Springtime means its Stinging Nettle time! The young Nettle leaves are ripe for foraging and cooking. They are delicious and highly nutritious, packed with vitamins C, D and K and minerals, Iron, Zinc and Magnesium. Nettles can be added to many of your weekly family dishes adding that extra nutritional kick! Pop a few wild nettle leaves into your omelettes, Spaghetti Bolognaise, soups or curries. Cook them like Spinach for a side dish or make a Detox Tea!

My Granddaughter and I had a lot of fun last summer making this video of how to make Stinging Nettle Soup and Tea. Its such a fun thing to do with children and because they pick and cook the nettles they are more likely to try it.

Stinging Nettles will often be used on our Foraging Courses, Family Camps and Adults Bushcraft courses. We not only cook them to add to the evening meals but we make tasty snacks like Stinging Nettle Crisps to have after a busy afternoon of building shelters or lighting fires. And that’s not the only thing we use them for, we also make string, natural cordage from them.

I’d love to know if make your own Stinging Nettle soup or tea!

Are you a Merlin fan? Whether you are or aren’t you can’t help but notice how popular the series has become. Now getting ready to embark on season 4 (on screens in September) the story about the young wizard protecting the arrogant Prince Arthur continues.

We love the show and for the last couple of months we’ve been really excited here at Natural Pathways Bushcraft.

Merlin's Sorceror's Staff

Merlin's Staff created for the BBC TV series by Natural Pathways instructor, Andrew Duncan. Come down to Natural Pathways and make yours too!

Andrew Duncan, Natural Pathways instructor has been commissioned to make the staffs to be used by Merlin and White Witches in the popular BBC TV series.

We’re really looking forward to seeing what magic Merlin and the White Witch conjure up with them.
Adam Marshall from the TV series commented:

The staffs are excellent and exactly what we wanted and will be used throughout Series 4 of Merlin.

Keep an eye out for them!

If you too would like to make your own magical staff or walking staff our next Staff Making course run by Andrew is Saturday 24th September 10.30am-3pm in beautiful woodland close to Canterbury, Kent.

For more information, click on the link http://www.natural-pathways.co.uk/staff-making-workshop.php

This course is suitable for children age 10 and over.

Staff Making 1Sitting around a camp fire in the middle of a wood or forest is a magical experience, but to be able to create something that you’ve put time into making is truly wonderful. Taking time to design and plan your Staff and then to spend time taking the bark off and carving your own design and to personalise it with branding you initials or logo.

The staff you make will not only be a great item for hiking holidays but it will last you a life time. You may consider making a Tracking Stave; an invaluable resource whilst out Tracking. How to use them is also taught on our Tracking Course.

Staff Making 3The wood we tend to use are seasoned Hazel, Ash or Oak these will give you the best results and finished correctly make them very durable. The knots and curves of the natural wood make them look very rustic and with adding a personal touch it makes your staff an extension of you.

Choosing the right tree to coppice is very important, and if you are planning on making a Staff on your own, remember to always get the woodland owners permission. If, you find a branch or piece of wood that has fallen from the tree, even better. If the branch you are using is still green, once you’ve stripped the bark off you will need to let it dry for a few weeks. This will season the wood and make it ideal for using as a staff. If the wood has been collected from a fallen branch make sure there is no wood worm on any part of the branch even if it’s not on the part to be used for your staff.

Staff Making 4The design you choose or the way you finish your staff depends on your design and ideas, as long as once carved, branded or just stripped and rubbed down you seal it with wax, wood stain or varnish. This will help preserve the wood and protect it in all weathers.

Staff Making 2

Our first ever Staff Making course was in February and we had eight eager participants who made beautiful staffs, some chose to use the branding irons to personalise their creations and others added button compasses to the top. They all worked hard throughout the day around the camp fire with hot drinks to hand and within a relaxed, sociable atmosphere.

One participant commented

“I didn’t realise how much went in to making a Staff. The day was just what I wanted, enjoyable, informative and with excellent instruction. I’m going home very happy.” Matt

Another said….

“Thanks for another great day in the woods around the Fire; I learnt a lot and met some truly lovely people.” Kim

Staff Making 5Our next Staff Making day will be on 27th March at our beautiful woodland venue near Canterbury, Kent. We provide all the seasoned wood and materials needed and you will be able to choose from a variety different wood and lengths.

It’s a great way of spending quality time away from all the stresses of modern life, and you come away with something you have created and that can be used for years to come.

