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Backwoods Skills Day 22nd March 2015

As Part of our Backwoods Program we decided to have a full day of skills training outside because Backwoods is such an outdoors centred activity. It is very difficult to light fires and build shelters indoors!!!!

We met up at Turvey Allotments and were headed for Turvey Woods. Alan and Fiona couldn’t make it unfortunately, so Mary from Cubs and Fiona from Beavers joined us. After a quick detour trying to find the correct place we got to the right spot and and explained to the scouts what the whole idea of the day was.

The first task we sat them was to build a bivvy. There was plenty of materials lying about so the scouts didn’t need to cut down any branches. Each patrol was given an area and told to work within it. Meanwhile, the leaders got the fire going. We knew that we’d need quite a large fire if we were all to cook on it and that we’d need lots of embers, so we got it going straight away.While the scouts were building their bivvys, the leaders practiced some of their Backwoods skills. Brendan and Mary had a go at making a Swedish Fire Log, which didn’t quite work out so well, so Ciaran made it into a Latvian Fire Log. Brendan also tried to make some Char Cloth in the fire. Fiona got to grips with a Trangia, which she had never seen before. By 1pm we were all starving so we sat around the fire and ate our lunches. Wisely we had packed some sandwiches in case the cooking didn’t go so well. There was plenty of banter and good humour while we ate.

After lunch we moved on to fire lighting. We had covered this with most of the scouts at our campfire on the beach, but we have some new members since then. Brendan showed everyone a feather stick he had made previously and explained how to make one with a knife and with an axe. Ciaran then explained to to use flint and steel strikers and demonstrated on to lint and some of the char cloth that Brendan had just made. Everybody had a go and some got the hang of it quicker than others.

Fiona had brought some chicken drumsticks. Brendan built a tripod and put it over the fire and suspended the chicken from it to cook. The scouts had brought some spuds and sausages and other bits and pieces to cook.

While the scouts were cooking on the fire, Brendan and Ciaran had a go at a drill bow. This is an alternative method for starting a fire where you use a bow to drive a spindle to make charred embers which you can use to start a fire. Despite their best efforts, they couldn’t get more than a bit of smoke. More practice is needed!!

The fire needed some looking after too so we kept it going by adding small pieces of wood and kindling to it, but unfortunately it wasn’t big enough to cook all of the food that the scouts had put on it and it ended up being smothered and dying a slow and painful death.

The scouts wanted a game before we finished in the woods so we had a game of Sardines. It didn’t take very long and so they wanted another. Ciaran had told one of the scouts to hide while Brendan had told another. It got a bit confusing, but everyone had a laugh. We packed up and made sure the fire was out and no litter was left behind. It was like we had never been. Leave no Trace is an important part of the Backwoods Skills.

All in all, it was a great success and Alan and Fiona were sad to miss out on it. We have a few bits and pieces to cover off to make sure that everyone gets their badge and we will do that at our meeting on Thursday.

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