When LittleStuff learned to make a fire. Bushcraft skills with Cwm Tawel #BridgendBites

The last of our activities in our packed few days in BridgeEnd was a morning of Bushcraft skills with the amazing Sasha at CwmTawel, a luxury Yurt and Tipi camping site near Bridgend in the beautiful Llynfi Valley.
Of course, we weren’t there to try out the yurts (sadly… we did have a good nosy though, and have promised the children we will return and camp properly; it was the first time we’d actually been inside one, and they are amazing!) – oh no. We had much more serious tasks afoot.

We were there to Build Fire.

family bushcraft course

(I think there were plans for foraging and shelter building too, but the fire building was so engrossing we kind of stayed with it…)

Sasha greeted us at the car, and gave us a quick guided tour of the site, ending up at the Bushcraft meadow. The solid structure keeps the rain off, and is the perfect place for a spot of survival skill learning, nestled in a quiet valley with beautiful views all around.

making string bushcraft

winding string from grasses

First task was to decorate a ‘wooden cookie’ – and once we’d done so we had to make our own string from the variety of natural resources Sasha had available to string them around our necks (ho knew you could make string from nettle stalks? We’re determined to try it for ourselves).

Name tags complete, we got on to the good stuff – making sparks.

bushcraft course bridgend

If you look carefully you can see the impressive sparks

We were each handed a flint and steel, and had a practice at just making sparks in the air. We older ones got it straight away, but the younger three struggled slightly. Bear in particular found it tricky to manage to hold the flint and the steel, and also maintain enough pressure for a really good spark.

But she persevered, and by the time I had lit my own tinder (we started with cotton wool, but we also tried thistle down), I looked up to see Sasha was sitting on the ground with Bear who was producing HUGE sparks with ease, with an equally HUGE proud smile on her face.

young children bushcraft skills

A quick 1-to-1 on how to get those sparks started when your hands are small

No.1 (the 15yr old) was the first to move on to the next step, and he managed to land his spark in a crampball (or King Alfred’s cake) – a fungus we had often seen growing, but never knew what it could be used for! As long as they’re dry, if you land a spark in them they will begin to smoulder – and keep smouldering for hours. They’re amazing, and this is another we-must-try-this-at-home thing we’ve carefully noted.

crampball fire starter

Boy blowing on the crampball he finally managed to light

With some huffing and puffing No.1 had his bundle of dried grasses smoking away around the crampball, and then suddenly it went up in flames (and he dropped it on the floor rather than into the fire pit *eyeroll*).

There goes fire number one. On the ground. But note how we all stand around and admire it...

There goes fire number one. On the ground. But note how we all stand around and admire it…

The husband was the next to have a smoking bunch of grass in his hands, and his aim was a little better – one ball of flaming grass now burning rapidly IN the fire pit.
But that was a good thing, because we had also been collecting ‘snappy twigs’, the first stage of kindling, plus making ‘feather sticks’ with a sharp knife and a store of small logs.

bushcraft skills bridgend

Jolly making feather sticks: hold the wood firm, knife arm dead straight, shave slivers off in a firm downward push. Perfect technique…

Everyone had a go at feeding the fire, building up the size of the fuel until we had a decent fire burning some good twigs, and were ready for some small branches.
That section didn’t take long to write – but I think we had been at it for well over 90 minutes at this point!

Once we had some good logs burning it was time for a little foraging – nettles for some tea, and some willow withies for toasting marshmallows.

toasting marshmallows on bushcraft fire

using our williow withies to toast the marshmallows – willows are great because they have long straight shoots, are safe to eat from, and are easily shaved to a point for mallow-stabbing :)

Boy finally managed to get a fire going himself (despite some massive spark-making, he was cursed with some fire-resistant cotton wool, and two duff crampballs. But finally he got a spark to grow, and ‘his’ fire was used to heat the Kelly Kettle. The pride in his face as the kettle boiled matched Ella’s when she made her first spark.

So as the nettle tea brewed, everyone gathered around the glowing fire and toasted marshmallows. WHY is it they taste so good? And when toasted on a fire you made yourself? Unbelievably good.

bushcraft marshmallows

Nom nom nom.

Then as we sipped our tea (or squash – certain people threw faces when I waved the tea in their direction; I admit we were all a little cautious in trying it, but I can categorically state that nettle tea is delicious!), Sasha placed a skillet over the fire.

Onto the skillet went the Welshcakes she’d made earlier.

Oh man they were good. Really REALLY good.

welshcakes on an open fire

Just looking at this is making my mouth water again…

But the time we’d eaten and drunk, it was sadly time to leave Cwm Tawel – and we genuinely could have stayed and listened to Sasha for hours longer. The children loved her, were in awe of her fire and knife skills, and were all standing an inch taller with pride at their own abilities.

My husband and I could also have stayed and walked and talked with Sasha for hours – she has so much knowledge to share, and her deep passion and commitment to what she’s doing just shines through. We learned so much in our short time – not just how to make and build a fire, but a range of odd snippets, from how to spot Ash trees in the winter to how to ease nettle stings (and no, it’s not dock leaves!). We’ve promised the children we will return and stay in the Yurt next Autumn once dogs are allowed on the site (no dogs when the sheep are out), and I cannot imagine we would do so without spending a day learning some more from Sasha – next time we’ll make a shelter and go foraging properly!


Cwm Tawel offer a huge range of outdoor crafts and skills courses from willow basket making to wild food foraging. Prices start from £20 per child (children must be accompanied by an adult) for the Willow Sculpture course.

Author: Laura

A 70's child, I’ve been married for a Very Long Time, and appear to have made four children, and collected one large and useless dog along the way. I work, I have four children, I have a dog… ergo, I do not do dusting or ironing. I began LittleStuff back in (gulp) 2004. I like huge mugs of tea. And Coffee. And Cake. And a steaming cone of crispy fresh fluffy chips, smothered in salt and vinegar. #healthyeater When I grow up I am going to be quietly graceful, organised and wear lipstick every day. In the meantime I *may* have a slight butterfly-brain issue.

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  1. I worry a lot about my child growing up in todays society. Not that it’s really bad or worse than it was when I was growing up but I still worry. I worry about drugs and his well-being… I wonder if I’m bringing him up to be a responsible person who thinks for himself. I worry about whether we’ll be able to afford the school he wants to attend and I worry how he’ll be in 20 years, when society has changed again.

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  2. its definitely more dangerous now than 25 years ago cant even play outside without fear of paedophiles

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  3. I worry most about internet safety. I think there is a lot of online bullying going on and bullies seem to have more confidence doing it online because they can hide behind their computers. There is some sick stuff available to view online too – I dread my children asking to create eg a Facebook account. Luckily they are all too young so I can say no!

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  4. i worry about bullying as it can have such an effect on a childs life.

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  5. I worry that everything seems to be getting ruinously expensive these days.

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  6. I dread the impact of the internet and mobile phones. I will try to educate my daughters to be wary of these technologies and not to rely on them at the cost of real/tangible social interaction; what with 21st century issues such as cyber bullying, ‘grooming’ and body dysmorphia I think it will be a big challenge!

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  7. I worry about my sons safety from gangs of yobs. I believe he is sensible enough that he will not go looking for trouble, such as drugs etc, but I do worry about trouble coming looking for him.
    It is so unfair that we have to worry about walking the streets in safety.

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