When I arrived at Henbury Hall in Macclesfield on Monday morning for ‘Fresh Walks Wild’ I had very little idea how the day was going to pan out.
I regularly go for hearty networking walks in the Peak District with Fresh Walks. They are always, without fail, energising, great fun and useful for business.
However this was a new version, a bush crafting event run by Lewis Herridge at Re:You.
I’m relaxed about going on a 14 mile hike up Kinder with the Fresh Walkers as I know what to expect, but would I like making fires and shelters with this lot? Would it be as much fun?
As it turns out, it exceeded expectations, and we had a blast.
What made me instantly happy on arrival was that everyone was sitting round a real campfire drinking tea. Winner. I felt instantly at ease. And even better there was a ‘wild’ toilet. I had wondered if we’d be peeing in the bushes, so this unexpected luxury pleased me no end.
We took a while drinking our teas and chatting before things got started, which was a very nice start to the day. Then Lewis got us on our a feet for a little tour of the camp and talked us through the four most important things for survival in the wild: shelter, water, fire and food. We were then put in groups and asked to find items in the local woodland to represent ways of tackling those four areas of survival.
My group embraced the task with enthusiasm, and having recently watched Bear Grylls Celebrity Island, I felt I had a lot of expertise to offer the group.
- nettles for eating
- some dung because where there’s animal droppings there’s usually water nearby, and you can burn it
- moss because you can squeeze water out of it
- some sticks of wood to burn, or build a shelter.
We then had a big group show and tell with our items. It was a proud moment displaying our dung.
Our next job was building a fire. Lewis showed us a variety of ways of getting a fire started ranging from putting some wire wool on a battery, to sparking flint against steal and then using the sparks to light a tampon. As you can imagine as mature adults we all found lighting a fire with tampons absolultely hilarious. We all had a little practise which you could tell everyone thoroughly enjoyed.
Then is was competition time. We were split into three groups. We now not only had to get a flame going, we had to build a proper fire. For each group, Lewis stuck two sticks in the ground and tied a piece of string across them at about 60 cm up from the ground. The first group to burn the string would be the winners.
Unfortunately, myself and my group were not the most talented fire makers and came last (and even then we cheated). It was a fascinating activity though.
Next up lunch, to which I have to confess I contributed absolutely nothing. A few of the guys got busy chopping veg and knocked up a beef stew, although ingredients were admittedly shop bought and not foraged. The stew pot was thrown on the fire to cook, which gave us all a lovely hour or so to just sit around, drink tea, eat biscuits, enjoy the fire and chat.
After our hearty meal was the final challenge of the day. Building a shelter. Lewis got us to examine a shelter that had already been made so we could understand how to create one, then we were asked to source the materials for building our own (although to be fair Lewis gave us a load of wood to get us started). After 90 minutes of collecting mud, branches and rhoddidendrum leaves, we had our very own rather fabulous looking shelter.
We then rewarded ourselves with a final cup of tea, some bourbon biscuits and a final soaking up of the campfire.
I went home feeling more connected to nature, very chilled and very happy. Thanks Lewis. And of course thanks to Michael Di Paola from Fresh Walks for organising.