Next morning, we set off for the Woodland Craft Centre in Bodfari (woodlandskillscentre.co.uk, adults £35, children £10).
Rod Waterfield manages this beautiful 50 acres of woodland with his two children, Helen and Alan. The woods are open to walkers for free, but they also run a programme of courses in woodland skills and traditional crafts. You can learn to build a coracle, weave a basket or make a rustic stool.
There’s also a school holiday club and adventure days and weekends for families, including free camping. They can even host woodland birthday parties. In our sometimes over-protective culture, giving a child the chance to run wild in the woods is an opportunity not to be missed.
The Woodland Skills Centre has a fantastic approach – they take safety really seriously but don’t wrap children in cotton wool. Our two were thrilled to use proper wood knives with gleaming blades and chunky homemade hammers to split kindling and to be taught how to light fires without matches. All of it was done within framework of very clear, sensible rules. So the way the knife and mallet were held meant accidental slips weren’t possible.
Before learning how to forage for firewood, to lay a fire and use a magnesium fire starter and dried birch bark to coax it to life, the children first learned the important safety rules for treating fire with respect, how to sit and move round a fire and how to make sure it’s properly extinguished. We gathered round the outdoor fire pit for lunch – a pan of sizzling sausages cooked over the open fire with plenty of bread and salad, washed down with hot drinks made using the immense kettle suspended from a tripod above the fire.
We finished off with an American campfire delicacy: marshmallows toasted over the fire and sandwiched between two chocolate digestives. These go by the name of “s’mores”, so the story goes, because that’s how you sound when you inevitably ask for “some more” while your mouth’s still full.