There are thought to be a few different varieties of Marsh Samphire in the UK, the most common type you will find is the bright-green Salicornia europaea.
If the Marsh Samphire you are collecting has a purple tinge to it, it may well be the variety Salicorniaramosissima.
Both varieties are edible and tasty.
How to collect Marsh Samphire
It is technically illegal to uproot samphire without permission.
You don’t want to do this anyway, as you don’t eat the root of the plant, only the tips.
Uprooting also damages the habitat, so please try not to do this.
Take some robust scissors with you and snip the tender tops off of the plant and store them in a basket or bag.
Other than paying attention to the safety aspect of being out on the marshes, it’s as simple as finding a decent patch and snipping off the tops.
Although you can store it, like with all wild foods, only take what you need.
You can always come back another day!
Is samphire available all year round?
No, as above its season runs from approx June through to September.
Outside of these months, samphire disappears, usually with the frosts in autumn.
You may be able to purchase samphire in the shops outside of the traditional UK growing season, but this will likely have come from abroad.
Does samphire grow in the UK?
Yes. Marsh Samphire grows all around coastal areas of the UK that have salt marshes and mudflats.
It is quite prolific around Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Wales.
Is samphire good for your health? How healthy is samphire?
Yes. Marsh Samphire contains a number of vitamins minerals and antioxidants that are considered to be especially good for your health.
These include minerals magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium, along with vitamins A, B and C.
Samphire also contains fucoidans, which are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant effects.
Do I need to cook samphire?
No, you do not need to cook Marsh Samphire. It can be eaten raw. However, it is also very tasty when cooked.
Steaming for around 5 minutes is the best way to cook samphire.
Once served, it benefits from having a dob of butter melted over it, but is by no means essential.
If you have a younger plant, or just have the more tender tips, then you can just eat whole and enjoy.
If you have a more mature plant, you will find that they have a stringy/woody middle section along most of their length.
You can easily deal with this by running the steamed samphire through your front teeth while holding on to the base.
This strips off all the tender flesh and leaves you with the stringy fibrous part in your hand which can be discarded.
Can I eat samphire raw? Can you eat samphire cold?
Yes, Marsh Samphire can be eaten raw (cold).
If you are going to eat it raw, make sure you go for the tips of the plant only, as these won’t have the stringy central fibre in them.
You can eat there and then, on the marsh, or save for later.
One of the best ways to consume samphire tips is to add them to a fresh salad.
The samphire gives the salad a new dimension, of saltiness and iodine, but you can overdo it, so just use a few.
Is all samphire edible? Can you eat rock samphire?
In the UK, both types of samphire are technically edible, these being Marsh Samphire which we are discussing here and Rock Samphire.
Although linked by name, they are actually a very different plant and species.
Marsh Samphire usually being the variety (Salicornia europaea) and rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum).
However, although Rock Samphire is deemed edible, most will not like the flavour as it contains aromatic chemicals, one of which is pinene, which is an ingredient of turpentine, hence why it tastes so awful!!!
If you are after good samphire for eating, go for Marsh Samphire, as this is the variety that is known for its culinary credentials.
Is samphire a seaweed?
No, samphire is not a seaweed.
It is actually a member of the goosefoot family, and looks more like a small cactus without the spines!
Marsh samphire generally grows on tidal mudflats, sometimes quite prolifically, and looks quite different to seaweed.
This extremely meditative video from Andy Ballard shows him foraging for Marsh Samphire on the Bristol Channel.
Does samphire taste like seaweed?
No, samphire does not taste like seaweed. It has its own flavour, which is actually very pleasant.
It’s more like salty asparagus, which is delicious, but the salt can be overpowering if you eat too much of it, so take it steady.
How many calories does samphire have?
Samphire contains around 25 calories per 100 grams consumed.
This is for samphire when served on its own, such as when steamed/boiled or eaten raw.
If adding other ingredients, then this will obviously change accordingly.
How many carbs are in samphire?
Samphire contains around 1.5g carbohydrate per 100 grams consumed, which is pretty much made up of dietary fibre.
Therefore, there are hardly any carbs in Marsh Samphire.
Is samphire the same as sea asparagus?
Yes, in other parts of the world, Marsh Samphire is known as sea asparagus.
