Our Woodlore courses due to take place in 2019 are now available to book on the website. In celebration of our 35th Anniversary, Ray has offered his time to lead some of his usual courses, alongside some of our classics, giving everyone the chance to learn a range of bushcraft skills directly from Ray.
James Smith attended his first course, the Fundamental Bushcraft, with us in April this year and caught the ‘bushcraft bug’. Here is a short review from James after completion of his second course, the Carving Master Class with Ray Mears, which he booked very shortly after returning home from the Fundamental Bushcraft course:
As anyone reading this may appreciate, completing the Woodlore Fundamental Bushcraft course can leave you with severe withdrawal symptoms! This was certainly true for myself. So before I’d even unpacked all my gear I jumped at the chance to attend a Carving Masterclass with Ray Mears.
Many aspects of bushcraft require patience and observation: carving is no exception. As students we were encouraged to take our time, deal with problems early on (‘a philosophy for life’) and also factor in some breaks. After all, tiredness and very sharp tools do not mix well…
Throughout the course Ray and his assistants were constantly on hand to offer advice and guidance, all within easy reach of the campfire kettle. Slowly but surely we turned humble pieces of birch into spoons.
Spoons?! On the surface it can seem like no big deal. But there are many valuable skills and procedures involved in the creation of even the most utilitarian of objects – skills that we are increasingly losing touch with. If you want to gain a new appreciation of simple, everyday objects, try making some of them!
Now, I just need to befriend a tree surgeon…
– James Smith
Earlier this week we invited you to send us your questions for an interview with one of Woodlore’s Fundamental Instructors, Keith Whitehead, about our courses. Many of you kindly took the time to submit your excellent questions, and yesterday Keith sat down to answer them:
Question: After just completing the last course of the season I finally understand what you and the other instructors have been saying when quizzed about the Journeyman. “The more you put in, the more you get out.” I put a lot into the course, physically and mentally, but I got a lot more out of the Journeyman, including good friends and an unforgettable but tough and rewarding experience. Dan, Keith and Rob, thanks for all your help, encouragement, support and sense of humour.My question to you, Keith – After the Journeyman and the obvious positive experience and impact it had on you, what course/adventure/challenge did you undertake next and why?I’m really interested to know how the Journeyman experience contributed to what you did next, plus I’m looking for something else to do after next year and you haven’t steered me wrong yet. 😜 – Chris G (WINNER OF KEITH’S FAVOURITE QUESTION)
Answer: Hi Chris, I’m glad that you enjoyed the Journeyman; you and your team did very well! Just like you, the course set me thinking very deeply about my approach to the outdoors and about what I would like to do next. I think that it is the subtle differences that really show through: you have a better idea of priority, you realize the importance of looking out for others and taking in the slack when you need to and you have a much better understanding of how to prepare for future trips.As far as what I decided to do next, I made the decision to make teaching and working in the outdoors a full time occupation. This in turn led me on to learning more advanced skills in the Arctic and here in the UK. I think the key is to use the skills that you have learned to pursue what you are passionate about. Once you have identified what that is, you can move forward better prepared and continue the learning. That’s something that never stops!
The following post was written by Senior Assistant Mark Booton:
I am, if I’m being entirely honest, not a natural when it comes to carving. It is one of those Bushcraft skills which I need to work on. The fact that I find it challenging strengthens rather than diminishes my will to improve, and also heightens the enjoyment and satisfaction I feel when I carve something that I can be proud of.
I put down my knife and finish sanding my second Kuksa, a traditional wooden cup crafted by the Sami people of northern Scandinavia (my first attempt didn’t quite turn out as planned – my wife now very kindly refers to it as the ‘olive dish’!). I can remember the pride with which I took home my first carved spoon after attending the Fundamental Bushcraft course back in 2010. The fact that the spoon was not very good (misshapen and not symmetrical!) didn’t matter. I had toiled over it, sweated and bled (a little!), and eventually after several hours of sawing, carving and last-minute sanding produced something that, for all intents and purposes, resembled an eating implement… okay then, a spoon!
The following post was written by Woodlore’s Quartermaster and Aspirant Instructor Keith Whitehead:
I’m sometimes asked during the winter months if things at Woodlore are quiet. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true that our UK season has wound down following the end of the Journeyman Course, but there is still work to do and adventure to plan.
One of my first tasks as Quartermaster is to organise the course equipment so that it is ready for the next season. This, as you might imagine, takes some time and, sometimes, during the process of organising and sorting through the stores, I come across a lost gem that sparks the imagination. One such gem is an old catapult. When I first set eyes on it, there was a glimmer of a memory from years ago and I recognised it as being the same item pictured in The Survival Handbook, written by Raymond Mears in 1990. I received the book as a present soon after its publication and was immediately enthralled by it. This was to be one of the stepping-stones that led me to Woodlore and started my journey with the company. Continue reading