Can you remember the last time you rolled down a grassy slope?
I certainly can – I was about 45 at the time and even though I got bumped, bruised and a little bit dizzy I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am told I can appear to be grumpy a lot of the time (even though in my my mind I am happy, grumpy is just my default expression) but I really do like to have fun and better still I like to see the folk who are with me, wherever that may be, are having fun.
This is the last in the Bushcraftage series of posts I’ll be doing for Kevin so I thought I would finish with looking at some other fun bushcraft activities I like to run. We have looked at lots of fun activities including shelter, fire, food and using tools in this series so it would be good to look at those that do not necessarily fall into these categories.
An activity I try and run on all my courses is a bit of archery. I try and teach the skill to as many adult instructors as possible so that they can hopefully enthuse their cadets as well. On one memorable occasion Alan Lewis ran a session on Tai Chi before archery as a warm-up. It did the job: they had fun, got warmed up, and also focused their minds.
Limbering up before archery
The adult instructors love a bit of archery just as much as the kids, maybe even more…
Teach the adults first
To begin with I try and introduce kids to archery using the lighter Father and Son bows.
Introduce the cadets to light bows
Eventually we get the bigger bows out for them. Archery seems to appeal to everyone: I never have anyone reluctant to have a go. My friend Charlie Brookes pictured here is very keen on archery and loves to teach it.
Then move on to the big boys
My kids love archery.
And so do my friends’ kids.
I was introduced to the Atlatl quite by accident by Andrew Packer from Nomad Bushcraft. It was at the Wilderness Gathering 10 years ago when I was supposed to be doing a masterclass on a Survival bow. The instructor failed to turn up so Roger Harrington asked if I would like to do the Atlatl class. I’m so grateful that the instructor did not turn up that day because this is one activity that everyone loves, especially me.
Atlatl – my favourite activity
The Atlatl is cheap to make and easy to use, but you can spend hours refining your technique and improving your aim and range. This is my friend Dave Lewis’s favorite bushcraft activity as he always seems to end up running it.
Any walk in the woods can be turned into a story with the use of a Journey Stick.
My children have little walking sticks with elastic bands wrapped round them at intervals. As we wander they like to collect bits and bobs from the woods and attach them to the sticks with the elastic bands from top to bottom, as a visual record of the adventure. After the walk we use the sticks to talk about all the different things they came across on their walk. This is a fantastic activity for younger kids.
A couple of years ago I was introduced to building Blobsters - little clay creatures – at the Wilderness Gathering by Chris Holland. Catherine and myself had a ball creating our little people and a world for them to live in. If you come across a good patch of clay dig some out and with the use of small twigs (in the clay) you can have hours of fun.
Blobster clay characters – Catherine’s Rhino and its house
Mat making is not just a chore you have to do in a survival situation, it is a great skill to learn, it is fun and it teaches good team work.
Mini mat making
It is great for all the family. This type of loom can be time consuming to set up but is well worth the effort as some great mats can be created with it.
Mummy mat making
Sadly, I cannot say that this is mine. One of the instructors at the BCUK Bushmoot this year produced this incredible piece of art from what he found in the woods and along the shoreline.
Afterwards everyone was wandering around trying to avoid stepping on all the little masterpieces the children had created.
The kids’ woodland art
I can sit for hours of an evening making cordage. This picture shows some being made out of raffia, as I always keep a supply with me. Normally I get the kids to harvest nettles and make friendship bracelets out of its fibres.
Also at the Bushmoot I watched Perry Magee teach kids to make rope out of bundles of grass. Great for an impromptu tug of war.
Grass tug of war
Don’t ask me how it works but it does. I love to do a spot of water divining. I have successfully followed underground pipes and streams with two bits of coathanger wire, it’s quite astonishing.
A few years ago Mors Kochanski came over to the UK and one of the games he showed us was the Whimmy Diddle, a simple toy consisting of a notched stick with a propeller attached to its end and another for scraping. You can spend hours trying to figure out how it works but when you get it, and the propeller starts spinning, it is a ball.
Whimmy Diddle anyone?
Long before there were sparklers there were… sticks. Put a kid near a fire, give them a stick and it will not be long before they have an ember glowing nicely on the end of it. Perfect for some air art, or just writing your name.
Fire stick art
Little projects such as ladder building make for good teamwork.
There are many stalking games you can play. All are great for making people aware of all their senses: generally we make far too much noise when moving through the woods and the point of these games is to heighten our awareness of the world around us.
This game I call the Fox Stalk (no idea if this is the correct name for it). My other favourites are the Drum Stalk (participants are blindfolded and the only guide to the finish is the beat of a drum) and the Water Carry Ambush (participants stalk through an area of woodland carrying a full cup of water and if they make a noise, blindfolded attackers will shoot water at them to try and make them spill the cup).
The best fun is usually free: just getting out there and enjoying yourself – maybe it’s time to find yourself a nice grassy slope
Whatever you do do not forget the simple things
There as so many more games I could talk about but I’d better leave that to the professionals – I have put some links below to books on bushcraft activities that I like if you want to find out more.
I have had fun writing the Bushcraftage series of posts for Kevin, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them. I think that the theme of teaching children bushcraft in this series is particularly appropriate given the fact that Kevin is on a bit of paternity leave getting to know little Kelly.
I love my World – Chris Holland
Sharing Nature With Children – Joseph Cornell
I Love Dirt – Jennifer Ward
Go Wild – Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield
Woodland Trust – Resources for Teachers
The Whimmy Diddle