Wild things: The summer bushcraft camp teaching Wirral’s kids survival skills
Confession time: we’re a wee bit scared of being stuck in Royden Park past sunset.
There’s an old episode of South Park where, after being stuck in a building with no power for a few minutes, the townsfolk go hysterical and instantly resort to cannibalism.
That’d be us, we think. If only we had some basic survival skills instilled within us when young then perhaps we’d probably sleep a bit more soundly and go to bed after 8pm. God help us when the apocalypse comes…
Today’s generation will be well prepared though thanks to Littlefoot Team Building. A small events company run by 36-year-old Bristolian Jo Birch, Littlefoot is providing a Bushcraft Camp throughout August at Claremont Farm for children aged seven and up.
We meet Jo – Looking every inch the bearded, rugged survival expert – outside Claremont’s farm shop. He’s in the middle of a camp with a team of 12 kids in the woods. It sounds like things are going well.
“The kids love it,” Jo tells us. “We do Bushcraft parties and army parties too on weekends. It’s something different for kids and gets them away from the PlayStation and the iPad.”
We mention Pokemon Go, something proving impossible to ignore at the moment. Don’t get us wrong; we love it, but it’s a bit worrying when public services’ time is taken up by kids foraging into lakes at silly hours.
“I grew up in the country in Bristol by the Severn Bridge; when I was six there weren’t really any consoles and only three TV channels. If you wanted to have fun you used your imagination and went and played in the woods,” says Jo.
“Now kids have so much access to technology. My young niece is better at using the iPad than I am, there’s so much technology at their disposal and it’s really easy for parents to give them an iPad to go and play with for an hour.”
Instead, Jo’s Bushcraft Camp teaches kids some core wild foraging and survival skills such as matchless fire lighting, how to cook on an open fire, shelter building, pioneering skills and tracking techniques.
“We’ve got a massive Bushcraft base with built-in shelters and big wide open areas and spaces. We provide a whole day of Bushcraft skills,” Jo explains. “We do public ones and private ones; that’s where they build their own shelters if it’s dry. If it’s wet we get the tarps out to do tarp shelters.”
“I think [people] don’t realise how much they’ll enjoy learning skills like building a fire because they haven’t tried it. Fundamentally, kids are the same as I was 20-odd years ago, they still love being outside and playing with sticks, playing in the mud and building things like shelters and fires.”
Sticks and stones
Another confession: we’d have loved to have done something like Bushcraft as a kid. According to Jo, though, it’s not too late for us and other adults looking to gain practical outdoor experience.
“We’re a small company and have only been going for a couple of years. We’ve only been at Claremont for about a year and a half now.
“We also do adult stuff like foraging which is very popular. It’s a three-hour course, we walk around all the fields and see ancient hedgerows, open fields, brooks and identify wild plants, foliage, fungi, flowers, make wild teas…”
Today’s chat is all about the kids, though, and they’ve been lucky to get a Bushcraft place on such a warm sunny day at such a nice place like Claremont Farm. Jo agrees: “Claremont’s a great venue; it’s got the café and farm shop on-site so when the parents drop off the kids they can come and stay for a couple of hours if they like and have coffee and cake.”
Jo’s having fun and providing a unique experience for kids; something a number of parents will no doubt be happy with during summer holidays.
He’s also ambitious and looking to grow what his Bushcraft Camp can offer, which shouldn’t be too hard with so many prime outdoor locations available on the Wirral.
“My next thing is to try and link with hotels and do a more corporate Bushcraft. I’m based in Liverpool and would like to expand into a few different venues. We started as team building at schools for teacher inset days, corporate exercises and bespoke packages,” says Jo.
“We bring lots of creative ideas and equipment. I’ve been doing Bushcraft in different areas though for years and years around places like Runcorn and Widnes. I was looking for a venue to do it and, by chance, we managed to build a relationship with Claremont.
“The future is to do this kind of stuff and have a couple more sites and hotels, maybe more corporate stuff and a bigger team to help me out.”