With fear and joy surrounding me, I announced my plans to lead a world first expedition to kayak the length of the Essequibo River; an expedition that I thought would take two months, but ended up taking nearly three.

My heart pounded as my social media post went live. My son was six months old. He’d be just over eight months when I planned to leave him with his fully capable father. The comments and reactions started to appear, and I was too nervous to read them. Would they say ‘You’re an awful mother!’ or ‘How could you be so heartless?’ or would they be positive and say ‘You’re an inspirational woman for having children and still following your dreams.’

Once they loaded, I began to focus on the screen in front of me.
“You’re an amazing woman, that is at the forefront of bridging the gap of parenting equality.”

I released the breath that had been burdening my lungs for the best part of a minute. To my surprise, not one comment was negative! I turned to my husband in disbelief; I wasn’t expecting such a positive response. With the belief and support of so many people I felt like I could really do this.

That particular comment, stating that I, alongside Ed, was at the forefront of parenting equality, really excited me! I hadn’t realised it before. I kept thinking I was being pushy in stating that my dreams were just as important as my husbands. After all, centuries of sexism had stated that the woman must give up all and every dream once she gives birth, and the man is allowed to be and act just as he did before the child came into this world.

I felt slightly guilty that I wasn’t just going to give up on my dreams. I must confess though, I am extremely lucky in the fact that my husband is incredibly supportive, and more than happy to take on the Daddy role full time/part time/ 1am time. Its hard however, to push aside that ‘I should’ feeling and replace it with the ‘I deserve’ feeling, and true, it’s a bit harder juggling two diaries to always make sure our son always has a primary caregiver there. But it’s worth it because both of his parents are 100% fulfilled in their lives, and surely a fulfilled parent is better than an ‘I should stay at home’ parent?

I also hear many of you say, ‘I’m a single parent, so there isn’t a father there to give me the freedom.’ I know several people that are single parents that take their child with them on every adventure. One took their son to India so they could do a three month course, and he had the most enriching time in the mountains, going to school and eating Indian food. So I truly believe that the only limitations are the limitations we put on ourselves.

Now back to the expedition! Seven weeks in, there was a day that confused me and really made me think about how detrimental me being away from my son might be.

As you can guess, paddling for 8+ hours a day can give your brain plenty of time to think, and after seven weeks of thinking, the brain can get quite bored and annoying. I remember paddling along like normal, one stroke, two stoke, and then thinking ‘I have to get to Ran, I have to be with him.’ And then that thought spiraled! Within ten minutes I was sobbing inconsolably, with a pain in my stomach. I was so sure Ran had been in an accident, that something awful had happened to him. I felt sure it was my mother’s intuition. Needless to say I was in an utter state.

As my mind was reeling, I thought SATPHONE!! So I whipped it out as quick as possible, and dialed my home number.

Ed answered the phone to hear my distressed voice.

“Ran’s been in an accident! Tell me he’s ok! What’s happened to him?!” I was in a panicked state, gasping for breathe, urging the world the tell me the opposite of what I already knew, that something was wrong.

The response I received will forever stick with me as a large life lesson.

“Laura, calm down,” said Ed. “He’s sat right in front of me, smiling and eating supper. He’s more than ok, he’s happy.” Ed went on to tell me how our boy was unbelievably cheerful, constantly smiling, exploring shelves and dog bowls independently and securely around the house.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I was wrong. Thank god I was wrong, but why was I wrong? I thought a mother’s intuition was always right. I was confused for a while, but I realised just how powerful, and sometimes dangerous, the mind can be. I had created that whole drama in my head. From then, till now, I am still slightly scared of what one’s brain can do and how it can unnecessarily amplify a perfectly normal situation.

When I arrived home, as when I first announced my plan, I was terrified about the backlash of people criticising my patenting style, questioning who I was as a mother. But once again, as before, I was unbelievably shocked at the positivity I received. I think people are ready to share the responsibility of being a parent for the all rounded fulfillment of both parents. It’s beautiful.

I think now my son is older and more understanding of the world around him, and for my sake, I wouldn’t want to leave him for more than four to six weeks. My husband and I have always agreed that we will constantly assess his wellbeing, our family’s wellbeing, and if at any point we think its having a negative impact, we will change our lifestyle. Until then however, we are making a happy home, a happy family and having careers. So, to conclude, I believe that with forward thinking parent(s), along with constant assessment, yes, a mother is perfectly ok to leave her child for short infrequent periods to achieve her dreams.

