At home in the woods.

Carol, Ray and shelter two

I am working on ideas for a new book. Currently what it’s about is all a bit unclear. I get an idea here, a thought there, I am told a great story and it leads down another path. Is it going to be fiction, non fiction, a rather daring mixture of both? At the moment I can’t tell you.

I can say that part of the research has seen me taking to the woods on a weekly basis to try out survival skills. One week I cooked bacon and nettle sandwiches in the woods, another week I spend hours attempting to light a fire with a flint and steel and, eventually, succeeded. This weeks project was shelter building. My oldest friend, Karen and I, took to Willow woods and tried out hand a constructing a shelter amid the bluebells.

With my trusted Ray Mears bushcraft skills book in hand we began by measuring our shelter and constructing a frame.


measuring the shelter

Gathering the wood poles to construct the walls took a lot longer than we imagined but by now the structure was looking pretty secure. We then weaved ivy, honeysuckle and leaf litter into the walls.

karen checks out the shelter for size

Trying these skills out for real gives a much better appreciation of the time and amount of material needed and how little you would want to abandon such a home and build a new one every night. All crucial insights for my story.

We toasted our new home with a cup of hot chocolate and a swig of mead from my hip flask.

delivering a cup of hot chocolate

delivering a cup of hot chocolate to the door.

“You know what we need to do now?” I said to Karen. “We need to take it all apart and return it to the woods.”

Karen looked horrified at the thought. It had taken hours, it was cosy and a thing of beauty, she wanted everyone to admire it. But, she knew I was right.

So we destroyed our creation, flinging the poles in the brush and scattering the leaf litter all around. When we finished there was nothing to see, like we had never been there, and that was just as it should be.