Survival Camp 2014

Down to the woods to spend the night without the tents!

Naomi Booth :: Tuesday 15th July 2014 :: Latest Blog Posts

The annual Survival Camp for the Scouts took place on the longest day, 21st June, in Conygar Coppice, led by Anthony Brown with Rob and Nigel. Mike Swan, Jacqui Blake and I represented the Active Support Unit.

On arrival, Anthony briefed the young people on the "rule of threes" in survival: under harsh conditions you can survive for three minutes without air, for three hours without shelter, for three days without water and for three weeks without food. As everyone there seemed to be breathing happily, their next priority was to build themselves shelters – this has an extra edge for those older Scouts who would be staying the night, as they would be sleeping in the shelters that they built!

Whilst the shelter building was going on, I helped with the preparations for the evening meal – this involved digging a hole in the ground, lighting a fire over it into which were added lots of granite cobble stones.

The fire was kept burning for over an hour, heating up the ground and the rocks – the stage was now set for the arrival of our guest of honour for the evening meal. Just in the nick of time Mike walked into camp with the guest, a yearling Roe Deer buck which had been humanely killed by Mike earlier in the week as part of his job as a gamekeeper. Mike spent some time explaining to the young people the need to control the numbers of deer in our woods and how this is done humanely. He then went on to show how the carcass should be prepared and butchered to make the most of the meat available. This demonstration resulted in two fine haunches and the fillets, which would form the basis of our dinner that night. Once the haunches were ready, the ashes were dug out of the fire pit and the hot stones separated and placed back into the pit. The haunches were then added to this ground oven before the hole was covered by green hazel branches, damp towels and the soil excavated from the pit to seal in the heat.

Whilst the venison was baking, Anthony and I gave demonstrations of various fire lighting techniques that could be used in survival situations, depending on the equipment available or the skill level of those lighting the fire. Needless to say, Anthony managed to demonstrate fire by friction, with the help of the Scouts, within minutes from a standing start – a better record by far than those gentlemen marooned on Bear Grylls' Island for his TV programme!

Meat for dinner is all very well, but we need staple carbohydrate sources and vegetables as well; this latter point caused a few looks of doubt from some of the Scouts present! In order to see what the woods had to offer, Mike and I then led a forage along the forest tracks, identifying quite a few edible or medicinally useful plants, as well as highlighting a couple of poisonous examples to avoid. Unfortunately, most of the plants we found were a little mature to make good eating so, rather then give the young people a poor experience of eating foraged food, we decided to let them forgo their greens for one night!

Whilst those Scouts staying the night were allowed to put the finishing touches to their shelters, I then spent some time with those going home, showing them some primitive bows and arrows and spears and spear throwers. They were all able to have a few turns with the spear throwers, finding out how their Neanderthal ancestors may have hunted bison, aurochs and maybe even mammoths across the tundras that were to become Dorset; those staying were able to have their turns at spear throwing after dinner.