Category Archives: Bushcraft Principals

Prepared to Build a Shelter-First Lessons Bushcraft

Build A Shelter – First Lessons

Are you prepared to build a shelter?

The initial thoughts people have when asked the question “Are you prepared to build a shelter” is “Yes of course I am.” But in reality there maybe questions you haven’t thought about previously. When we teach young people about Shelter building we need to do more than teach how to build a shelter or tie a knot.

Lessons in build a shelter

Lessons in shelter building

It is looking at what our needs are and are we able to meet those need in the time we have. Planning is one of the most important skills you can have to be able to survive. When planning to build a shelter in a survival situation you need to plan more than where should I build it.

Many articles have been written about shelters. Very often the focus is the environment you find yourself, for example a snow hole when there has been heavy snow. Although this may be a factor when considering a shelter, there are many other factors to be considered. Some of these are more important considerations an individual may have to consider.

In my opinion, the most important consideration to be made is what are your needs. Although shelter is a priority in a survival situation, it is also a task that can take a lot of valuable, energy, time and resources. So, your first thoughts should be to answer questions surrounding the following areas.

  • Purpose of your shelter. Build what you need
  • Time, A valuable resource.
  • Resources, Building with what you have not what you want.

What is the reason to build a shelter?

This is where most people make a mistake and a point that many articles fail to cover. So, before you decide to start building it is important you stop and think about what you need. If you are planning to stay outdoors for a long period of time it may be a idea to build a substantial shelter that one that will take more time, energy and resources in the near future. Once you have decided what type of shelter you need you can then consider other critical issues. You might not need a water proof shelter, but you may need one that provides shelter from sun and or wind. Creating the wrong shelter can cost you a lot of time effort and energy.

Time. A valuable resource.

Time is something that has an impact on everyone, no matter what situation we are in. Whether it is our busy everyday lives, at home or at work or a survival situation where your life could depend on it. The first “time question” should be “Why do I need a shelter? You might be thinking that’s obvious, to keep you warm and safe. The problem is you don’t gain anything from that. You need to change your perspective on “Why you need a shelter.” Is it to survive a night or possibly two or are you planning on using your shelter long term. The answer will have a huge influence on what type of shelter you need.

Secondly, how quickly do you need the shelter and how long do you have to build it. If it is getting late on in the day and you need shelter it is unlikely you are going to build a shelter that will last days let alone weeks or months. So, you may have to build an initial shelter that

time prepared to build a shelter

time to shelter

is temporary, until you are able to build a shelter suitable to your needs. That simple shelter may be all you need if you are in a situation where you believe you are only going to need it for a night or two at the most.

I would rather spend a brief period of time to build a shelter that will meet my needs for one night in a limited amount of time than attempt to build something that is half finished and leaves me vulnerable during the night.

Resources, you can’t build with what you don’t have.

You may have decided on the type of shelter you need, but do you have access to the materials you are going to need. Initially you may look around and think “Sure I do, I am in a forest” But collecting sufficient quantities of materials that are suitable for what you plan to do can take a lot of energy and time. There may be plenty of resources but collecting it may take longer because you don’t have enough energy or time. You may need a temporary shelter to enable you to get the resources you need.

When making these decisions you also need to bear in mind do I have necessary tools to coolect the resources needed to build your shelter.

As you can see when it comes to building a shelter it is important you take time to plan what you need, what resources you need, how you will collect them and what shelter you may need in the interim. Planning is important in a survival situation as much if not more than everyday life. Your life may depend on it.

When doing activities with young people you may start with simple den building activities and make the activities more difficult as they build on their skills. To make the activities varied for young people you can add scenarios to the activities. These can be…

  • Providing them with limited resources
  • Limited resources
  • Time limits
  • To build a shelter for a designated environment or situation.

Adding these variations lets the young people learn new skills but also how to develop skills that are useful in everyday life. Plus, it can make the activity much more fun.

We all need to have the practical skills to survive, we also need to have the skills and abilities to use those skills in a way that you meet your needs when you need to.