In other locations, it is also known as samphire greens, sea beans, crow’s foot greens and beach asparagus.
Does samphire have iodine? Is samphire high in iodine?
Yes, samphire does contain iodine.
However, it doesn’t contain anywhere near as much as some seaweeds do, so samphire wouldn’t be classed as high in iodine as seaweed – although it’s a pretty decent level.
For comparison, samphire contains approx 90 micrograms per 100 grams.
Some seaweed contains approx 250,000 micrograms per 100 grams.
However, it must be noted that adults recommended daily iodine intake is 140 micrograms per day, so a decent portion would easily get you up to this.
Does samphire contain iron?
Yes, samphire contains iron. It also contains vitamin C and calcium.
Samphire also contains antioxidants, which in combination with the other vitamins and minerals make it an extremely healthy plant to eat and a great addition to your diet.
So, when is samphire in season in the UK?
Usually between the months of June and September. with Midsummer’s Day being the traditional start of the season.
Keen to pick up some more free foraging goodness???
We hope you decide to get out there and try our 4 easy camp Dutch oven recipes. They are all relatively simple to do and you will no doubt have a lot of fun while doing cooking them.
As mentioned above, we would recommend you have a look through our Dutch oven cooking article, which goes into the history as well as more practical matters, such as how many coals you should use and how you should care for and season your oven.
The great thing about Dutch ovens is they are extremely versatile and the more experienced you become with one, the more confident you will be as a cook and the world really is your oyster (in cooking terms).
You can bake, boil, fry steam in a Dutch oven, so you really are covered for most types of camp cooking.
How do you bake in a camp oven?
If we are talking about baking things such as breads and desserts, then we have two recipes here and this gives you a simple process to follow.
You can also see our charcoal guide here for more precise cooking.
However, aside from climbing, the prusik knot is also very handy for bushcraft and outdoor purposes.
One of the most common bushcraft/survival uses is for stringing out and tensioning a tarp whilst using a ridgeline.
How to tie a prusik knot:
Create a loop, known as a prusik loop, by tying two of the paracord ends together. You can use a double fisherman’s knot for this or similar.
Next, take the opposite end to the knots and form a bite.
Assuming your chosen pole/branch/rope (that you want to tie onto) is laying horizontally, take your bite end and place over the top of this and then back underneath, so that your bite end and knot and are on the same side and pointing towards you.
Take the knot end and place through the bite end.
Dress towards the pole/branch/rope.
Take the loop that is on top (that was the bite) and take it back over and around again, mimicking the first step.
Again, take the knotted end and place through the loop.
Dress this down to create the prusik knot. You should be able to count four wraps in total.
How it works:
When loaded, the knot tightens securely around its subject. It does this as it is a friction knot.
This allows the user to tighten and secure against this knot, allowing them a fixed point to secure to.
When the knot is unloaded and the tension released, the prusik should loosen, allowing the knot to slide along the rope and re-grip at the next intended point.
This allows the user to move the knot along the rope, to the next required point and then load again.
This allows for a very useful knot, that can be secured and quickly moved as required.
The Clove Hitch
The clove hitch is used to tie onto a pole or branch and is a handy knot to start a lashing or binding with.
It’s not the best of knots if used on its own, as it slips quite easily and needs to be combined with another knot or lashing to be properly secure – but it is a handy knot to know nonetheless.
How to tie:
Take the end of your cord and place over the top of the pole of or branch that you want to secure to.
Take underneath and back around, so that the working end crosses over the first wrap of cord.
Go around once more and feed the end underneath the ‘cross over’ loop that you just formed, so that the cord runs parallel with the tail end.
Dress together and you will have a clove hitch. This can be confirmed by checking that you have a cross formation, as shown in the above image.
The Bowline Knot
If you want to tie a fixed loop at the end of your paracord, the bowline knot is a solid choice.
This knot is great as it locks the loop in place and stops it slipping.
How to tie a bowline knot:
Take the working end of your cord and form a loop in it, where you want the knot to form – the loop should follow an anti-clockwise direction, with the working end should sit on top, and should now be facing downwards, towards you.
Take the working end and thread back through this loop, on the right-hand side, passing it behind the standing end and bringing it back around through the loop again.
Pull tight to form your fixed loop.
