Will’s Ashdown Forest Castle

An adventure, with storms and leaves and twigs, wherein Will tries to make a shelter from the detritus of the forest floor, that can replace, for a night or two, his cosy comfy sleeping bag and good reliable poncho.

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We settled in the Ashdown Forest for a few days, as we had Alex and Nejm with us and wanted to spend time together in a settled place, rather than on the constant move.

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So we walked till our maps were useless, noting as we did so the location of all water-sources (which were ample), and then we hid our backpacks and roamed in 5 directions to try and find a good spot for us all to stay.

Ginger soon whistled for success, and we returned presently to check his findings. “It’s not the place” said Ed, and we kept looking. 20 minutes later, Ed whistled for success, and led us all to the same place Ginger originally found. This led to banter, but certainly accord, and with a mighty beech at the centre of the clearing, with wood aplenty to keep our fire fed, we set to making camp.

Ed and Alex struck up a partnership to make a cabin with wooden poles and their ponchos, wherein they could sit comfortably with a fire to give heat and light. “All very well,” said Will, “but i’m going to try something new.”

So with his mind full of Tom Brown style shelters, Will set to building a mummy-like coccoon, a shelter made entirely from the materials around him in the Forest. Obviously, if this sort of shelter could be used, then there would be no need for tarpaulins, roll-mats, or sleeping bags. This, at least, was the idea.

So a long ridgepole is found, and propped up at the opening with a forked stick high enough to permit access.

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Then more sticks are added, like the rib-bones of a whale. The more ribs the better, as this will soon be all covered over with leaf-mulch and the stuff of the forest floor. The plan is to make a natural semi-permanent sleeping bag, made from leaf and twig.

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This took a lot of floor-scraping. Eventually, the best method was found to be using the boot and foot to drag all the mud and rotten leaf and fresh leaf into a pile, which could be dumped around and atop the frame. Once this was all covered over, more sticks were placed on the leaves, to keep them from blowing away, and the process begins again, with more scraping at the floor, and more leaf and mulch.

This material should insulate the shelter, and prevent the rain from seeping in.

So Will did his best, and spent the next 3 hours gathering sticks and leaf mulch, up and down, forward and backward, getting it all piled on.

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Once that was done, there was the making of a door, or plug to block it in. This was made with a bag-cover, all stuffed with leaves, that slotted into the open end of the tunnel.

Once this was made, the last thing, which proabably should have been the first thing, was the internal mattress. Will started with dead bracken, which is sketchy for its apparently dangerous pollen, which may be carcinogenic. Will figured with the recent heavy rain, this pollen would have all been battered away.

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The second layer of mattress was young boughs of pine, which gave an amazing resinous odour to the enclosed space.

Will tried this shelter in a huge storm, which conveniently fell the night after he made it. There were a few drips, which were off-putting to a good night’s sleep, and the ground was too cold.

So he tried it again the next night, with more pine on the ground, and more mulch on the roof, and it was much bett. Still, for a March home, it was too chilly to sleep with no covers, to rely on the shelter to provide all the insulation from the night. Will got about 2 hours sleep, before waking up cold, shivering, and emerging to go and grab his sleeping bag to assist his night’s sleep.

So, in verdict, this shelter was a pleasure and a joy to build, as it is made from nothing but what lies around. It needs a great deal of floor insulation, however, and it needs a really well-fitting plug in the door. Next time, these isues will be rememdied, and we’ll let you know how it goes.

Enjoy your duvet while you have it.

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3 Responses to “Will’s Ashdown Forest Castle”

  1. A ODDY says:

    you guys are an insperation, i have only discovered your site today after searching for bushcraft tips for my wilderness camp/bikeride next week and have been blown away by not only your vast knowledge of our great land but also your attitudes.

    keep up the good work and if there is anyway i can help you out in the coming months just drop me a line (you have my e-mail address in this message)

  2. Insanely Jealous says:

    You guys are living the good life. I am insanely jealous. Personally I’d rather spend more time away from cities but then I am not much for people and my singing is more apt for scaring crows. Just wow, even more so for how much you love it. All the best, keep living your dream.

  3. Luke Clark says:

    i am a 12year old boy who enjoys the outside. I have a den already and I would like to try this shelter. Good luck on your trip will edd and ginger!

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