As our guide Enric Cucarella from the Pyrenees lays out his array of survival gadgets and exotic fungi on the damp floor and the River Crane burbles in the background, civilisation seems far further than half a mile back through the park to Hanworth.
The bushcraft devotee learned his tricks from his boss while training as a London park warden, who picked it up on a two-week course with Mears himself. Now the 28-year-old runs corporate team building activities on the nature reserve and teaches youngsters what a knife is really for on youth days.
"The most important thing for survival is a knife," says Enric. "If you lose your knife you lose your best friend." The hunting knife is used to collect kindling and logs, split logs to make the fire base, make sparks and gather food.
And you really could survive for a while off the land on Crane Park Island.....
The rush of making your own little fire is a primal high and vital to any chance of survival. Enric does a day-long course on making it with wood alone, but here's how to do it the cheat's way...
- Gather kindling (the top of bulrushes, silver birch bark, tiger fungus, charred cloth, straw)
- Gather standing dead wood to make a base and for logs to burn. Standing wood stays dry inside
- Arrange your kindling on a base made of two split sticks, dry side up
..use a fire stick (a metal stick made of a special alloy used in lighters, available in outdoors shops) and your knife to make sparks and light the kindling - watch Enric make it look easy.
Enric also uses a fire piston, thought to originate in Indonesia around 300 years ago. When air is compressed to a certain point its temperature rises enough to light a peice of charred cotton.
Look out for King Alfred's Cake, a type of black mushroom that grows on dead Ash trees and acts like a briquette. Once lit it burns as an ember for hours and was used to transport fire by our ancestors. It also make a great hand warmer as the skin is fire retardant.
Always pick from high up the plant to avoid urine from wild animals and dogs. IF IN D0UBT, DO NOT EAT! ASK AN EXPERT
Hazel - leaves make a good salad in Spring. A medieval recipe used Hazel leaves ground with saffron and mince meat
Hawthorne - berries can be eaten or made into jelly and dried to make energy bars
Brambles - leaves make refreshing tea and blackberries are a great source of vitamin C
Snails and slugs - snails should be hung in a net in flowing water for a week to get rid of the toxins, then boiled or fried on the fire
Dandelion and wild rocket - used for salad
Nettles - should only be eaten in Spring as at this time of year they act as a laxative. Boil them to get rid of the sting
Bulrush roots and Bear dock (dock leaves) roots - the roots are like yams and are one of England's only natural sources of carbohydrates
Acorns - split them and put in muslin in a stream to clean them of tannin, then bake them
Rose hip berries - another great source of vitamin C
There are 11 species of fish in the Crane including some that only thrive in the cleanest water. Use large dock flower leaves to wrap the fish and cook on the embers of the fire
To find out more about London Wildlife Trust youth work and volunteering at Crane Park Island contact Anna Guzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://wildcrane.users.btopenworld.com/
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