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I maintain that if a thunderstorm hadn’t arrived at the precise time I  started firemaking I would have created an inferno.

Maybe.

 Clive Cobie, our bushcraft instructor made it look painfully easy:

rubbing a piece of wood (spindle) against a bow with a taut cord while resting it in a hollowed out groove on a flat piece of wood (fire board) to create friction.
Within minutes Clive had made a small pile of

gLoWiNg charcoal dust,

which he used to ignite a dry ball of grass and twigs.

Vigorously burning it billowed smoke into the ever-darkening sky. The heavens opened when it was my turn to start twizzling the stick,
so on Clive’s advice I used a bushcraft helping hand 
and placed a piece of King Alfred’s cake,
a black ball-shaped fungus found on dead ash tree branches, next to my fire board.
Once alight the cake burns slowly and acts like a coal, giving you time to allow your tinder to catch fire. Moving the bow backwards and forwards was harder work than it looked, and with my spindle slipping in the rain and aching arm muscles, it was after much perseverance and a little light cursing, that I managed to light the cake. It emitted a feeble glow, before a couple of dejected  puffs before being extinguished by the plip-plopping rain.

If anybody asks, however, I am a grade A fire maker.

It’s early morning in leafy Shadow Woods, somewhere (“the middle of nowhere” according to the taxi driver) a few miles from Billingshurst, West Sussex and my  firemaking attempt signified the end of a three- hour woodlands skills taster course.

Clive describes himself  as a fLiBbErTiGiBbErT and is a friendly chatterbox who knows everything there is to know about the Weald Downland woodlands.

The course packed with information to equip the woodland novice with useful bushcraft skills: making string from knotted nettle stems, finding edible plants for sustenance and basic survival tools.

Shadow Woods is not just a great destination for would-be explorers.

Its large Barn Meadow is home to a cluster of five yUrTs:

large Mongolian  tents with wooden frames.

Insects flit and buzz through hawthorn thickets

& roe deer roam the wooded areas.

Pom Oliver, the owner of Woodland Yurting, an ex-Antarctic explorer who effervesces positivity, says the idea came about when she was off exploring:

during the blisteringly cold nights she missed having a snug and comfortable bed to sleep on.

I can’t say I would have connected West Sussex with yurts and snug before, but after unlatching the door and taking in pretty tea light stands, hang-up wardrobe, wicker sofa and throwing myself onto the comfy double bed it began to make sense…

Staring at the wooden beams on the ceiling, cocooned under the duvet and staring up into the yurt’s central circular roof skylight

I felt rather like the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland  in a rather large teapot.

Looking up into this eye -in -the -sky it was as though someone had opened the lid to peer into
my very own cosy wonderteapot.
As well as providing all cooking utensils, a cool box and firebowl, there’s eco-friendly washing up liquid to clean pots&pans.
 
Showers are solar-powered
and taken al-fresco in wooden stalls come evening time once the water has warmed.
Compost loos are luxe and clean, and labelled recycling bags are provided in the yurt for you to separate all your rubbish.

This plush campsite receives a huge thumbs-up for being an eco-friendly haven with friendly staff.

Perfect for couples and families to unwind in and take a step closer to becoming Ray Mears.

©Ianthe Butt 2012

– words and photos

This article is an edited version of a piece written for Daisy Green magazine.

Visit the Woodland Yurting website for more information.Disclosure: press trip

 

 

 

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Not many bands turn up to tour in a country they’ve never been to before and then get shot.

Shot for Vogue magazine, that is.

Molotov Jukebox, a relatively unknown six-piece band from London who blend funk, ska, flamenco and samba, however, did just that.

On a rainy March morning I was expecting to just meet Natalia Tena (lead singer and accordion player),whose voice purrs on their tracks and Sam Apley (violin/vocals).  Today, it turns out, it’s three Molotov Jukeboxers for the price of two.

