I persuaded my family to come with me to this year's Bushcraft Show in Derbyshire. Or rather, I bought a family ticket and then told them that they were coming.
This was the first time we had been, and as soon as we had parked the car and walked through the field to the show gates, the girls were already beginning to ID particular Bushcraft Show-types. They have form in this field: when we visited the Daintree rainforest in Queensland last year, the girls counted "hippies". They classified "hippies" as anyone with a) dreadlocks, b) more bracelets than strictly necessary, c) bare feet, d) tie-dyed clothing or skirts decorated with bells.
Bushcraft Show visitors fell into 3 distinct categories (according to the teenagers):
1) Rambo Wannabees - mostly lone military-type men with camouflage clothing (this doesn't really work at a Bushcraft Show unless your camo gear comprises of patterns that look like gazebos and/or ice cream vans); utility belts with vast numbers of knives and pouches dangling from them; scary tattoos.
2) Camping Crew - outdoorsy families who clearly have a Mountain Warehouse/Cotswold loyalty card/online account; easily identified by dad who will always be carrying a 40 litre rucksack with everyone's breathable waterproof coat in it (well, it's best to be prepared), sensible walking boots or trainers ("they're not trainers, they're Approach Shoes..."); a compass and map (never rely on technology - that SatNav might lead you off a cliff...).
3) Wizards/Dwarves - barefooted couples, often with beards (not just the men either...); very often sporting an antler-handled traditionally-made fire steel on a leather lanyard around their necks (just in case they were called upon to make an impromptu fire at the show....); wearing an ethically-sourced rabbit skin bum bag or kangaroo hide hat; piercings.
Once the girls were happy amusing themselves with their imaginary I-Spy Book of Bushcrafters, Mr Wildly Curious and I took some time to explore the site before settling down to listen to a lecture on the Psychology of Survival. I thought it was very interesting, but some people couldn't even survive the whole 50 minute talk without having to have to go outside to fetch coffee, have a smoke, or walk their dog. There was a small puppy, however, who refused to leave and had to be dragged out.
Lunch proved a hit with both girls - a bacon roll for the carnivore, a jacket spud for the vegetarian and bison burgers for the grown ups. We then watched a group learning how to make a spoon with an axe which would have been really interesting if I could have torn my eyes away from the bare feet of the instructor. What Health and Safety?
A top moment in the day for me was settling down to watch 5 pairs battle it out in a Ready, Steady, Cook-style scenario. Each pair had a fire bowl, a fire steel, a Dutch oven, a bag of ingredients (including a fresh partridge complete with feathers) and the choice of 5 items from the "larder" (a table with a set of faded ingredients probably out of someone's caravan c.1997). They had to light the fire, prep, cook and present a meal in 45 minutes. Finished dishes ranged from those with "deep fried chips" to "partridge with a jus".
We watched demonstrations for using a fire bow, skinning a deer, had a go at using a fire piston, tried our hand at axe throwing, and listened to talks about traditional Scandinavian cold weather gear and kayak making. Ice creams were enjoyed, as was some craft beer and cider.
The main highlight of my day was managing to tick off some of the items on my Wish List - I bought a Dutch oven, a grill, a skillet, 2 flints and steels, a rabbit skin, a fire piston, a down jacket, a crook knife and a shelter-building guide. Oh, and I saw Ray Mears and Lofty Wiseman.
The highlight of the day for the girls was buying jewellery from a beautiful Masai girl, and then spotting a gentleman whose cat rode around all day perched upon his ample belly. Most impressive. Type 3.
The Bushcraft Show 2016 was well-organised, with just the right number of people there to be able to see and do everything. Everyone was friendly and smiling. It was also very tidy - presumably the majority of people there are of the "leave no trace" ilk and certainly practised what they preach. We had a very enjoyable time, doing what all families love to do on a day out - eat, drink, buy stuff and watch other people doing things that you wish you could do.
We're Type 2s, in case you were wondering.....