When I tell people I’m into Bushcraft, what do they think? Well judging by the comments, people assume I like freezing myself to near-death whilst eating bugs and roadkill in the rain! I can honestly tell you that I along with the vast majority of Bushcrafters don’t like those things.
Not that I’m averse to rain, in fact, the sense of accomplishment that comes from being dry under a shelter with the warmth of a fire next to me is hugely satisfying. I sleep better in these situations than I do at home, probably because I’ve put the work in to achieve this.
Bushcraft encompasses many activities and to some extent there is no right or wrong answer to which of these activities are a part of Bushcraft. Fundamentally Bushcraft is a skill set that enables you to function well in a wild environment. It is a skill set that enables participants to be in an environment and undertake other tasks, whether that’s simply enjoying the environment, immersing yourself in nature or another activity such as bird watching, animal tracking, spoon carving, etc.
There’s a benefit to being outdoors and that benefit has become better publicised in recent years. It’s a benefit I’ve always known and one that I’ve found to be instinctual. I’ve found myself going for a walk in the woods, particularly in stressful times and find the time spent away from the rush and noise of our modern world provides a space to digest, rethink and process thoughts.
The greater the immersion the greater the benefit, so whilst a walk can be good, a walk a small fire and a brew can be better. A night away, listening to the sounds of the woods, waking naturally with the dawn chorus and cooking breakfast on an open fire, whether alone or with others is a fantastic experience and great way to reset.
Bushcraft can be as great for the environment as it is for us and that’s where our responsibility as Bushcraft practitioners comes in. People can perceive Bushcraft as taking from the environment, using the resources that other animals rely on and damaging areas with fires, litter and the cutting or felling of trees. However fundamentally Bushcraft is about minimal impact and we achieve this through a leave no trace approach, which means exactly that before leaving a site a good Bushcrafter will ensure no one will be able to tell they were there. Through correct sustainable harvesting of wood new growth and plant life can be encouraged and harvesting of wild edibles can encourage a more bountiful crop the following year. But remember It is vital that we have permission and operate within the relevant codes and law.
An interest in Bushcraft will also help to protect habitats and the species that live in it. As a Bushcraft practitioner, we are the eyes of the forest, the ones who notice the changes and can speak up and raise awareness. Simply by knowing the names of the species and sharing our knowledge gives a level of protection, people won’t miss something if they didn’t know it was there in the first place.
So, what is Bushcraft? Bushcraft is the skill set that enables us to get the most out of our natural environment by thriving in it. A way to improve that environment for ourselves, others and the wildlife and a way of protecting that environment and it’s wildlife through awareness and education.
Stay tuned as we continue to explore these ideas on the benefits of Bushcraft through a series of blog posts.
By Barry Hobbs