You now have a bowline.
The Alpine Butterfly
If you want to create a loop in a length of paracord, without having to get the ends involved, then the alpine butterfly knot is a good choice.
It enables you to tie a strong loop that you can tie onto, whilst maintaining the strength of the main line.
This provides a variety of possible uses, one example would be to provide the loops for a trotline, to tie your mono-filament hook-lengths onto.
All in all, a very handy knot to know.
How to tie the alpine butterfly:
Take some slack and wrap the cord around the palm of your hand 3 times.
Take the middle section and tuck it underneath the right-hand section.
Bring it around the front, to the left, and over the original left-hand section.
Take it underneath the other two sections, and bring out on the right-hand side.
Grip the loop on the right and pull the two rope ends to form the fixed loop.
You now have the alpine butterfly.
And now the video run-through of the above…
I hope you find the above article useful for learning and tying your paracord knots. Please let us know how you get on in the comments below.
Bushcraft backpacks are essential for carrying all your gear, in a comfortable and safe manner.
If you want a large pack, then there are also good options for you as mentioned below, but for this article, we are going to focus on a standard size daypack that is ideal for everyday bushcraft purposes.
So, what is the best bushcraft backpack for your needs? Here’s our favourite 3…
5.11 Tactical Rush 24
The Tactical Rush backpack from 5.11 is a good all-round pack for activities such as hunting, fishing, camping and the like.
It can also be used as a grab bag if necessary, ensuring all your essentials are ready to go and in one place.
5.11 kit is known for being tough and this pack doesn’t disappoint.
The bag features a MOLLE system, that you can attach kit to as necessary.
It also incorporates the Rush Tier System, which lets you add an extra bag if required.
If you want something that’s going to stand up to a beating and will last for years to come – then this is the pack for you!
The three parts of the fire triangle are heat, fuel and oxygen.
Most of us will be aware of the fire triangle from those school science lessons.
However, it is worth briefly going over again though, to reinforce its importance when lighting a fire in the field.
Let’s take a look at each of the 3 components.
The fuel needs heat in order for it to release its combustible vapours, which in turn, ignite from a flame or spark.
This heat also dries out the surrounding material, causing that to release combustible vapours also and is how a fire spreads and takes hold.
This is why a wood fire will start slowly at first but start to blaze, once the correct conditions for it to do so are met.
A fire needs fuel to burn. This is pretty obvious, but the type of fuel needs to be considered.
The most common fuel that we use in bushcraft is wood, as it is freely available and for the most part, sustainable.
You can’t usually just set fire to a large log though, as you need to build the fire up in stages.
To light an all-wood fire, we generally need 3 grades of wood fuel:
Tinder: This takes your ignition source and transforms it into a flame or ember.
Kindling: These are small pieces of wood that have either been collected in that state, ie small twigs or that have been chopped down to size from a larger log.
Main fuel: Anything larger than kindling – usually large branches and logs that are dry and form the main fuel source.
A fire requires 16% oxygen to burn.
Oxygen acts as the oxidising agent for the chemical reaction that produces the flame.
A flame will not form without it.
Therefore, oxygen is vital to the success of a fire.
Fresh air contains approximately 21% oxygen, depending on your altitude.
Therefore, as long as you maintain a good supply of fresh air to the fire, it should continue to burn, as long as the other conditions are met.
The Fire Triangle
Without all 3 parts of the triangle present, you will not achieve a sustained fire.
If you have fuel and fresh air for example, but not enough heat to ignite and sustain it, your fire will go out.
Equally, if you have heat and fresh air, with wet fuel, such as very damp wood – your fire will not start.
The fuel element has not been satisfied and the triangle implodes.
An example of not meeting the oxygen requirement would be that you load too much fuel onto the fire, too quickly, in which case you smother the flames and kill off the airflow.
To be successful, you need to keep all 3 elements in balance, ensuring a sustained and controlled fire for you to warm yourself and cook with.
Keeping all 3 parts in mind will ensure greater success.
The video below from Coalcracker Bushcraft explains this visually:
What are the 3 stages of a fire?
Generally speaking, a fire has 3 stages:
Growth stage: when the fire is building and gathering heat and voracity. In this stage, the fire is very much dependent on the oxygen and fuel supply that it has.
