What is Bushcraft?
Bushcraft appears to be something that encompasses a large variety of outdoor pursuits, and, the making of equipment and tools used in those outdoor pursuits. So how did this start, where did it come from?
My main reason for writing this article is because I have just been rebuked for posting our latest promo video on a bushcraft forum that I belong to. I might point out that this video has been accepted on other forums and I have received good feedback on it. But on this particular forum I was told not to post any more videos that advertise our group. I might also point out that this forum, though a worldwide forum, has members mostly from the UK and the USA, so if I were angling for members it is unlikely that anyone would want to travel 14,000 miles to attend meetings once a month.
The reason given was that the video did not contain items relating to bushcraft. Well most of you will have seen the video in question, the 30 second one my son produced, and I think you will agree that everything in the video bar the 3 second sword scene was in fact an outdoor pursuit. If the sword part is what offends the forum moderator then I think it is a rather petty complaint. Basically the video is a promo for the pursuit itself, not just our group. It was made to encourage people to think about the things that we do, and perhaps encourage them to give it a go themselves.
So with that in mind, where did bushcraft begin? I think it must have started as survival skills which then became “living Skills”. Later on pacific names were given to people who spent time in the woods and practiced these skills, they were called woodsmen, foresters and Rangers. These people went into the woods armed, for their own protection, and in the case of the 12th-14th century Rangers, for the protection of others who lived in and around the forests.
Later these Rangers spread from England and Europe to the New World, where it was again their duty to range the surrounding forests looking for sign of any enemy that might threaten the local community. Once again these men went armed, and this was a time when the sword was still considered an important piece of equipment, so much so that the local militias were bound by law to carry a sword.
So where am I going with this? It is easy to get sidetracked when you have so many thoughts in your head all at the same time. My immediate thoughts shortly after the rebuke were; I wonder if Horace Kephart would not have been taken seriously as a bushcrafter had he carried a sword? Of course I don’t carry a sword in the woods, I just enjoy the use of the sword when not trekking and camping. The sword fighting is only a very small part of what we do, however the "hunting sword" was once a part of the hunter's equipment, and as hunting knives and guns recieve mention on bushcraft forums then I don't think the hunting sword is out of place.
I guess my reason for writing this is to bring people’s attention to the meaning of Bushcraft/woodscraft/woods lore, to get them to think about it so they don’t rebuke someone out of hand for posting a non bushcraft topic without seriously thinking about it. Had I been a new member and posted such a video, then I agree my motives may have been in question, but I have over 140 posts under my belt on that forum and the feedback from those posts are always encouraging.
To quote Horace Kephart: “As Richard Harding Davis says, " The same article that one declares is the most essential to his comfort, health, and happiness is the very first thing that another will throw into the trail.
A man's outfit is a matter which seems to touch his private honour. I have heard veterans sitting around a camp-fire proclaim the superiority of their kits with a jealousy, loyalty, and enthusiasm they would not exhibit for the flesh of their flesh and the bone of their bone.
On a campaign you may attack a man's courage, the flag he serves, the newspaper for which he works, his intelligence, or his camp manners, and he will Ignore you ; but If you criticise his patent water-bottle he will fall upon you with both fists."
Maybe that is how I feel at present, I am being criticised for my choice of bushcraft material, and not only that but my post was removed from the site.
I think to be fair the most I could be accused of is being proud of my son’s efforts in producing this video, and I wanting to share it, I don’t really think it is fair to accuse me of feathering my own nest at the expense of someone else’s forum.