by James Warner Smith, 12th June 2014.
Everybody’s seen the flimsy cards, the ‘World's Greatest Dad’ mugs, and the dodgy socks (everybody also knows that it’s the thought that counts... right?). But with a toasty forecast for the weekend ahead, this years Father's Day could be the chance to really enjoy a little father-child bonding time. What better way for Dad to show off his manly credentials than dusting off that old copy of Book for Boys, digging out the binoculars and heading to the woods for a day of wilderness survival.
Now we’re not promoting scratching around for worms or springing an attack on unsuspecting squirrels (they’re far too quick, you’ll never grab ‘em). Instead, there are plenty of well-equipped campsites out there that can talk you through the basics and treat you to a day of expertly guided bushcraft fun. So turn off your mobile, throw on some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and enjoy a day with the kids proving that the old man's still more than capable of taking on the world. The professionals will show you how and here's where you'll find them...
Gill Head is a lovely working hill farm that’s been run by the same family for generations. Ensconced within the Lake District National Park, yet far removed from the tourist hordes, this grassy camping meadow is the perfect getaway for a family break. Bushcraft courses are run onsite by local firm Reach Beyond Adventure and those ‘who don’t want to feel like they’re on a campsite’, as the owners put it, can ask to pitch in the ‘hidden’ field, which comes with its own waterfall and steep, wooded banks.
Despite being less than a mile from the M25, Big Hat Bushcamp is the real deal when it comes to survival camping. The brainchild of former British Army captain and all-round action man, Ian Brember, the site offers family-orientated woodland bush-craft courses in a secluded lakeside spot. With an array of bespoke courses (ranging from three hours to full weekends), Big Hat Bushcamp will invoke your inner Ray Mears, with archery, orienteering, foraging, wilderness first-aid and much more. Pitch your own tents, stay in the five berth tipi or use the camp's tarps and hammocks. But for an authentic castaway experience, there's nothing like camping beneath the shelter built by your own two hands!
Hosted by welcoming woodsman Guy Mallinson (of BBC's Mastercrafts fame), this glamping Shangri-La is set in several acres of wondrous West Dorset woodland. Ok, so this one may not be for the youngest of kids (it's an adults only site), but the bigger kids will get just as much out of the amazing courses on offer. Optional woodcraft courses are available on site from two hour 'have a go' tasters, to a five day 'make a chair from a tree' workshop.
Set in 55 acres of woodland and natural chalk downs, this Earthworks Trust-run site offers a whole host of eco-conscious courses. Try your hand at herbal first aid, willow basket making, and permaculture – all taught in the grandiose surroundings of outdoor eco-classroom. There's a choice of accommodation, from yurts and tipis to a comfy eco-lodge for those less hardy souls. Plus, the South Downs National Park is right on your doorstep.
This 200 acre Quarry Farm site is bursting with wildlife, nestled amongst the fully-furnished woodland shepherd's huts. There's a summer forest school for your little pioneers – the kids can spot woodpeckers, deer and maybe even the odd badger if they're lucky. Keep posted for news of the foraging courses run in conjunction with the nearby Michelin Starred Curlew restaurant's chief sourcer, Fergus Drennan.
This blissfully tranquil campsite is an entirely community-run venture founded to promote traditional rural crafts and foraging. As co-op member Sasha tells; "We originally began as a group of residents collecting fire wood together to see us through the winter nights, volunteering to help local farmers to reinstate lovely hedgerows for the local wildlife". This social enterprise has now blossomed the wonderful glampsite with comfortable Mongolian yurts. The surrounding woodlands and Lynfi river are a veritable smorgasbord of wild delicacies, such as rainbow trout, wild garlic and all manner of delicious fungi. Source them out before cooking your foraged feast on the flames.