Thursday, 3 October 2019

Church Farm, Ardeley Camp #3


Of the organised 'wild camp' sites available to me Church Farm is the best all rounder in terms of distance, facilities and the fact that it is permissible to position a fire wherever you choose within the camping woods.

I'd initially booked Lowney End Wood but had emailed to try out Beards Oak Wood instead. I realised when I got there that the latter had cabins all the way through it (it looks like one corner on the official site map) so I quickly concluded that the former was going to be where I took up residence.


Like the last trip I took a sleeping and admin tarp and set up roughly, but not exactly where I was last time. Again I formed a closed chisel point on my longer sleeping tarp to keep the at times keen Autumnal wind out, and the admin tarp again orientated to allow the campfire smoke to blow away and with one corner turned down, again due to the wind and expected rain.

So once I'd chucked up my admin tarp and got some kit stowed I dug a rectangular fire pit which was mostly outside of the tarp but with a bit underneath as a precipitation insurance policy. Note the kettle ready to go on as soon as there was a hint of an ember


After I'd squared away a brew l utilised the established embers to get the beef fat boiling down to make some tallow and pemmican. It's a project that l could initially leave to go it's own merry way. 

After a brew I moved on to setting up my sleeping quarters and then broke for dinner. I had a lot of dishes that I planned to cook from scratch but the first meal I'll usually keep simple. I can recommend this tasty Waitrose Rump Steak Fajita Stir fry with added roasted peppers, knocked up in my ever trusty Primus non-stick pan and devoured via pitta bread.


Despite the fact that I'd set myself a lot of foodie stuff to do I decided to make time for a couple of projects after dinner. The first was to produce some Silver Birch tar as I had a couple of projects in mind that needed some and I was out.

The second and to make some more Pine Pitch glue. I'm not sure why but the glue should be a charcoal to black colour and this looked like baby poo! There may be a valid reason and I was going to find out the next day on another project whether it would work, or the project would come to a...Ahem...Sticky ending.

Tea was again a shop bought Thai chicken dish which the family had tried and largely panned so I simply used a spare one up out of the freezer. I didn't pair it with noodles or rice, I used pan fried Gnocchi which is rather delicious. Think turbo powered pomme noisettes.

Although I'd been dogged by the odd shower during the day I was largely wearing a T-shirt but later on I was thankful that I'd dug an extended fire pit as just after tea I had a burst of heavy, silvery rain that eventually gave way to light rain and the setting sun peaking through the trees.


I made my way out of the wood to the edge to firstly watch the massive rain cloud exit and then to watch a partial rainbow form. I was surprised and disappointed as I'd expected a vibrant double rainbow for the rain we'd had. I went out later to place my trail cam out and about but a sit spot didn't appeal due to everything being saturated.

I usually find that I often feel the need to head for the sack not long after sunset; Attuned to the outdoors? Tired from running around being busy? Not sure but when I got into my hammock I got the top of my sleeping bag stuck under my body and I laid back and puffed my cheeks out in frustration, the next thing I know I was awake with a start feeling cold.

I was up fairly promptly the next day with a scheduled cooked breakfast and instead of a fruity bannock which I often do I'd planned to use up the pittas. As the bacon was cooking I strode over to my sleeping tarp to hang my sleeping out to air. As I did so I thought 'Ooo, I can smell bacon, that's not fair' and then recalled that is was mine...All mine actually.

I'd fancied trying to make a sourdough bread with my 'Saturnalia 1218' starter, so called because it came into being in December 2018. To help deliver a loaf within the camp's time frame/ other activities I  decided to cut it with a little shop bought dried yeast which I've read is how a lot of retail outlets make theirs. 

After setting the bread to prove near the fire my morning (and partly overnight) project was making all the parts of my dinner that day which feature hand made butter and oatcakes as well as two cold smoked cheeses. I was so pleased with how it went that I have made my first stitched together Youtube video (above).

