Up to a week in the woods, with no devices but plenty of fun and adventure? That’s what’s on offer from Camp Wilderness, the residential summer camps from the Bushcraft Company. To me it sounds like heaven but would my boys feel the same way?
According to Camp Wilderness, summer camps are a rite of passage for kids; a place where they can go to gain some independence, make friends and learn new skills along the way. Having never been lucky enough to go to a summer camp as a kid, I was super excited when we were invited to spend a day out in the woods to experience a day in the life at summer camp.
We were promised a day of bushcraft; full of fire making, camouflage, outdoor cooking, trap building, camp crafts, and plenty of fun. And I have to say, Camp Wilderness truly delivered – we all had an amazing day!
Camp Wilderness summer camps are held at a variety of different locations around the country, but we were heading to Hatfield Woods in Hertfordshire. The scenery on the last leg of the drive down country lanes was stunning and when driving through the woods to camp, the boys were excited to spot the tents and yurts through the trees – they couldn’t wait to get started!
The camp itself was a sight to behold really! Although it was only say a ten minute drive from the nearest small town, the woodlands were magnificent, a real world away from reality. And despite being home to over 100 school children over the previous week, the camp was clean, tidy and almost had a luxury feel to it! As well as the beautiful looking bell tent accommodation, there are large yurts for camp gatherings, the camp kitchen, washing up station, hand washing station, pizza ovens and even flushing chemical portaloo toilets.
We were greeted by a super friendly team; some in the camp kitchen preparing drinks and food for the day, some tending to the camp fires, and others welcoming families to camp. From the off, the staff was amazing and truly made the day special for the kids. Not only were they super knowledgeable, but they were kind, funny and exciting, and they bonded with kids from 15 years old, right down to siblings of 2 years old. My boys were completely taken with two team members in particular; Kyle and Chris. I think it was because they were so approachable, and very funny, the boys haven’t stopped talking about them since! And as a parent that is exactly what you want if you are to feel comfortable packing your child off to camp for up to a week, you need to feel that they are in capable hands whilst being entertained.
And so, after an introduction and safety talk, our day of adventure began. We were split into ‘tribes’ and were set the task of coming up with a tribe name and identity. The kids had great fun designing a flag on a pillow case.
Next was on to the hotly anticipated fire making workshop. I was expecting a simple rubbing sticks together affair, but we were treated to a whole host of methods! First up was the bow drill method, which is an upgrade on the classic friction method. We then moved on to flint and steel with cotton wool covered in vaseline; the sparks from the flint and steel caught the vaseline perfectly and it went straight up – much to the delight of the on looking children! Then we were on to some methods I had never heard of, such as using a 9v battery and wire wool (when the terminals of the battery touch the wire wool, the electrical current will heat up the strands of wire until they catch alight), and creating a chemical reaction inside a folded piece of paper between Potassium Permanganate and Glycerin. This one was the most dramatic, and definitely entertained the kids!
Now it was our turn to put these methods into practice! In our tribes we headed into the woods just outside camp, with our Camp Wilderness instructor, and set out to collect firewood to build our own fire. We decided on the flint and steel method and soon had a brilliant fire ready to cook our lunch. The kids were fully involved, and were tasked with collecting all of the equipment we needed from the camp kitchen.
We cooked burgers over our very own fire, and the fab cooks back in the kitchen had rustled up some amazing potatoes. There were also buns, cheese and lettuce to help ourselves to. We feasted around the campfire with our new campmates, telling jokes and riddles for entertainment.
We were then taught about how to safely put out a fire, using water and then scattering the wet charcoal, and all the kids got involved. We even started our camouflage lesson a little early using the left over charcoal!
After lunch there was time to have a hot drink, play or explore. The boys were given some clay, to do a little craft activity and they left them to dry in the sun.
When everyone had let their lunch go down, it was on to camouflage. We talked about how we could camouflage ourselves in the wild, and were then given some camouflage sticks to have a go ourselves. Then it was off into the woods to put it into practice with a big game of hide and seek!
With the kids well and truly bushed from running around in the woods, we all met back at camp to have a look at some animal hides and learn more about using traps in the wild. We looked at three simple but very effective looking traps that had been set up in the woods and as you can imagine, the kids were really excited by this!
Our busy day was drawing to an end, but we had time for one more bushcraft activity; making survival bracelets using a buckle clip and a long length of paracord. The idea was to have a paracord bracelet that you could unravel and use if you needed to. It was a tricky process, and it took me ages to get the hang of it, but when I finally worked it out I managed to make one each for the boys (they gave up pretty quickly!).
To top off a perfect day in the woods, we were treated to rice crispy cakes, hot chocolate, and the all important marshmallows over the camp fire – the boys were in heaven!
After explaining to the boys that we couldn’t stay over night (they desperately wanted to stay!), we headed out of the woods and back to reality. We went home smelling of campfire with our camouflage still in place, but very happy and tired.
The boys (and I) had the most amazing day at Camp Wilderness, and they have said that they would happily go and stay at a camp themselves. I think Mr F, who has just turned 9, would have a fantastic time at camp if we were to send him, and I would definitely be happy for him to go having now seen it for myself. But I may wait for Mr X, who has just turned 6, to be a little older before I consider it for him.
Camp Wilderness are holding free Open Days across their locations over the coming months, so if you would like to get hands on and check out the camps for yourself I would highly recommend going along:
Cholmondeley Castle – 22nd April
Penshurst Place – 30th April/1st May
Hatfield Woods – 13th May
Daylesford Festival (20 minutes from Cornbury Park) – 20th May
All locations and timings can be found on the Camp Wilderness Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/pg/campwildernessUK/events/
Have your kids experienced Camp Wilderness, or any other summer camp before? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Disclaimer: We were offered a day out with Camp Wilderness in return for an honest review. As always all opinions are my own.