Sarah, Connor and I just spent a fantastic day with Patrick McGlinchey from Backwoods Survival School on the outskirts of Glasgow.
We started off the day with a discussion on what “Backwoods” actually means and how it’s as much about preparing your mind as it is your body and your kit. Patrick was able to describe just about every plant, weed, shrub and tree that we passed and gave us the chance to sample all of the edible morsels that we could find as we walked through the woods. We also discussed the materials that could be obtained and what could be made from them, this included everything from cordage to fish traps to which wood was the hottest and brightest to burn.
We then had a long talk on knife safety as much for my benefit as for Sarah (12) and Connor (8). It was then time to put these skills to the test. Connor had chosen to make a bow and arrow whilst Sarah and I would be making a fire bow. Again plenty of time was spent showing us the steps required. One of Patrick’s principles is to learn by doing. He may well show you how to do something, but you don’t take what he starts and finish it, you have to reproduce the steps he has shown you. This obviously takes a little longer but is MUCH more rewarding.
The only complaint that I could possibly have is that; as I had to pay so much attention to completing my own task, I completely missed the finer details of how to make arrows. I’ll need to see what Connor remembers. The only bit I picked up on was using dried dogfish skin to sand the shaft.
Our creations complete, it was time for a well earned (I thought) cup of tea. Patrick demonstrated fire starting using a fire bow and also using flint and steel in conjunction with some fungus.
After the tea it was time to put my firebow and my stamina to the test. I did manage to get it burned in. I did manage to produce smoke. I even managed to burn my finger, by poking it in to “see how hot it was”. The main thing I was struggling with was bowing level, so i was a bit stop and start. I will be practicing this over the next few weeks.
Next it was time to “hunt” for our “dinner”. Patcick had brought along one of his hand made blowpipes and we took it in turns to pop a handily placed balloon. Despite my previous reputation as a blowhard it was Sarah who had the best combinatio of puff and aim.
It was then time to head back to the car, sampling some more nibbles on the way and also giving Connor a chance to try out his bow and arrow in an open field.
All in all a fantastic day, proof of the pudding, the kids want to go back again. I am going back, I have booked to go on the next available Backwoodsman course which lasts a whole weekend.