“We picked up our bassist round the corner” grins Tena and motions at Tom Wilson as they bound into Camino bar in King’s Cross.

With Molotov Jukebox you have to expect the unexpected.

Described by The Evening Standard as “the real stars of 2011” the band members interrupt each other in between swearing and sipping Rioja.

Inspired by sex and death, contenders for the title of the EP they’ve been recording are “hookers in a morgue” (Tena), “corpses and caskets” (Wilson) and “bullet holes and beauty queens” (Apley).

Despite the macabre names, their sound is uplifting and sultry rather than dark. Apley assures me the EP “will be full of ZiNgErS and tasty toe tappers.” Apley and Tena speak loudly with Wilson dropping in quiet one-liners.

Tena and Apley met whilst in another band three years ago and decided to make their own music. Friends and acquaintances including absent Adam Burke (guitar) Max Burnett-Wain (drums) and Angus Moncrieff (trumpet) joined and the current line up was formed.

After last summer was spent on the festival circuit playing everywhere from Glastonbury to Green Man, and their debut single Laid to Rest released in November 2010,it was time to go global.

Tena,whose lyrics flit seductivelybetween Spanish and English was dressed in pyjamas and wearing antlers when they flew to Brazil on Christmas Day. With just their instruments and a couple of gigs booked they arrived in Salvador. A whirlwind month of last-minute gigs in bars playing to hordes of Brazilians all dancing to Molotov’s GypStep beats followed.

Their unique sound is difficult to pigeonhole, part Latin funk part London hip that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Somewhere along the line the GypStep genre was coined. “If everyone loves it then it was definitely my idea. If not then some newspaper wrote it” says Apley. Tena, whose musical style has been strongly influenced by her Spanish parents, describes it as “its own animal with people’s egos and chaos and musical influences all mixed in.”

Whatever GypStep is, the band’s self-proclaimed “necessarily loud” tunes have been going down a storm.

When I saw the band at Camden’s Proud Galleries Tena strode around stage barefoot squeezing her accordion with gusto

while the band jumped around like rhythmical bouncy balls. A carnival vibe passed through the crowd with feet moving, hips salsa-ing and hands clapping.

Whether Camden or Copacabana audiences become infected with the band’s haphazard energy.

“In Brazil the crowds were mental. They shout, they dance, they sweat. A lot. Music is really a part of their life that they embrace on a different level.” says Tena, between cigarette drags.

One of their favourite gigs was in a small town Itacaré, they asked an unimpressed barman if they could play and he told them to return at six o’clock. They hit the stage at midnight.

Hundreds of people flooded in from the streets to dance: “You couldn’t even see how far the people stretched, they were so close they were practically holding our microphones” says Apley.

Their reputation began to precede them and people stopped their cars for a chat or accosted them on the beach. “One man travelled for ten hours to see us, another night a millionaire convinced us to play a private party. At his hotel. Which he owned” says Tena.

“And have you heard, we’re going to be featured in Brazilian Vogue? Just because someone happened to be at one of our shows and liked it? Amazing.”

Tena, also an actress best known for her role as shapeshifter Tonks in the Harry Potter series, talks excitedly about the future. They played at the afterparty of the final film premiere this summer.  After this appearance at the climax of such a worldwide phenomenon they are sure to be catapulted into the limelight (here you can see a clip of their Harry Potter performance and reportedly Emma Watson bopping along).

I’m not sure what JK Rowling would have to say about the sexual innuendo, swearing and general randomness that is Molotov Jukebox, but then again she’d probably have been too busy dancing to care.

 World domination? Not quite yet.

But with fashion magazines beating down the door, feet stamping across the globe clamouring for more Moltov madness, ‘in Vogue’..? Very.

Molotov Jukebox’s EP,  Double Dare  is out now. Click here to buy. Visit the website here or follow @Molotov_Jukebox on Twitter

©Ianthe Butt 2011 Brazilian Vogue  photos shot by Drew Cox, used with permission of Molotov Jukebox.

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