Fully developed: this is the stage when the fire has reached its peak and is now giving out a good amount of heat. You should also have a good bed of embers now to keep the fire sustained.
Decay: once you stop feeding the fire with fuel, the fire will enter the decay stage and start to burn down. The embers are still extremely hot at this stage though and will likely ignite any fresh fuel that you put on. If left alone, however, the fire will die out on its own.
What happens when 3 elements of the fire triangle combine?
If you have the correct proportion of heat, fuel and oxygen present and you have a source of ignition, such as a spark, or flame – then you have a good chance that a fire will start, as it has all the required elements.
This could be a good thing if you are looking to start a fire…It could also be a very bad thing if you are not.
Always be mindful of potential ignition sources and keep things such as tinder and stored wood well away from anything that could ignite it.
We hope you found this a good refresher on ‘What are the three parts of the fire triangle?’
It’s a very simple concept, but quite often forgotten about when trying to get a fire lit.
Next time you do light a fire, try and bear all the elements in mind and you should have more success
Want more??? We have loads more articles for you to read in our fire section here.
They are usually spotted at low tide clamped to rocks and should you try and pick one up, will nearly always clamp down and become immovable. They are seriously impressive in this regard.
In this clamped state, they don’t really do a lot, but once the tide returns, and they have submerged once again, they ‘spring to life’ and start going about their business of feeding on their chosen home.
There are two main types to be found in Britain, the common limpet and the slipper limpet.
Today we will focus on the common limpet.
What is the scientific name for limpets?
The scientific name for the common limpet is patella vulgata.
Patella vulgata are the European common limpets and as the name suggests – are of the Patella genus
Can you eat common limpets? Are common limpets edible?
Yes, you can eat common limpets providing you follow the advice below.
Although I can say with confidence that there are certainly tastier wild treats to be had, the limpet is certainly worth knowing about from a wild food perspective, even if that said food does sometimes resemble the texture of pencil rubbers.
Are limpets healthy to eat?
Yes, as long as they were a healthy limpet when you collected them and you have stored and prepared them correctly, limpets are a high protein snack, with many many other vitamins and minerals to boot.
Do limpets have eyes?
Yes, the common limpet has a left and a right ‘eye‘, but there is little research on what they can actually view with these.
They also have two antennae for feeling their way around and sensing. The combination of the two helps them build up a picture of what is around them when hunting for food.
Can limpets swim?
Juvenile limpets spend the first part of their lives as free-swimming planktonic creatures and therefore do technically swim.
Once they mature though, they find a home that they like and stay put.
Fully grown limpets do not swim. They use their foot to travel across surfaces.
Where are limpet shells found?
The common limpet can be found in coastal areas all over the British Isles
They are not usually hard to find and are generally located in shallow water, on rocks or cliffs that are within the intertidal zone.
What is unique about the intertidal coastline?
The intertidal coastline or intertidal zone is unique in the fact that it is submerged by seawater around 2 times a day.
It is essentially the section of shoreline that is between the high and low watermark.
This area is fully submerged at high tide and then dry again at low tide.
Creatures and plants must therefore be able to survive in both of these states.
This makes for a special environment that supports many different creatures including limpets, starfish, sea anemones, sea stars, mussels, winkles, crabs and many more.
How do you identify a limpet?
What does a limpet look like?
The common limpet is cone-shaped and easy to identify. There will often be many limpets attached to one rock, in varying sizes.
Their shape and ability to tightly attach themselves to rocks allows them to remain in place – even whilst getting pounded by strong waves.
What do limpets eat?
At high tide, the limpet feeds by slowly moving around its chosen rock, feeding on algae and similar vegetative marine life.
Although classed as herbivores, they are also thought to eat small creatures like young barnacles etc.
Do limpets bite?
No, well they wont bite you anyway.
Limpets have a super tongue which they use to feed with. This is known as a radula.
The radula is similar to a tongue, but has rows of tiny ‘teeth’ attached.
As you can probably imagine, this radula is extremely tough, as it needs to be able to scrape food off rocks when feeding.
Limpets will generally stay in a localised area and not stray too far from their home, which they will always come back to when the tide goes back out.
Over time, this can cause an indentation on the rock which is known as a ‘home scar’.
