Summer Nights Under Canvas

I am sat feeling incredibly itchy and uncomfortable, fairly covered in mosquito bites but with memories in my mind of a fantastic time camping out in the woods courtesy of Bushcraft Education.

We attended a family bushcraft event in Riddy woods in Cambridgeshire. I was somewhat nervous about it, Ry couldn’t get anymore time off work to attend with me so it was looking to just be me and the three children attending. In the end my dad decided that he was also going to come along. We arrived and walked the half an hour trek with all our camping stuff across the fields from the villiage hall where I had parked the car to the campsite in the woods. I use the term campsite fairly loosely. It was pretty basic as campsites go, not really any of your creature comforts, but there was was long drop toilet and makeshift pizza ovens and tarpaulin shelters and benches around the camp fire area. We arrived and pitched our tents, first hurdle achieved, I had managed to put the tent up while the older children kept the small one amused. I was yet to discover how small one would cope sleeping in the tent at all, we were over an hour from home, over half an hour from the car and I had no idea how he was going to sleep!

Our day went well, there was a competition to see which team could make a fire to toast their marshmallows using only one log, one match, an axe and a knife. There were three teams and two of them started out well but rushed the lighting so wasted their matches and didn’t manage to get their fires going. For me and my daughter, we took our time, during which I also left her too it as small was tired and needed a nap. I should explain here that I took him to the tent and he lay down with me, nursed to sleep and then had a decent size nap while I returned to continue the activity. He slept fine, better than usual actually! We lit our fire and managed to get it to take and last, we cooked not only our marshmallows but the other teams cooked their marshmallows as well, our fire burned well into the afternoon.

After lunch we were taught how to make kazoos, using wood, a knife, birch bark and string made from stinging nettles. As you can probably guess the whole experience involved a lot of handling sharp knives and axes, for me to not be able to hover over the older children as I was supervising small as well could have been quite nerve wracking for me but everyone was amazing and small thoroughly enjoyed his time in the woods where he played with clay and jumped around as well.

We made pizzas for our dinner in the pizza ovens that had been made, they were delicious, and we were able to have extra helpings which was fab, we all ate until we were full and sat around the fire drinking tea, making things out of clay and chatting until we decided it was time to get some sleep. And sleep we did. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience (sharing a tent with the 3 children felt a little bit claustrophobic as the older ones are wriggle bums quite used to having their own space) but generally it wasn’t all bad. Through the night we had some rain and when I woke needing the toilet I was worried I was going to get soaked. I needn’t have worried, what sounded torrential outside the tent in reality was no more than a fairly heavy drizzle and despite that the morning was looking to be fairly pleasant, 5 am and the birds were singing.

The second day was kick started with a breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked without pots and pans and then the activities began. We started with some tree identification using leaves and bark and looking at what different trees are used for. Followed by making whistles, again more sharp knife work. We had a lunch of more bacon and the children decided that this wasn’t enough and they tried to dig up some burdock to go with it but gave up as the clay based ground was too tough and hard to dig through. We did some more wood splitting and worked on fire lighting with flint and steels and friction fires. I was shown how to carve a spoon and gave it a good go using an axe and a knife (It was finished for me as small woke up from his nap and needed looking after) The children were able to make some clay faces and explore and play while I packed up the tents and got everything packed ready for the walk back to the car.

Small loved sleeping in the tent, he was sad to see me take it down and I am looking forward to camping out more with him now that I am feeling that bit more confident.

All in all it was a brilliant, fun and educational experience and one that wont be forgotten in a hurry. I would always recommend to anyone, just get out there. Explore and enjoy the outdoors. If you’re not sure, then pitch a tent in a garden and just try it out. There is so so much to learn!

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