Recently I took part in a Coastal Survival Course taught by Fraser Christian, with five others, on the Dorset coast. I learnt how to build fires, hook tarpaulin to driftwood securely and other valuable life skills.
A great moment was seeing an adder slither away under the bushes. It’s markings were beautiful and distinctive and I have never seen one before. (But be warned this is the only deadly snake in the UK and it is also, understandably, a protected species).
Sleeping under a ‘basha’ (a piece of tarpaulin) meant being under the stars. One night there was a proper storm with thunder and lightening: I went to sleep with the sounds of rain beating on the tarpaulin as it whipped it back and forth. A basha is basically a sheet with tapes sewn on each side – it functions like a tent with much less weight, cost and hassle.
Another discovery was the uses of cuttlefish shells to form a heating-reflecting barrier round a fire. Keith, my camp partner, taught me this. Cuttlefish shells conserve heat, save any risk of the stones underneath and round the fire exploding and mean that the fire doesn’t have to evaporate damp. Brilliant. Especially when used to cook sprats.
Ever since returning home to London I have found myself looking at plants in my garden that I would have just dismissed as weeds, thinking ‘can I eat that?’ Life-changing experiences are often small,
An adder (vipera berus)