The limpet clamps down on this section of rock, using its powerful ‘foot’ and remains there until the tide comes back in and it’s ready to move and feed again.
How do you forage for limpets?
Common Limpets can be collected all year round.
Ensure that the area you intend to forage from has a regular and strong tide to ensure that the limpets are regularly submerged.
Also, check that the local area has good water quality and is free from pollutants.
The common limpet is an important part of the ecosystem, keeping the rock’s algal growth in check.
It is vital therefore that you do not gather too many from one area, as an imbalance can occur.
Good practice would be to take only one from each rock or immediate area, leaving the others to carry on their good work.
If there is only one on a rock, then leave it be. Do not over-collect in one area.
Fill your bucket or collecting vessel with fresh seawater and place some carefully collected seaweed in as well if available.
This will help to keep your limpets fresh.
How do you remove limpets from rocks?
A variety of tools can be used to prize the limpet away, including an old chisel or sharp implement such as a knife etc, but a rock will usually do and is usually readily available.
One thing to know when collecting limpets is that you only really get one good chance at them.
Although they will be stuck to the rock when you approach them, they are not usually ‘fully clamped’.
A sharp whack from one side will usually dislodge them.
If you do not manage to dislodge them on the first whack, or they sense you coming, they will fully clamp down on the rock and you will have a hard time getting them off the rock, no matter how hard you try.
They are unbelievably strong.
You can follow up with a second strike very shortly after the first one, but if this fails, leave them alone or you risk damaging them, as they will now have fully clamped down.
Your best bet is to go and find another to work on.
When collecting them myself, I generally have one hand holding the dislodging rock and my other hand is placed on the opposite side of the limpet, ready to catch the dislodged morsel before it disappears into the brine below.
In a good area, it is not hard to quickly collect a bucketful. Remember, do not take more than you need.
If your camp is based nearby, you can always return if necessary, or visit another spot.
Can you eat a limpet raw?
The common limpet is edible and can be eaten raw, but you’re probably going to want to cook it.
Check that the limpet is still alive, especially if it has been a while since collection.
You will see it moving, so it’s not hard to check this.
Are limpets tasty?
I’m going to get straight to the point here and say that limpets probably aren’t going to on your top 10 list of bushcraft cuisine.
The fact is that they are usually chewy, really chewy – no matter what you do to them!
The flavour isn’t bad, it’s like a chewy mussle, but the texture isn’t always great – well never great actually!
Some say not to cook them for too long, but they seem to be chewy whatever you do to them, so just expect that to be the case.
One way to combat the chewiness is to finely chop them and add them to other dishes so that they are more easily consumed.
This can be done after they are cooked and then added to a curry or stew etc.
They will certainly add a new dimension to the dish!
Caveats aside, they are definitely worth a try and can form a great addition to other foods if prepared in a certain way.
If you want to cook them on their own, try cooking them upside down, straight on the embers of your fire.
If you have the luxury, try adding some olive oil and some garlic to add some flavour and cook until the oil starts to bubble.
Remove from the shell, remove the black part if you wish and enjoy.
I can guarantee you will remember the experience.
What does limpet taste like?
Limpets have a taste of their own, but to give you a rough idea – they taste a bit like a chewier version of a mussle and are equally sweet in taste.
Can you fry limpets?
Yes. You can fry them in their shells, or for a more direct method, you can remove them from their shells, tenderise them with a meat hammer or similar and then fry.
You can fry them as is, or coat them in a flour mixture first, depending on your preference.
Safety whilst common limpet foraging
As with all foraging, there is a degree of risk involved.
Coastal foraging brings additional dangers.
Apart from the food safety side that is mentioned above, the actual collection part can be risky in itself.
You are usually stepping on or wading through rocky areas when foraging, contending with slippy, jagged surfaces and possibly waves.
Common sense goes a long way here.
Take great care with your foot placement and move slowly and deliberately.
A wading stick may prove useful.
Wear appropriate footwear, something that will protect your feet from the sharp rocks and provide you with some grip.
Avoid standing on rocks with a slimy green surface. The last thing you want is a fall in this environment.
Be aware of the tides. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment, only to realise that the tide is a lot higher than you thought, with your access back to dry land now cut off.
