The weather was unseasonable warm and fine for a day out in the woods, getting close to nature and practising bushcraft skills in a beautiful spot, along the of the river Cleddau
The second in a series of Autumn walks, ‘Re-Wild’ set out to explore the natural and ecological landscape of the river meadows at Lower Mill. The expedition set out to make a structure that would provide shelter for the group and cook an outdoor meal on an open fire all within a short walk of the town centre, and at the end of the day participants were asked to evaluate how much they’d
- discovered and explored a new part of Haverfordwest on the Re-Wild excursion.
- enjoyed ‘Re-Wild’ and would they like to see more arts and ecology activities on and along the river Cleddau
- learnt new skills during the day on ‘Re-Wild’
- like to see green spaces become more connected and easily accessible from the town centre in Haverfordwest
Walk leader Tom Moses demonstrated to participants how easy it is (if you know how) to walk from the middle of the town into open country, leading the party along paths without having to cross a single road. Not the usual perception of the town, viewed from cars on the car-bound busy road system that encircles Haverfordwest
Tom is a PCNPA national park ranger and has 15 years experience taking groups of all ages into the wild to pursue a range of outdoor activities. This event was intended for a group of up to fifteen people from the age 10+ with children accompanied by an adult. Fewer than half the number participated, and ultimately this affected the capacity to build the shelter. Perhaps this reflected the decision to scale down from the originally proposed two-day event with overnight stay to a single day. and that a shorter day than advertised might have proved more popular.
Notwithstanding this the feedback obtained from participants was both positive and insightful, regarding the questions posed , especially the further objectives of the walks, to examine the potential for connecting and making more accessible the natural environment surrounding Haverfordwest.
Logistically, getting there carrying food and building materials proved challenging, but the reward that awaited was the beautiful location for the camp, on a bend in the river. ‘Re-wilders’ could easily have mistaken their destination for a rural retreat in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park yet they were within site of Withybush Hospital and shopping centre, with a fine view of Pendergast church across the valley.
Participants collaborated as a team preparing, cutting and notching thin poles to construct a circular roundwood structure, having a reciprocal frame roof. Completing the shelter proved too ambitious in the time available, but there was time to enjoy the location and the fabulous weather and to cook a camp meal on an open fire. Tom demonstrated woodland skills: how to light a fire using ‘tinder’ (dry shredded bark), striking a flint to spark and light the tinder, and how to make a ‘rushlight’ using the pithy insides of marsh rushes for a wick.
One striking observation was the extent to which Himalayan balsam, an invasive species has spread along the river, growing profusely in the meadows above the town centre. Tom demonstrated how easily this plant is spread by touching a seed head, which immediately sprang open and jettisoned it’s seeds, showering the group and surrounding area. To avoid disturbing the Balsam, all the building materials used were either carried or pushed to the site, loaded onto wheelbarrows. Shortly before leaving, each participant practised ‘biological control’, checking shoe treads for any embedded seeds that could be carried away to avoid spreading the plant further.
Then it was time to strike camp and return home before it got too dark. The fire was dowsed and turves replaced, leaving no trace (the structure was dismantled and removed after the event). At Crowhill, before going their separate ways, participants were interviewed on an iPhone and asked to reflect on their experiences and what they had learnt about this hidden corner of Haverfordwest . You can hear the interviews here: