Rusty SurginorElizabeth BirtleyGareth Fullerton
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Blog ethics does Bushcraft

Posted on July 3, 2012 @ 5:12 PM in Adventure does Bushcraft is the latest in our regular blog feature ‘ does…’ which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland. 

OutdoorNI’s Chris Scott spent the day with Northern Ireland Survival School on a ‘Seedling’ Bushcraft course.  Here’s how he got on…

 Having spent my teenage years in the scouts I consider myself to be reasonably handy in the outdoor environment, however the recent advent of bushcraft ‘celebrities’ such as Ray Mears and Bear Grylls has brought survival skills to a whole new level. 

I left for Galgorm Castle Estate near Ballymena excited about learning a range of new skills which I would hopefully be able to put to future use.

On arrival I was greeted by Paul and Andy from Northern Ireland Survival School who led me through the undergrowth into a forest clearing which with shelters, fire bases and improvised seating looked like a set from Robin Hood.

My fellow course participants were an eclectic bunch including a father and son pairing and a PhD student, which highlighted straight away the wide range of folk interested in this growing activity.


Given the course included fire lighting and a lot of knife work, Paul set our minds at ease with a safety talk which was reinforced throughout the day.  Before long we were set our first task of lighting a fire with one match, so needless to say that without a ‘Sunny Jim’ in sight this wasn’t very successful and resulted in singed fingers, a broken match, dented pride and clearly a lot to learn.

After a short demonstration by Paul we were quickly working as a team to create feathered kindle sticks, collect graded kindling (small pieces of wood), and larger pieces of wood.  Within twenty minutes we had a roaring fire which was ignited by a solitary match.

With our confidence boosted, we were ready for our next task and my favourite of the day – preparation of lunch.  Andy took us on a foraging walk to collect the ingredients; his knowledge of plants and trees was amazing. As we walked we nibbled on plants with a range of flavours including citrus, mint and wild garlic.  He also pointed out those with natural antibiotic properties such as penicillin which is a derivative of willow.

As tasty as the various plants were I was getting a bit concerned that this was going to be the extent of my lunch and was beginning to panic how I would survive in Galgorm Castle Estate until dinner never mind any prolonged period in the wild.  Much to my relief Paul produced some beautiful line caught brown trout and in true bushcraft style taught us how to fillet them with a sharpened flint.  With plenty of care and attention I removed the internal organs, head and tail whilst ensuring as much flesh as possible remained for my hungry belly.  Andy explained the guts could be used to make a nice soup – suddenly my belly was not just as hungry and I declined his offer.

As I placed my fish next to the fire to cook, I couldn’t help thinking how I would use this technique again in every day life rather than buying farmed fish from the fish counter at the local supermarket.  This was further heightened when I took my first bite.  I don’t whether it was because of the effort I had put in to prepare the fish or due to the combination flavours of wood smoke and open fire cooking but this was certainly the best fish I had ever tasted.


Appetite satisfied the remainder of the afternoon was spent learning how to build an effective shelter.  We split into two groups and I could see the anguish on my team mate’s face as we set about building a shelter to fit my 6ft4in frame.  Under the guidance and assistance of Andy we used dead wood and ferns to create a one man shelter which resembled a cocoon like sleeping bag  but none the less a comfortable bed for the night if required.

All too soon the day had come to an end with the presentation of certificates.  The group and I had fed of Andy & Paul’s passion, enthusiasm and knowledge all day and certainly left as bona fide bushcraft enthusiasts looking forward to putting our new found skills into action.  It would be naïve to say I had learnt it all in one day so I’ll look forward to signing up to one of the wide range of  further courses available.

Activity Provider:

Northern Ireland Survival School 
+44 (0)7415 223 392


Chris attended ‘The Seedling’ Bushcraft Course with Northern Ireland Survival School

This was a taster course designed to feed your curiosity in bushcraft and make your interest grow.

The course was held in Galgorm Castle Estate near Ballymena


From £55 per person – all specialist equipment provided

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

When not boring everyone about his little kids’ latest antics, Chris enjoys sailing and cycling, if only to offset his love of eating out and Marlborough Cabernet Sauvignon..

1 comment has been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Junas on January 29, 2016 @ 5:41 AM

Hi Chris,

bushcraft is getting more an more popular, even here with us. And right so. It is a fantastic way to bound with nature and to hone your skills.

A good point to start out is the 5C-System of bushcraft-expert Dave Canterbury. Yo can read about it here:

Keep on posting, best regards,


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