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©Ianthe Butt 2012

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All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…

©Ianthe Butt 2012

 

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©Ianthe Butt 2012

 

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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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