Wilderness Immersion Course Instructions

Welcome to Woodlife’s Wilderness Immersion Course v4

Please read our Safety and Security page and our Kit list page on the right.

This is the ultimate wildlife / wilderness course! We have been running this course for 10 years and the course continues to open our eyes.

It is whole weekend of immersion into England’s forests and woodlands getting close-up and personal with its inhabitants.

Introduction

The modern term ‘disconnect’ is being used more and more to describe our association with nature and the wilderness. But not many people know that this disconnect started thousands of years ago when we gradually decreased our hunter gatherer lifestyle. 

Woodlife believes we can reconnect with nature. In fact… we already have! And we will show you how using a combination of ancient tracking methods, bushcraft techniques, old-school naturalist knowledge and modern field craft skills and surveillance techniques. We will take you into the forest, re-acquaint you with the woodland inhabitants, show you their tracks and signs and immerse you into Britain’s oldest Forest in an experience you will never forget. 

Whatever your skill level or experience, whether you are just starting out or you are more used to the outdoors, we will guide you through ‘the Gate’ and put you on the pathway towards a deeper understanding and awareness of nature.

The course takes place in the beautiful and ancient Hatfield Forest in Essex courtesy of the National Trust. The atmosphere of this medieval hunting forest alone is worth a visit but once the public have gone and we are alone in the forest this place becomes very special indeed. We will help you quickly become absorbed into the forest and assist you to get closer to its inhabitants on a level, we’re sure, you’ve never before experienced.

Overview

During the course you will be shown basic tracking and advanced wilderness awareness & field-craft techniques that will enable you to get up close and personal with the woodland and forest inhabitants. You will also be shown how to remain undetected using natural resources and identify trails and runs.

The evenings will be spent observing wildlife using a variety of techniques You will also obtain the knowledge to lay-up, observe and even possibly trail the wildlife at very close-quarters (of course, there are no absolute guarantees!) Your immersion into the wilderness will involve time alone, away from the trappings of the modern world. We will help you to become quickly absorbed into the woodland.

Although we will have a small basecamp, for the most part we will be on the trail. We will be conducting sessions as we go. The forest is our classroom! Don’t worry – you don’t have to be physically fit. We don’t walk too far and the ground is flat and level.

This course is suitable for individuals over 16 who may be wildlife photographers, game rangers or wardens, wildlife trackers, environmental students or wildlife, tracking and bushcraft enthusiasts. It is suggested that participants have some experience of wild camping but this isn’t necessary.

Pre-course

You may like to think about your clothing equipment for the course. Apart from the fact that clothing should be suitable for the season, our clothes (and us) emit scent and contain colours that alert wildlife to our presence.

To have the best chance of observing wildlife you are advised to follow these guidelines:

  • Do not to wash clothes in washing powder advertised as containing “whiteners” or “brighteners” as these invariably contain chemicals which are visible in the UV spectrum. Some animals can see in this spectrum.
  • Leave clothes outside for a few days before the course. This will help reduce human scent on your clothes.
  • Do not wash with perfumed soap or use perfumed deodorant/after-shave/perfume for at least 24 hours before the course. Don’t use mint-flavoured tooth-paste or chewing gum.
  • Camouflage clothes are good but not necessary. Although some animals only see in two colours, some birds and insects see in full colour; therefore please choose earth coloured clothing.  
  • Camouflage netting – If you have some, please bring it along for hides/quick shelter or personal camouflage.
  • Bring along your wild camping gear. Be prepared to pack up on Saturday morning or bring a spare bivvy bag and/or tarp. You can leave excess gear at base camp, which will be staffed all the time. You will need a sleeping bag of course. 
  • The course is self-catering. Bring along a stove and enough rations for the weekend. Don’t bring something that takes too long to cook. Boil in the bag meals and snacks are ideal.
  • You do not need to bring water. We will replenish you with as much fresh drinking water as you require.
  • Bring a head torch/torch with either a red or green filter. White light will not be used except in an emergency. Please remember to bring a whistle for emergencies.
  • There is a suggested kit list in the course admin area of our website. If you have trouble sourcing kit, please contact us.
  • Don’t forget your camera and a notebook.

On the course

After arriving at 6pm on Friday (we will give you access to our Joining Instructions later) you will set up your camp around the basecamp area. We will then have something to eat if you need it, and have a briefing followed by a couple of sessions including a dark adaptation session. Timings are dependent on sunset times. The rest of the evening is a chill-out around the base-camp area.

We will be talking quietly throughout the course and there will be no white light except for emergencies.

After an optional wildlife-watch at dawn, Saturday will contain sessions designed to immerse you into the woodland. We will be looking at sketch mapping techniques, animal tracks, trails and signs, wildlife tracking techniques, quick shelter and hide-making, trail-cams placement, sit spots, zoning-in, field-craft and natural camouflage techniques. We will also try to make you feel part of the woodland and not just a visitor to it. In a short time, we will have given you the skills and confidence to observe wildlife at close-quarters. 

Later, that afternoon, evening and night, you will be left alone to seek out and observe wildlife using your new skills. Hopefully, you will have noted potential areas for observation earlier in the day. We will be on hand if you need any advice. 

We recommend you stay out away from the base camp for a good while, if not all night, and take full advantage of this opportunity. You will be alone with the wildlife and your thoughts in an ancient forest. If you do stay out (a low-profile set up eg bivvy bag, tarp & sleeping bag is ideal) you will be in position to observe any activity at dawn. Of course, if this doesn’t suit you, you can always come back to the base camp area.

On Sunday morning we will have a leisurely breakfast de-brief, and we will plot your observations onto a map and bring out learning points. We will then go on a woodland walk identifying anything we come across and carry on with some more advanced subjects. We usually end up at Hatfield Forest Café for a lunch-time snack!

We will strike camp about 3 – 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon.

Kit

Please have a look at our kit list page on the right. Also for this particular course you should consider some additional kit. After breakfast on Saturday will be conducting all the sessions on the trail so you might need:

  • Daysack
  • Poncho or Waterproofs
  • Lunch (snacks and perhaps a small brew kit)
  • Water container (I litre) (fresh drinking water is supplied)
  • Notebook

You can leave any excess kit and valuables etc at the basecamp. It will be staffed 24 hours a day during the course. We will come back to basecamp about 4pm for tea and replenishment. 

On Saturday after tea you will be going out to your selected area. If you plan to stay out all night you will need:

  • Tarp and/or bivvy bag or other low-profile shelter
  • Sleeping bag
  • Snacks (we recommend you don’t cook in your selected area)
  • Warm clothes
  • Poncho or waterproofs
  • Water containers and/or flask
  • Notebook
Example of low-profile shelter

If you have problems sourcing kit, please let us know.

Emergencies

On Saturday evening you will be alone in the Forest. Please note that mobile reception in the area is poor. We will log your approximate position with GPS. We will tell you of our emergency procedures at the start of the course but you must bring along the following equipment:

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • Small First Aid kit 
  • Personal Medication
  • Torch or cyalume stick 
  • Whistle

We will send you a link to joining instructions closer to the course.

Please contact us if you have any questions info@woodlife.co.uk

We look forward to seeing you on the course.

V4.0