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Tics, Protect Your Children

Deer Tic

Tics, Protect Your Children

I spend my time telling parents and people who work with children to encourage them to spend time outdoors. A lot is reassuring people that being outdoors in nature and having fun is safe. We live in a world where we are told don’t do this or that it is dangerous or not safe. In the United Kingdom we are very lucky, it is relatively safe and we don’t have a problem on the scale of the mosquito and malaria in the tropic. However we have a growing problem which can have long term problems for victims. The problem comes from Tics.

Tics A Growing Problem

People who know me will be saying, here he goes again, Tics. Yes I am going to talk about them as I do every year. It is a problem and it is one that isn’t going away. The problem isn’t the bite its self it is the diseases they can carry; Lyme Disease and its close relatives. It is a disease that can be debilitating and have effects that can remain with a sufferer for the rest of their lives. The number of confirmed cases in the UK has increased from 346 in 2003 to almost 1000 in 2015, it is a problem that is going getting worse. Although it is a growing problem and is starting to get more publicity with warning in the media each year, I am surprised at how many people are not aware or don’t see it as a big issue.

I was on a first aid course which was done through the scouting organisation where I volunteer. There was a mention of wasp stings and snake bites (Which are not a huge threat except for allergic reactions), I brought up Tics and the potential of contracting Lyme disease. The only people aware of the issue was the volunteers I worked with and that included the instructor. I find that a frightening scenario. So for people who know me who are saying here goes Castle, talking about Tics and Lyme disease, I have one thing to say, “Spread the word.”

What are Tics?

Tics are a small invertebrates that feed on blood to get the necessary protein they need for their eggs to develop. In the UK it is known that Lymes disease is carried by three types of Tics.

Ixodes ricinus -Deer/sheep Tic

Deer Tic

Male Deer Tic (Left)
Female Deer Tic (Right)

Feeds primarily on sheep and deer.

Ixodes hexagonus – the hedgehog tick

hedgehog Tic

hedgehog Tic

Ixodes canisuga – the fox or English dog tick.

English Dog Fox tic

English Dog Fox tic

Also feeds on other small mammals.

The problem is they are not bothered if it is a human that brush past them, they are willing to hitch a lift and make them their host to provide a nice meal of fresh blood. They all can carry Lyme disease.

Why Are Tics Found?

In the UK Tics can be found all over the country. They like to live on long grass woods and moorland, some are more prolific in the dens/nest of their host eg, foxes, badges and hedgehogs. You are less likely to find them in overgrown gardens in urban areas, however as more animals e.g. foxes and Hedgehogs migrate into urban areas the chances of infection will increase.

The NHS website lists these areas as greater risk.


  • the New Forest and other rural areas of Hampshire
  • the South Downs
  • parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire
  • parts of Surrey and West Sussex
  • Thetford Forest in Norfolk
  • the Lake District
  • the North York Moors
  • the Scottish Highlands

The problem is the full extent of the problem is not fully understood and the infection is likely to be a much bigger problem than is documented at the moment. People are now being recommended to take precautions regarding Tics at some events like Delamere Forest where a Park run is held.

How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed After A Tic Bite.

The most frequently quoted symptom of Lyme disease is the “Bulls Eye Mark” If one of these is seen after a Tic Bite you should got to see a doctor. This isn’t necessary to be infected with Lyme disease, it doesn’t show on every one. Here are a couple of examples of Bull Eye Marks and if seen seek advice from a doctor.

Bulls Eye mark from Tic bite

An example of the Bulls Eye Mark from Lymes Disease Tic Bite

Tic bite Bulls Eye mark

An example of the Bulls Eye Mark from Lymes Disease Tic Bite

Other symptoms may take several days or over a week to show. If after spending time outdoors in the countryside, especially if there was long grass, you was brushing past/through undergrowth or you sat on the ground. The other thing to look out for is insect bites. If you find a Tic remove it or take note of any unidentified insect bites you find. The first symptoms you should be aware of it flu like symptoms, these may include tiredness (fatigue), muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, a high temperature (fever), chills and neck stiffness.  it is easy to over look this as a cold. After being in the countryside where you know tics are present be aware to these symptoms.

