When Bear Grylls was sworn in as Chief Scout in early 2009 I'd been approached via a scouting forum by the organiser of a July Explorer Scout camp (Gilwell 24) which is held at the Gilwell camp site to see if I would be interested in helping Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine on a stand they were bringing. As I subscribed it didn't take much thought and I'm pleased that my knowledge of the site was the difference between them getting some shots of the ceremony and not because they'd been given little detail.
Almost inevitably I got a follow up message to see if I'd be interested in doing a base the next year. I called a few scouters (l-r Martin, me and Simon) and us three musketeers did a decent job with minimal preparation. I also made over a hundred pop can stoves to give away!
The next one saw Mike Rushton from Tamarack Outdoors make the journey from Lancashire to put in an appearance and amongst other things led a spoon carving session and helpfully made me some beechwood chips to smoke the jerky I was making!
The third one in 2012 saw Pablo and JP from Woodlife Trails come down to do some tracking and bushcraft demos but this Gilwell 24 seemed doomed. I put aside Wednesday to do some prep in the small fire circle (where the base takes place)...The circle had been hired out to a school in the evening so that wasted a day, then the Friday saw a tree surgeon in the circle cutting down an Aspen branch so I didn't get in there until dinner time. It started raining and it just kept going and going and eventually the only dry bit was literally a small area under the chute. On a plus note we had a visit from a very necky fox on the Friday night, and scouting ambassador Ed Stafford made an appearance on the Saturday morning and got a fire by friction lesson from JP pre 'Marooned and Naked'.
Last year I decided to take a break after this rather calamitous weekend (although original musketeer Martin ran a small base) but now I was turning up with the Scouter base still happening and added to, the IEAT in place and Woodlife Trails making a return. Pablo and JP are keen to help Scouting and it was great to see them coming back. I was there to help grease the wheels for Woodlife Trails if needed but also to chip in with the others as and when.
|Panoramic base view. Photo credit Chris Elmer.|
Pablo and JP decided on a slimmed down display in the fire circle as opposed to a stand outside which they did last time and it was about right for what was, rather pleasingly, a crowded fire circle.
The above view doesn't quite show all the base as it's impossible to squeeze in but the Explorers and leaders had knife sharpeneing, tracking, natural history, jerky making, sharps, firelighting and paracord knitting on offer.
The guy who organises the Gilwell 24 camp once said to me that the bushcraft base is a good balanced to the silly wig, free hugs sign wearing shenanigans that goes on within the day. I agree. Whilst we got on with things the noise from elsewhere was a constant reminder of this.
The Woodlife trails three musketeers and yes, I got a win on the jerky despite the on off sunshine and annoying on off breeze! If you are based near Hatfield Forest and or Gilwell (both in Essex) and would like to investigate Woodlife Trails coming to your Scout group then give them a shout.