“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
What are the courses about?
Woodlands courses are first and foremost about having a great time in our native natural environment and learning some useful skills such as shelter building, fire lighting, knife handling and many other skills.
Who are the courses suitable for?
They are for children and adults of any age or fitness level. They can be a morning, a day overnight or longer durations. I take out:
- School groups of any age
- Corporate teams
- Small and large private groups
Before you come along – Kit Packing Tutorial:
The courses are really about stripping back to the essence of ourselves and where we all came from. Going out into your local woodland puts you back in touch with the world in a way that being in doors or in a city never can.
“It was super fun, I learnt how to make a fire!” Frankie Carey (10)
“I learnt how to use a knife safely” Dorothy Rose Mulcahy (10)
“I did the best whittling I have ever done” Harry Haisma (9)
“I now know how to build a quick shelter” – Grace Wood (9)
“I learnt how to eat Marshmallows over a fire!” Charlie Carey (8)
The courses are also ideal for groups. Bonding new teams together, giving people a complete change of scenery, introducing new concepts into teams, businesses or units, birthday parties, treats and rewards for jobs well done or a myriad of other situations.
Why is spending time in the woods a good idea?
In 2008 we crossed the Rubicon. For the first time in human history more people lived in towns and cities than in rural areas. This is compounded by the fact that the average worker now spends 8 hours a day in front of a screen. They then go home and relax by watching on average 3 hours TV or the Internet.
Research tells us this is not good for us, that this behaviour makes us more aggressive, more depressed, less patient, slower witted and fatter. But we already know that. What research hasn’t been able to tell us is why, or how we can fix it.
The answer really is as simple as spending more time in woods and forests.
Spending time in amongst trees is scientifically proven way to lift your mood, make you 50% more creative, increase your production of cancer fighting cells by 40% and keep all these levels high for a month afterwards.
Why does a weekend in the woods would have such a profound impact on people? I thank Japanese researchers for giving me the answer.
Miyazaki San, a Japanese physiological anthropologist and vice director of Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health, and Field Sciences, located just outside Tokyo has been at the centre of Forest Therapy for the past decade. In that time he has taken more than 600 people out into the woods and monitored their reaction to their surroundings.
The results are startling.
The findings show that leisurely forest walks, compared with city or town walks, yield a 12.4% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 1.4% decrease in blood pressure and a 5.8% decrease in heart rate. On subjective tests, study participants also report better moods and lower anxiety.
Is that really a surprise? When you consider that we have spent 99.9% of our evolutionary journey in nature and we are still physiologically tuned to it. The more time we spend there, the better we feel. Consider how you would feel…
- Listening to the sound of running water and birds singing
- Smelling fresh pine, wild garlic, bluebells
- Feeling the sun on your back and the wind in your hair
- Seeing sunrays through a canopy or a beautiful waterfall
- And have you ever noticed that food tastes better outside – think barbeques and picnics or fresh fruit plucked straight from a tree.
As much as the forest gives us, it is also what it takes away that cleanses us. The anxiety of checking your smart phone, sweating the little things and lack of perspective that every day life brings.
Japanese Doctors have been prescribing a cure for these ailments called ‘Shinrin Yoku’ or ‘forest bathing’. Literally spending time in forests. You don’t have to do anything else. Researchers are building a body of evidence that proves at a cellular level what we already innately know.
What will I do on the courses?
The content of the courses can range from basic to advanced depending on the abilities, needs and desires of the group. During the course we cover fundamental life skills that are being lost to the current generation. The courses can be run in a location to suit you and can contain as much or as little as you need. We can also add in anything specific that you might want to cover or introduce. Some examples of course content are listed below. This is not exhaustive nor does each course always contain all of the elements below. They can be tailored around a discussion between us.
An example of a Systema Bushcraft Course:
- Basic clothing choice and layer management to guard against the heat and the cold whilst moving and whilst static.
- What kit and equipment is essential and what is just going to weigh you down and slow you up.
- The simple buddy, buddy system and good communication guidelines to keep you safe.
- Navigation with map and compass.
- Knowledge of flora and fauna
- Leadership, problem solving and team skills
- How to wake and how to put a fire to sleep safely for you and the environment.
- How to strike camp in a way that no-one would ever have known that you were there.
- Minimal impact camping techniques.
- Safe and effective use of a knife
- How to make the right choice of camp location, and how to set up a basha/tarp/ including basic knot work.
- How to cook outdoors.
- How to administer yourself and your equipment so that the most important tools that you have remain in good working order!
- How to cross a river safely and how to judge whether it is safe or not.
- Good route planning.
- Self defence and combat skills
- Wild swimming
- Ancient breathing, stretching and relaxation techniques
- Meditation and mindfulness training
- Confidence building games, tasks and challenges.
- And much more.
Matt Hill’s bushcraft day with our Year 6 children was fantastic. the staff and children all came back full of excitement from thier day. Staff came to tell me that it was the best day trip they’d been on and how the children were completely absorbed in the day. we cant wait to do it again. Miss Lorraine Colquhoun, Headteacher, Rowde Primary Academy.
“The course left me that so many things to think about that can be applied to everyday life. The breathing exercises to reduce stress and assist rational decision-making, the exercises to aid flexibility and movement and the Systema principles to avoid panic when faced with a unforeseen situations.” Rob Jones
“It was great to be re-acquainted with the out of doors. The waterfalls and panoramic views were spectacular and the calm of the woods provided a well needed dose of tranquility. Matt achieved the perfect balance of attention to detail without undue intrusion to make this a memorable trip. The following week I had noticeably more energy at work and in my joggers” Dr. Charles Stewart.
“An immensely enjoyable experience, that will not only put you back into the heart of nature but may also help to put you back in touch with who you really are”
– Danny Hamilton Mills
“Thank you Matt for a very enjoyable weekend and a life changing experience”
– Gergana Milkhanova
“Sensei Matt’s Woodland Intensive Course was well balanced, unique and highly memorable ““ I could not have hoped for more in a weekend!”
– Isabelle Vinet
“The Woodlands course gives those that wish to see a glimpse into what is important”
– Mark Wood.
‘This is my first course with Matt Hill. I have learn’t so much that I will keep with me.’
– Dave Hartley
“It was really good fun and I learnt three different ways to cut with a knife!” Ollie Wood (11)
“It was great fun eating Marshmallows!” North Goodwin (11)
“I had the best time ever and teacher was very enthusiastic!” William Hogger (11)
“It was excellent!” Eli Goodwin (9)
At Kendle in 2011 Ray Mears said, “I think it is a great shame that we are losing our connection with our ancestral ways. We have, like the Native Americans and Aboriginies, a fantastic native tradition; folk stories, myths, and a spiritual connection with nature, with the soil and the stone. It’s time we reclaim that.” I second this wholeheartedly. In these days of imposed realities, screens and buttons an experience in the woodlands is wholesome, real, natural and alive. There is nothing quite as elemental as gathering around logs glowing on a camp fire in the middle of a wood after a day of activity.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to contact me for more information about organising a course for a group or 1 to1 course or or subscribe below to register to hear about future courses.
A house represents everything that we want on earth; permanent, rooted, here for eternity. A camp represents what we really are: just passing through. – Author unknown.