A Productive Trip to the Woods

I woke up last Saturday with an overwhelming urge to go to the woods. It was one of those itches that I just had to scratch, so after a bit of breakfast I grabbed kit and food for an overnighter and headed out to a local woodland that I spend a fair bit of time in, not realising just how productive and enjoyable my little overnighter was going to turn out to be.

Wild Garlic, carpeting the woodland

Arriving at the start of the woodland I’m met with the pungent smell of wild garlic in the air, it’s one of my favourite parts of spring and certainly one of my favourite wild edibles, so I made sure to grab a little along with some flowered leek, another wild allium that is so abundant at this time of year. These will form part of a plan I had for a bit of primitive cooking for dinner.

Downed dead lime branch

Moving further through the woods I entered an area that has quite a few lime trees and I noticed a downed dead branch that looked like it might be worth harvesting for bow drill hearths, as I cut the stick in half, I noticed the bark peeling fairly cleanly from the wood, which then start to split down into its individual inner bark bast layers. Jackpot! A basket full of naturally retted lime bast.

Jackpot! A basket full of naturally retted lime bast.

But that’s not all folks, onto the next find/finds of the day. The woodland has a fairly active roe population (as most Scottish woodlands do) which gives me great opportunity to watch deer and observe their track and sign. In the years I’ve been coming here I’ve only ever found one shed antler, until today. Moving out of the limes and into an area full of elms, birch and hazel that boarders a stretch of the river Almond, I saw the first antler sticking out of the leaf litter, on I went happy with my find, weather beaten and slightly gnawed though it was. A couple of minutes later I see another, the biggest of the three and from what I imagine must have been a nice big buck, then a couple of minutes later I see another one, smaller this time but well-formed and complete. Happy with my finds I stop for a bit and have a brew, deciding this would be as good a time as any to do one of the little bits of admin I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Top finds in the leaf litter, three naturally shed roe deer antlers

For a few years now I’ve been hearing big things from over in the states about tarred Bankline and its many uses, so when I decided it was time to renew my tarp ridge, prusiks and guys I grabbed a couple of spools of different thicknesses, along with a pack of small 5mm carabiners to do away with needing any toggles to attach the tarp to the ridge. Finding a suitable pair of trees, further apart than I normally use for my tarp to ensure I ended up with plenty length on my ridgeline. I secured one end with a marlin spike hitch and the other with a quick release tarp hitch, then used the smaller gauge Bankline to create my prussiks, adding a small 5mm carabiner to each prusik so I could attach them quickly to my tarp. I then cut four guy lines and added a carabiner to one end of each so I could attach them to the corners.

Tarp re-rigged in tarred Bankline

By this point it was about time to set up camp and start to think about dinner, I’d thrown a couple of venison tenderloins into my bag for dinner but I deliberately left my skillet at home, so it was time to forage some primitive cookware in the shape of butterbur leaves.

Preparing to cook venison tenderloins in the coals of an open fire

After grabbing half a dozen good sized leaves, I removed their thick midribs with my knife to make them more pliable and laid a couple down, adding a layer of wild alliums and then my venison. I then folded this into a parcel and wrapped it in the other butterbur leaves, tying it together with a couple of strips of elm bark to keep it sealed, I then buried it in the hardwood embers of my fire.

Food all wrapped up and ready for cooking

After about half an hour I pulled the parcel out of the embers and unwrapped the beautifully moist garlicy venison, lay back on my wool blankets, cracked open a beer, ate my venison and wondered if there could possibly be a better way to spend a night.

Until next time folks, stay woodsy.

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