Alone in the woods...
- By Helen Craig -
- Jul 13, 2012
Have you ever wondered how you would survive if you were left alone in the woods? If like me you are a wannabe Bear Grylls but don’t fancy just relying on the weird and sometimes disgusting tips from his TV show, then this experience could be the perfect answer...
Setting off from London on the 6am train, I headed off to the deepest darkest depths of the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. After a safety briefing, our group headed off into the private woodland to learn the basics of bushcraft and survival.
We started by learning how to carve wood, use knives safely and were shown how to build two different types of shelter, without using any sort of binding. Next it was our turn to give it a go and build a wind and waterproof shelter, just using the materials around us. This course certainly isn’t for the work shy as everyone has to muck in to get it done. At first it was hard to see how just branches and bracken would come together into anything that I would want to shelter in, but once we had finished, it actually felt quite cosy. The sense of achievement once it was complete was great and even though the group had only just met, I felt we had bonded over our creations.
Next up, was the really exciting bit – making fire!!
We were shown a range a techniques ranging from using a flint striker (look them up – they are amazing!) all the way back to a flint and steel, as well as using bow and drill. The above video shows just how it’s done, once you have your small burning ember.
The instructors gave excellent tuition and had lots of time and patience for us all to get it very wrong, until as if by magic, we got it spectacularly right! Being able to create fire from just two unassuming solid objects feels incredible and is a lot harder than it looks.
By explaining the logic and science behind this prehistoric act, I now feel confident to try this on my own but I also appreciate how difficult it must be in a survival situation. The first time I used the flint striker, it worked perfectly but my second attempt took what seemed like forever - even if you think you’re doing everything right, it can sometime just take time, practice and a little bit of luck.
But of course building a shelter and making fire is only the start of being able to enjoy and survive the great outdoors. Being able to understand what resources there are around the woods is vital and knowing what not to eat is even more important. Until I went on this course I had no idea that you can’t survive on a diet of just rabbits, or how everyday pretty looking plants like the foxglove are lethal.
Our guides again explained all the reasons behind this as well as pointing out the tastiest nibbles that can be found – hawthorn jelly anyone? Although I was slightly apprehensive about eat stinging nettles, after watching the youngest member of our group give it a go, I thought I better man up and try. Surprisingly - they were actually pretty good and I didn’t get stung at all.
By the end of the day, I started looking at things completely differently as we walked through the woods. Something I would have glanced at before and thought “ahhh, that looks pretty” suddenly became “mmmm, that looks like lunch.”
The day was exhausting but I learnt so much – only wish I could have stayed for the whole night and camped out.
If you are looking for an unusual experience that helps you to understand your amazing natural environment and lets you bring out your inner survival instinct, then head to Virgin Experience Days and sign up for their Survival & Bushcraft Weekend.