Bushcraft, Cable cars and Caverns. An amazing weekend in the Peak District.

I’ve visited the Peak District a lot. On previous trips, I’d spotted a few things I wanted to do so. Once I had enough to fill a weekend off I went.

Me standing in front of the roundhouse at Woodland Ways training forest.

I use Youth Hostels less and less now. Truth is, I prefer a nice pub with on-suit rooms (and I can usually afford it).

Also, the YHA have some nonsense about not drinking your own alcohol and are now charging £9.95 for breakfast !.

That being said, I’ve always had a fondness for Hartington Hall YHA In Derbyshire. When we arrived I could see they had put out some massive Bell tents and a group of young family’s were enjoying themselves out in the sunshine.

The main building of the Hostel is 17th century Manor House.

We checked in, unpacked our gear and made up our bunks. We decided to eat out in the Town. There are 2 main places to eat in Hartington, so the first night we had dinner in the Charles Cotton hotel (beef and ale pie 🙂

Up early the next morning (thanks to no sound insulation in the hostel and screaming children running around :). I always find it useful to take my own kettle and 2-in-1 coffee so I was ready to go.

Today I’d be spending the day with Woodland Ways. A bushcraft school in the Peak District, run by a chap called Jason, who I’ve met many times and spent time with on Kinabalu mountain in Borneo.

They didn’t waste any time, and straight away, we were shown safe and practical ways to use knives and saws (more about saws later).

The Bushcraft Fundamentals course runs for 1 day and was broken up into 4 sessions. They would cover shelter, food preparation, fire lighting and water collection and purification.

We began with shelter construction.

I’ve made lots of shelters, but the ones we were shown how to make here were a lot more sturdy than my previous attempts. The main frame of this kennel shelter can easily hold a grown man’s weights.

Halfway through construction. It was explained that this shelter was designed to be used where a fire wasn’t an option. Not just to keep you out of the wind and rain, the emphasis was the thickness of the walls keeping you warm.

After the main stick structure, the whole thing would be covered over with forest floor material for warmth, and then ferns for waterproofing.

We also built a lean-to shelter, designed to be used with a long fire.

We now moved to food prep (food is always best prepared out of camp).

We had lots of wood-pigeon to prepare. It’s an essential skill, but my least favourite.

Once we’d removed the meat, it had to be cut into slices.

We were issued with a knife and folding saw for the day. Nikki didn’t want one, so for this job, she borrowed my Ben Orford Bushcraft knife (one of my proudest possessions).

Dutch ovens and fire are ready, so the cooking begins in the round house.

And the finished product…

Pigeon Fajitas, quite delicious.

I finished my lunch early, while everyone else was finishing there’s, I got to try out a project of my own.

During lockdown I purchased this bucksaw. Made of wooden components, you put it together, fasten the saw blade and then tension it with the toggle on the top.

But finally, an actual forest to try it out in 🙂

Next up, fire lighting. Nicola showed us how to prepare and site the fire. I also learned 2 really useful things.

Typically, when I’m fire lighting I use the classic Tinder -> Kindling -> Fuel.

Nicola explained, if you only need enough fire to heat some water for a hot drink, just get to kindling. It’s also easier to clear away and won’t leave untidy half burned logs.

The second thing was using “2 stage” tinder. So, normally would get something like reed mace and hit it with a spark which will create flame (but only for about 10 seconds) so sometimes I’ve struggled to light the kindling.

Instead, once the flame is lit, use Silver birch bark to take hold of the flame and that will stay lit for a lot longer so the kindling can ignite.

Simple things, but incredible useful.

A demonstration of the fire drill, then we all got to have a go.

I wasn’t optimistic, but Nikki picked one up and said we should have a go. I’ve made fire from friction previously and it was very tiring and stressful, but times have moved on and working together, we got an ember in about 20 minutes (with help from our instructor Nicola).

We were so involved making fire, that we never got to take a picture. So instead, this picture of the fire we eventually made.

I also took along my fire lighting kit, which has many different ways to light fires and I got to do some experiments.

Fire plugs are fantastic, light from a spark and burn for 10 minutes at immense heat (so I’ve got 8 of them in my survival kit)

Exotac NanoSpark – able to operate 1 handed and it even has a fire plug contained in its waterproof container.

Exotac firesleave – I take a basic lighter with me wherever I go. This is a sort of waterproof case to keep it in (and it floats).

ReadyMan Tinder Scraper – so if you don’t have any tinder, you can use this sort of kitchen grater to make some using a dry stick.

The final activity of the day. We wandered back through the forest being shown plants that you could eat and others you could use as a toothbrush, pain management etc.

Jason found a spot in the forest and gave a talk about collecting water, the best ways to filter it and the best ways to purify it.

And with that, the day is over and were off home. What an amazing day and even with my years of bushcraft and adventure experience, I still learned loads of new stuff.

Thanks to Jason and everyone at Woodland Ways.

Back home, showered and changed, and were out for the evening at the Devonshire Arms.

A few celebratory pints and a nice piece of steak.

The Hights of Abraham takes it’s name from a famous hill side where the American war of independence was fought.

It’s a hilltop park with loads of interesting things to see.

We arrived a bit early, so headed into Matlock Bath for some coffee.

Matlock Bath is a lovely town, and seems to have more chip shops than Blackpool.

We’d bought advance tickets so we were up in the air straight away.

The views across the hills and Matlock Bath bellow were spectacular.

Once at the top, we get to look back down towards the cable cars.

We’d decided to have breakfast at the Vista restaurant there.

Advised to book in advance as it would fill up, when we arrived, we were the only people there.

But the service and food were superb so it was worth it.

We wander around the hillside on this beautiful day, before a tour of the lead mine.

Inside the main cavern.

There’s something quite exciting about being underground.

And when we come out the other side, were at the top of the hill, rewarded with this amazing view.

Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring and relaxing in the sunshine.

We’ve got a return ticket for the cable car, but instead walk back.

The path through the forest was especially relaxing.

And just like that our weekend is over.

From everyone at johnsunter.com, thanks for taking the time to read this.

The search for adventure continues…

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