Diary of a girl undercover on a woodland survival stag doPosted by Hay Brunsdon on June 8 2017.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could be a fly on the wall during a lad’s night out, or even on your other half’s stag weekend for that matter? We wanted to know what happens when men leave the city and get back to basics during a Woodland Survival Weekend. What do these cavemen get up to during the absence of tacky clubs, cringing strippers and poorly-proportioned fish bowls? We sent Laura, our marketing intern along to find out…
Canoes, whittling and not a stripper in sight.
Friday 1pm: Headed from London to Hereford in a VW Campervan laden with foraging guidebooks, whittling equipment, a camping sauna and enough food to create a campfire roast dinner for 10 men.
10.30am: The group were dispatched at the rural Tipi site, and set off for an amble down the river in authentic American-Indian canoes. These wide berth boats are relatively stable on the water, accommodate two people and have plenty of room for your essentials in waterproof packs. So you can tip the stag without worrying about his iPhone! They paddled along with the flow of the river – some going easy, others going hard before checking out a couple of pubs along the riverbank; it was important to keep hydrated after all.
3pm: The lads paddled up to the campsite, and were greeted with a much appreciated cup of steaming tea and some tasty hot quesadillas cooked and served round the camp fire. The location was top, with the lively river just a few metres from the entrance of the Tipi. It is safe to swim, but watch out as the rip is more powerful than it appears. We avoided any river mishaps, but were well prepared as luckily over half of the group were fully fledged doctors!
4pm: After drying off beside the fire, the team were lead on a foraging ramble. woodland survival expert Heath showed the stags where to find edible wild grub, and described medical uses for different parts of plants.
6pm: When back at camp, the guys were ready to be immersed an ancient tradition – whittling. Using finest ash or sycamore wood, our fantastic nature fanatic Heath supervised first the cutting and selecting of a plank of wood, and then described and demonstrated the process which would transform the blocks into an impressive ‘Love Spoon’. Most of the lads jumped in, but there was some uncertainty. Would this really work? Am I the whittling type? It was discovered after a remarkably short time that whittling is in fact rather addictive, and once you start it is hard to put down the (love) spoon. Sat atop two huge trunks either side of the roaring log fire, the stags chatted and whittled and sank their brews as men have done for centuries.
As dinner preparations began in motion around the fire, the first peeps of excitement could be heard rumbling from the group; “See – this is the handle…” “Mines got a bulbous end.” “Imagine it if that bit wasn’t there…” as the spoons began to take shape. The challenge had been set. Whose would be the most evenly distributed bowl? Whose was the smoothest? I was pulled over and asked to compare. A definite tone of competition was on – and the standard was high.
8pm: As the light began to dim, dinner was called ready. The group was prised away from their whittling, and fed in the open air by candle light, from traditional metal camping bowls. We feasted on juicy chargrilled whole chickens, goose fat roasties and some butter drenched leeks and green beans. A sense of camaraderie and calm descended, as the feeling of a job well done washed over the group. . To be away from the distractions and trivialities of modern life, that suck away at our time and patience, and just immerse oneself in living is a hugely rejuvenating thing. The epitome of man-time.
10pm: To round off the evening – and for an opportunity for pranks and ‘stag challenges’ the outdoor sauna was unveiled. A hefty log burning stove is stacked full and roasting, heating up the granite stones that steam the water. Two or three can fit in at a time on the wooden bench, and wait it out to see who can last the longest! The sauna is equipped with a temperature gauge so you don’t go dangerously far. Once you break out of the cleansing heat, it’s a quick hop down to the river for a cooling midnight dip – fantastic rush and great for your circulation too. All this and a good old camp fire drinking game forged the bonds between the pack for the wedding and beyond.
Midnight: After the last embers had gone out, and the drinks been drunk, everyone headed off to bed in a luxury made up futon style bed. There are four or five to each Tipi, which also includes a central indoor fireplace with kettle.
Woodland survival breakfast is not really survival
10am: The troop awakened in the morning to sounds of sizzling, and the smell of bacon, as a full English breakfast was prepared by Heath and I. We stocked the boys up on sausages, eggs, bacon, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions with plenty of tea. After a good feed, there was enough time to get serious about whittling, and I was impressed by the speed and skill on show. The clear winner was Rob, who, as a surgeon working on such magnificent animals as a tiger and a giraffe had a bit on an advantage with knife work. The whole team walked away with a finished, clearly identifiable spoon, and were keen to pick up some guidance on how to firstly protect and clean the wood, and secondly how to get their hands on a whittling kit! We smell a new found passion emerging…
The fact that everyone was tucked up by midnight can only mean the pairing of fresh country air, a wealth of activities, new skills and no need for a stripper is the perfect weekend to really bond with everyone. More adventurous ladies can even book a Woodland Survival weekend for themselves.