Friday, 23 September 2016

Jack Raven Bushcraft Medicinal Plants 1-2-1

The first time I'd heard of Jack Raven Bushcraft was actually on social media, with the name cropping up on the usual haunts frequented by outdoorsy folk on Facebook and mentioning everything from regular courses to IOL courses as wellI met  Gary at my first ever Mayday Meet and amongst other things that he was doing he had a display of natural plant creams for various aliments. I therefore decided to book a bespoke medicinal plants 1-2-1 with an overnight stay with Gary as part of my sabbatical

 Once we'd sorted the detail out he emailed me the the directions/ meeting up PDF which was more akin to a welcome pack and very helpful. He later said that the idea is to not only be informative but to help prevent folk getting lost en route so he then doesn't have to field calls whilst getting ready to deliver a course.

Well if the joining up notes weren't detailed enough the sign on the farm outbuilding told me I had successfully  reached the right place too.


I met up with Gary and his dog Willow on a glorious Autumnal morning in undulating countryside and then without further ado we proceeded to the wooded base camp with my kit. My first impression was that a lot of work and thought had gone into the camp. Not only was there the usual paraphernalia such as parachute suspended over a fire but also a green woodworking and smithy area (which is done in association with Kaos Blacksmiths who I will be visiting in November), even the bird feeders and pinned up reading matter in the compost toilet...Which had a scat chart right by the throne!

We kicked off with a quick tour off the base camp and then, almost inevitably we had a brew. before we set off down country tracks... 

...In and out of the farm looking, talking and foraging...We not only discussed medicinal plants but also anything of interest on the bimble too. 


...And along small country roads with me reaching for my notepad and pen to start scribbling notes as we paused. It's worth a quick credit to Willow who was really biddable whilst we were out.

To make sure that I had some pictures I set my camera on a tripod in time lapse mode and predictably had lots of shots of flora, sky and both of us as I carried it from location to location.

We returned with various foraged leaves and Gary then set about making some teas to which we also had some previously gathered dried ingredients. 

We spent quite a while sampling the Nettle, Willowherb, Ground Ivy, Nettle, Plantain  and, Elderflower like wine aficionados,  trying to describe what the aromas reminded us of. Gary's best one was a herby sausage roll and the Ground Ivy really reminded me of the smell that you get from Nettle syrup.

After we'd finished that section we then had another regular brew and set about destroying a tupperware container of biscuits that I had stashed away in my stuff.


After having a packed lunch with the Autumnal sun still with us we then moved towards looking in a little more detail at the various ways that medicinal plants can be prepared and then used internally and topically. Some methods would be a little beyond my preparation and usage skill set but equally it's good to have the knowledge written down and it's a useful skill to know when not to attempt something.  Incidentally the table we are sat at is for course participents to use during lunch and tea breaks so that not only have they got a decent spot to eat but it is a way of promoting banter and bonding between folk as they eat.


During the discussion we looked at Gary's collection of previously prepared oils, dried flowers etc (some of which went into the teas we made) and the sun really set the liquids off as I took these photos.

The next step was to convert some of the infused oils into creams. Another nice touch is that Gary will bring along a plastic storage box of books relevant to a day or course and we occasionally dipped into them during this process. In the right hand side picture I'm weighing out some beeswax onto a really delicate set of scales.

And here is a close up of the measured oil and the scales with the weight equivalent of beeswax in. That's 30g being weighed out and the delicate scales almost force the user to be delicate too.

And then into a pan on a low heat until the 'ingredients' have got to know each other and are totally blended together.

Once this is achieved the liquid is carefully poured into labelled jars which are then left undisturbed to set in a gentle breeze blowing through the preparation area. The three creams are Plantain, Self Heal and Comfrey.

Once we'd finished all things medicinal Gary took me on a quick tour of the woods just before tea time. Talking of tea I'd said during the organising of this 1-2-1 that I'd do some for us both. This is a Tikka curry and I'll just take this point in time to say that I wouldn't be without the vacuum sealer that I used to bag this as it has so many outdoor applications, and indeed it works in tandem with a dehydrator too.

Whilst tea was warming through I nipped off to set up for the night and I'd decided on a ground dwelling night with a tarp for a roof.  There was some low level cover to the left to help minimise draughts but after having  an initial  setup brain fart I adopted a closed end. This is a DD Tarp M which gives me that little extra length to comfortably lose the end to make the wedge design. Incidentally you can see Gary's Lavvu style tentage in the background.

After tea I went and set up a trail cam near a badger sett and then returned later for a sit spot. It was a really still night so that was in my favour.

One series of pictures showed two badgers and there was a brief appearance from a Fox. As for the sit spot...They seemed to stay that far side of their sett and I didn't see them from my position but I could hear them crashing about. I decided to return and chill after 90 minutes.

The morning saw the weather set fair again so kit was stowed quickly and easily. I did tea in a Dutch oven but I usually use a non-stick Primus saucepan and after knocking out a bannock I did this cooked breakfast with ease. I had intended to rey and cook the scrambled egg in an origami style container but it turned out to be a little too small. No porblem though when your plan B is a non-stick pan. I cooked it to a not quite done state and fliiped it out, I then pan fried some of last nights curry potatoes, some pre-chopped bacon and a defrosted sausage and then flopped the nearly scrambled egg back in at the eleventh hour.

I beat a lazy retreat from the woods, (who in their right mind would want to rush?) and decided to head for a whistle stop visit to first the RSPB reserve at Dungeness which was close by, and then to RSPB Rainham Marshes on the way home.

 It wasn't my first time visiting Dungeness but it was my first visit to the RSPB reserve. Of the flora there was a final hurrah from the Viper's Bugloss and Ragwort with the highlight being dozens and dozens of Martins and Swallows probably topping up on the way to Africa. If I was a Hobby making the same journey back as these herundines then I'd make sure I stopped off in TN29 en route. 

Sad as it harks back to when we used to see large numbers all summer back in the day and that this was probably our last sight of them in blighty before they cross the channel.

For me Rainham Marshes is just through the Dartford Tunnel and then left so it wasn't too much of a detour. There the beautiful powder blue Chicory and vibrant yellow Wild Rocket was still to be seen, and lots of House Sparrows could be heard chirping from cover. The Dungeness visit wasn't bad, the Rainham visit was OK but the Jack Raven visit was exactly what I was hoping for a more. Recommended. 

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