Bushcraft skills - Making nettle cordage and tent pegs with 10th Romsey Scouts

I was asked along to 10th Romsey (Crusoe) Troop' summer camp to teach some of the bushcraft skills that I'd learnt and practiced on my recent course with Frontier Bushcraft.

This year's summer camp was a local event being held in the grounds of the troops' scout hall so with no new areas to explore the leaders wanted something new and interesting for the scouts to focus on while the aerial run way was constructed and lunch cooked!

My plan was to show them how to make some cordage from nettles and then use this to try and lift one of the 3 kettle bells (8kg, 12kg and 20kg) that I had taken along for the challenge.

After this I wanted to show them how to make tent pegs from the hazel branches that are plentiful in the scout hall grounds.

Scout leaders "discussing" !

The 12 scouts had collected 5-10 nettles each earlier that morning so they hadn't had time to dry out and become brittle.  The first task was to show them how (with gloves for them!) to safely remove the spines and leaves and crush the hard growth sections so that only the stalks were left which could then be split down and "peeled" into cordage strips.

The splitting of the pith from the inside of the nettle and the peeling of the outer fibres takes some time and was a great exercise to keep all the scouts interested and (fairly) quiet.

Whilst they were doing this I put in a bit more practice with my bow drill in an effort to create some embers - I managed a lot of smoke but the saying isn't always true as there was not fire unfortunately.  I need to find some new cord for the bow as it snapped twice just before an ember was created; hugely frustrating!

Braiding cord to lift the kettle bells

Once peeled from the pith the nettle fibres are surprisingly supple, as long as they're kept moist, and from there (after some tuition) some more patience is required to braid a single strand together into cord - the challenge set was for each scout to make around half a meter of cord and then to try and lift any of the kettle bells with the cord (without it snapping) to win a highly prized bag of sweets - just what every camper needs after a long day outside!

Lifting a kettle bell with a Pine root
The scouts did really well and most of them managed to lift one of the kettle bells and all seemed to be fairly impressed with the braided strength of the nettle compared to the single strands - a skill for the future hopefully.

I also showed them the natural cordage that can be made from pine tree roots and how this compares in strength, but not necessarily flexibility, to nettles.  The pine root easily lifted the 20kg bell, when the scouts were able to lift it up!

The final challenge was to create some tent pegs from hazel wands to use on their 2 man tents in place of the aluminium pegs that they normally use.
A fairly simple exercise as all that's required is to sharpen one end (using a 3-cut method to achieve a point) and then chamfer off the end that's going to be hit into a polygon type shape as this stops the outer bark and fibres from splitting and ruining the peg.

All in all the exercises seemed to be a success with all the scouts ending up with some nettle cordage that they'd braided themselves and some tent pegs to use on their tents that evening - lots of questions were asked about making fire and various other bushcraft activities, a sure sign of interest and one that, with nurture, will hopefully carry on through out their time in scouting and onwards.



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