Last week Ethan and I had a very special day.
We were lucky enough to be invited along to one of the Bushcraft days organised and run at our fantastic Forestry Commission rangers at our favorite location – Sherwood Pines. We love Sherwood Pines and have shared our fun experiences here and here and here. There is so much to do for adults and children alike, and it is such a fantastic environment, you can’t help but enjoy yourself.
Anyway, the Bushcraft day kicked off on an overcast but dry late May day at 10am with a little map reading practice. Our group was made up of around 15 people; mums, dads, grandparents and children aged from 6 to around 14 years of age. The kids were all given a map of the forest and had to work out the best way to get to the camp where we would spend the day. They soon worked out, with a little assistance, where everything was and pointed the map in the right direction. As we were walking to the camp Karina and Emily, our fabulous rangers, pointed out things of the map to indicate we were going the right way.
Along the route we talked about the day ahead. We were told to look out for footprints in the sand which may be made by a deer as there are some that live in the forest (but are very shy!). We also saw some tadpoles in one of the ponds. When I say tadpoles I mean hundreds of tadpoles! There are going to be quite a few baby frogs hopping around that pond in the next few weeks.
After around a twenty minute walk we arrived at the camp. This area has been especially made up for Bushcraft days and is brilliantly designed for all the excellent activities Sherwood Pines offers. There is a main seating area with a firepit, a clay oven (which Karina made herself!) that is used for baking pizzas, a yurt, a wood chopping area, a craft area, a composting toilet and the den building area.
The day started off in the den building area! The group were divided into teams which started off as two teams of boys v girls and turned into three teams as the boys went off in different directions! I think they were so excited and so brimming with ideas they could all have easily made their own den! Here are some tips for den building that Karina gave us. Very soon there were some fantastic creations springing up and lots of excited chatter echoing throughout the woodland.
Next up was lunchtime and the kids were so pleased with their new dens they wanted to eat their lunch inside them! Silence fell upon the camp whilst the adults enjoyed their food in peace 🙂
Ethan got the chance to chop up some wood for the afternoon session – fire building – which he was very much looking forward to!
Now Ethan is very aware of the safety issues around fire (after reading all about Frances Firefly!) and won’t even pick up a match so I was looking forward to hearing some tips on fire safety in the forest where is so crucial.
We had seen, on a recent day at Sherwood Pines, when the Vikings visited, that it is possible to create a fire without matches.
This is what we would be doing again only with slightly more modern methods – using a fire steel! I had never seen a fire steel in action so this was a first for me too. It basically works by rubbing two pieces of metal together to create a spark which you can use to set alight to something small. We used cotton wool balls to get the fire started. You then progress to wood shavings and small kindling until the fire is established. It takes lots of patience, care and experience to get a good fire going.
Here is a video of Ethan starting his first fire using a fire steel.. He makes it look easy (it isn’t!)!
We also had a go at lighting mini fires using a Kelly Kettle to boil water in. This had mixed successes but luckily the rangers were on the ball so we could have hot chocolate and then toast marshmallows in the embers.
To finish off the day we were invited to create a woodland pendant. This was a circular piece of wood on which we could draw a picture, write your name, whatever you chose in permanent pens
We returned home exhausted but happy and my little boy has so many special memories from the day. The exciting activities we did on the day aren’t perhaps things that you would do normally and really need the expertise of the fantastic rangers to get the most from it. A day such as this costs £12.50 per person, which would make a fantastic gift for a dad or grandad to enjoy with the kids. Not only is it enormous fun but it is also educational, risk taking (safely), offers a chance to bond with your adventurers and is incredibly memorable.
If you don’t think this is his thing, how about getting the special man in your life a gift that will last all year long in the form of a Forestry Commission annual pass!? This gives you free parking for the whole year plus discounts at the cafe, bike hire and more depending upon location. Or check out the Forestry Commission Forestry Shop website for their fab range of gifts and experiences, they can enjoy with their children or grandchildren?
Disclosure: We received complimentary tickets to the Bushcraft day but were under no obligation to write this post and all views and opinions are our own.