Monday, 27 August 2012

House Martins

I'm lucky enough to live in a house that's ideal for House Martin (Delichon urbicum) nests, and the House Martins are considerate enough to have built their nests right beside my bedroom window. One of my greatest pleasures in life is laying in bed with my morning cup of coffee and watching the House Martins feeding their chicks, it's blissful. My girlfriend was lucky enough to get these pictures a little while back. Enjoy.

Bye for now,


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Spoon carving

There's something really satisfying about carving a spoon, I guess it's got something to do with how familiar a spoon is (it's one of the first objects that we learn to recognise as babies, for a good while everything that we eat comes on a spoon, I'm sure that has to leave some kind of lasting impression on us). There's very little more that I can say about my wooden spoons to be honest, they're spoons, made of wood! At some point in the future I'll probably write a little about the process of making a spoon and some of the tools involved, but for now, here's some of the spoons that I've carved. enjoy.

L-R apple, leylandii, oak
Bye for now,


Friday, 24 August 2012

Kolrosing a Mora 120

Kolrosing is a decorative handicraft from Scandinavia, the basic process is as simple as you like but the results are great. A bushcrafty friend of mine showed me the Kolrosing that he'd done on his mora woodcarving knife and I really liked how it improved the knife. Mora 120's are superb little knives, the blades shape really suits the kind of woodcarving that I do and it takes and holds a nice sharp edge, and the handle shape is lovely and comfortable right out of the box. The price is pretty good too, I think I paid £12 for mine (I've seen them even cheaper since), and, as with any good quality knife I fully expect it to last longer than I do. The only real downsides to the mora 120 are that the sheath that comes with it is more or less useless and the knife itself is the plainest most boring thing you could ever cast eyes upon. 

standard mora 120
(image courtesy of

Anyway, I decided that seeing as how this is a Scandinavian knife a little Kolrosing on the handle would be just the thing to pretty it up a little. I went for a couple of fairly simple knotwork designs as it's easy to build up composite designs with knots, so the overall effect looks a lot more involved and complicated than it actually is. These knots are usually known as celtic knots but there's no real reason for that, yes the celts did use knotwork designs in things such as jewellery but then so has just about every culture on the planet, especially those with northern european links. I guess "generic northern European neo pagan knotwork" just doesn't have to same ring to it. I don't think it's finished yet, there's a little bit too much space left I think, time will decide that for me. Anyway, this is what I've got so far, feel free to let me know what you think.

Bye for now,


Thursday, 23 August 2012


Earlier this year I decided to try my hand at knife making and decided on a Kiridashi as my first project. "What's a Kiridashi" I hear you ask, well it's a Japanese style of knife, made from one piece of metal (so the handle and the blade are made from the same piece of steel), usually without any additional handle material (although you quite often see them with a simple cord wrap), and with a chisel ground edge. They're used as woodworking knives by Japanese carpenters and woodcarvers, sometimes designed as a utility knife, something like the British tradesman's "Stanley" knife, and sometimes designed with a very specific purpose in mind. Mine was designed purely around the material that I had in the workshop at the time. I made it from one half of an old pair of garden shears that had been rusting away in the shed for years and were in desperate need a new lease of life. This knife was made using only hand tools and hardened and tempered in a home made charcoal forge with an engine oil quench.

I'm pretty pleased with how it's turned out, although I've never done any knife making before this I do have quite a bit of experience of working with hand tools and working with metals and I think the skills and techniques that I've picked up over the years really shone through here. I made mistakes, and there's bits and bobs wrong with the finished items but it's all a learning experience and hopefully I can take forward what I've learned and do an even better job next time.

Kiridashi resting on a fox skull
Making this little knife was a really fun and satisfying project, and remarkably straight forward to do. I think I'll be trying my hand at some more knife making in the future, maybe something a little more involved next time.

p.s. sorry about the poor quality of the photo, I'll try and update it as soon as I get a better one

Bye for now,



I like tools, all sorts of tools. I like big heavy duty tools and little delicate tools. I like power tools and I like hand tools. I like multi-purpose tools and I like highly specialised tools. I like tools that I use every day and I like tools that I can't for the life of me work out what they're for. I like old fashioned tools and I like modern tools. I like tools that work first time every time like a dream and I like tools that need a day of tinkering to get working. I really like tools. Most of my hobbies involve tools of some sort, some of them pretty unique to that hobby but some of them that seem to cross over all of my hobbies. So I think that I'm probably going to be posting quite a few bits and bobs about tools on here, here's a couple of my favourite tools to get started.