Other symptoms that may not show for a few weeks are:

  • unexplained headaches and neck stiffness,
  • flu-like symptoms,
  • facial palsy (tremors or immobility),
  • arthralgia (joint pain),
  • heart palpitations,
  • dizziness.

Get Medical Advice.

If you start with any of these symptoms within a few weeks of going into the countryside, visit your doctor and explain the circumstance. This may seem a little like over kill, but it is very important you get diagnosed at the earliest possible time. This is because early intervention can mean the difference between successful treatment and management of the condition. If this doesn’t happen the consequences can be devastating for the individual for years to come.

the symptoms of Lyme disease can be devastating, so all precautions should be taken to prevent Tic bites. But don’t let it scare you from enjoying nature and your time in the countryside.

Preventing Tic Bites.

  • Habitat: Remember Tics live in wooded, grassy, and brushy areas.  Tics like moist, humid environments.  So ensure these areas of your body are protected, cover yourself, long sleeves and trousers. Trousers can be tucked into socks or gaiters worn. Especially  when in woody, grassy and bushy areas
  • Direction: Walk in the middle of trails/paths to avoid contact with undergrowth and with Tics.
  • Clothes: Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and trouser, you can tuck your trouser bottoms into your socks or wear gaiters. When you return home or camp, get into the habit of checking for insect bites at the earliest convenient time. When camping out change into clothes for night time when possible. If you like to wear out door clothes for sleep outdoors keep a dry set for nights.
  • Hair: Cover, braid, or tie up long hair, and consider wearing a hat.
  • Body: Remember to check for Tics when you can. Especially in hidden areas like under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, on the back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, around the waist and around your buttocks.

Insect Repellent.

There are some insect repellents that are recommended to stop Tic bites. These are generally Deet. Deet is used as an insect repellent and is found in varying concentrations in various products. Many people use it when in areas with lots of mosquitos. Since it was started being used after the Second World War it has been shrouded with controversy. There has been concerns raised that it can cause Cancer.

Dr James Logan, senior lecturer in medical entomology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has stated that the evidence that Deet is unsafe is insufficient. He also recommends that it is used in concentrations of 20% to 50%. Insect repellents lower than this may leave people at risk from insects. I have used high concentrated Deet in the past and I recommend that if you decide to use it you read the instructions carefully. I have seen it melt certain clothing, it is recommended it is washed off prior to sleep. That might be good advice. I believe in using Deet, but I say you should always follow the advice/instruction given with the product you purchases.

Deet – Insect Repellent.

With regards to Deet working against Tics I suggest you don’t use it alone. Don’t think because you are using Deet you wont get bitten.

Ray Mears has written about his experiences of dealing with Lymes disease he contacted after being bitten by a Tic. He said he was that ill he contemplated suicide. Bearing in mind it can be with you for life if not treated at a very early stage, it says to me it is not something to take the risk of being a sufferer.

Children and Tics.

I regularly work with children and you should always get them to check and report any insect bite. Educate them about tics and what they look like. If I know or think a child has been bitten by a Tic I would tell the parent and recommend they visit the doctor to have the child checked out. With children especially, it is better to be safe than sorry.


In The UK We Don’t Have The Problems There Are In Other Areas Of The World. Take Precautions, Take Care And Have Fun




Bushcraft Mums Give It A Go. Encouraging Our Children

Over the last few months various bushcraft mums have been inspiring. It can be difficult to encourage some parents to get outdoors without there children. The most common being I don’t do camping I need a hotel to sleep in. I respect somethings are not for everyone. However recently I have seen mums taking the bull by the horns. They said they weren’t fans of camping out, but they gave it ago for there children.

