Forest Knights

This is meant to be a mini-review of the Forest Knights Weekend Bushcraft course run by Wayne and his team.

Forest Knights current bushcraft courses are held in the beautiful Sussex countryside a few miles from the city of Arundel, which is probably worth having a look around if you arrived early for your course.

Ed and I had booked this course in order to see how other bushcrafters approached firelighting, shelter building, etc, to pick up hints and tips, and also to escape from the other halves for the weekend.

From cold Gloucestershire it was a pretty straightforward trip to Arundel taking just under 3 hours. Traffic was light and there were few holdups.

We were met by Wayne in his 4 x 4 / mini-mpv at about 5:30 ish, and shortly after the course attendees were convoyed to the site a short distance away.

Having unloaded the cars we were then led to the site, approximately a mile down a muddy track before we then headed off to the woods to the camp.

At the site we were given a brief welcome, basic advice as to rules and regulations, (thankfully they were brief), shown where the drinks and snacks were located and enjoyed a hot drink and biscuits. We were provided with handouts, which contained information on the various skills we would be covering and tips on the best ways of doing them.

Instructors from left to right are

Steve, Martin Rob (in background),Wayne (foreground), Garrick, and Mel.

The toilet appeared very nice, it even had a nice wooden seat, but unfortunately I never had the opportunity to use it

The attendees then wandered off to set up hammocks/tents, and sort themselves out for the evening.

Shortly after we returned back to the fire to be shown how to make bannocks, and any keen amateur chefs had a go at their own. We then had dinner, and sat around chatting until the warmth of a sleeping bag called.

In the morning we had a workshop on knife safety, and then performed battoning, making feather sticks etc. As there were almost as many staff as attendees it was almost a one to one teaching session.

Shortly afterwards we broke up for hot drinks and a sit around the fire. (It was February, and definately not t-shirt weather).

The rest of the day followed the same pattern, lectures, practicals, hot drinks, and then food.

No wonder Ray Mears has so much padding.

The course went into Firelighting, what was required for a fire, various methods of firemaking, including bows, and one succesful attendee who managed to get fire using a hand drill in pretty cold damp conditions. Well done Steve!

The afternoon was spent making debris shelters, which is hard work, after having made it with the beady eye of half the instructors watching I was determined to sleep in it that night. My mate Ed was not convinced, and I could see that he would much prefer the hammock.

After a stomach filling dinner we had an interesting activity involving Waynes drum, however you will have to go on the course to find out what happened, and whether he has fixed it or bought a new one.

More hot drinks were followed by trapesing over to the debris shelters, and wriggling into our coffins. All started out well, in fact I was so warm I decided to take my socks off, but around 2am it started to get pretty cold, and we had a gentle flurry of snow flakes by morning.

Following breakfast we then split into two groups, one group on cordage, and another on archery. Having the co-ordination of a newly born wildebeest, I was amazed that I hit anything in the field archery. Admittedly the targets were stationary (well almost, I'm sure they kept ducking when it was my turn.) and we werent far away from them, but it was great fun.

We also spent time doing cordage, although there wasnt a lot of natural cordage about at this time of the year. This was quite relaxing, especially as we were next to the fire.

The final part of the day was a woodland walk, where we located spoor, identified various plants and trees, and saw the location of the new camp, which apparently will provide easier access.

The final task of the day was to each make a fire, we then concluded with a tidy up of the camp, handed in our course critiques and bade our farewells.

The overall pace of the course was very good, there was a lot packed into it, and for the group size we had was fine.

My only criticisms, and these are really minor, is that some elements seemed to overun, and others didnt have a lot of time.

The second minor criticism was regarding the catering. My gut feeling is that whilst an open fire is great, it is difficult to cook on a blazing fire, and conversely it is difficult keeping warm if there are embers. I wonder whether having a commercial gas stove might be more practical for cooking on.

These are really nitpicking because overall the course was well paced, there was plenty to do, and you felt comfortable to ask questions, practice your skills, and talk to the instructors.

Rather than embarass myself with trying to remember everyones name and failing miserably, thanks to the Instructors, the fellow attendees, and the targets that stood still long enough for me to hit them for making it a great course.

Now for the legaleeze, I am in no way affiliated with Forest Knights other than as a course attendee, I have no shares in the company, have accepted no bribes, and would not be swayed in my opinions by offers of a very nice bushcraft knife.

Ok, looks like people want piccies as well. I'm going to have to work out how to scale them down, and add in to the review. Please bear with me.

Group photo

p.s. For those who slept in the debris shelters, someone heard what appeared to sound like a hibernating bear!. Sorry Steve
Posted on Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 18:22 by Registered CommenterJam in | CommentsPost a Comment