Bushcraft is the art of living in a natural environment, using the resources that it provides. With the right skills and knowledge, not only can you survive outdoors, but, in fact, live very comfortably indeed. Bushcraft covers a range of competencies including fire lighting and cooking, shelter building, plant identification and uses, navigation, hunting and fishing, cord making, water sourcing and much more. Every natural environment is unique, governed by climate, geology and its history amongst other things. Consequently, you can only learn so much from a book. To really master bushcraft you need to get outside and try it for yourself.
Over the summer we were fortunate to spend five days at the Wilderness Gathering, The Wilderness Gathering is the oldest running bushcraft festival in the UK. Set in the stunning Wiltshire countryside at the Bush Farm Bison Centre, the festival really is a gathering of some of the most knowledgeable and skilled bushcraftsman from both the UK and further afield.
A combination of workshops, demonstrations and masterclasses were on offer in a huge range of bushcraft skills. Everything from skinning a deer and curing fish skin to making cordage and boat making. There was an incredible array of things to do, and new skills to try. One highlight for us as a family was a three-hour flint-knapping masterclass with Will Lord. Will is a leading expert on prehistoric survival skills and he, and his lovely wife are truly inspiring. I'd have happily stayed in their atmospheric tent for the duration of the gathering!
The Wilderness Gathering really is a celebration of bushcraft. Everyone there was happy to chat, share their knowledge and learn from the other participants. The festival has an underpinning theme of experimental archaeology as methods and theories are tried out and tested. Each instructor had an in-depth knowledge of the skills they displayed, including methods used in different parts of the world, as well as a historical perspective. It really opened our eyes to how primitive man managed to thrive in his environment. The beauty and intricacy of artistry exhibited showed that they did far more than just survive.
We came home from the Gathering inspired, rejuvenated and with new skills to practice. Thank you to everyone who took so much time to explain their craft to us. Bushcraft is something that everyone can learn, and we can't wait to share some of our new techniques with you over the coming weeks. If you'd like to know more about next years Wilderness Gathering, you can find all the details on their website.