Saturday, 9 July 2016

Badgells Wood Off-Grid Campsite visits 1 & 2

As part of my ongoing sabbatical (yes, I've mentioned it again but it is my current narrative) I wanted to get myself to Badgells Wood campsite in Kent. It is a more specialist in that it is more off-grid than your average site and indeed Black Wolf bushcraft hold regular sessions within it.

A brief roundup to fill you in on some detail: it's open March- October, has compost toilets and showers, it has specific pitches but they are quite separate, it's location can be seen here and prices here.

The wood is divided into areas which offer a differing experience, I had booked into the Great Park wood (the adults only mainly Sweet Chestnut part), there is also Tudors Spring which is for those who want close access to their car, The Oaks (general camping) and room for 'one or two' camper vans.


Upon arrival I gathered the wood I'd ordered (no foraging or own wood allowed) and loaded it into my portable quartermasters store for the duration-A wheel barrow and was told that there were some folk in the adults only bit but no one in the general area so I swapped. I wasn't being anti-social but I was there on the solo camp seclusion ticket.


I parked and headed up and right along a concrete path (over an old WW II trench) ,then did a left into the green section and of the four generously sized pitches named after birds I chose Wren, simply because it had  the best trees to chuck up a tarp in the shape of two sturdy Sweet Chestnuts, ideally spaced for a bit of tarp and hammock action (although it did rather bisect the pitch). My initial thought was that the pitches were perhaps aimed more at tents, at least in that area, nevertheless the view was rather special from whatever angle I looked out and I noticed a good display of honeysuckle in one corner of the canopy above me. 

The purchased fire wood was of a good size but I would suggest that unless you also purchase some kindling that taking a choppy thing to make some smaller lengths out of your supply that you can see on the left of the picture. I decided to start as I meant to go on and used a bowdrill to kick off the 'Bushcraft TV'. I had hoped to set up the time lapse on my camera but failed miserably so I'm using my positional test pic. It was rather satisfying as the recent rain had meant that there was a lot of moisture (and a little mud, especially on the paths) to contend with. Note the basic 'fence' behind me which marked out each pitch.


The bag of wood is a good size and it would have been easy to keep chucking an extra log on but I decided to go for a modest three to five log sized fire until I was cooking, and to my lunch of risotto with sausages rescued from my son's barbeque and cut free from their carbon coat and diced. The red and white number on the chair is a recently purchased Maasai robe in support of Woodland Ways' Bushcraft Foundation on it's first outing.


So with the fire lit and lunch done it was all about getting some clean lines on the old tarp. Rather fortuitously the wind was blowing away from the established fire site and I've deliberately taken the shot this way to try and give some scale to the pitch. I have my back to the farthest point and just beyond the tarp is the entrance to the right, with the fire just in he picture. I found some fairly straight lengths scattered around the pitch, and coupled with some old bracken lying by an attempted shelter further down, I had an au natural landing pad by my whoopie slung hammock. There is a little flint in the ground but I didn't have too much trouble pegging out.


Well that was all the necessary set up done, it was then onto some projects with the second one after the bowdrill being some Birch tar, and some ethereal-smoke-through-the trees-production.

And the whole day was powered by tea and coffee drink-wise and my bespoke trivet was just the job for the kettle. Incidentally there were washing machine braziers available if campers wanted.

The wind direction changed ever so slightly necessitating me re-locating my chair, but that said it does offer another angle on the pitch. This time the entrance is just beyond the trees on the right.

And onto another little project, that of making some charred seed fire lighting medium. Note the copious jet issuing from the hole in the lid.

And to the third and final camp view. This is over the basic wooden fence where the fire is.

I had a small afternoon window between projects so I decided to have a quick bimble further into the wood, and then decided that I wanted my time lapse bow drill picture so I did! Actually, practicing in damper conditions ain't a bad thing, narcissistic pyro picture or not. Actually, the picture sequence was rather good so I chucked them onto a Facebook photo gallery here.

Tea was a Chicken Chinese curry using this rather fabulous paste, I added a small stir fry pack and boiled up a portion of rice. I sent a most agreeable smell emanating through the canopy. A fine way to christen my new smaller sized Petromax Dutch oven too. 

I knew that the mobile quartermasters store was available and it probably meant that I bought more gear than I could really ever utilise on the duration of this camp but neatly stacked it was a case of wheeling it just under the tarp at night.

I had a nocturnal wander as the light faded but I wasn't hopeful of seeing too much. I heard a Tawny Owl and a couple of Foxes having a set to, but I saw no deer sign in or around my pitch but I still chucked up my trail cam. when I returned there was a bit of a chill in the air so I knocked up an impromptu reflector with more wood scattered in the pitch and used up the remaining wood (minus some that I kept for breakfast). I also used the Maasai robe which helped. I purposely hadn't looked at the time on a regular basis and every time I did it was way later than I thought which I took as a good sign.


I had a decent nights kip and used up the previously mentioned retained firewood for a breakfast fire. It also gave me the opportunity for an early morning smokey canopy shot too.

Beans and bacon minus the eggs I left behind in my trusty Primus saucepan, and a date and walnut bannock to power me through the morning.

As I let the fire die down I struck camp and made a wheel barrow run to the car. I utilised the wood used for the hammock platform and reflector in the perimeter fence and when I was ready to move off I had this small amount of embers to extinguish (my boot is on the left for scale). 

I'd planned to have more of a walk around, but to be honest I got rather absorbed in my own little world and once in situ the only words I spoke were when my wife rung. I also had a pre-arranged rendezvous Steve Kirk (who you may know from the  May Day Meet and the Bushcraft magazine) to have a photos session.

Well that was early July and I found myself in early October close to a Natural Pathways Nature Awareness Day in Kent so I decided that a cheeky overnighter the day before at Badgells Wood with the idea being that I would be close to the Kent Downs for the awareness day so I could have a lazy start.


After a quick look at  various camps I chose the same one as last time to utilise my time there, and as before before I got my tarp tent up and got stuck into camp life but the funny thing is it was actually drier underfoot in Autumn than it was in July. The highlight whilst I was warming the food for the hay oven (pictured above right) I watched as a Common Buzzard landed in a tree near me. He stayed briefly before flying off and I paced the distance out to fifteen of my paces.

When night finally falls dark means dark in the wood and I felt like I was lucky the only person in around thirty acres of wood that night which I confirmed when I left, that was a nice bonus.


What I didn't report on last time was the area just a short walk from the camping wood where the activity board, rope swing and new(ish) showers are. They warm up nicely and have an egg timer inside to prevent all the hot water being used in busy times and have Ecovor shower gel in too.

I'd thoroughly recommend Badgells Wood.

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