March 3rd is World Wildlife Day, which marks the importance of plants and animals and their contribution to our wellbeing. This years theme is on reversing the global loss of species and habitats. In the last half century, global wildlife populations have declined by two-thirds and much of this decline is directly linked to human activity…This loss is both sad and scary, but there is hope and it’s more vital than ever that children and young people engage with the natural world around them! The first step in fighting extinction is to learn to tune in and notice the wildlife on your doorstep. This enriches not only your own world, but is vital in standing up for nature.

exciting signs of recovery and flourishing - if you know where to look...

Giving a dam about Beavers

Beavers went extinct in the UK over 400 years ago after being hunted for their fur and meat. As the original natural architects, they reshape the landscape by building dams that create new wetland habitats for other species. The dams can also slow river flow, making flooding less likely for downstream towns and cities and create carbon sinks that help tackle climate change. After a lengthy absence, beaver are being reintroduced in the UK, with populations appearing from Devon to Scotland. Someday soon you may spot one on a river near you!

Red Kites in flight

In 1990, thirteen Red kites had to be flown in from Spain (British Airways!) as there were only a couple of pairs left. This magnificent species had almost been made extinct due to centuries of them being targeted as vermin. The birds were reintroduced to the Chilterns and they spread along the M40, taking advantage of the roadkill. There are now over 10,000 Red kites in Britain. Next time you’re on the long motorway journey, pass the time by seeing how many you can spot!

The Urban jungle

Foxes can be City dwellers too, and they may turn up in unexpected places! Foxes mate once a year, in either January or February, after which the vixen (female) will build a den in which to hide away. About 8 weeks later, she’ll give birth to up to five cubs that will be blind to begin with, before they start venturing out of the den in mid spring hunting insects and worms. That means you should keep a look out and see if you can spot them. Be on the lookout for dens and see if you can tell the difference between the paw prints of foxes and their relative, dogs!

Win a Wild kids ranger kit & delicious goodies from pulsin!

The first step in protecting nature is to learn to pay attention and notice the wildlife around us and on our doorsteps. That’s why to celebrate World Wildlife Day we’re giving you the chance to Wild Kids Ranger adventure kit, containing a brilliant pair of Bushnell binoculars to help you on your wildlife spotting adventures.

Enter Competition

On reflection it was inevitable that I would join the army. All my early childhood was spent either playing Cowboys and Indians in the woods, or soldiers amongst the bombed buildings. I was born with a wanderlust and would wander off at every opportunity, oblivious to my parents' concern. My mother would allow me to the front gate which was secured, but no further.

But inevitably I would climb the obstacle and go exploring the neighbourhood, I was meant to be outdoors. My parents would give the kids in the street money to search for me. The kids loved this as it boosted their pocket money and I think they encouraged me to go mooching.

When choosing between either indoors or outdoors it was no contest, as the council house we lived in was far from luxurious. We now complain about double glazing, but our house was lucky to have single glazing and if a window got broken it was a long time before it was replaced. Usually a piece of cardboard was used which helped keep the flies in during summer and the cold in during the winter. You could open the front door and the cold would rush out.

Laying under a poncho in a tropical rain forest with the rain lashing down often reminded me of my childhood and the old rain coat.

As a kid I loved the rain and would take an old Mackintosh (rain coat), and lay under it in the back garden.

The trouble was the coat was not waterproof but I would still lay under it for hours. When older I would go to the woods, which were a good three miles away in the centre of a golf course.

There was a pond in the middle of the wood where we would fish. We would have one eye on the float and the other looking out for Peg Leg. He was the golf course greenkeeper who had an artificial leg, and although disabled he had a fair turn of speed, so we had to be alert. We used to camouflage our clothing with grass and leaves and blacken our faces like commandos. I realise now that it was part of my basic training.

It was always a pleasure to go camping, which I did at every opportunity. In the school holidays, a group of us would head for the country. We would be armed with catapults, axes and fishing rods, but little else. We would clean a pillbox out on the banks of the Medway and live in it for weeks. These disused emplacements were often used as toilets but after much scraping and sweeping, it would become habitable. The foul smell was quickly replaced by smoke after a fire was lit in a corner. We would huddle around the blaze, oblivious to the smoke. We burned coal, which we collected from the railway line close to our camp site, the coal fell off the tender when the trains negotiated a sharp bend. Our diet consisted of whatever was in season in the fields around the area. We would sneak out at night and dig potatoes and raid the orchards. I preferred this to my home in London. We had freedom and could stay up as late as we liked.

It was good preparation for sneaking through the woods trying to avoid contact, which I found myself doing in Borneo years later.

