This is by way of an update of a blog post from January. Back then I wrote of my discovery of hay boxes which I had read were “a first class method of preparing porridge overnight”. Recently thanks to a great post on the Selfsufficientish pages, I have discovered that they are more than this and can be used to actually cook food – something of a low tech, low cost, slow cooker. It also showed how to make one – or rather a modern day equivalent.

At the moment I’m looking for Summer Holiday projects to undertake with Little Boots and this looks like a potential candidate. It would be a good thing for camping. You could knock up a hearty stew or something first thing and then go out for the whole day knowing a deliciously slow cooked meal would be ready to be dished up when you got back to camp. The only thing that puts me off from a personal perspective is that we haven’t the space in the packed car for a box of tissues when we go camping, much less a bulky haybox. That said for day trips it does feel like a way of taking a sizeable hot meal with you in the boot of the car.

Definitely something to think about. The source of my earlier info on the hay box was Camping For All by Jack Cox. Since then I’ve picked up another of his books, Camp and Trek. This book is, according to the preface, a companion volume to The Outdoor Book, which if I get hold of a copy makes three, which is dangerously close to a collection and before you know it I’ll be adding Ideas for Rover Scouts and Ideas for Scout Troops to my shelves.


First published in 1956 Camp and Trek has a sterling sounding list of advisors including Ronald English (cycling), Percy Blandford (canoeing), and Showell Styles (climbing), not to mention the rather wonderfully named Moira Savonius on “seeking food from Nature’s larder.”

What is interesting is how the concern about what I call artificial entertainments were as alive sixty years ago as they are today.

Myself, I worry about the amount of time spent on the computer and it’s ilk (Wii and Nintendo DS) along with the Sky kids’ channels.

In those pre-telly days the concerns were “the hypnotic screen, and the bewildering fantasy of the strip cartoon and superficial entertainment.”

The book is surprisingly unstuffy in attitude “Good camping is never bounded by convention.”, but it does then say things that we would not see as good practice today, such as taking “a minimum of liquid” with you for the day. These days I think the common sense attitude is to take plenty and more than you think you’ll need. Some of the food suggestions also jar with modern sensibilities such as “beef, lettuce and dripping sandwiches”. Beef and lettuce, yes, but with horseradish surely?, not with lard. Other bits like suggestions on how to make a shelter or support tents using bicycles seem to be somewhere on the road to bonkers.

Nevertheless the book does contain some interesting stuff. But there’s no way we will be cooking Tripe A La Catalana when we go camping in a few weeks.


pike 002Pickings from our local Boot Sale have been a bit slim over the last two weeks.

The only thing that I’ve bought worthy of comment has been a very good copy of Wild Food by Roger Phillips. This is part of an excellent series of books (many with Martyn Rix) which are much sought after as they are now out of print. I have a good number of them and the Tree and Wild Flowers of Britain ones were constantly being consulted in the years I worked part-time before Little Boots went to school and we used to spend hours roaming the nearby countryside, bringing back photos and leaves for identification.

This particular volume is not one I actually knew existed and it’s as much a recipe book as an identification one, but then I guess that if you have the Tree and Wild Flower ones that’s not a problem.

Maybe tomorrow’s sale will yield a richer harvest.


Last Sunday I made my first trip of the year to our local car boot sale. It was a lovely sunny day and consequently the event was well attended with plenty of sellers and buyers.

I picked up an Efgeeco landing net handle that was exactly the same as the much loved one I had as a teen. This made me disproportionately happy. Partly because it was in A1 condition but mostly because the original was sorely missed having been leant to an irresponsible relative and never returned. Along with this came 5 rod rests/bank sticks, most of which were Efgeeco. Fiver the lot.

Next was a hardback copy of Ray Mears’ Wild Food book. Like the net handle it was in first class condition. only a quid.

