nettle tea followed!

Making fat lamps with home-education group

Making fat lamps with home-education group

Other weeks activities included making fat candles. We used a variety of fats, pork lard, beef dripping and vegetable. The children found interesting pieces of wood with shallow holes or crevices in which to place their candles. Then we filled them with fat and each child lit a match to light their candle.

Bread baking with home-educator group

Bread baking with home-educator group

And yes, we baked bread too. The children made the dough using string bread flour, milk powder and baking powder. With a little help, they wound the dough around the sticks and cooked them over the campfire.

David is looking forward to running more Environmental Learning and Bushcraft sessions – if you’d like to know more the by all means do get in contact – thanks!

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

Spring flora in the woodlands

Primroses

Primroses

It is lovely to be out walking on a beautiful Spring morning. The sun is out, the day is warming and flowers are springing up in the hedgerows.

Todays walk is in Hodgemoor, a woodland on the edge of Chalfont St Giles. Entering the woods, I’m met by the first primroses I’ve seen this year. They are such a familiar flower, so common in many gardens.

Wild Cherry Blossom

Wild Cherry Blossom

Here in the woods, the primroses are so special, it’s their true home, wild and free to grow unchecked.

When there is an abundance of primroses, it’s nice to pick a few leaves and flowers to add to and decorate a fresh Spring salad. The wild cherry trees have large clusters of buds, pearly white and many already bursting into beautiful blossom.

Spring Brambles

Spring Brambles

The brambles are now sprouting out their long green, spiky stems. They are reaching out across the other plants to get out into the sunshine. Bramble buds and early leaves make a lovely, delicate tea! And of course, the brambles are promising us a lovely crop of blackberries in the Autumn.

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

When walking in woodlands or along hedgerows, especially those with damp soils, you may see the bright yellow flowers of lesser celandine. Those flowers  have 8 to 12 narrow, slightly oval petals. They have long thin stems creeping and sprawling across the ground, note their glossy, heart-shaped (cordate) leaves.

Ground ivy in flower

Ground Ivy in flower

One of my favourite herbs is ground ivy. It’s leaves have a distinctive smell,  rubbing a leaf between your finger tips will release a smell similar to mint. Also known as alehoof; before the introduction of hops it was used to brew ale! And why one of my favourites, Ground Ivy makes a lovely refreshing tea. Their blue flowers remind me of jelly-babies, although I’m not so sure we ever had blue ones. This is another plant that spreads out, low across the ground, tending to like damp, moist soils and a little shade.

Common Nettles

Common Nettles

The nettle, we all know this one, childhood memories perhaps of being stung makes us very wary of the common nettle. But it truly is a wonderful plant with many uses. The young fresh leaves, especially those at the top of a stem are packed full of vitamins, and probably better for us than spinach! I like to chop them up and stir them into a hedgerow risotto, give them a wash first and don’t worry, the heat will ‘kill-off’ the stings. In the Autumn, the fibres from the stems can be used to make string, they make a very strong cordage. The nettle tops also make a slightly earthy flavoured tea, another of my favourites, do try some!

Oak buds

Oak buds

Taking a look at the trees, the buds of some formed over Winter are beginning to  burst into leaf, others are waiting a little longer. Being able identify trees by their buds, the shape of the tree, the textures of the bark makes for a fun alternative to just considering their leaves. It’s a little like being natures detective. I guess most are familiar with the leaf or the deeply fissured bark of an oak tree. But have you ever looked at their buds? Note the clusters of buds at the end of the stem, not unlike those of the wild cherry.

Wood sorrel

Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel is now abundant. It’s three, inverted, heart shaped leaves, initially folded back make it look a little like a clover to the uninitiated. It has a delicate white flower and if you get down close, not only will you see it’s yellow centre, but you will notice the purple veins that radiate out across the five white petals.

BluebellsThe bluebells, a true sign of Spring, those early pioneering flowers. It’s as if the first few flowers check to see what the weather holds and then communicate with the others and  suddenly they all spring into life too. We are lucky here in the Chilterns, so many woodlands have bluebells and when the weather is right, there are vast numbers of beautiful blue flowers spreading across the whole woodland floor.

Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone

In a shady spot, near my favourite place to find wild garlic, I found a single wood anemone. It has quite distinctive foliage and a small white flower. In large numbers, wood anemones, as do bluebells, are an indicator of ancient woodlands.

You may see the common dog violet, with its purple-blue flower almost anywhere. They are common in woodlands, but just as common in the corners of the garden, at the bottom of walls and peering out from under other more dominant plants. They appear to like a mix of sunshine and shade and will spread out to find the right conditions.

Common Dog Violet

Common Dog Violet

Historically the these and other violets were gathered and preserved in a sugar solution, to make pretty decorations on desserts. Once familiar with this lovely little flower, you may suddenly see them all over the place. There are quite a few around my garden and at my local allotment too.

Goat Willow Blossom

Goat Willow Blossom

Back with the trees again, have you seen this strange looking blossom? Almost like a candy-floss, this blossom springs from the buds of the goat willow. The buds of most willow are slender, and lie flat against the twig, with a tip that points slightly inwards. The bark of the goat willow has what I describe as ‘peck’ marks. Those markings are at regular intervals around the tree trunk, it’s as if a woodpecker has visited the tree and decorated it by pecking those holes (they haven’t).

Stitchwort

Stitchwort

On my walk home, looking along the hedgerows I found some stitchwort. This plant tends to grow erect and tall amongst the grasses, reaching out to get its share of the sunshine. The stitchwort has long slender leaves and produces white flowers with split-petals.

Cowslip

Cowslip

And to the final flower of what was a lovely Spring mornings walk. The cowslip, I think of it as a Primrose that hasn’t quite reached its full potential. The flowers are smaller, but similar in colour. They are delicate, often with many flowers on a single stem. Locally, the cowslip is found out in the grassy fields, gaining more sunshine, whereas the primrose  likes a mix of sunshine and shade found in the woodlands.

Homeward bound I look forward to the next woodland walk. If you are interested in learning about the woodlands, then you may be interested in the guided Woodland Walks. Please feel free to have a look and check the events calendar to see when and where the next guided woodland walk is happening.