The Wilderness Gathering in Wiltshire, it's a show that a lot of people mention and attend but I haven't for two reasons: My wife and I share back-to-back August birthdays and this is the weekend it usually falls on or near, and working in food retail, well a cheeky Friday off in the Summer holiday peak just ain't going to happen. This year was the one chance I realistically had as I am currently on this work sabbatical and I took it, visiting as a day tripper on the Friday.
As I have detailed in blogs before Hertfordshire isn't geographically blessed with that much outdoorsy stuff nearby and the trip to the Bison Farm (where it's held) necessitated an early start and I was still later than the suggested route finder travel time. The leaf above gives an indication of the weather pattern for the day...
The clear but winding route in from entrance to Gathering was rather eclectic in that it takes you past cheek-by-jowl campers, caged owls and free roaming turkeys and some four footed residents.
After parking up on a flat surface in the car park with one eye on the weather and potential loss of traction I headed into the Gathering for an initial scope round. It is divided into several areas which radiate off a main field like a very asymmetrical flower I guess. And talking of flowers in noticed a few still going strong such as Vervain, Anglelica and Meadowsweet, the latter I've included in a new attempt at making mead.
As I started looking there were of course the usual suspects such as Woodland Ways who always have a good stand.
Another was Will Lord with whom I'm doing a one-to-one session in September. His stand is always good and he was forever busy whenever I came past. I did watch a quick demo with a view to inwardly digesting for my session next month and managed to say a quick 'Hello'.
Whilst Will was busy one side, his partner in crime Simon was also busy doing bronze casting with folk.
(Blog archive picture)
I then, having mulled it over, I decided to visit Dave Watson's stand and purchase a hand drill set. I've consolidated the bow drill and the hand drill was something that I intended to look at during my afore mentioned sabbatical but took my eye off the ball somewhat.
Dave is highly regarded as something of a master of fire so although my aim was to learn from scratch like I did with the bowdrill I felt this purchase would help to paper over my previous procrastination. Included in the price was a basic lesson which was really useful as I had a couple of questions that Dave fully answered. He took me through bedding in and then made me have a go concentrating initailly on some slow rotations and then some more meaningful action (including buddying with him).
I managed some decent coloured dust and a small whiff of smoke, albeit on the back of Dave's work and I asked about booking a future 1-2-1 but I feel that I may need to get my girly hands toughened up first. Subsequent goes at home (above) have generated some good dust and got the business ends very hot but I am all about muscle memory and toughening up my hands first. No illusions...
And of course Woodlife Trails to whom I dropped off some Red Squirrel and Sika 'presents' from this holiday. They were promoting not only their courses but an ingenious multi use water device made by Spatap which would have been even better received if the weather had been kinder. On a recent 1-2-1 I did with Pablo we discussed deer having only teeth in the lower jaw, and it was interesting to see that this soon-to-be gralloched Elk has a similar arrangement.
Due to the 'asymmetrical flower' arrangement it isn't easy to get a shot of the show but this was a view from the other side of the lake back towards some accommodation/ stands.
One show regular that I've never seen in the flesh was blacksmith Dave Budd, one of three there. He had a fine display of sharps and tools on his stand.
Another individual that I've never seen at a show was Fraser Christian although unlike Dave Budd, I've spent time with Fraser recently on a recent coastal 1-2-1. Here he was demonstrating and talking about smoking with a very simple setup.
And Fraser had a bowl of smoked mussels on offer which were absolutely delicious. Lightly smoked with Cherry wood earlier in the day.
And talking of smoking foods...It was rather odd to see my face beaming back out from the Bushcraft magazine stand (top right) and I am shamelessly going to plug the issue for the homemade jerky tower article in it. It did occur to me that I should have made some jerky using my tower and left it with Steve and Cathy to give out...Ah hindsight.
With only being a tourist for the day I was only ever going to get a snapshot of the show but I was really impressed with the size, and yet there was still a good feel atmosphere wise. It's also worth noting that main organiser Roger Harrington brings a stand to the Bushcraft Magazine's Mayday Meet, and then the magazine attend the Gathering and this year sponsored the music stand...A nice reciprocal arrangement between show organisers. In fact I had a quick word with Roger to say 'Thank you' for putting the Gathering on.
I decided to head home mid afternoon as I was following a large chuck of the route I took to a Wilderness Survival Skills foraging day not so long ago but this being a Friday run taking in the A303, the conetastic M3 and then the Western side of the M25 I felt I had to cut and run then. It was a two-and-a-half-hour that took not far off double that (with the SatNav suggesting TEN traffic situation updates). Like I said I'm not geographically blessed! Anyway, must dash, I've got a hand drill set to master.