Cotswold Adventures is the brand new Bushcraft day that takes place in the stunning Cotswold hills. The course, developed by Adam Henson and his team from Cotswold Farm Park promises...
"An unforgettable journey of self-discovery. Bushcraft is a great leveller. Awaken your senses and learn more about yourself. Explore the boundaries of your comfort zone and return home with rosy cheeks, lungs full of fresh air and a sense of achievement. You are never too old to play outside."
Which sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday. My daughter and I couldn't wait to attend a couple of weeks ago, particularly when we discovered that Adam would be joining our group too!
This full day course runs from 9-5 allowing for a really comprehensive introduction to bushcraft and the opportunity to immerse yourself totally in the experience. Guided by two really fun instructors, everything is provided. You just need to take yourself, your sense of adventure and perhaps a camera if you want a record of the day.
We started with a foraging walk across the fields into the ancient woodland where the bushcraft camp is situated. Giving lots of time for questions and discussion, our two instructors pointed out which plants should be avoided, and which are medicinal, useful, or can be eaten. Despite the instructors clearly having a great depth of knowledge, the information was shared in a way to make it useful for the whole group. Whether new to foraging or already having a grounding in it like me, you will learn something new. It was lovely to spend time weaving our way through the trees handling plants and discussing their uses. This hands-on, relaxed approach set the tone for the entire day, and everyone, whatever their age or experience was encouraged to take part and try things out.
We were a mixed group of adults and children. The instructors immediately impressed the kids when one stung himself on a stinging nettle and was quickly taught how to treat the sting with not one but three plants! Many of you will remember scrunching up dock leaves to extract their juice to put on a sting. It turns out that cleavers (sticky weed) work better, and the juice from the stinging nettle better still. My daughter was so impressed by her new found knowledge she deliberately stung herself so she could crush up nettle leaves and try it out, and happily reported back that it really does work.
Once we had arrived at the beautiful bushcraft camp that was to be our base for the day and had checked out the very picturesque wild toilet, we settled down to a welcome cup of tea. It was then time for a safety talk about using knives and saws before we started our next activity.
Shelter building was next on the agenda, and this turned out to be my daughter's favourite activity. Our instructors demonstrated how to build two styles of shelter; a 'lean to' shelter and an 'A frame' shelter. Following the demonstration, it was our turn to have a go, and I must say we were delighted with our results. Working together was a great opportunity to get to know the rest of the course attendees, and by the time our shelter was built everyone had become firm friends.
Preparing and cooking wild food for lunch
The mention of lunch got everyone's attention. so we all moved on to the next activity eagerly. Learning how to butcher a pigeon without a knife was a new skill for everyone. Again we started with a comprehensive demonstration, including checking for signs that our birds were healthy and suitable for eating. Starting off a little gingerly, it wasn't long before we all got the hang of it and we soon had an impressive pile of pigeon breast, ready to be cooked. After learning another great tip of using soil to help clean our hands, it was back to the campfire to get lunch on.
We love cooking over a fire, but I must admit seeing the set up at the Cotswold Adventures camp, I came away with campfire cooking envy. The suspended dutch ovens and hand-carved utensils have both been added our must-have list, and we really would love to develop our own camp at home for us all to use. My daughter loved cooking the pigeon over the fire, only reluctantly moving away to give others a turn when they came over. Since our bushcraft day, she has been informing anyone who will listen how amazing pigeon tastes. I have to say munching pigeon fajita's in such a beautiful setting did make for a wonderful lunch.
The water-sourcing session built on the knowledge we had already picked up during our foraging walk when our instructors had pointed out some of the water-loving plants. As well as covering different methods of sourcing water, we were given lots of different ideas for purifying it. Covering everything from the specialist equipment you can carry with you to making your own filtration system using a sock and wild plants, this was another activity that I had very little prior knowledge of and learned heaps.
Our final activity at the camp was whittling a butter knife. My daughter has never had the opportunity to try wood carving before and absolutely loved this activity. There is something mesmerising about shaving wood off a stick, and we spent a very happy hour trying to recreate the wonderful knives that we had been shown. My daughter is hugely proud of the knife she whittled. It has been in for show and tell and she has since added a grip to the handle.
The walk back through the woods at the end of our day covered the basics of navigation without using a compass. We learned how to read the plants and trees within a landscape to get our bearings. We were shown a lichen that is coloured bright yellow on the south facing side of a wooden gate, while it grows silver on the north side. Here in the UK, our winds are usually south-west prevailing, so by observing the way trees are shaped is another quick visual way to orientate yourself. These simple, easy to digest gems of knowledge really sum up what this bushcraft course offered. We learned so much, all by just spending time outside in the woods.
We had a fantastic day out with Cotswold Adventures. Whatever your age, learning bushcraft skills will increase your confidence and give you a sense of achievement. You can find out more about the Cotswold Adventure bushcraft course on their website.
Thanks to Adam and his team for inviting us to try out their bushcraft day, and to our wonderful instructors Jose and Tim for their patience and good humour - we had an amazing day and learned loads!