Lastly a kind of impulse purchase of a funny little axe for two fifty. Whilst it has a wooden handle I’m sure that’s not original – not least of all because of the brass screw “fixing” it in place. That will have to go BTW, as it, being made of a soft metal, may well shear under pressure and chopping with an unsafe axehead is asking for trouble. I have a strange feeling that it’s a military item and that’s not just because it’s painted green. It has a hole in the side of the head, but only one side. That suggests to me a removable head was somehow secured using this feature. Whether the heart-shaped hole in the axe bit (the blade) relates to this too I’ve no idea. Another unusual feature is a chunk of steel rolled into the poll (the bit at the back of the head), which suggests it was expected to be whacked with a hammer or something . Having tried it out I also reckon the original handle was much longer – more like a tomahawk.

It’s a curious thing that’s for sure.


The week before last week, as the Christmas holidays petered out, I picked up, from a local charity shop, Slow Coast Home by Josie Dew.

Humorous travel books are pretty much a genre in their own right and I do own a fair number of them. Consequently I was a touch surprised not to have heard of the author, who has a number of books to her name. Even more so as she seems to be quite well known, particularly in cycling circles; certainly in the book people keep recognising her. I’m currently about a third of the way through it, although on the page Josie hasn’t got very far in her journey around the British coast.

Whilst on a visit to a wartime museum in the Channel Islands she writes of a display including some rather patronising instructions to housewives on the timings for Hay Box Cookery. Although plainly something culinary I had no idea what this actually was. But by astounding coincidence the same day that I’d read that, I bought this book, purely because of the look of it’s cover and the fact that it was in practically mint condition.


The 1958 second print of a 1953 book by Jack Cox, “Editor of Boy’s Own Paper”, Camping For All is an absolute hoot. A good deal of it reads as being very Cholmondley-Warner , but there are some things of interest, both historically and for those who like to camp in a rather more basic fashion than most do in these gadget-ridden times.

All that aside, it also told me what a hay box is and how to make one – though I don’t suppose I ever shall. Basically it’s exactly what it says – a box (made from wood) that’s filled with hay and is used to keep a lidded cooking-pot of food warm (or hot even) for an extended period. The book describes it as a 2ft box constructed from 1/2 inch pine, with a tightly fitting lid held shut by a hasp. It can be lined with felt, but must be “Lined generously with newspaper, then a nest of old hay is made” This must be old dry hay as new damp hay might spontaneously combust. “The nest is made so that a dixie or cooking pot full of hot cooked porridge or stew can be placed directly in it from the fire covered with a hay-newspaper lid and then the wooden lid is closed firmly. The food will keep hot in a good well insulated hay box for 24 hours and longer. Even used to keep supplies of hot water available during the day.”

Apparently “It is a first class method of preparing porridge overnight.” Gruugh!

It seems like hell of a thing to take on a camping trip in a decade when car ownership was far from common. I have visions of it being lashed to a luggage rack on the back of a motorcycle sidecar.

All very Wallace and Gromit.

hay box

Great little post on VHD including a wonderful clip of angling guru Chris Yates using a Kelly kettle – a piece of kit much beloved of the traditional angling tribe.

….much as I enjoy your telly programmes, you only made a smoker out of an old tea-chest…. eat your heart out.

With Little Boots’ first experience of angling only a short way off it’s inevitable that I should recall my own, all those long years ago.

Things I remember about my first fishing trip:

  • I was quite young. Certainly under seven, judging by the house we lived in. Possibly as little as four years of age.
  • Dad made paste from bread and Dairylea triangles. It seemed like a waste of  cheesey treats to me.
  • It was by a river. Or a canal. Not by a pond or lake.
  • There were biscuits. They did not last long.
  • As well as my Dad two other grown ups came along. I don’t know who. Probably my Godfather and another of Dad’s cousins.
  • Only one fish was caught. It was silver. Actually there may have been two. Not a haul whichever the case.
  • My Dad’s reel had a broken handle. He had made a replacement. It was rubbish.
  • Someone lent him another reel before we set off and he used the handle off that.
  • My Dad’s reel was an Intrepid De Luxe.
  • The wrapper from a biscuit packet is no substitute for toilet roll.