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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.