Gransfors Bruks small forest axe and "Cegga" custom axe

Bye for now,


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tarpology One

One of the things I like about bushcraft style camping is the use of tarps as shelters. A tarp at it's simplest is a sheet of fabric, which can be made of either synthetic or natural fibre, with webbing loops  and/or eyelets around the edge. Tarps are used mainly for shelter but they are a truely multi-purpose item, they can be used for wrapping kit, carrying, water collection, foraging, coracle making, etc. I like using tarps as shelters because of the flexibility they give me, and also because of their light weight and low bulk.

The classic way to pitch a tarp is between two trees, with the ridge more or less horizontal and the four corners stretched out to give a good pitch to the roof. I probably use this set up more than any other as it has some great advantages. 

I can get into or out of my shelter from any direction so I don't churn up any one bit of ground, I can see out in every direction so I can watch the world around me, I can hang a line under the ridge to hang all my kit from, plenty of fresh air gets through it, it provides lots of shade, I can sit up, and I can cook under my shelter. The downside to this set up is that it does very little in the way of keeping the wind out, so if it's windy and raining you have to be careful not to get wet, for that reason I nearly always use a bivi bag with this set up.

"Classic" tarp set up at a BCUK meet at Spitewinter
One way to make the "classic" set up more weatherproof is to lower the ridgeline slightly and to peg one side of the tarp down to the ground. This set up is a lot less drafty than the "classic" set up and works better when there's a combination of wind and rain, and this is just the shelter that I would choose for those conditions. The open front still allows plenty of options for access and lets me have a view out of one side at least.

Open fronted set up on my birthday 2011
A natural progression from the open fronted set up is the low profile set up, with this shelter the ridgeline is even lower with both sides of the tarp touching, or almost touching, the ground. This set up is better still at keeping the weather off and does a good job of retaining your body heat through the night. 

The disadvantages of this shelter are the same as with the open-fronted set up, only more so. The view is more or less non existent, access is severely restricted, there's not much space inside, etc. I only really use this type of shelter for quick overnight camps where I'll be striking camp first thing in the morning so only really need a shelter to keep me and my kit dry whilst I sleep. 

It's probably the quickest and easiest of set ups that I use regularly, the shelter below was set up at about 2a.m. on a really frosty winters morning with a belly full of beer and lots of "helpful" advice from friends. Even facing such difficulties it was still only a five minute job to set up. 

Low Profile set up on my birthday 2012
An even more weatherproof set up is the one below, this time the ridge of the tarp goes straight down to the ground at the back of the shelter (no ridgeline's used for this one), and the back corners are stretched out tight so that one side of the tarp is flat to the floor. With the back of the shelter into the wind, and with the tarp pegged tightly to the ground this set up will keep off all but the very worse of the British weather. 

As you can see from the pictures below I can use this set up quite easily without trees as long as I've got at least one pole, here I'm using my walking staff. the combination of tree-free set up and good weather protection makes this my set up of choice for a night on the moors. 

The downsides to this set up are; not a great deal of space to sit up, it can get hot and stuffy inside, condensation invariably forms on the underside of the tarp, you can only get in and out one way, there's not much of a view, and it needs lots of pegs (15 in total but it'll work with 9 on good ground).  The feature of this set up that makes it superior to most others is the fact that in the wettest and windiest of weather I can still have warm and weatherproof shelter in a couple of minutes, and that could possibly be a life-saver one day.

Front yard tarpology (the neighbours have got used to me!)

An idea of how steeply the roof slopes, it's only about 12" from the ground in the middle

These are the four set ups that I use most often, there are lots more ways to set up a tarp, and sometimes I use some of those too, but these four cover 95% of situations for me. I'll be posting quite a bit more about tarps I reckon, it's a big topic.

Bye for now,


The Pup

Just thought I'd share a few photo's of my best mate, Mr The Dog (Ozzy to his friends). He's lived with me now for about six years or so. I have no idea when he was born or how old he was when I got him but I took him to the vet's for some reason or other in November of the year that I got him and the vet said he was about one, so his birthday's been the first of November ever since, this year it'll be his seventh. As for breed, well I'm not too sure about that either. At first glance he appears to be mainly dog, but after you spend a little time with him you start to wonder if there's not a bit of something else in there too! Feel free to share your guesses with me, I'll pass them on to Ozzy, he likes a good laugh.

Bye for now,



A lot of my hobbies could be said to fall under the umbrella heading of bushcraft, which isn't a universally known word, even to people who would class themselves as "bushcrafters" or "bushcraft enthusiasts", it's a word without a universally agreed definition.

Bushcraft, to me, is a relatively new word, the first time I can remember coming across it was seeing a review for a book called "Bushcraft by Raymond Mears" in a magazine called "Combat and Survival". Well the title of the magazine should give some clue as to what kind of books they were reviewing, and at first glance it was clear that "Bushcraft" wasn't about combat. As such, bushcraft was of no interest to me at all, at the time "C & S" magazine was just there to feed my army-barmy teenage fantasies of battlefield glory, just like I'd read about in "Commando" comic books.

