One of life’s little coincidences occurred last week. Outside lay a good 12 inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures. I was cosy in my gas-centrally heated, doubled glazed home when my complacency was dealt a jolt. I heard a snatch of news on the radio – the UK had only two days’ worth of gas supplies left. Like so many people, I am entirely reliant on gas and electricity to cook and keep warm. What would I do if they both failed? Toughen up a bit sharpish and gain some news skills seemed to be the answer. The coincidence was, I was joining Outback2Basics for a day later that week and they specialise in teaching ancient survival skills.
Naomi and Dan Westall of Little Wenlock have run Outback2Basics for two years. They honed their survival skills with an amazing woman called Lynx Vilden. Since 1989 Lynx has travelled, explored and researched the flora, fauna and traditional cultural habits and survival skills of the peoples populating arctic, mountain and desert regions. Her calling is to learn, share and teach primitive living skills. Lynx practices what she preaches as far as is possible in this modern world - if you ever find yourself sitting on an aircraft alongside a slim, arresting looking woman, dressed entirely in hand-made buckskin clothes, the chances are that will be Lynx!
‘Ancient ways for modern days’
Dan and Naomi spent five months in the mountains of Washington State in north west America on one of Lynx’s wilderness-living skills training courses. At the end of the course they went off into the mountains for a month, living entirely off the land. They lost a pound or two, but survived! The knowledge they gained has been translated into their unique business, offering ‘ancient ways for modern days’. Dan and Lynx were leading the course on the day I joined them, in woodland at the foot of the Wrekin.
A dozen or so intrepid people had signed up the seven day Primitive Skills and Traditional Crafts course and despite experiencing deep snowfall and bitter weather, no one had abandoned the course. They were sleeping in yurts and tents, and two truly hardy individuals were sleeping in home-made shelters. All cooking was taking place on a home-made trivet fashioned out of horseshoes and a griddle. Over the open fire the carcasses of eleven rabbits bubbled away in a cooking pot: the fire had been started by rubbing sticks together and was banked up every night to ensure it didn’t go out.
In case you are wondering – no – the participants were not a bunch of New Age hippies. They ranged in age from about 20 to mid-70’s and were all utterly rational people who shared a passion for wild nature and saw this course as an opportunity to immerse themselves in that passion, whilst acquiring the skills to live self-sufficiently. As they sat around the fire one night, 11 deer had approached the group, gazing curiously at them.
Lynx and Dan had taught the group how to make wooden ‘burn’ bowls, axes, awls and stone knives, animal traps and ‘string’ binding from striping and plaiting brambles and honeysuckle tendrils. Rabbits had been skinned and the hides tanned, ready to be fashioned into hats and pouches. Using dead wood, bracken and firtree branches, I watched as a shelter was erected in a couple of hours. To keep blood circulating – and spirits up – every once in a while Lynx or Dan would lead the group in a Native American chant or sing-song around the fire. It was all very gentle and convivial.
If you visit Outback2Basic’s excellent website outback2basics.co.ukyou will see that they don’t just run ancient survival skill courses for hardy folk, but offer a whole range of outdoor events, with ‘Bushcraft Birthdays’ and ‘Mini Beast Hunts’ for children, and stag or hen nights with a difference - ‘Free Range Hens and Stags in the Woods’, an exotic mix of bushcraft skills with a night in a bell tent, gourmet food and champagne included!
If anyone reading this knows of or has an area of woodland which Outback2Basics could use for their courses, they would be glad to hear from you. Their business is expanding so fast that they urgently need additional woodlands. I do hope someone can help this wonderful little unique local business.
- Jean de Rusett
Outback2Basics, 65 Coalmoor Road, Little Wenlock, Shropshire TF6 6AS Tel: 01952 878135