Yorkshire: Little Dear Woods ~ A Revisit

In my previous post about Little Dear Woods an Outdoors Centre in Mirfield, West Yorkshire I did say I would be back and I have – The theme for this visit? Bushcraft!

Over Christmas 2015, parts of Yorkshire and other parts of the UK were affected by serious flooding after continous heavy rainfall with little stoppage in rain over days to allow land to dry. Rivers and lakes burst their banks causing signifcant damage to homes and businesses with still much recovery still to do at the time of writing (May 2016). Little Dear Woods was no exception, the facilities under 3ft of water on Boxing Day with staff members being able to canoe all over the property accessing the damage. At the time of our visit (March 2016 – Yes, a bit of a delay but didn’t want to interrupt the Budapest posts!), the centre was open for business and whilst parts of the centres such as the climbing wall etc were still out of bounds it was clear that the staff had put in a lot of hard work to make the business operational again.

Our bushcraft session consisted of three activities which you can learn more about below:

 

Activity 1 – Making Fire for the Kelly Kettle

Ah, making fire – An interesting topic! So many resources, ways to do it and how to do it yet even the most experienced even struggle in all conditions even the right ones. I have soent many summers building fires exploring different methods, trying new ideas, sharing other people’s ideas and experiences – This is sometimes a blessing and a curse.

Any how… Today’s aim was create a fire within the base of a kelly kettle to boil the hot water within to make hot drinks for later in the afternoon. Kelly kettles are a great piece of kit in my opinion that I have used in the past and yet again, I digress…

With a fire steel and some cotton wool our group was shown how to use this former listed item as well as the best way to use the cotton wool by teasing it out slowly so their is a higher surface area for fire sparks to catch it. After successful attempts at this in pairs, we moved on to try adding vasoline to the cotton wool (remember to wash your hands of the vasoline before you try to light), as well as trying silver birch bark and bullrush with and without cotton wool. Silver birch bark is great almost better than paper to start a fire due to the oils in the bark, whilst bullrush is an extremely poor in lighting if at all BUT only when used on its own. When bullrush is placed on top of the teased out cotton wool and both materials alight, the materials burn a lot longer than they would normally individually which is great when you need to start building that fire slowly bigger and bigger.

Using a combination of cotton wool, silver birch bark and small sticks to use in the base of the kelly kettle once we got a small fire going we placed the top of the kelly kettle over the base and started to add sticks gradually increasing in lengths through the hole in the top of the kettle whilst adding needed air through the base by blowing. It took both groups a while to get going but their was a great sense relief when the fire truly takes hold and within 5 minutes the water begins to boil.

Activity Two – Atlatl (Spear-Thrower)

Letting the kelly kettles to breathe, we moved onto our next activity which required us to look around the grounds for long sticks, one per person to make an Atlatl (a spear-thrower) which using a sharp blade would wittle an edge pointed enough to fit into the end of a cane to throw over distances. After a health and safety demonstration about how to use the knife, we got to work and I have to say I was very proud of mine as working with woods and knives is something I have had very little experience with.

Once we had all finished it was spear-throwing time!! Going to a clear area set aside at Little Dear Woods for such an activity, we all took turns attempting to use our Atlatl’s to throw a bamboo cane over a field using the tradition method and it isn’t easy to throw it at a great distance, but as we practised more and more we made slow increases in our throws.

Activity 3 – Marshmellows

To finish our activity session off it naturally had to end with hot drinks and roasting marshmellows over an open fire. Using the hot water from the kelly kettles we had used earlier in the fire making activity, it was a nice end to a pleasant day – Shame about the unpredictable weather but hey ho, that is the UK for you!

 

The question is now… what adventure shall we carry out with Little Dear Woods next?

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