As I got older I grew out of my obsession with all things military but the survival part of "C & S" magazine really started to interest me. I loved the idea of being able to live from the land with the contents of a survival tin, and started trying to learn how to. I spent most of my teenage years trying to emulate my heroes Lofty Wiseman and Eddie McGee, both ex military survival instructors whose books I read over and over again.

As I started trying to put what I'd read into practice it soon became apparent that the survival that Lofty and Eddie made sound so easy was bloody hard work, and utterly beyond me. I started to cheat. The survival kit got bigger and bigger; rather than building a shelter I took a tent, rather than forage for food I took food from home, rather than finding and purifying water I took a waterbottle, and so on. It wasn't long before I realised that what I was doing wasn't survival at all, it was camping, and I loved it. 

That love of camping and being in the outdoors has never left me, in fact it's grown, I still go camping as often as I can, and these days not just because I enjoy it, but also because I feel that it's something I need in my life now. Spending time living outdoors refreshes me, even though there's much more effort involved in being comfortable when you're camping than when you're at home, that effort somehow leaves me feeling more relaxed, invigorated even. Living outdoors is simple, everything follows a set pattern, cause and effect is really evident all around you, everything simply seems to make a lot more sense.

The view from one of my favourite camping spots
Waking up to this is blissful

Over time my interest in camping has lead me to many other interests in the outdoors. I was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood on a farm so I've always been familiar with the wild creatures that appear in the British countryside but I'd never really had much of an interest in them, they were either something to be shot/trapped/poisoned or they were just part of the scenery.

As I spent more time out camping I started to be interested in the animals I  could see around me, and they became something much more than simply vermin or background colour, they became one of the main reasons I was spending time outside. As my interest in the animals around me grew it spread to other areas too, I started to learn about tracking so that I could better understand the animals I was watching, that got me looking at the plants that were around me, and the weather, which in turn got me looking at the stars, which is the best reason of all to be outside.

At the same time I was looking at other things to do in the outdoors, I took up rock climbing (living in Derbyshire it'd be rude not to really), and did a bit of canoeing and caving. These things made me realise that all the camping kit I'd acquired for sitting comfortably and wildlife watching was way too heavy and bulky to carry when I'd got climbing/caving gear or a canoe to carry too, so a new hobby appeared, lightweight camping.

The great thing about lightweight camping is that it's really light, the not so great thing is that it's really really expensive (at least it used to be, it's not so bad now), and the problem with me and money is that I'm tight, really tight, if there's any possible way I can get away without spending money I will. So I started making my own kit.

Whilst searching the internet one day for cheap lightweight camping ideas I came across a site called  bushcraftuk (BCUK). In the intervening years since I'd first seen the advert for "Bushcraft by Raymond Mears" the author had become pretty well known as a TV presenter of survival programs, and the word bushcraft had become a little better known, I'd even bought his book in a clearance sale! So searching through BCUK I half knew what to expect, what I didn't expect to find however was that there were people out there practicing those survival skills that I'd given up on years ago, and making them look possible.

I was inspired, the lightweight camping was forgotten (along with the caving and the climbing) and the youthful dreams of living off the land came back to life, only this time I would be doing it in comfort with a pack full of kit on my back. 

So, what's bushcraft to me? It's being comfortable outdoors, it's making and/or modifying my own kit, it's learning about the world around me and the plants and animals that I share it with, it's about getting round a campfire with my mates and telling stories, it's all of these things and lots more beside. I enjoy many aspects of bushcraft, but do I class myself as a bushcrafter? I don't know, I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Bye for now,


Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Just a little picture of a Robin (Erithacus rubecula) that I took yesterday whilst out walking the dog.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 
He was a really feisty little fellow, as Robins generally are. He was sitting in a tree about five feet from me and the dog looking totally unconcerned by our presence, as if he didn't mind us being there at all. In reality he was probably thinking about how to get us off his patch, Robins are really territorial creatures and the males will defend their territory against all comers with no sign of fear and an enviable tenacity. This little chap followed us for four or five yards along the hedgerow before he was satisfied that we were leaving then went back to his perch to keep an eye out for the next intruders.

Bye for now,


Eyup mi Ducks

Well hello and welcome to my little bit of the internet. I'm hoping that I'll be able to use this space to share some of the things that I find interesting, and to let folks know all about my adventures in deepest darkest Derbyshire (and very occasionally beyond). I get to spend nearly all of my time in around the little hamlet where I live just outside of the Peak District National Park, in which I'm blessed, generally doing things which I more or less enjoy, in which I'm very lucky, with people I mostly like, for which I'm thankful. Hopefully, if I can remain motivated to do so, I'll be telling you all about the place where I spend my time, the things I get up to, and the people I share those with. With a touch of luck you'll enjoy reading about them.

Bye for now,