Friday, 10 June 2016

Fraser Christian coastal 1-2-1


I first noticed Fraser Christian and his Coastal Survival School through his articles in Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine. As well as articles he has been on TV with Hugh Fearnley Whittingsall's River Cottage (see this 2008 Youtube video) and has also written two of his own books. Oh, and frustratingly I get his name mixed up with this guy on the odd occasion too.

A couple or so years ago he was keen to help with a contribution towards the Scout Association's book called The Outdoor Adventure Manual and when I asked him and was genuinely happy to have done so, as per the snipped Facebook comment above.

I've already been on two recent forages with Wilderness Survival Skills and a Forage London 1-2-1 so this was my third within a month...All good boots on the ground experience to help me with my ongoing tree and plant masterclass tutelage. I've had a rough 'to do' list for my current sabbatical floating around in my mind for some time, but seeing Fraser was more on the 'must do' list because not only did I enjoy his magazine articles but I grew up by the sea into my middle teens and have a real affinity for it, especially when I see things from my Skegness upbringing like Marram Grass covered sand dunes, Sea Buckthorn and Samphire.

I contacted Fraser and the week before and he suggested sorting stuff literally just before heading down to see what the weather was doing and so on. Even though I've camped out in tarps, tents, shelters and the like I was a little out of my usual comfort zone with this one and did a hedged bet kit inventory with some interchangeable spares in the boot, well I actually filled the boot to be fair. It might look a little 'All the gear and no idea', but it's more of a 'Fail to prepare, prepare to fail' type of thing.

I set off early as I had a bit of a journey (nearly everything good and interesting is a journey for me) and I had the pleasure of the UK's largest car park (the M25) and the roadwork exhibition (the M3) to battle with. Sadly I got spanked for time on the carpark and arrived fully an hour later than I'd planned, which as a punctual person really annoyed me. Fraser was waiting for me in our pre-arranged meeting place and I hurriedly got a small bag ready and we headed to the beach with his dog Tink.


Despite feeling an affinity fot the coast, this particluar stretch is very different from where I grew up with it's vast shingle and cliffs, and the flora was different too...What a first impression this shoreline makes.

And so we got into a slow walk down the beach stopping to look at different plants and discussing edibility, uses, harvesting, preparation and so on. Once you got your eye you saw different plants at different stages everywhere. The above is the rather prolific Sea Spinach.

Here we have two of the other beach regulars; Sea Kale and Rock Samphire. I used to eat copious amounts of Marsh Samphire when in Skegness but the unrelated latter of which I'd never tried before. 

I'd also never seen Sea Kale in flower and this picture dovetails nicely with the young seedling shot earlier in that there where, as previously mentioned, plants at different stages.


Two plants that caught the eye were the rather gorgeous Sea Poppy which dappled the shoreline with yellow pin pricks where it occurred, and the vast swathes of Thrift.

And so to a bit of stove action. Fraser showed me how and where to dig for edible roots using a digging stick and a manual technique, the name Fraser gave it I'll not type to spare your blushes. The above trinity of pictures relates to umbellifers which is more practice for me in my umbellifer ID quest.

The stove in question was a simple one formed with flat stone sides and fueled with various woody offerings from the beach, with a large bleached section of tree trunk as our backdrop. The greenary in the top right hand corner is part of a reed bed in a section of water at the beach edge.


We had a drink/ basic soup in a metal cups just on the edge. This style is very efficient with the reflective qualities of the stone and a sea breeze so little fuel was needed. Once we had the 'first course' we put the stone lid on the sides and roasted the foraged roots on a small bed of greenery.

This picture shows me rather hamfistedly peeling a root with Fraser looking on. You can also see the rear of the stove with the lid on making it into a sort of oven.


Sadly there was an algae in the sea that was hindering any fishing which was a great shame so we headed back to Fraser's off-grid place in the afternoon. It was a six to seven minute walk from parking up through verdant rolling countryside and the shot of the living area on the right really highlights just how lush it was. Fraser has Romany blood and his abode, which is set off to the right, really resembles a Romany caravan. He describes himself as a free spirit and it's hardly surprising.

This is the area under the chute which was everything from a kitchen to a smithy. Anyone who follows Fraser on Facebook will know that he has been fashioning some useful looking tools in his improvised workshop.


The shot on the left is another illustration of the lushness of the site and this part of the path is lined with Ramsons which added a scent to the air and indeed my trousers! The site is blessed with a supply of spring water and we were heading to it along this route. it was lovely and cool to drink straight out of the ground. 

We had a quick look at his allotment to which he adds the fire ash  (in which food waste is burnt) and we found this simply huge Jack-By-The-Hedge leaf which Fraser modeled. That went into tea later.


We adopted a 'What's said round the fire, stays round the fire' policy and at times put the world to rights (as you do). The picture of me on my phone was taken by Fraser and shows the large canvas tent-An army surplus one perhaps-next to the chute. He said I could kip in there on the camp bed if I wanted, and as it was an uphill walk back from the car with any kit it seemed a sensible option. It's ironic that I had a boot full of  options and hardly needed any in the end. Tink, who I never heard bark once, had got used to me and wanted rather a lot of head scratching doing in the evening.


We turned in at a reasonable time as Fraser was doing a food stall at the local market the next day, and I was off to see my folks who also live in Dorset. I said goodbye in the morning and he was more than happy for me to loiter and just make my own way out. So a small fire, a homemade flapjack bar and the remains of the previous night's fresh apple juice and I was out of there, with my coastal and woody batteries charged.

Having had a load of kit that then wasn't needed, I made my way home from visiting my parents with loads of travel time if needed and the M25 behaved itself the whole way round...How typical.

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