Using a bivvy bag is a great idea if you are sleeping out. They provide you with some extra protection from the elements, increasing your chances of a good night’s sleep.
They can, of course, be used on their own, with your sleeping bag inside, using the bivvy as your sole outer protection.
This is great for sleeping out under the stars, in good conditions.
They are also great when used in conjunction with a tarp or basha – which is the preferred method if you are expecting rain or snow.
This can be done straight on the ground, or in a hammock setup.
You may even want to use one inside a tent, affording you a bit extra warmth when needed.
Most are breathable and waterproof, but the quality does vary.
British Army Bivvy Bag
One of our favourites is the no-nonsense, British Army Gore-tex bivvy bag that is pictured above.
As with most equipment designed for the military, these are solidly made with fully taped seams and a drawstring hood section.
They are heavy compared to others, but this is made up for by the excellent, bomb-proof quality that they afford.
They will last you for years.
There is no zip on these, so you have to slide in and out, but on a plus point, this means there is less to go wrong.
As they are made with Gore-tex, they are relatively breathable, while still providing a good degree of all round water protection.
They are designed to be used underneath a tarp as the hood does not completely cover you, but you can sleep out in them on their own if the weather is dry.
If it does start to rain though, you can always roll over and sleep on your front if necessary.
The only problem is that these bags are not easy to come across these days, especially new.
If you can get one though, we would recommend them for a heavy-duty bag.
Due to the sourcing problem, we will recommend another which is more widely available, this being the Snugpak Special Forces Bivvi Bag.
These are not Gore-tex, but do incorporate Snugpak’s Paratex Dry Fabric, which is designed to do a similar thing, in that it allows moisture from your body to escape, while not letting any outside moisture in.
They feature a central zip, which helps with getting in and out of them, as well as being very lightweight and packable.
Some users find that they get a condensation build-up in these bags, but this will depend on the conditions and sleeping bag used etc.
They are ultimately, a well-made bivvy bag for a reasonable price – that you can actually get hold of!
Yes, gorse flower is edible. You need to make sure that you only use them in small quantities though, as they contain alkaloids, which are mildly toxic.
You would have to eat quite a few for them to have any effects, but it’s worth being aware of that.
Gorse (Ulex Europaeus) starts to flower around late Autumn, continuing through Winter, with the flowers reaching full bloom around Spring.
These edible flowers have a pleasant, almost coconut aroma and can be picked and used for many purposes, including adding to a salad or brewed into a tea.
One of the more popular ways to use these is to ferment them into wine, which if successful, produces a very nice drop indeed and is well worth the effort.
What can you use gorse flowers for?
You can use gorse flowers for a variety of recipes, but the most simple way to consume them is to simply eat them straight from the bush.
Some other ways to consume them include:
Can you make tea from gorse flowers? How do you make gorse flower tea?
Yes. You can make tea from gorse flowers.
Pick a small handful of fresh gorse flowers, place in a teapot and cover with a cup’s worth of freshly boiled water.
Leave for around 8-10 minutes to brew and then serve. A tea strainer will help with this.
Gorse flower tea benefits
Gorse flower tea has been used for its medicinal benefits for years.
This includes ailments such as:
Heartburn and many more
What do gorse flowers smell like?
Gorse flowers have a coconut smell with some citrus notes.
They smell wonderful and are slightly surprising considering the menacing look of the gorse bush itself, which has some pretty hefty spines on it.
When it comes to flowers, the gorse bush wants to be inviting!
Is gorse good for bees?
Yes, gorse is good for bees. The flowers produce nectar and bees love it.
There is also a very small amount of nectar within the flower, which helps attract the bees in the first place and gives them some food in return for their pollination efforts.
Is gorse flower poisonous to humans?
No, gorse is not poisonous to humans (as such!).
You can eat the flowers as mentioned above, or make them into a tea or wine, but don’t overdo it, as the flowers contain small amounts of alkaloids and can be mildly toxic.
Are gorse thorns poisonous?
No, gorse thorns are not poisonous to humans either, but they certainly can cause you a lot of pain!
Although the flowers are a sweet treat to eat, you wouldn’t want to be getting stuck in one of these things, as the thorns are extremely nasty indeed.
When picking flowers (or just being near them in general) watch out, or you may get a good spiking!
Does gorse have pollen?
