and so I set off for the last Woodlife Trails course of 2015 with a bit of a hurried packing session. My eldest had had his appendix outearlier in the week and it had made spare time a premium product. I'd got a CD through the post on the Friday which I decided to take a play in the car...I consequently forgot to stick it in so it would have to be played on the way home then.
The Woodlife Trails base camp in Hatfield forest had a mixture of trees around it which includes, amongst others, cherry and field maple. They had started to form a superb woodland carpet with their bright autumnal display. The bushcraft classroom chute was starting to catch them too.
I'd had several good fallow deer sightings on the way to the base camp (it is the start of the rut) having got there at the crack of dawn on the Saturday. As it got light I set up my sil-hex tent (minus the inner) with the door facing out to the ride with a Great Spotted Woodpecker chip chipping away, along with a briefly diurnal Tawny Owl.
A fair bit of firewood was collected and burnt on a cool and crisp weekend with a hint of precipitation. With the rain due I made sure that we had a kindling and tinder supple ready for Sunday.
The Woodland Tracker course gives the students a massive exposure to the world of tracking and there were some detailed classes on the Saturday with a lot of studious note taking.
But of course, a bundle full of theory is only useful if put to practical use and the clients were given a large dose of dirt time too with the Woodlife Trails diploma students doing a lot of mentoring.
I usually process fuel with a folding Bahco saw, but decided to bring along my homemade bucksaw which I have embellished with the Runic names of several indigenous tree species. It works but the joints don't bear close scrutiny for neatness.
Despite the fact that it is nearly November there were a lot of blackberries, sloes, haws and rosehips still up for grabs. My dinner was another foraged goody, Alexanders soup with parmesan.
The clients discussed the afternoon's sit spot exercise and what they'd seen, it is the fallow rut after all. The fire then saw much banter and once left it made you realise that there was a nip in the air.
After cross referencing my watch and mobile to check that I successfully negotiated the hour change I went for a bimble. The night had been chilly and the afore mentioned leaves formed a colourful backdrop to the moody mist. Venus and Jupiter watched down from above.
On the way back I saw about ten fallow deer running along a hedge but couldn't get my camera on them in time, and of course they are like drops of mercury once they get into cover.
Almost instantly I saw three more pronking fallow which headed into cover, with this one stopping to look back and me and who knows, maybe blew a raspberry.
I had the last laugh because I doubled back a little and saw them break cover to head over to where the previous lot went. Score draw I reckon.
The morning was started with a mini cooked breakfast (which used my new trivet for), and followed this up with a bannock laced with brown sugar and semi dried fig pieces and washed down with coffee. A hearty breakfast but c'mon it was outdoors and it was cold so doubly justified.
School started soon after and whilst the clients took in some more theory we got the woodpile restocked as it had taken a bit of a beating in the night.
Again, the clients were also involved in lots of out and about stuff to balance out the seated information they had been given.
Now on the Saturday evening three of us set up trail cams along a ride and as you can see below I got a couple of different animals, the only camera to do so. Slim pickings for the trail cams but that's nature, you can back red and black comes up...
So that was the last official Woodlife trails course until February of next year. It's great to see people attending courses become really engaged and this was no different with some very switched on folk asking lots of questions and going away wiser than they arrived. It was also good to catch up with the Woodlife team as well, and even though I only help with camp admin I love seeing them. There's always top banter, lots of knowledge and the occasional bit of shared scoff. It's worth noting that the trail cam sightings were about 90 seconds from the base camp.
I remembered to stick the CD in on the way back, it was 'Pylon', Killing Joke's new one. The whole point of starting and ending with this fact is that it made me chuckle because the whole weekend was, amongst other things, about slowing down, mimimising noise and movement etc and here I was playing a CD that was pretty much the opposite end of the scale!