The wonderful world of Bushcraft (with a little help from Big Hat Bushcamp)

The time has come for us to abandon the comforts of our living rooms and tentatively look to the outside world. It might be a struggle to prise children, and indeed adults, away from their most precious digital items and once again sample what actual, real life has to offer let alone think about adventures such as trying bushcraft. But it is time to (safely) get out there.

Bushcraft - den building

The good news is that you do not have to go far to experience the joys of outdoor living with your family. Whether you are simply looking for a dose of fresh air, a glimpse of wildlife or some breathtaking scenery, it is all there on our doorsteps just waiting to be discovered. And if you want to go further afield, from the 4th July, we could finally go on camping and glamping holidays in England, in Scotland from 3rd July for those with their own self-contained accommodation (i.e. own shower/toilet) and similarly in Wales from 11th July. Have a look at our directory for a few ideas of lovely places to go.

Now, homeschooling during lockdown has led many of us to the uncomfortable realisation that we are distinctly average teachers with particularly low anxiety and anger thresholds. From the battles over online classrooms versus YouTube, to the mental breakdown a single sum can induce to the 5 minutes of painting followed by the hour long clean up – we are more than ready to hand the reins back over to the experts and in desperate need of a break. With several months to go until the proposed return of all school children in September, some may be looking for alternative educational opportunities to make up for our woeful attempts.

Just hanging around

 

Well, in the “outdoors classroom”, there are invaluable educational benefits to be found. From the simple and almost intuitive conundrums, like tackling an overgrowth of undergrowth and an obstacle course of fallen trees and puddles to making your own shelters or dens. Children are being inspired by TV survivalists such as Bear Grylls to get outside and give bushcraft a go themselves. Anything that gets kids excited about venturing into the fresh air for a few hours is surely a good thing. But this isn’t about training the next generation to survive the apocalypse (even if it feels like we are in the middle of one), this is about families enjoying the benefits of nature, learning new skills and garnering a deep respect for the natural world around them.

Den building

 

Some parents are happy to give bushcraft a go and perhaps have some distant memories of Scouts or Guides to draw upon, but other families might feel out of their depth and unsure where to start. For those families, a bit of help would go a long way. Ian from the Big Hat Bushcamp is a keen advocate of the full range of benefits that bushcraft can bring citing that “skills of communication, teamwork and leadership flourish” and that “children and adults draw more and more confidence.” He currently offers courses at his Surrey base for family groups – ensuring they are Covid-safe. This could be a great day out whether as a one off or as part of a planned holiday.

Wood whittling

 

Ian has a wealth of experience and is always keen to help, so came up with a few tips to help you get your family started in the great outdoors;

1) Dress yourself for the beautiful British climate. Someone very wise once said “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.

2) Find somewhere with trees. These places look green on Google maps.

3) As a family, decide on your adventure for the day. Start with something easy, like jumping in every puddle between the car park and the top of the hill, or building a shelter using only sticks and foliage. You can work your way up to actually sleeping out in it and cooking up a three-course meal in a hole in the ground.

4) Find out what’s going on around you. Bushcraft courses for families and beautiful wild camping sites can be found around the country – just check about their Covid-19 booking arrangements. There’s no need to be shy; they exist to help indoor people become outdoor people and tend to be run by some of the friendliest of folk. Why wouldn’t they be friendly and happy when they get to work outdoors?

5) Get on YouTube. Outdoorsy bushcrafty types love posting videos showing how to do all the awesome things they do outdoors.

6) Try all those things. (Note: always check permissions for things such as lighting fires and take the utmost care to put them out fully afterwards.)

7) Let us know how it works out for you; go to the Big Hat Bushcamp Facebook Page to post photos and videos of yourselves doing all the #awesomethingsyoudooutdoors.

Campfire cooking

 

If this has inspired you to have a go, why not contact Ian for more information about his family bushcraft courses?

Thank you to Ian, Big Hat Bushcamp for his contribution to this blog.

Why go Camping in 2020?

Park Foot

Well, 2020 has been fun so far hasn’t it?

Hmm, that might be stretching it somewhat! What with Australia burning, endless Brexit, a global pandemic and mass civil unrest to mention just a few of the fun times we have faced this year, you feel like ripping the year up and starting again at 2021! However, here we are, managing as best as we can with more than half of the year left to limp through. So, whilst Covid-19 is still raging, why on earth would we want to go camping in 2020?

Well, the fact remains that camping or glamping are simply the best types of holiday full stop (not at all biased). Many people are so committed that they have even camped during lockdown! No, not by breaking any rules but by the beauty that is…

1. Camping at home

Who else can remember the excitement of camping in your garden as a child? Well, camping at home became a thing this year and looks set to continue through the summer. Whether camping indoors, in gardens, on balconies and even on a trampoline – camping can happen anywhere with whatever equipment you have. Kids find it magical and it’s a real chance for family bonding and fun. You might even break a world record! Our family took part in the Scouts’ #CampAtHome record on 30th April and we couldn’t get the kids out of their shoddy blanket tent for another week!

For those that are desperate to get away from it all when camping in 2020 but simply cannot or do not want to whilst the threat of Covid-19 remains, why not try glamping at home? Tinkers Bells usually provide their gorgeous bell tents for use at weddings, festivals and other large social gatherings, so obviously, their business took a huge hit in the last few months. But have they come up with the perfect solution? After their initial shock, they took stock and diversified sublimely to now provide garden glamping whether you want the ultimate staycation, celebrate a birthday, anniversary or just have a change from your own Groundhog Day. You will be provided with a simply fabulous 7ft bell tent fully erected and furnished to your request in the safe confines of your own garden. Ali and Darren are wonderfully friendly to deal with and you can expect professional, meticulous standards.

