I survived survival school

Back in July 2019 I went on a Vision Quest, which included 4 nights solo time in a wood with just a tarp.  Wild camping indeed! No idea on what I was doing, but always up to learn something new, I’ve been looking to take things further.

Closing my Vision Quest after a year, and then 12 days as camp assistant on another Vision Quest lead me to feeling so much better about the outside life, walking barefoot, being more knowledgeable about tarp erection and thinking I want to get into wild camping.

So, I decided to do a bushcraft course. Only looking in early September and 8 days later I was parked up. 5 of us on the course, and we were escorted to the camp.  I expected a walk from a car park, but it was a hike, climbing over a fence and a steep climb to the base camp.  If only I’d known I would have taken my walking poles.

This was an accredited Level 2 Bushcraft, Survival and Wilderness Livings Skills Course. I’m used to being told that courses are intense, and they aren’t, but this time … we had very little spare time and it was physically demanding.

First evening we started with a safety briefing, learned about how to use knives and a folding saw, made a tent peg, and then prepared a pigeon for an evening meal.  This was in the dark, just using head torches. The pigeon was feathered, so we had to do everything to prepare for the pot, and all by hand, we didn’t use a knife, that would be too easy.  Not done yet, we still had to put up our shelter for the night, using a tarp. On my Vision Quest I’d used rope, this time we used bungies which made things much easier.  I thought I would have to make more tent pegs but luckily, I was given them.  Not a great nights’ sleep, we were on a slope, so although warm in my sleeping bag and hat, it was a struggle to get out of the shelter to go to the loo in the night and I kept slipping down.

On Saturday we learnt to make ‘damper bread’ and cooked it on the open fire and had it with bacon and egg. We did more work with knives, making our own mallet and more tent pegs, learning how to strip bark, create bevels etc. Lunch today was sea bass so more meal preparation, taking a fish and learning how to remove the internal bits and end up with just the fillets.

We also learned about setting traps and snares, water, preparation, and some fire lighting. Tracking was interesting, learning how animals have ‘roadways’ and what time of day they are most active. Over the course of the weekend we learned how to use tinder, bow saws and more. Straight after lunch and we had to prepare rabbit for our evening meal, mainly using our hands, and minimal use of a knife. 

Next was to build a natural shelter, to learn how to create a shelter using branches and brush.  We didn’t have time to fully build it so once we had the structure in place, we used a tarp and then started to cover it with brush. It was really hard work, the branches were heavy, and I hadn’t slept well. 

Our final task was to learn how to make cordage from natural fibres. I slept even worse this evening, although warmer I never got comfortable.  I used the place that was suggested to me, out on my own I’d have made time to find level ground, but it was just one final night.

Sunday, and woke tired, I’m not sure how much sleep I got, but I do like listening to the sounds of the wood. More bread making for breakfast and we learned more about knife law.  The knives we are using are not legal to use, but essential for bushcraft activity, so we need to keep them safe. I would have a good reason for my knife if stopped but don’t want to put myself at risk of being prosecuted. Today we learned more about foraging, and plant and tree identification.  We also learned about natural navigation.  This really fascinated me – what food we can eat and the best parts to eat.

We finished at 2pm, and I was shattered, a very physically demanding course, but I survived survival school!  

A couple of nights at home and then off to Wales for a wild camping trip – putting into practice much of what we learned. Making a fire using flint and steel was challenging, but we did it. We mainly cooked over the open fire, and used a tarp well. Two more nights in my own bed and I’m feeling awake and refreshed. Can’t wait to do it again.

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