Post lockdown Bushcraft day in the woods

It was great to be out in the woods again! As a teacher I could feel the rustiness of my teaching practice grinding up to speed as it changed gears to become what it should be, thanks lockdown (sarcastic emphasis added). By the end of the day, I thought I was just about on point again, and wished I had another day on survival camp to hone some skills. 

My inadequacies aside, the kids were amazing! They remembered a number of poisonous plants from last years work including fox glove and hemlock and we introduced more flora, such as the beautiful bright green colours of Wood and Sun Spurge. There are over 1600 species in its genus (Euphorbias), far too many to remember! The students quickly knew to not just pick and eat everything around them as I explained that the spurges can kill if its white sticky poison, phytotoxin is ingested! None of us had any warts or verruca’s to blob it onto so that was that. 

The rest of the day was spent in the delightful spring warmth. Carving spoons and later roasting marshmallows over a fire that they had prepped and tried to light using only natural gathered materials from the woods. The tinder bundle was good and the kindling was neatly piled, carefully collected from the trees and nothing picked from the ground. This time they didn’t quite light it without assistance; Sam helped with some ‘fat wood’ he found nearby, the pupils were amazed to see where it came from and how it burnt, as it was a new resource and technique for them. That’s my favourite part, when the students really love a new bit of learning and get super excited about it.

The marshmallows got gooey and burnt, and after the fire died, a whole bunch of sticky fingers walked their way back across the beautiful school grounds to the school for the end of the day. 

Two uses for Pine Pitch

Birch Bark cup – sealing using pine pitch

The cup is now finished and it has been sealed using Pine pitch. Pine pitch is the resinous substance that heals wounds and exposure from broken bark on a Pine tree. In these pictures you can see I had previously melted and moulded the pitch around a stick for storage purposes. I have now combined it with with ash to bind it together and make a durable natural glue This has been applied to the base of the cup and where the bark is woven together.

Outcome after testing: It is not 100% waterproof but it still works as drinking vessel as the rate of water loss is slow compared to the speed at which you would drink water. Perfectly useable and all made from materials found in the woods.

Nature has many wonderful resources that our ancient ancestors knew so much about and used it their daily lives. Knowledge of what nature has to offer can be life saving in certain circumstances and it can also be a joy to learn about and engage with in times of safety and prosperity.

Fatwood for fire

May be an image of woodwork

Fatwood – nature’s best fire lighting material. Fatwood is also known as lighter wood, pine knot, lighter knot, or heart pine. Fatwood is the resinous remains of a pine tree that has died. When a pine tree dies, either upright or fallen, the sap settles into the heartwood of the branches and trunk. As the tree rots the sap hardens into resin soaked wood, this is the fatwood.

The best spots to find it is where the branches attach to the trunk or the roots if the tree remained standing for a while. It is also distinguished by its strong turpentine smell. #bushcraft #survival #wildernessskills #fire #firelight #fatwood #tindermaterial

Check out more with Sam’s video on how to make the best of fatwood…

Christmas Bushcraft Bash at Reddam House School 2020

Nestled in an ancient woodland lies Reddam house school, a Hogwart-esque building with the grandeur of a sizeable stately home. The perfect location to host a bushcraft camp for the pupils leading up to Christmas. Typically, the build up to Christmas is quiet for Polaris Outdoor on the schools front as they are winding up to the end of term and is in most cases the busiest time of their year. However, 2020 was not like any other year as we all know and the pupils were in desperate need of some outdoor fun and epic adventures.

What a fantastic week we had with Reddam house! It was high energy for almost every minute of every day. The youngest in attendance was 4 and the oldest was 13 so we catered for a  wide range of capabilities every day. What impressed us most about the students was their ability to mingle across the age groups and support one another. We had particular student stood out as being exceptionally helpful throughout the whole week. Plus another whose passion and commitment to learning new skills was exemplary and infectious – such a curious little bean. 

This was a fabulous week to remember and the students enjoyed it so much we have been asked back again for Easter to run another week which we are looking forward to. This occasion will be progressive for the pupils and they will build upon the skills they have already learnt. Among some of those skills are: fire lighting and sourcing materials and fuel, foraging, search and rescue, first aid, Spoon carving and more.

Take a look at the below video to see some of the highlights of the week: