We went to a local country show on Sunday. It wasn’t great and mainly seemed like an excuse to extract as much money for as little reward as possible.
However there was some fun to be had. Little Boots tried shooting with an air rifle for the first time, proving to be a pretty good shot. Using a catapult was not so successful, but I wasn’t too bad, which has prompted me to get one out I have at home. I bought it ages ago and have used it about twice, but now plan to see if I can get proficient at it.

The best bit of the day as far as Little Boots was concerned was a stand where you could have a good old ping at some military-style targets using airsoft guns.

This was part of a stand being run by ex-SAS man Bob Podesta and we both enjoyed a session he ran on Fire-lighting Without Matches. A neat little variation on the wire wool and battery method was whipping the face off of a torch and poking the wool in the hole.

I also attend another session Bob ran called Knots You Need To Know. Whilst I was familiar with a couple it did clarify them in my mind (being entirely self-taught) to see someone else tying them. And of course I leant some new ones – The Alpine Butterfly Knot and how to tie a Double Figure Eight Knot off against a post/bar to support climbing/hanging weight.

It was the best thing in the show and of course Little Boots is now claiming to have been trained to light fires by the SAS.

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kit

Berghaus the outdoor clothing/equipment people are running an online competition at the moment based around the question – “What does adventure mean to you?”

Competition aside, it’s a question that interests me because I think my life is one where we seek adventure albeit at a low level, lower even than Alastair Humprey’s Micro Adventures. Nano-Adventures perhaps.

I say we because Little Boots is most often my partner in action where adventuring is concerned. So undoubtedly the place to start with that question, as far as I’m concerned was to put it to Little Boots.

The answer I got was –

“Bushcraft and tying knots and things. And firecraft. And setting up camp.”

An interesting answer. We have probably used the word bushcraft whilst wombling around and doing stuff in the woods. Tying knots is something LB has been interested in for a while, and is accentuated by the current craze for loom bands. Firecraft is a word I’d never use, and I think must have come from the Bear Grylls book that LB takes on every camping trip.

But it’s good to know that my child equates the word adventure with being outside, and doing outdoorsy stuff.

For my part I would answer the question “What does adventure mean to you?” by saying it’s something to do with the spirit of life itself. The things that make you glad you are alive, even if they are tough going along the way. The things that make up for all the rubbish of modern times we have to endure.

Recent adventures include a hilly, five-mile yomp through woods and fields to a remote pub with a wood-fired pizza oven, another trip where we slipped across a railway at a crossing that I’m still unsure we should have used and battled through chest-high nettles the other side, a three a.m start to cycle to the water on the opening day of the fishing season and a virtually sleepless night in a small tent in the woods during the worst thunderstorm to hit the county for a good few years.

Fun, exciting and perhaps slightly dangerous experiences that will live in the mind as well as the heart for a long, long time.

That’s what adventure means to me.

aussie knot

This is a funny little knot.

I’ve no idea what its real name is. There will be at least two. All knots have a minimum of two names. It’s a bit like (but isn’t) a half-hitch I’ve decided after looking in a book I’ve got.

I have called it the Aussie Noose because I noticed at the weekend when I was desperately flicking through the TV channels for something to watch and I came to a programme where someone had been hung in Australia 100 years ago. I was about to flick on when I noticed the rope. It was tied in what didn’t look like a noose and was, I thought, just a loop that someone had tied just to give the semblance of one. To me it looked like a Granny Knot.

Being mildly obsessed by knots at the moment I made a quick sketch of it, before carrying on channel-hopping. Later I picked up a piece of string and tried reconstructing it. Luckily it had been tied rather loosely on telly, as captured in my sketch, and I was able to do so fairly easily.

It’s a simple knot and, (I was surprised to discover) is a slip-knot, so could function as a noose. But probably not one that’s easy to get off afterwards. As you will see it’s based on a simple overhand knot. Then the free end is looped around the other and tucked back under itself. It’s then simply a matter of pulling on all four strands (A, B, C, D) that exit the knot, to tighten it.

strap

As I referred to in the last post one of the knots I have recently learned to tie is the Scaffold Knot. Since then I have put it to use making this rather over elaborate piece of kit. It’s made from about 30 feet of para cord.

The main body of it is tied using the Cobra Weave, which is far simpler than it may appear. The two ends are tied to keyrings/split rings by Uni Knots with Scaffold Knots.

strap2

But what’s it actually for?

Well its a strap for my umbrella.

You see my (sporadically magic if not always waterproof) Gardens Illustrated umbrella is one of my favourite things and I have a tendency to lean it up against things in shops etc. and then leave without it. This has meant I have nearly lost it a dozen or so times.

I’d long thought that what it needed was shoulder strap, but wasn’t sure how to go about making it, in terms both of materials and method of attachment. Then I saw some grey and brown paracord-like string and the solution immediately sprang to mind. Like I say it’s a bit over-engineered, and looks like a ceremonial military lanyard, but it is effective.

And comfortable.

The Clove Hitch.

It sounds like a proper knot doesn’t it? It sounds complicated. You’d think that someone who could tie a clove hitch would be a real expert on knots.

Well none of that is true: a Clove Hitch is a very simple knot. Basically it consists of a rope/string being wrapped round an object twice, the first time over itself and the second time underneath. If you follow the diagrams you’ll see what I mean. If tied to a solid object the Clove Hitch is a strong knot, providing it’s only subject to a straight pull. But if there is movement in either the object or the pull then it can come away.

To demonstrate what I mean tie a piece of string around a pencil with this knot. Then pull on the string, whilst at the same time turning the pencil towards you. The knot will “roll”. It’s still a good knot though, it just has to be used in the right situation.

As you may have noticed in my previous post on learning knots I like ones where they can be slightly changed and you get another knot for another purpose. There are two simple adaptations that can be made to the Clove Hitch.

Firstly by making a loop to tuck under on the second turn creates a Slippery Clove Hitch, so called because it will released by a tug on the loose end. it’s good for guying apparently – will have to see.

The next adaptation is one that Little Boots has designated as “cool”, though I think that that is largely down to its name the Constrictor Knot, rather than its qualities as a very strong knot. It is very simply tied as a Clove Hitch and then the free end is tied over and then under the first turn. When pulled tight this locks it down on itself.

This is, I think, a knot really worth knowing.

clove

Knots are not something I used to think about very much, but Little Boots has been asking questions about them recently. These queries made me realise that I don’t know very many. In fact I know four, although I could be a bit shifty and double that as most knots seem to have two names at least.

They are:

1 – the Grinner, or Uni Knot. This is good for tying fishing hooks to line. It’s a compression knot that tightens up on itself and is very strong as long as you don’t cut the tail too short.

2 – the Palomar knot – another strong knot used for tying bigger hooks to line.

3 – the Half-blood knot another fishing knot, but one with a tendency to fail losing the hook and leaving a small corkscrew shaped twist on the end on the line. This can be solved by locking it off by looping the tail back through one or other of the loops – I don‘t know which, but frankly why bother – just use a Uni knot instead.

4 – and this one isn’t even a proper knot it’s a trick for tying plants to stakes – particularly with bamboo stakes which are often too smooth to afford proper purchase. It’s very simple just wrap the string 3 times around the stick ensuring that it overlaps itself and then lock in place with a double overhand knot – or a granny knot as it’s better known. It’ll never move. You will also be unable to untie it.

So I’ve started to try and learn a few knots. Whether, or how long, I’ll remember them remains to be seen. Of course I will pass this knowledge on to LB, one of whose aims is to get a Cub Scout badge, though whether there is (or ever has been) such an award for tying knots, I don’t actually know.

This then is the first new knot I’ve learned. It’s quite easy to tie and is called either the Scaffold Knot or the Gallows Scaffold Knot, though the latter name seems to be used also for a number of other knots.

scaffold knot

As you might guess it’s a slip knot that tightens very well, but is actually not too difficult to loosen provided there is no pressure on it, or it hasn’t been pulled too hard.

Well at least for a human that is. You see this particular knot can be tied with one less turn, whereupon it is called the Strangle knot, the Strangle-snare, or the Poachers knot, all of which tells you that it is a good knot to use to create a snare.