If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Or at least you might be if your bushcraft skills aren’t up to scratch. Luckily Cotswold Adventures have recently launched a series of bushcraft courses at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park. Sarah and I were thrilled to be invited along to sharpen our skills on their inaugural course with Adam and a group of other local bloggers.
A word from Adam Henson
You might at this point be wondering if Cotswold Adventures bushcraft course is really for you or your kids? Here’s Adam explaining, far better than we could, why he believes getting outdoors is so important:
After a quick cup of tea on arrival, we set off on the short walk to base camp. On the way Jose and Tim, our two friendly instructors, pointed out various objects of interest. We learnt how to tell whether deer prints are male or female, which plants make tasty snacks and how to tell if a plant is poisonous. There was also a great opportunity to test stinging nettle cures when one of the kids stung himself and burst into tears. I won’t spoil the secret but Jose leapt into action; after crushing the leaves of a surprising plant and rubbing them onto the sting, the cries stopped almost instantaneously. No more hunting for a dock leaf ever again! We then arrived at camp where we had another cuppa around a roaring fire to get us warmed up and ready to go.
As it was raining, it seemed apt to make building shelters our first priority. Whilst this is good survival practice anyway, it also proved to be a great icebreaker. All the kids and adults happily pitched in to make themselves A Frame shelters, propping up sticks and chucking on leaves. It was also a great chance to practice safe sawing skills and for Sarah to share a shelter with the other Adam!
Having worked up an appetite, everyone was rather keen for lunch. But this being a bushcraft workshop, it wasn’t going to be handed to us on a plate; enter Jose with a cooler box full of freshly shot pigeons. After a quick talk about how to tell if the meat is ok to eat, Jose demonstrated a knife free way to butcher the pigeon, leaving just the breast meat ready to be chopped up. Whilst a few people were a tad squeamish to start with, I think that it is so important to learn about where your food comes from and this was the perfect way to do it. Everybody soon got stuck in and we quickly had a pile of meat ready to be cooked. At this point, we were all very pleased to learn a quick and simple soap-free tip for cleaning your hands in the wild.
We cooked the pigeon in a dutch oven over the roaring campfire, with the kids enjoying getting involved in prepping the vegetables and stirring with some lovely hand carved spoons. These were then turned into pigeon fajitas…I can’t say that I have seen them on any local menus but they were delicious and definitely something I would make again at home.
Nowadays, it is all too easy to assume Google Maps will guide you safely to your intended destination. But what if you lose signal, your phone runs out of battery or the dreaded cracked screen strikes? Would you know how to find your way? I am happy with a map and compass but as I don’t tend to carry these in my back pocket, it was great to learn some tips from Jose and Tim during our walk to base camp. When you know what to look for, it is surprising how many signposts nature provides; city dwellers can even use TV aerials!
Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink! Whilst we certainly take water for granted in this country, if someone turned off all the taps, I wonder how long most people would survive? Sure there are rivers and ponds, but they will likely make you sick and you will end up dehydrated. Earlier, Tim and Jose pointed out some of the signs that water is around, notably the presence of water-loving plants. It’s no good gathering water if it isn’t safe to drink though, so handily they took us through a range of purification methods, from the mechanical to the chemical to socks and plants (it isn’t strictly necessary but it probably helps if they have been washed first!).
After lunch, we learnt to make fire the natural way. Whilst you’ve probably seen Bear Grylls or someone on The Island make a fire by rubbing two sticks together, Jose and Tim were quick to point out that it is actually pretty tricky and not the easiest way even for professionals. Instead, we learnt other methods and spent time with a fire steel practising on different natural tinder. If you know what you are looking for, there are a surprising number of flammable objects in the woods!
Before we said our goodbyes, there was just time to carve ourselves a handy wooden butter knife. Whilst ours might not have looked all that pretty, some of the kids did amazingly well and showed us up. This session was really useful as we learnt plenty of safe knife techniques. I’ve spent loads of time around knives and am really confident but Sarah is rather accident prone. Whilst no method is perfectly safe, their techniques made it virtually impossible to cut yourself and everyone felt comfortable carving.
Where can I find out more about Cotswold Adventures?
Sarah and I had a great time on the Cotswold Adventures course and would thoroughly recommend it. It would be especially great for bonding with your children although they are also running adults only courses. Whilst we may not need these skills on a daily basis, we learnt plenty and they are surprisingly useful. I rustled up a mid-morning snack of fresh stinging nettles whilst we were out the other day, without stinging myself. How cool is that?!
Check out the Cotswold Adventures website for more information. Courses start from £75 for adults and £50 for kids, and run from now until the end of September. There are also 24 hour courses for the more hardy amongst you.