It's been a while since we had a guest blog and with the changeable weather we've been having in Britain lately, we thought it'd be great to ask Vicki Stewart from outdoor training company Brightwood Training to share her top five survival tips for travelling in the UK.
As a military veteran, I can tell you the survival manuals issued for desperate operations sternly state the priorities for survival are firstly shelter, water and then food.
Luckily, for most of us, our travels in the UK are less of a survival situation and more of a pleasurable adventure. But what should you ensure are your top five priorities when travelling, in order to make the trip less of a desperate scrabble for the last pasty in a motorway service station and more of a soul-filling vista of lakes at dawn with a hand roasted coffee?
Finding a memorable place to stay should be a top priority. Waking up in a new place lets you try on your new travelling, adventurous, decadent identity, at least for a night. Will it be a chatelaine’s castle in Wales or an earthy shepherd’s hut in Sussex? This is where you could soak up the essence of the city in late night independent bars and flit home along lamp-lit streets to your boutique bed. Or wake up with the dawn mist as you peel back the flap of your yurt and breathe in the musky mellow autumn from the squishy comfort of your duck down duvet.
Staying hydrated is necessary for survival and it makes us look damn good. However, being truly British, a cup of tea comes top of the list for hydration. Keeping a re-usable hot cup in your bag not only allows you to take that hand roasted coffee or British-grown tea to the side of the lake for a better view than the pavement café; it also saves the planet. Now that’s a good survival tip for you and the earth.
Secondly, a flask in the car for hot drinks not only sends you back to the heady days of 1980s ‘car-picnics’ with your parents but allows you to fully express your retro-credentials with a solid stainless steel Stanley flask, a hipster beard (optional) and the smug look of someone who can whip out a bracing cup of tea at a moment’s notice.
Lastly, for those who truly hear the call of the wild, learning to use a Kelly-kettle allows you to boil water using only a few sticks or leaves in the small fire tin underneath the kettle. And for extra points, a brew of Dandelion coffee marks you out as a true survivor.
If your wildest meal to date has been urban foraging at the breakfast caff on the corner, cooking over a campfire will have you mouth watering and make memories that will last. My tip is to keep everything simple. Search on the web for campsites or parks that allow fires. Take time to build your fire and wait until the wood has burned to grey or black charcoal before you start cooking. A steak, vegetable kebabs, soup in a pan and flat bread can all easily be cooked over fire. You can use an ordinary oven grill balanced on bricks if you don’t have special kit. As you eat surrounded by stars, the gentle company of your best mates and a beer in your hand you’ll be in heaven.
In order to find these places we all use our phone sat nav or GPS. For the true adventurer, the thrill of unfolding a paper Ordnance Survey map of the area instantly transports you to the headquarters of the British Exploring Society, even if you are only nipping off to Derbyshire.
However, once unfolded (warning - you’ll never ever fold it correctly again) you’ll soon start to discover interesting and ancient places to visit that are off the grid and ripe for exploring.
Signs for castles, footpaths, ancient earthworks, lakes, rivers and viewpoints are all spread out in front of you to plan your adventure. If you loose all of your electronic devices, or want to try natural navigation, just remember that moss grows on the shady or northern sides of trees, that streams flow downhill and in Britain you’re never truly far away from a good pub.
Alternatively, camp out under the stars or in an Ancient building from the Landmark Trust, and try to spot stars to navigate by in the night sky.
My last survival tip is from those Nordic masters of survival in a cold climate - the Scandinavians. They say ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’. It is true that you will be truly miserable outside if you dress for the shopping mall rather than the British climate. Don’t be shy about piling on the layers, layering is key and the Scandinavians have it down to a chic art. I wholeheartedly recommend wool thermals underneath your clothing as your friend. The secret is the layer of warm air they trap next to your skin. Most
modern wool garments are also relatively smell resistant, which is a bonus for travellers as you don’t need to rely on finding clothes wash facilities everywhere you go.
Vicki runs courses for UK travellers in ancient woodland in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Try out campfire cooking, ancient fire-lighting, natural navigation skills, foraging and wilderness survival with the in-depth knowledge of an experienced guide to make your travels a pleasure. www.brightwoodtraining.com
Would you like to guest blog for The Rural Travel Guide and share your expertise with our readers? Get in touch.