When I meet people on various occasions I'm often asked where did I get my knowledge or how did I become interested in this type of life, well for me the answer is easy, its always been a part of me and it started long before I ever realised what foraging or bushcraft or primitive living ever was.
You see being born in Belfast when the 'troubles' were bad my family wanted a way to keep us all safe and away from harm, so my grandfather (whom we all called Nanger) bought a Nissen hut along the coast in rural County Down, and that is where quite a few of our extended family spent our formative years.
This is a Nissen hut, developed by George Nissen from Norway..(pic taken from Nissens.co.uk).
It's a corrugated iron structure with wooden panelling and was originally used to Billet soldiers during the war.
We called it home.
Now pictures from this time of my life are scarce but there are a few..
This is a picture of my grandmother with me in the pram, (shows you just how young I was when this all started) and you can just make out the Nissen huts behind her.. the blue one on the left was ours..
this is a detail taken from a photo more than 40 years old (my cousins pictured) showing the huts in the background..
Life in these huts was strange, there was no electricity and no running water, that came from a pump at the top of the field that was shared by a number of families.. the loo was outdoors at the bottom of the garden. As I mentioned before the hut was made of sheets of corrugated iron, it was heated by a coal or wood fired range and lit by tilley lamps and it had to be tarred on the outside every year to keep it waterproof and stop it from rusting through, there where 4 double beds and 6 bunks inside all sectioned off, so it could hold a lot of people.. we lived this way for years and years.. as a matter of fact we only had to sell the hut about 20 years ago as the owner of the land wanted it to build houses on.
We foraged on the seashore for crabs, seaweed and whelks ( we called them willeeks) and the hedgerows for wild apples,berries. nuts and fruit which my grandmother would have used for jam, apple cakes and other sundries.. I often could be found on the edge of farmers fields digging up the remnants of potatoes left by the farmer, they were then taken home to thicken out a huge pot of what my uncle Freddy called see-through stew, usually made with a tin of corned beef and used to feed 14 people, supplemented with big thick lumps of homemade soda bread smothered in butter... !
On a friday evening we would all head round to the local harbour to watch the fishing boats coming in and see them unload and sell their catch, any thing left in the boxes after that we were allowed to take home, usually gurnard, lemon sole and prawns !! the food was simple but we ate well.. (and I won't mention the seagull soup !!).
Great memories of a time that I took for granted but that sowed the seeds of what I would become afterwards, wild places, wild food and simple living.. you really don't need much to be happy,