Joy and safety in the woods

I am fairly new to the Woodland Ways team. So, I thought you might like to know, how did I become an apprentice and what is it like being a single mum on the team? I will write about my journey over the last couple of years to becoming an apprentice.

My first Bushcraft Show

Before going to The Bushcraft Show in 2021, I knew that I dabbled in a few aspects of bushcraft, but I couldn’t have told you that what I loved doing was bushcraft, with a few other non-bushcrafty passions for a bit of variety. After all I wasn’t a woodsman who had spent their whole lives in the woods.

I came to The Bushcraft Show 2021 with no idea of what to expect, I came because I was invited to help with some friends. When I first arrived, it was nothing like I had expected. I arrived with my two girls and I as a single mum. I had yet to find the people I was meeting and nearly all the people I could see were men dressed in green, forest green, mostly with beards and many big and burly looking. I took a deep breath and I went through those mental notes that you are trained to from a young age as a woman. Was this a safe place for myself and my young girls? On the plus side the men I had interacted with on arrival seemed amiable but indifferent to us. I felt physically small, but I had friends to find. I figured if the guys there were really interested in hassling women…. Well, they wouldn’t all be wearing green, or come to a show that was so male dominated. Despite all the travel I have done alone I still felt somewhat intimidated. I decided that if at any point I wanted too, I could just leave. That year the girls and I met Jason Ingamells, and we spent the predominate amount of our time at the Woodland Ways stand making various things. I think I spent the whole event being excited about one thing or another. It was like I had found my own personal sweetie shop made for me. I wanted to be part of this, and the girls had had a fantastic few days too.

At the Woodland Ways stand making various things

A year on and we returned to both The Bushcraft Show and the Wilderness Gathering. It was already such a different experience, probably in part due to the pandemic ending. There were more women, children, and families. There were more women on the stands. It felt comfortable. I realised that I had learnt many bushcraft skills over the years I just hadn’t joined all the dots together.  I wanted to teach bushcraft, and in that process continue learning. My biggest challenge was a lack of confidence. This was an industry I had not been part of. What did I know? I looked at the IOL courses and found that it would be very difficult for me to attend due to my childcare arrangements, but I approached Jason anyway to see what may be possible. He suggested I put together a bullet point kind of CV together and send it over to him. That was a process in itself! I suddenly realised what I had done all my life, was bushcraft, I just hadn’t lumped it all together under one heading. I felt I may have something to offer, though I wasn’t sure what. When Jason offered that I could go and shadow on a weekend to see if I wanted to be an apprentice or not, I was blown away with excitement and nerves. I went the very next weekend.

Metalworking at a show

What really blew me away and has ever since, is how safe and at home I feel with Woodland Ways. At first, I thought it was having rose tinted glasses and it couldn’t be this good. For many years when I was younger, I worked in outdoor sports. I had become used to not being allowed to do the “men’s jobs” like lighting the BBQ and being left to do the washing up or clean the toilets. I had also tolerated outright hostility from other male members of staff or tolerated as the token female member of staff. In some areas like sailing, I outstripped my colleagues as I had sailed dinghies and competed for years, but it usually took months before an opportunity arose where my skills were allowed to shine through. Everyone had strengths and skills but as a woman it was always assumed that I didn’t and often wasn’t provided the opportunity to show my strengths. I was often the butt of the jokes. Not all places I worked, had people like that, some seemed very open to women working in the industry, but when it came to it, I was expected to do all that a man can do in a way a man does it. There was never any consideration that I was a woman and that I had different strengths to bring to the table and that I might have different needs when it came to feeling safe. In fact, there were times when I was ridiculed for asking for what I needed.

Feeling comfortable and at home with Woodland Ways

At Woodland Ways I am treated as me, as an individual. There have been no assumptions about what I can or can’t do. I watch everyone check in with each other and everyone muck in. Everyone discusses where they currently are on their bushcraft journey and no, it doesn’t stop once you have become an instructor. It is way too vast a subject for that. There is always consideration about sleeping arrangements, and wild wees etc. It is the first team that where it is always a joy to be in the woods with and a joy to work with.

As a single mum it is a journey that I don’t take alone. My children are fully on board and passionate about bushcraft. It has taken time with our own bushcraft endeavours, both at home and on trips for them to be ready for this next step. It has helped them grow in confidence both in skills they are developing and pride in what they are able to make and do. It has also given them confidence in other settings.


Woodland Ways are very supportive in a very considered way. They always consider all aspects of safeguarding, safety and wellbeing for all, before making a decision. They are then transparent about how they came to decisions and open to discussion and what works for all. The girls are so happy when we are in the woods, though most of my apprenticing is when they are not with me. On the few times they have come too, they have loved being there. I can help behind the scenes more when my children are with me, and they love helping out with the tasks they can do. When it is a family course, they love meeting other children who share the same interest as they do. At the moment, they both dream that one day they too will be able to become instructors.

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