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A drinking den in the woods.
An illegal campfire surrounded by rubbish.

What “Bushcraft” is not about.

It’s fair to say that there is no real consensus on what skills and practices really constitute “Bushcraft.”

Part of the reason for this is that it varies so much in different conditions and locations.

There is however general agreement about what Bushcraft is not about.

In recent years there seems to have been a disturbing increase in practices that are anything but low impact.

It’s as if people think the woods and the wilderness can just be torn apart for their own enjoyment.

The first two of these pictures, all taken in the woods and moorlands where I walk my dog, are typical of the types of drinking camps and dens that have gone on for years in places close to urban areas.

Nothing new there and not much you can do about it but clear up after they have gone home.

A poorly built shelter left standing in the woods. The type of eyesore that gives bushcraft a bad name.

What seems to be a new development is the widespread practice of building natural shelters in the woods.

These are not the kind of dens that kids often tend to build, but serious attempts to copy the types of shelters shown in TV bushcraft shows.

Several things characterise these shelters as having been built by people with no real understanding of what bushcraft is all about though.

Of first and foremost importance to a responsible bushcrafter is the practice of “leave no trace.”

Hacking down live trees to build shelters or fires is destructive, unsustainable and definitely not what bushcraft is all about.

Leaving shelters built in the woods is an eyesore, potentially dangerous and definitely not what bushcraft is all about.

Leaving rubbish around or even buried is illegal, slovenly practice and definitely not what bushcraft is all about.

Lighting fires and then leaving charred ground with a ring of stones and beer cans is disgraceful behaviour, potentially devastating to the environment and definitely not what bushcraft is all about.

All these practices show a total lack of respect and understanding for the outdoors. It is the practice of a lout, not a bushcrafter.

When I leave a campsite, I make sure I leave no trace of ever being there.

Destruction, plain and simple.

Everything carried in must leave the same way, that means carrying your rubbish home with you.

Natural shelters should only be built where there is enough dead material to not impact on the local environment. They should always be dismantled and the site returned to natural condition before you leave.          Using a tarp or a tent is almost always a better option.

Remember, in England and Wales you need the permission of the land owner before you can set up any kind of camp, natural or otherwise. Camp fires are illegal in many places even if you do have permission to camp.

Fire Fighters -  2017 - Gary Waidson - Ravenlore

If you do have permission to light a fire, it must be lit in a container or on bare earth, not on leaf litter, pine needles or peat. Fires can spread and smoulder underground in these conditions and re-ignite with disastrous consequences.

Wildfires like this one caused by a foolishly sited campfire, damage large tracts of land and can devastate wildlife and livestock.

Do not cut trees or branches for firewood, live wood is full of water and does not burn well anyway. Collect fallen, dead wood or don’t have a fire at all if there is insufficient fuel. A stove or a small hobo stove is usually a far better option.

Make sure any fire is completely extinguished before you leave.  Pour enough water onto the fire area that you can pick out any ashes left over with your bare hands and scatter them to hide all traces of your fire.   Cover any scorched areas on the ground with fresh soil or detritus.

If you can look back and see remains of your campsite when you have packed up to leave, then you have no right to call yourself a real bushcrafter.

 

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Bushcraft and wilderness skills should always be practised with respect for the environment and other users of the outdoors. Leave No Trace.

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