Camping in 2020 - Garden Glamping
Garden Glamping with Tinker’s Bells

2. This Beautiful Country

For those that do wish to venture further for camping in 2020, without the pressure to go abroad, it is the perfect opportunity to explore this beautiful country. From the rolling hills of Devon at Langstone Manor Park to the stunning lakes of Cumbria at Park Foot Holiday Park , we are incredibly fortunate to have such diverse landscapes and fabulous campsites to view them in comfort. It might also be a chance to discover new parts of the coastline that you would not normally visit such as the sand expanses of Suffolk whilst staying at Haw Wood Farm. Or you might to choose to venture inland and meander through the picturesque villages of the Cotswolds whilst relaxing at Cotswolds Camping.

Camping in 2020 - Haw Wood Farm
Camping in Suffolk at Haw Wood Farm

It goes without saying that camping in 2020 and any exploring needs to be done particularly responsibly at this time – talk to your campsite owners about different places to go where crowding should not be an issue and report any evidence of the recent mob madness of leaving litter everywhere!

3. Change of Scenery

Most of us are proud of but thoroughly bored of our herbaceous borders, new fence, seats made out of pallets, fairy gardens, mud kitchens and other lockdown classics and simply need to see something/somewhere else. A fantastic site to explore the dramatic Jurassic Coast is The Dorset Hideaway who have come up with a comprehensive Coronavirus policy to ensure the safety of their guests whether camping, caravanning or in one of their fabulous glamping options.Camping in 2020 - Dorset Hideaway

Feeding the ducks at The Dorset Hideaway

Perhaps you are feeling adventurous about the type of accommodation you seek and decide to go for something really different like a Hobbit Hole in Hertfordshire, courtesy of Guilden Gate Glamping.

Hobbit Hole at Guilden Gate
The Hobbit hole at The Guilden Gate Glamping

4. Budget Friendly

David at Yurtcamp Devon, believes that camping or glamping could be the perfect holiday to turn to this year as many will be very wary of travelling overseas, and will be looking for a more budget friendly option to get away. Let’s face it, you immediately do away with expensive air fares and the costlier hotels, not to mention car hire, etc. And although prices may have to rise a little this year to take account of the additional changes campsites have to make, you still get incredible value for money. For example, you can camp in Cornwall at the picturesque Lower Penderleath Campsite for as little as £9.50/night/adult or in Somerset at Withy Water from just £10/tent (adult only).

Camping in 2020 - Lower Penderleath
Cornish camping at Lower Penderleath

5. Less People

There is no doubt that our holidays will look different this year and that campsites will have to limit numbers in order to ensure greater spacing. This is likely to mean that you will need to book in advance rather than turning up and hoping so you will need to be organised this year! The greater space will help to maintain social distancing and thus increase your peace of mind. It could also mean that camping in 2020 might be perfect for those who struggle with places that get too “peopley”.  The spacious site at Hale Farm, East Sussex has no set pitches, thus allowing plenty of space between tents and benefits from a separate glamping area. Similarly, Longacres Camping is set in 30 acres of peaceful Surrey countryside and offers different areas and fields to suit different tastes, ensuring campers can spread out with ease.

Camping in 2020 - Hale Farm
The huge fields at Hale Farm

6. Self-Contained Accommodation

You will be safe within your own family bubble whether in a tent, caravan or glamping option such as bell tent or yurt. Plus, the beauty of camp and glamping sites is that most have their own grounds and facilities. This means campers don’t have to worry about crowding local beauty spots, finding a car parking space and figuring out where to buy food. For example, at Yurtcamp Devon, there are 40 acres of beautiful woodland ready for exploration. You can easily return to your yurt for an open fire cooked feast, or a meal prepared inside your yurt given that you have full cooking facilities as well a cosy log burner. In addition, their onsite Woodland Café will be open for take out at least.

Yurtcamp Devon
Cafe at Yurtcamp Devon

For those with caravans or motorhomes, you might decide to opt for the wilderness of the Yorkshire Dales and venture to Thornton Hall Country Park. Here, Chris and Emma have diversified their onsite Farm Park into a Farm Safari Drive Thru to keep all their guests safe but still provide a change of routine. They also have quad biking available, ensuring each session is everyone from the same household with all helmets and gloves disinfected after use.

7. Mental and Physical Health

The good news about camping is that you will be in the fresh air, which we know lowers the risk of transmission of coronavirus, hence why some schools have adopted outdoor classrooms and why socially distanced small meet ups are now permitted as long as they are outdoors.

For those that need a touch of luxury to assist their mental health, The simply amazing range of glamping accommodation at Longberry Farm in the Garden of England, Kent is guaranteed to help you unwind and forget about your problems.

Ian from Big Hat Bushcamp, Devon is a firm advocate of the health benefits of nature particularly in this digital age. His business is another that has been hit by the Covid-19 outbreak and has pivoted to offer single-household bushcraft sessions. These provide excellent problem-solving challenges and allow families to develop confidence, teamwork and leadership skills as well as learning survival techniques in the fresh air. And do not fear, as they are run by the friendliest of folk, keen to help you understand and be happy.

After weeks spent at the beck and call of electronic devices, a bit of “cold turkey” wouldn’t go amiss. It would certainly help people’s battered mental health.

Big Hat Bush Camp
Camp fire cooking at Big Hat Bush Camp

With all this on offer, camping in 2020 might not be so bad after all!