Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Wild Man Of The Woods

I attended a Country Fair in Leyton today and, as always, one of the draws (for me at least) is The Wild Man of the Woods (TWMOTW). A multi skilled musician, singer and raconteur I first met him at the Woodland Ways' World Of Bushcraft shop opening. It was April 2012 and the invited guests were TWMOTW, Perry McGee, The Foragers, The Jerky Shack and a selected handful of ticket (and 'Willy Wonka' golden ticket) holders.




We made our way up the stairs to the centre we were met by a very vocal ballad from TWMOTW which stopped the crowd in it's track (and made me mentally cock my head to one side puppy style). I had several chats with him about..oh allsorts of naturey type things and enjoyed hearing what he had to say.

 (Picture from the World of Bushcraft opening)
Fast forward to last year, I found out about the Country fair in Leyton (which is at the end of the Lee valley park) and instantly I said to my family 'that's TWMOTWs!'...well you can't help but notice him I'd say. I introduced myself and had to wait until the end of our time there until my youngest would have his picture taken, TWMOTWs understood, it goes with the territory.

(Picture from 2012) 

I saw the show advertised on Facebook and we decided to make a day of it again. Again I introduced myself and after a quick look around the nearby nature reserve I bought him some small tree branches to add to his collection which he was doing ID stuff with (and yes I learnt something). 


Half way through the day I asked if he would like a tea and cake, even TWMOTWs stops for cake! He produced his own earthenware cup that a hobbit had given him (and I quote). it was nice to sit down and have a chat with him about allsorts (again).


Please, please do visit his Facebook page and like it! And if he is at an event near you I can't recommend you seeing him in action. (and his fledgling Youtube channel is here). Have a read about the country fair here.
















Leyton/ Lee Valley Country show

There is an annual country fair in Leyton in London which I like to go to with the family and whilst the stands don't change much there is still plenty for the outdoor individual to like both in and around the actual show. There is a large green area and river close by (even a nature reserve) and we had a stroll around it seeing a host of wild flora and fauna in deepest London.


(Geulder Rose and Cat tail) 

There are several outdoorsy stands that catch the eye...



  ...bee (and bat) stands, raptors


...wood turning, willow (and corn dolly stands)



...otters, a smithy and various conservation groups.
  
But it's this chap that steals the show for me, The Wild Man of the Woods. As well as musical interludes and raconteuring and does the PA. More about him here






























































Saturday, 21 September 2013

DD Hammocks tarp M review

I recently attended a Hatfield forest wild camp at the end of August that the National Trust organises in conjunction with JP and Pablo (Woodlife Trails) they did various demos and tracking walks the idea of the wild camp is that the attendees to do whatever they wanted (within reason) since they were in a 1000 year old former hunting forest.

As I was on my own with no family what better time to try out a new DD tarp (and whoopee slings) so I made my way to a suitable spot, got set up, then took it down and started again. I decided that the rain that was due necessitated me re-aligning the tarp and hammock to take advantage of more leafy protection...So glad I did.

Apparently the reason most tarps are 3m x 3m is that the material used to make them is 1.5m wide and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has wished they were a little longer as they finely adjust the position of their hammock! I'd considered getting a bespoke one made but the DD Tarp M sizing is more or less what my proposed bespoke one would have been, in length at least.




The dimensions are 3.5m x 2.4m which is a little more like the Aussie tarp that Mr Mears favours but that said it's about 3 times the cost and smaller. As you can see you lose 0.6m of width compared to a standard 3m x 3m but I still found the area very workable as a living space, especially as I elevated one side slightly with a couple of lengths of hazel.



I modified the three central ridge loops by tying an overhand in them because they are much larger than the two on the end and once you've got a couple of prussic tensioners in place the ridge line takes on a concave appearance.



As for the whoopee sling system...I'd always felt that they looked faffy but decided to take the plunge and try them out. I took Adrian Rose's advice and put a split ring on the loop as it could easily disappear into the main body of the loop if you pulled to much. Consequently I'm converted to the point where I wonder if DD Hammocks should sell their hammock with the choice of either whoopies or webbing.


Regarding the larger central ridge loops Nick from DD Hammocks answered the technical reason for the loop size which I sent via email which you may be interested in reading: 

Regarding the loop sizes you're not really missing a technical point. They are bigger because once the tarp is pegged out (in the middle), there is often more pressure on the middle points (if they are pegged downwards, straight to the ground) and so being a little longer prevents excess stress on them (as the middle of the tarp is likely to be slightly lower than the ends of the tarp). The middle loops are still very strong but not as super strong as the side attachment points are due to the placement on the tarp and use of re-inforcement patches at the sides (that makes it sound like the middle ones are weak but they certainly aren't and we do not hear of any weaknesses/ issues with them at all). If the middle sides of the tarp are not pegged at a steep angle to the ground the loops can sit a little loose.
The middle loops on all of our tarps are like this and as you mention its possible to tie a knot to make them shorter if required.

That makes sense, I have used the tarp  since and believe it benefits from two central guy lines (making six in total) but I didn't pull them very tight, rather I added them to just help with the tension due to it being a little longer than the 3m x 3m workhorse which I use four guy lines on.



This is the tarp on a later cub camp with the knotted ridge loops...and gently tensioned middle guys!


The Scout Association shop has now started stocking DD Hammocks' stuff (which I'm rather chuffed to have had a hand in). You can read Pablo's blog entry about this and other Woodlife Trails activities on the official website, and see the discussion about this weekend (along with a link to my Facebook photo gallery of it) here.





