If only I had known earlier – known that I had a bushcraft school right on my own doorstep. The Northern Wilderness Bushcraft School is only four miles from my home, and they have some of the best woodland that I have ever seen. The school is located at Finchale Abbey and has over two and a half miles of untouched woodland which runs along the river Wear.
Arriving At Base Camp
I saw on Facebook that they were having their monthly meeting (moot), so I just had to go along to see for myself. On arrival at Finchale Priory I paid for a parking token, this was to ensure that I could pass through the exit barrier on leaving. I had a rough idea where the school was located as I had earlier checked on Google Maps.
Setting up Camp
On entering the school base camp I was greeted by a large parachute hanging above an open fire, and the friendly smiles of Dan and Gilan one of the bushcraft instructors. I offloaded my backpack and started looking around for somewhere to hang my hammock. After a minute or two I met Ian and Ryan, two other lads that were there for the moot. The lads had been there the previous night and already had their camp setup, they kindly invited me to join them. After hanging my hammock and tarp beside Ian and Ryan I headed off back down the the base camp to see what was planned for the day.
A Tour of the Woodland
Gillan said he would take us all for a walk around the woodland so we could see the scale and the natural resources. We set off after lunch and headed up to the top of the wood (the furthest away from the river). The woodland is on a slope down to the river, but at this point it was relatively easy walking. Once we got to the top we walked along the edge of the tree line and came to a huge area of open land, there were clear deer tracks and the tree line was full of wild edibles including, Blackberries, Blueberries and Rosehip. The ground was covered in Beech Nut and also empty Acorn shells, there was clear sign that squirrels had been eating the acorns. When we got to the end of the open area we headed into the woodland. We saw a huge variety of trees, Beech, Birch, Hazel, Oak and many more. It was obvious that this part of the woodland had not been managed for many years as there were lots of dead standing trees.
We headed down steep inclines until we came to the river, this really was magical. There were ducks and swans bobbing around on the river and every so often the surface of the river would ripple as a fish leaped out to grab an unsuspecting fly. An old tree had fallen near the side of the river, it was covered in green moss, and had mushrooms and fungus growing on it.
We headed back up through the woods, it was a much steeper climb at this point, I was out of breath by the time I go the the top. We headed back into the open space which lay between two areas of woodland then walked back to base camp. It must have take two and a half to three hours to walk the woodland which gives you some idea of the scale.
Chilling Out by the Fire
When we got back to base camp, Steve Taylor, the person that runs the Bushcraft School was there to greet us. He had been collecting fire wood and bringing up the cooking equipment to prepare for the evening meal. Ian got the fire going and Stevie started preparing his specialty ‘bean stew’. I spent the rest of the evening siting around the fire listening to Stevie and Ian exchanging stories.
As well as the Bushcraft school, which offers a wide variety of courses, they also offer several membership options that allow a small number of people to use the woodland for wild camping, or to camp overnight to practice survival skills, shelter building etc.
I had a fantastic time at the Northern Wilderness Bushcraft Moot and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is considering going. I have signed up to become a member and will certainly be attending future moots.