A Bushcraft Map

Bushcraft Map - Recording Resources

Nowadays it’s easy to take for granted the range and diversity of food and materials we have on our doorstep; the nationwide lockdowns have shown we can all continue our way of life within a relative small area of the country. The things we want are delivered quickly after a few clicks of the mouse; but our ancestors were not so fortunate. They operated seasonally, relying on stores or going without until the resource was available. For centuries we have relied heavily on trade to bring the things we needed from other parts of the country and from overseas. I wonder what they would make of the almost instant gratification available to us now?

Arrival of goods were not only seasonal, but dependent on sea, weather and road conditions. Our villages, towns and cities all exist in their current locations because of the resources available in that area or for the provision of services for people fulfilling that need. Our ancestors knew the locations of the resources they needed and although we have to go back a long way in history for truly nomadic living in the UK, there has always been the need to travel for materials and goods.

As bushcrafters the resources we want are not always a mouse click away and can often be gathered for free, negating the need to place an order. Like our ancestors, we can learn to utilise the natural materials around us to meet these needs. As our knowledge increases, we can learn to be less reliant on the things we buy, and more reliant on what’s around us.

Step into any woodland and they are very seldom the same, the woods and the surrounding countryside have different soil conditions, altitudes and climates that change the plants and animals that you find in them, no one area has everything you need and so you may end up having to travel to find a particular resource you want.

As I have progressed along my own journey, I’ve built up a mental map of the area where I live, I began to note the plants and trees in each area and as the seasons changed, noted where resources could be found and when. I’m still developing the skill to walk into a new area and read the trees and terrain to work out where I will most likely find a particular resource; I suspect it will be a lifetimes work. 

My macro view of the local area is largely defined by the locations of open land, woods and water, with each area offering some resources that the others lack. My local common for example has excellent sloe berries and hawthorn berries on its southern side in September, I know these trees prefer the edges of the scrub land and hedgerows so there is little point searching for these in the middle of the oak woodland for them; there may be one or two but the majority will be in the scrub areas. The weather in March and April largely defines what the crop of Sloe’s will be like, so taking note of the trees at this time helps to predict what I might be able to gather later in the year. To the northern end of the common are plenty of burdock plants, tucked back from the rides (and the associated dog waste); with no cars driving past or farmers’ fields, these represent the better source of burdock. Further south of my home are hazel coppices where walking sticks, bow drills and arrow shafts can be harvested. Rowan berries require a trip of a few miles further south still and the rivers with crayfish in are around four miles away. Further away still is the sea with its bounty of fish and other edibles around sixty miles south.  

As great as that mental map may be, I’ve often thought about how to record this information in a more permanent record, shifting my mental map into something more permanent.  Our mental map varies hugely in scale, from the best fishing spots on the coast, to the best place to find a specific plant in the local woodland. This poses quite a challenge when transposing that information onto a physical map; drawing my own map could be fun, but the time taken to capture enough detail could take a huge amount of time. Marking on an OS map could be another option, but instead I decided to explore a digital approach using Google maps.

Google maps allows you to create your own layers on its maps using ‘my maps’, once created you can load these both on your computer but also to mobile devices. Adding a pin to a spot while on a walk allows you to mark a location for a resource that can be given details later at home.  Depending on your level of organisation you could add seasonal layers, resource type layers or just one big layer of lots of different resources. I create my initial map on my computer and to find the map you have created on your mobile device it should be under ‘saved’ (you do need to be logged into the same account on both devices). I’m fortunately blessed with a good sense of direction, so finding my way back to places is not often a challenge for me, however this is not the same for everyone, so another key benefit for using Google maps is that it provides turn by turn directions to that saved place. The only major downside of this approach is currently the lack of detailed mapping that Google maps provides. However, your map also works with Google Earth to which you can add an OS maps overlay. You’re going to be hard pushed to mark the exact tree or plant but getting back to the rough area should be enough for most needs. Whether you choose to go electronic or physical, turning that mental map into a permanent record is a great way to help think about all the resources we have around us and a great reminder of what we can use those resources for.

Bushcraft Map - Recording Resources
Bushcraft Map – Recording Resources.

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