Hatfield forest NT/ Woodlife weekend

I was lucky enough to attend the very first Hatfield forest wild camp that the National Trust organised a couple or so years ago. I had my two boys with me (no chance of the wife attending!) and it was overseen by JP and Pablo (Woodlife Trails) and as a one off, Brett and Les from Essex Wildcrafts. Whilst they did various demos and tracking walks the idea of the wild camp was for the attendees to do whatever they wanted since they were in a 1000 year old former hunting forest.

Fast forward to the end of August this year and I was due to attend with my boys again...they got what they thought was a better offer and I was attending on my own! I contacted Pablo to see if he'd like a hand setting up on the Friday and so we headed for the secluded site, I met assistant/ mentor Luke and we got the 'chute up in double quick time. I was trying out a new DD tarp and whoopee slings so I made my way to  suitable spot, got set up, then took it down and started again. I decided that the rain that was due necessitated me re-aligning the tarp and hammock to take advantage of more leafy protection...so glad I did.

Pablo asked me if I would be OK to show the other attendees, who we met later, where to go whilst he drove their kit round which I did. After a quick safety briefing they all set up and re-convened for tea. JP arrived later on and folk spent the evening around the fire after a quick Pablo led nocturnal walk before heading for their pits.


Almost predictably we awoke to rain, I was so comfy and only the need for the loo got me up. I did myself a cinnamon and dried fruit bannock and a mini man mountain breakfast in a zebra billy (the parchment paper was an attempt to make the  billy 'non-stick' and it sort of worked.

 

The rain only abated on one or two occasions so the chute bolt hole was most welcome and meant that activities could happen under it which both Pablo and JP did. One such activity was some basic carving (after another safety briefing). We managed to get out on a good  tracking walk in between showers. Lunch was a homemade Dutch oven stew followed by more chute time as the rain was at it's heaviest .



Tea was a curry meal which was an impulse purchase from Cotswold Outdoors which I made a curried 'naan' bannock to have with it...actually it needed it as the contents were nice but a little on the small side. We were given a sit spot talk before heading out after a smoke bath, I was repeatedly dripped on but succeeded in seeing several badgers as close as 15 feet or so-Great stuff.


After we all got back and settled by the fire before bed, Pablo leaned over and said that he and JP had spoken and wondered if I'd be interested in joining the Woodlife Trails' team of assistants...I was absolutely made up with this and despite the juggling of wife points and scouting it's an opportunity I'll try and maximise. It doesn't mean I'm getting carried away mind you, I know that it is a role to help them deliver courses but nevertheless, an opportunity to take.


Breakfast was a muesli with some foraged black and dewberries out of a crusader mug along with a 'bag' of percolated coffee which I purchased from Cotswold Outdoors (but I understand that Go Outdoors sell them too) which I highly recommend, as I do the Arla Lacto-free milk sachets as it tastes good in tea (I used to use Dairystix which packed flat but the producers went into administration).


As previously mentioned I used a newish DD Hammock tarp and whoopee slings for the first time. . Apparently the reason most tarps are 3m x 3m is that the material used to make them is 1.5m wide and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has wished they were a little longer as they finely adjust the position of their hammock! I'd considered getting a bespoke one made but the DD Tarp M sizing is more or less what my proposed bespoke one would have been, in length at least.


The dimensions are 3.5m x 2.4m which is a little more like the Aussie tarp that Mr Mears favours but that said it's about 3 times the cost and smaller. As you can see you lose 0.6m of width compared to a standard 3m x 3m but I still found the area very workable as a living space, especially as I elevated one side slightly with a couple of lengths of hazel.


When the downpour came on the Saturday the tarp performed with DDs usual efficiency but the extra 0.5m of hammock coverage made me feel well protected, the only thing that I'd say needs tweaking is the middle three loops on the ridge line are much larger than the two on the end and once you've got a couple of prussic tensioners in place the ridge line takes on a concave appearance. I've modified the loops with an overhand knot and I'll have to see if this holds next time out. 


As for the whoopee sling system...I'd always felt that they looked faffy but decided to take the plunge and try them out. I took Adrian Rose's advice and put a split ring on the loop as it could easily disappear into the main body of the loop if you pulled to much. Consequently I'm converted to the point where I wonder if DD Hammocks should sell their hammock with the choice of either whoopies or webbing. Nick from DD hammocks answered my ridge loop question via email which you may be interested in reading: 

Regarding the loop sizes you're not really missing a technical point. They are bigger because once the tarp is pegged out (in the middle), there is often more pressure on the middle points (if they are pegged downwards, straight to the ground) and so being a little longer prevents excess stress on them (as the middle of the tarp is likely to be slightly lower than the ends of the tarp). The middle loops are still very strong but not as super strong as the side attachment points are due to the placement on the tarp and use of re-inforcement patches at the sides (that makes it sound like the middle ones are weak but they certainly aren't and we do not hear of any weaknesses/ issues with them at all). If the middle sides of the tarp are not pegged at a steep angle to the ground the loops can sit a little loose.
The middle loops on all of our tarps are like this and as you mention its possible to tie a knot to make them shorter if required.




You can read Pablo's blog entry about this and other Woodlife Trails activities on the official website, and see the discussion about this weekend (along with a link to my Facebook photo gallery of it) here.