Tag Archives | trees

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.

Inaugural netwalking event in the Chilterns

What a great way to start the day with the inaugural netwalking event taking place at Hodgemoor Woods on the outskirts of Chalfont St Giles. We met in the woodland car park at 8:30 and after brief introductions set off on a guided woodland walk. The idea is simple, enjoy some fresh air, connect with nature, chat with like minded people and depart at the end refreshed ready for the business day ahead!

As we walked around the woods, we stopped to look at a few trees on route. Some may be able to recognise oak trees by their distinctive ‘knobbly’ leaves, but they are not quite so sure in the winter months. Most are less familiar with it’s form, and the texture of it’s bark, the shape and colour of it’s buds.

Oak trees, certainly those that are mature tend to spread their branches out, like an architectural structure, they reach out to command the canopy and capture as much sunlight as possible. The oak bark, once recognised is really distinctive, with its rough rocky surface. The red / brown buds, as you can see in the picture below, are rounded, formed into to clusters at the end of the twigs and then alternate on either side as they progress down each side of the twig.

Mature oak tree bark

Mature oak tree bark

Oak tree buds - winter tree identification

Oak tree buds – winter tree identification

We stopped to recognise the hornbeam, another hard wood, it forms the boundary of the adjoining Hales Wood enclosure. Others we looked closely at included the beech, comparing and contrasting it with the hornbeam. It’s not that obvious at first what the differences are, but on closer inspection, the buds are shorter and less pointed, the ‘growth’ lines on the beech trunk are horizontal, whereas they are vertical on the hornbeam. Looking at a few of the dead leaves, the differences were shown; smooth edges on the beech leaves and small teeth around those of the hornbeam.

After looking at few more trees, enjoying a chat with our fellow netwalkers, we arrived back at the woodland car park for tea and coffee served from the back of the Land Rover.

Thank you to the business folks who joined me for this inaugural netwalking event in the Chilterns. It was lovely to see the enthusiasm for future walks, along with a request for similarly lovely weather  – I’ll do my best!

For details and to book your place on the next Netwalking with David Willis event please view the events calendar – thank you!

The inaugural netwalking event - February 2016

Thank you to the business people who joined the inaugural Netwalking with David Willis event – February 2016

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!

May day guided woodland walk

The first weekend of May, a public holiday and an ideal time to introduce local people and families to the lovely trees and abundance of wild flowers in Hodgemoor Woods. Thanks to the Chalfont St Giles newsletter, places on the first guided walks of the year, quickly filled.

The mornings weather was more a case of liquid sunshine, but this dampen the spirits of the families that joined the mornings walk. With the day warming and sun shining on us, all be it around some dark clouds, the afternoons walks was truly lovely.

Woodland walk in May 2015

Woodland walk in May 2015

By the end of each walk, the groups were becoming quite the natures-detective. They used there senses to see, touch and smell each plant, sometime crushing leaves to release the fragrant smell of ransoms, jack-by-the-hedge and ground ivy.

There was plenty of tree-hugging going on! We were getting up close, feeling the textures of the bark, observing the shapes and colours, really getting to know the trees. There were lovely examples of silver birch, from young beautifully smooth surfaces, to rugged, rock-like older specimens. beautiful big oaks, there branches reaching out and fabulous ash and scots pine reaching up though the canopy.

Lady's Smock, lightly scented, pale pink flowers with four petals

Lady’s Smock, lightly scented, pale pink flowers with four petals

One of the prettiest flowers was undoubtedly the lady’s smock. The children were quick to start identifying it; pale pinkness, four petals, tall stems and groups of flowers.

Wood sorrel, five white petals with beautiful pink veins

Wood sorrel, five white petals with beautiful pink veins

All the way around, we were being a detective, looking for the clues that identified plants. One confused wood sorrel for lady’s smock, later in the walk – it was lovely to hear one of the children help point out the differences, the number of petals being five on wood sorrel and it being on short stems. The children did very well!

BIG thank you so much for the guided walk this morning, we all really loved it so much and are looking forward to future events

Thank you to the local folks, couples and families that joined the walks – it was lovely to meet you all and to see you get to know the plants in Hodgemoor.

There will be more guided woodland walks coming along later in the year – by all means subscribe to the newsletter to keep up to date with future events, activities and courses.