Bushcraft kit

A selection of bushcraft kit

A mum told me that she had made a promise to herself that her children weren’t going to miss out on any experience because she wasn’t interested or didn’t like it. Both these mums camped out and took part in bushcraft skills.  The even seemed to enjoy it. It is seeing people do this that should inspire us to push our limits to ensure our children experience as much of life as possible.

For me that means experiencing outdoors, nature or environment. I have spoken with children who have never seen a sheep or understood where their food comes from. In my eyes bushcraft shows our children how amazing the world we live in is and what uses it has. This builds confidence in children and gives them skills that can help some many areas of their life.

Only this week I was speaking to one mum who told me each year she built a den with her son and slept out. They raised £179 last year. Bushcraft mums and kids never stop being a source of encouragement for all parents to as one author said “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” Bushcraft mums are certainly at the front of getting children involved in outdoor activities.

What Is Bushcraft? Getting back to nature.

What is Bushcraft and what is it all about?

Bushcraft has grown in popularity in recent years. As would be expected it has developed and some people have incorporated new technology to varying degrees. The rights and wrongs of this are up for discussion. But what I would say is important is the fact that the original skills have been retained.

Bushcraft and Conservation.

Some people argue that bushcraft has come to incorporate conservation, where it was about survival in the past. In reality conservation has historically always been at the heart of bushcraft from its origins. The reason being the bush men and natives using these skills had limited resources. So were either nomadic or had to maintain their supply of materials and food locally.

Where Did The Term Bushcraft Come From?

 Bushcraft Shelter Building

Bushcraft 4 Kids

 Bushcraft  is a term that has been around since the 1800’s. It became a popular term initially in the Southern Hemisphere by Les Hiddins (the Bush Tucker Man) and in the Northern Hemisphere by Mors Kochanski. In the United Kingdom popularity increased due to television programmes by Ray Mears covering bushcraft and survival skills. There are now many survival/bushcraft programmes worldwide.

This has led to to people from all backgrounds spending more time in the countryside. Getting in touch with nature and learning new skills.

The term Bushcraft originally described skills used in the Australian bush.

The Definition Of Bushcraft 

In dictionaries the definitions vary in lengths. From “Skill at living in the bush”, to Random House Dictionary’s definition  “skill in anything pertaining to bush country, as in finding one’s way, hunting, or finding water.”

The term “Bush” is believed to come from the Dutch word ‘bosch’, (now ‘bos’). It was first used in Dutch colonies to describe woodland and country covered with natural wood. This was then expanded by the British colonies, to include uncleared or un-farmed districts, still in a state of nature. This gradually described countryside instead of towns.

The Modern Meaning of Bushcraft.

Bushcraft Firelighting


As a modern term we see bushcraft as skills used to thrive in the natural environment. It also includes the learning and acquisition of the skills needed to thrive in the countryside/Bush. These skills include fire fire craft, tracking, shelter-building, navigation by natural means, hunting, fishing, the use of knives and axes, foraging, water sourcing, hand-carving wood, container construction from natural materials, construction and use of tools and rope and twine-making, the list goes on. It includes skills used in the countryside to enable you to survive.

As I mentioned earlier some bushcraft enthusiasts use more and more gadgets. Personally I would call that more survival skill. If the aim is to collate items and skills to survive, if needed and you keep them at hand, it is upto the individual.

However this is the approach of a Prepper. But they may also practice bushcraft skills.

It’s All About Nature

Bushcraft Navigation


When looking at bushcraft people often think about practical skills such as friction fire lighting or shelter building etc. What is sometimes neglected is knowledge of nature. A bushcraft enthusiast should increase their knowledge level regarding, edible plants, medicinal properties, properties of certain species of trees to assist in fire lighting or identifying animals. The list again is one that goes on and on.

It is about going back to our natural roots and learning about the nature around us and further a field. As I said, it is this element that is overlooked, but it can also be the most challenging, rewarding and fun elements of Bushcraft.

Bushcraft is about nature and how we use our nature resources.