Updated 10th June 2021
Halfway through the unfortunate experience called 2020, the time came for us to abandon the comforts of our living rooms and tentatively look to the outside world. Homeschooling during lockdown led many of us to the uncomfortable realisation that we were 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 were more than ready to hand the reins back over to the experts.
However, it was a struggle to prise children, and indeed adults, away from their most precious digital items and once again sample what actual, real life had to offer. We also came to realise that many children missed out on valuable time with their peers, time outdoors and experiences in nature. So it led us to think about providing authentic outdoor experiences for our children and activities such as bushcraft and camping experienced a surge of interest.
This is because 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. It has the added benefit of contributing positively to mental and physical health – hugely important at any time but particularly during these strange times we are currently experiencing.
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.
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.
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.