When I started work we still went camping at every opportunity, but now we had money in our pocket. This was spent in the army surplus shop where we bought our camping kit. I bought a leather sheepskin-lined jacket that I rarely removed, a pair of dispatch riders boots that came up mid-calf and weighed a ton, a submariner's woollen jersey and a pilot's survival dinghy. This was a small inflatable one man affair with canvas paddles that fitted over the hands. This was the envy of the gang and I spent hours floating up and down the Medway in this marvel of rubber. My pride and joy nearly spoiled my survival record. I was dressed in the sheepskin, jersey and heavy boots, with an axe in my belt, a catapult round my neck and two pockets of stones. I launched the dinghy as usual, nimbly leaping in avoiding getting wet. I placed my hands into the paddles and started paddling. One minute I was a cockle shell hero, next a deep sea diver. Somehow I capsized the dinghy and sank like a stone. The jersey alone absorbed a few thousand gallons of Medway and with all the other paraphernalia I found myself standing up on the river bed. I couldn’t get my hands out of the paddles to jettison anything and I stood there rooted to the spot, a hazard to shipping. They say your life flashes past your eyes in such circumstances and after the initial panic a calmness descends. I started thinking of the tin of beans I had left in camp and started walking.

I walked till my head broke the surface and saw all my mates lining the bank. They couldn’t believe it and reckoned I had stayed under water for ages. All I wanted was to dry out and eat that tin of beans.

My mate had a good idea and dipped his finger in petrol and lit it. He quickly blew out the flame and said if I soaked my wet clothes in it and let it burn for a short while my clothes would dry quickly. At the time this sounded like a good idea, so I stripped off and wrung out the excess. My mate poured a generous amount of fuel on the pile and set it alight. Well to cut a long story short, I went home wrapped in a blanket and my mate was no longer my mate.

I learned many things from this experience the main one being you cannot swim if overdressed without a floatation aid. The second one is you cannot dry out your clothing instantly. Always respect water no matter how innocent it looks, it's what’s hidden under the surface that’s dangerous. Broken bottles, weeds and old bikes can all cause injuries. Cold water can seriously upset even the strongest of swimmers. Never dive into water until you have tested the depth and never swim near any pipes or weirs. This time of year rivers and lakes can freeze, so stay off the ice. If boating, canoeing, or rafting, wear a flotation aid.

After one long camping expedition we used the toilets in Tonbridge to clean up before getting the train home. We were caked in mud and smelled of wood smoke. I left the toilet and looked down the high street and couldn’t believe my eyes. I rubbed them and looked again, before going back inside. I didn’t mention what I had seen in case I was hallucinating - I thought many days of being smoked in a poorly ventilated pillbox had taken their toll. My mate went outside and I was relieved to hear him shout, "you won’t believe this but there’s an elephant walking down the high street." The circus was in town and they were parading to advertise this fact.

All the camping and fishing I did as a kid taught me so much. I learned to recognise all the birds, trees and plants. I thoroughly recommend it to all parents to get their children interested in nature. They will never be bored as it is changing daily. Switch off the computers and get outside. Practicing the country code will give them a sense of responsibility and help preserve our beautiful country.

We have a motto, ‘always leave the place better than you found it’. This was certainly the case with the pillboxes. I must admit that I preferred living in that emplacement than I did in my house in South East London. The freedom, adventure and experiences could never be learned in a classroom. How many teenagers have seen the sun rise and set and looked at a starry sky. We tend to divide our day up with regular meals and a set bed time. All that goes out the window when outdoors. Eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired, you can pack so much more into 24 hours than normal. If nothing else it will help you appreciate things that we take for granted like running water, flushing toilets and electric lights.

I always look forward to the first snows that fall on the Brecon Beacons. There’s nothing more relaxing than taking a tent, a good book and the means of making a curry, and camping out for a few days. It’s the ideal scenario if you are trying to write a book. Inspiration is gained and all distractions eliminated. I would recommend this to anyone. It helps us refocus our lives and get away from all the hustle and bustles and get another aspect on any troubles.

So head for the hills it’s a great way of getting over the abuses of comfort eating and inactivity that we often put our bodies through each winter.

I was chatting with a friend a few days ago about The Simpsons. (We are both big fans!) Apparently, in the early episodes of The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob communicated only by using a slide whistle. This type of whistle is often used in animated cartoons and my Dad tells me that it can regularly be heard in classic comedies, such as Laurel and Hardy.

As bushcrafters often carry a whistle, I thought it might be a bit of fun to make a fairly simple variation of the classic slide whistle (also known as a Swanee or Piston Flute).Those who have had a go at making a regular whistle will have noticed that a smaller hollow will give a higher frequency. By having a plunger (piston) within the hollow, you can alter the chamber size, and this in turn affects the pitch or sound!

