Learning survival skills in Wales

Monday 28 March 2011

It’s not everyday I find myself bushcrafting in the middle of the Gower Forest in South Wales but there I was – with nothing but two chunks of wood – attempting to start a fire the way prehistoric men did. This full-day Wilderness Survival Course conducted by Dryad Bushcrafting is aimed at teaching me and my travel mates basic skills and techniques of bushcrafting. So what is bushcrafting? Andrew Price, the young founder and head instructor of the outfitter, tells us, “Our aim is to teach people how to live in the outdoors and use our environment to sustain our lives. It does not require supernatural abilities, all you need is a practical understanding of the basic principles of bushcraft. This will enable you to adapt confidently to any environment.”

Dryad Bushcraft was started a few years ago with funding from the Welsh assembly sustainable development fund. Activities include fire lighting, fungi forage, primitive and modern traps and tracking techniques and many other subjects.

Man vs. Wild

Earlier that morning, we had driven towards Swansea, Southwest Wales to get to Gower. This particular part of Southwest Wales was designated Britain’s first area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) on the 9th of May 1956. We started our day off with a stop at the Gower Heritage Center and a Neolithic period burial ground. After catching a glimpse into the rural Welsh lifestyle, we headed out into the woods, geared for some ‘Man vs Wild’ action. Foraging through the thick foliage of the Gower Woods, we chance upon raspberries, meadowsweets and willow plants. Rick, our instructor, plucks a thorny leaf and chucks it into his mouth. Surprisingly, his tongue remains unscath. As we thread through the forest, Rick explains the use of each plant and how some can serve as medication or just to fill our stomachs.

wild berries in Gower forest

Making Fire From Scratch

After a series of explanations and demonstrations, we are presented with our first task: making fire with two sticks of wood. With my knee pressed against a slab of wood, I summon up strength to rub another slice of wood against it like a saw. Teamwork plays an important factor here, as our team of three emerge as the winner with our combined efforts. “Bushcraft is not a spectator sport. The emphasis is on hands-on practice and working together as a  team. As you can see, team work makes every single thing you do easier and more enjoyable.” Andrew explains the aim of his bushcraft courses.

 

Next, we are tasked to build our own makeshift shelter using natural elements in our environment. Logs of wood and short branches are gathered and the construction begins. As a group, we discuss the basic structure of our shelter and how we would stack the logs together. Soon we are piling up wood, dried leaves and hay.

At the end of the day, we have adapted to the natural environment and become modern-day survivors. Perhaps I wouldn’t have won without the help of my team members, but I sure have learned a ton of essential knowledge in this adventure. This post originally appeared on WildJunket Travel Blog. This experience was made possibly by Visit Britain but all opinions are my own. IMAGES VIA: Nellie Huang

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