Suffice to say I was supremely chuffed that everything worked out OK and the buttermilk I generated was reserved for my final day breakfast bannock.


And taking of yeasty offerings I cooked my sourdough/ dried yeast combo loaf (which I'd set proving in the morning) on a Petromax Dutch oven lid inside a large 8 litre Dutchie. Just before the end I flipped the loaf over to make sure the top was cooked which gave it the knobbly top but nevertheless, it was a winner without a burnt bottom, unlike this one from the previous camp.

A rain deja vu hit me for the second successive tea time, bit this was prolonged, heavy and initially with a clap or two of thunder. A decent clip with the sound up.

I dragged the embers under the tarp again and whilst the rain splashing up was problematic I eventually got tea sorted which was Chicken thighs, stock, celery, dehydrated, leeks and parsnip with the rest of the gnocchi.

I was going to do this Gooseberry and Nettle Syrup crumble but I was having issues with the fire as the rain came down so I had to take the ingredients home to do it. The berries and syrup made for an excellent combination.

I went for a quick stroll to put my trail cam out again but it was too soggy to sit spot but the red sky at night suggested a the chance of better weather tomorrow.

I was up at a good time again to another chilly but clear morning. Fire kick started, brew on and the fruity buttermilk bannock cooked.

After a quick tidy up I started another non-foodie project I had lined up which was to both 'forge' and fix a point to an atlatl dart. I also had a go at making a whistling dart by drilling and carving a wood whistle on the business end. This was inspired by whistling arrows that I'd seen in the Pitt Rivers Museum, used by a Chinese Emperor's archers to get peasants to avert their stare. I shelved it because despite getting the whistle spot on, I found I couldn't propel it with enough umph to get the wind into the sound chamber. 

You win some you lose some.


The 'forging' bit is basically me making a projectile out of an old stainless steel coffee spoon which I heated up in some decent embers...


... And then blew the embers to get them nice and hot, and then used the flat blade of a bolster as an improvised anvil to beat the bowl flat and to straighten the neck. Success.


I'd planned to cut the spoon's handle down to size and then cut it to a point but the junior hacksaw I'd brought along actually had a blade for cutting wood. I had no choice but to attempt to cut the handle so I patiently cut a groove along the width and fatigued this weakness to break by bending it, the point would have to wait. 

It did mean however that I had a tool to cut a notch into the dart end quickly so swings and roundabouts.

The previously made pine pitch glue was utilised to hold the tip in place and secure a dried nettle length as binding. Now off to test it.

A quick walk out of the wood with my atlatl darts to a safe area. Take aim...

...And launch. These darts didn't have any weight/ points on so that I could use them at Cubs but the metal tip helped this dart's flight.

Go on, ask me if I'm happy with how this project panned out. As well as pointing the tip when I get home I think I need to adjust the binding and make it a little tighter.


After my atl atl session I got some embers sorted and then did some roasted cobnuts as a mid-morning snack...With another brew.

As I was slowly striking camp I had planned a simple lunch which utilised the butter, sourdough and bacon I had previously prepared.

The previous night's red sky was holding true and as I'd got packed away and was in that ready to go/ don't want to go twilight zone I went for a last quick bimble to see what was to see as well as look at potential new camping areas in the wood.

I stuck my head into a field margin and saw a Red Kite wheeling around and almost instantly found this handsome feather on the ground. I'm guessing it's from a Buzzard however.

So having done a last scout round for any missed items/ rubbish I was happy with my leave no trace exit and duly hit the road. It had been a crazy time for weather which ranged from warm yer bones T shirt weather to biblical rain necessitating a T shirt, fleece and woollen shirt. During the camp I felt like I hadn't got a lot done, but having typed this blog up I think I was being overly critical and most times I was kept company by a solitary Robin and a volery of Long-tailed Tits (the collective noun)...Oh, and I think I've found a cracking new position in the wood for next time.

Blogs about my previous stays:

Church Farm Visit #1

Church Farm Visit #2