It’s pretty easy in many areas of the UK to find a decent bit of clay to slop in a bucket and take home to process. If you’re very lucky, you can dig and shape the clay straight away.

Dry your pot before firing

Dry your pot before firing

All you need to do now is dry and fire your pot. (more…)

How to make a feather stick

It’s pretty wet outdoors at the moment. Whether it’s rained or not, wood can be pretty damp and this makes it more difficult to light. It’s important to find dry tinder to light a fire quickly. One excellent way is to make a Feather Stick, by exposing the dry wood in the centre of your stick and creating fine feathers that can catch a spark easily.

It’s important to use a very sharp knife. (I recommend the Mora 860 Stainless Steel or Mora 840 Carbon Steel for an excellent, inexpensive bushcraft knife).

Remember the rule to cut away from your body and do not cut above your leg.

Good woods for making Feather Sticks are Pine, Hazel or Birch, avoid hard woods.

Split the wood in half using your knife and a thin log to hammer the blade of the knife.
How to make a feather stick - Image 1

Split the wood again so you have created four quarters.
How to make a feather stick - Image 2

One side of each piece of wood will have an angle where you split it and it’s this angle that will help you to make your fine feathers.
How to make a feather stick - Image 3

Using your sharp knife and long strokes, cut thin slithers down the corner of the angle making sure you stop before the end of your piece of wood and so your feathers stay attached. Don’t worry if some come away, they can be added to the fire later.
How to make a feather stick - Image 4

Continue with this method working up the stick and making your feathers smaller and thinner.

Light the finest feathers with your fire steel and let the flames catch the larger feathers.

Continue to add further wood and enjoy your fire.

This skill is covered on our new One Day Bushcraft Course.

Wild Strawberry - Fragaria vesca

A forager’s summertime delicacy.

Have you had your fill of Wild Strawberries this Summer? What a treat both to the eye and to taste. When ever I see Wild Strawberries I think of Faeries and expect them to be hiding under a leaf spying on me just like in my childhood story books.

This beautiful, dainty fruit is so delicious, packed with flavour and is a wonderful treat to find on an afternoon stroll through the countryside.

It can be found throughout Britain in woodlands, upon shady banks, hillsides and gardens, it enjoys rich soil. A perennial herb with a slanting branched rhizome, the leaves are toothed and veined, trefoil in shape with a paler, silky underside.

It flowers from April to June with flowers of five white petals and a cluster of yellow stamens. It fruits in June and July.

Don’t mistake Wild Strawberry for Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis) which has similar leaves and flowers but the fruits are hard and dry, quite different from the juicy fruit of Wild Strawberry.

The leaves of Wild Strawberry can be used as a tea as a mild laxative and a diuretic and be used to treat kidney complaints. The leaves, crushed can also be used on abscesses and carbuncles or on freckles as an overnight treatment and other skin problems.

It is important to check with a professional herbalist before trying any herbal remedy. Wild Strawberries have also been used cosmetically for removing stains from teeth.

Wild Strawberry leaves and fruit can be added to salads and the fruit can be used in many summer deserts, shortbread, cakes or dried, bottled or frozen.

In folklore Wild Strawberries were used in love rituals and it was said that if you shared a double strawberry with someone that the two of you would fall in love. Because of their colour and heart shape, Strawberries were the symbol for Venus, Goddess of Love.

Stinging Nettle - Urtica diocaOur first experience of stinging nettles is usually in childhood and the familiar itching, burning rash that occurs after the briefest of brushes with bare skin. The use of stinging nettles goes far beyond nettle tea. (more…)

Bluebell WoodSpending time in nature during different seasons allows us to experience a multitude of personalities. The woods at Natural Pathways that barely whispered life in the Winter have exploded into a frenzy of animal and plant activity.

The coppiced sweet chestnuts have yet to cover the forest floor with their canopy and the wildflowers are out in abundance. (more…)

FireFire is so much more than a source of heat or a means to cook food. Sitting around a roaring fire is associated with so many things eg. family, community, celebration. But in terms of survival and longer term bushcrafting, fire is essential. (more…)

Bushcraft FireInspired by outdoor expert Ray Mears, Isabel Lloyd and family head to the wilds of Kent to learn how to forage, start a fire, build a shelter – and avoid aggravating the resident insect life

A confession: I have a crush on Ray Mears. Physically, he’s not my type – too roly-poly, too bossy and Baden-Powell-ish around the eyes. But there’s something about the way television’s apostle of the wilderness can knock up a des res out of two branches of fir and some wet willow bark that makes me go all cave-woman. (more…)