You will need:

Here’s how:

  1. Take a length (about 100mm long) of dry, straight, elder. You could use ‘green’ but it would stop working as the wood dries out and shrinks. Elder is a great choice as it has a large soft pith which, when removed, gives us a ready-made chamber!
  2. Push out the pith with a stick. You need to make sure it is all out and that the sides of the inside chamber are fairly smooth; otherwise, you will struggle to get a good seal with your plunger/piston.
  3. You now need to find a short length of wood the same diameter as the hollow and say 10mm - 15mm long. This is the plug to the mouthpiece. A little trimming to size may be necessary. Once you have made the plug, shave off a small channel to blow into. (See picture.) Once this is in place, you can carve the end to form a mouthpiece; it should look a bit like a recorder.
  4. The next step is to cut the sound hole; this is probably the most critical part. As in the picture, cut a steep notch. (Aim for just below 90°.) Then cut into this at a shallower angle. This creates a sharp lip. At this point you can test the whistle by placing your finger over the end and blowing. If the sound is poor, you may have to adjust the notch, or move the wooden plug we inserted into the mouthpiece backwards or forwards until you are satisfied with the sound. (We wouldn’t want it sounding like a Vuvuzela, now; would we?)
  5. Now we must make the plunger. It can be a little tricky to get this right, as it needs to give a good seal, but also needs to be able to slide up and down the chamber. To make the plunger easier to slide, I carefully carved and sanded my plunger to fit the chamber but I left a knob on the end which was equal in diameter to the main part of the whistle and about 10mm - 15mm long. This knob will act as a seal to the chamber and also allows you to grip it nicely. Hollowed out Using your fine sandpaper, carefully adjust the size of the plunger by small amounts at a time, until it fits nicely inside the chamber.
  6. Once you are happy with the plunger, you are ready to go! Using my bushcraft knife and some sandpaper, I neatened things up, and then did some decoration with some wire heated in the fire, before adding a piece of cordage.

As a slight departure from my usual Bushcraft Bairns ‘make and do’, in this article I am going to share some of my opinions regarding knives and young people.

I’m sure most of you have at some point been asked the question: “What would you take, if you were to be dropped into the wilderness with only a single item?” Perhaps after a few jokes about nonessential kit and then, maybe wondering what Ray Mears would choose, I think most would decide on a knife, as from that one item, fires can be made, food secured and prepared, shelters made and further tools fashioned.

Few can deny that the knife is central to bushcraft, but also to everyday life. Without it, cooking would be an issue, and the human race would lose one of the earliest components of its identity.

Unfortunately, knives also make good weapons, and increasingly seem to be labelled as such. Almost every day it seems there is a new story reported, involving knives and often young people; as a consequence, young people as well as knives seem to be prejudiced against in general.

Some of you will know my story. I am sixteen, and one of my hobbies is knife-making. When this comes up in conversation outside of the bushcraft community, before I rush to explain how it ties in with my other hobbies I find that some people assume I am some kind of weapons dealer. I am sure that the vast majority of young people are fantastic, law-abiding and upholding good moral values, just as most knife use is productive and peaceful. However, a nasty incident involving either is bound to overshadow any good actions, leaving both tarnished.

As a slight departure from my usual Bushcraft Bairns ‘make and do’, in this article I am going to share some of my opinions regarding knives and young people.

I’m sure most of you have at some point been asked the question: “What would you take, if you were to be dropped into the wilderness with only a single item?” Perhaps after a few jokes about nonessential kit and then, maybe wondering what Ray Mears would choose, I think most would decide on a knife, as from that one item, fires can be made, food secured and prepared, shelters made and further tools fashioned.

Few can deny that the knife is central to bushcraft, but also to everyday life. Without it, cooking would be an issue, and the human race would lose one of the earliest components of its identity.

Bushcraft is such a positive interest for young people to be involved in. Not only is it great fun but it gives a lifelong hobby, a sense of responsibility and a great respect for knives and their usage. I have handled knives from a very early age and made my first one when I was twelve. I feel that this positive exposure can only be a good thing. The current culture of associating knives and young people with violence and unruly behaviour is damaging as it will only cause a division between young and old.

Knives have been very important in (literally!) shaping our past, and I’m sure that they will continue to have a role in everyday life and activities such as bushcraft in our future.

I know that there are many other young bushcrafters with similar positive views on knives. I would love to hear from you, in the form of letters to the magazine, sharing your views on knives and what they mean to you.

Knívleysur maður er lívleysur maður

A man without a knife is a man without a life


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