Yes, gorse does have pollen.
It gets attached to bees when the bee flies into the flower, as well as the flower formed in such a way that it extracts some pollen off the bee that it may have on it from visiting other flowers, therefore allowing for pollination.
Is gorse good for firewood?
Yes, gorse is good for firewood – certainly for getting things started anyway.
Gorse is easy to light burns hot and fast, so be prepared for that.
Keep the fire away from other bushes, as they will easily catch in the right conditions!
Due to its fast burning nature, you may want to add on some slower burning wood in order to have a more sustained fire.
Why is gorse flammable?
Gorse contains a small amount of flammable oils (around 2-4%).
These, along with the dry wood that gorse consists of means it burns easily – and it burns hot!
Is gorse a hardwood?
No. gorse is not a hardwood in the traditional sense of what a hardwood is, like oak etc, however, the branches it produces are very sturdy in construction.
Goats, sheep, cattle and horses are also known to eat it.
If you do decide to get your own animals for this purpose, do check out some breeds that prefer it more than others.
Is gorse native to the UK?
Yes, gorse is native to the UK.
There are 3 types of gorse species in the UK.
Common Gorse (Ulex Europaeus) – This, as the name suggests is the most common species in the UK and what you will typically find when you come across a gorse bush. This is also the only type that will grow to around 2.5-3 metres tall, so if it’s up at this height it will most certainly be Common Gorse.
Western Gorse (Ulex Gallii) – Low growing and found in the West side of Britain, along the Atlantic Coast.
Dwarf Gorse (Ulex Minor) – Another low growing gorse variety, that generally grows to around 30cm in height and is generally found South of the River Thames in Kent and on the South Coast in Sussex and Dorset.
So, Is Gorse Flower Edible? Yes indeed!
Although extremely thorny, its coconut-scented flowers can be used for a variety of things including tea, wine and simply just snacking on them.
Keep the amount you consume to a sensible quantity though, as they do contain alkaloids, which are mildly toxic.
Looking for more foraging? Take a look at our Common Limpet post here.
Being familiar with a map and compass is fundamental to good navigation.
From a safety perspective, you should not be in the outdoors without having at least the basics covered.
GPS units are fast becoming the favoured option for navigation these days, whether it be in a vehicle, on our mobile phone, or a standalone unit.
However, it’s far too easy to solely rely on them.
GPS is a fantastic thing – and when it works, it’s an easy way to navigate, doing all the hard work for you.
It’s always easier being told where to go!
However, you are relying on a lot of things to get that position or next bearing.
Will the batteries last? Can you pick up enough satellites? Are there trees blocking the sky?
It’s not always a straightforward and guaranteed process.
Added to that, electronics can fail – that’s a fact. And if that’s your only navigational tool, what now?
Objective of this article
The aim of this post is to take a complete novice through the basic elements of map and compass, and clearly explain how they are used in the real world, whether it be for bushcraft, survival or adventure purposes.
This will also be handy for the more experienced among you who may need a refresher – which let’s face it, we all do from time to time!
The low-tech option
A map and compass are low-tech – time tested navigational tools.
They don’t require electronics, batteries or satellites to work and therefore, have very little to go wrong.
If you’re going off the beaten track, make sure you learn some basic map and compass skills at a minimum and be sure to carry them both with you – even if it’s just as a backup.
There’s nothing wrong with using GPS if you want to – just don’t solely rely on it.
There is a lot of information on a map, which can seem a little overwhelming when you first pick one up.
In this section, we will run through the fundamentals and get you up to speed.
Map symbols and what they mean
The symbols, diagrams and all other information that are on your map, correspond to an actual feature or landmark on the ground.
These markings – and what they mean, can be found in the area known as the map key or legend.
It is worth familiarising yourself with these symbols as it will make your map reading more efficient.
You do not need to know them all, as you have the legend on the map close by – and some are self-explanatory – but the more you know, the easier your life will be, as you will not have to constantly cross-reference.
To assist you further, the Ordnance Survey has put together a set of educational flashcards. You can use these to help memorise the symbols and meanings.
Your map will usually arrive pre-folded, so this part is done for you. The problem arises when you need to get it back that way!
To refold it to its original state, follow the steps below:
1 – With the map laid out flat in front of you, fold the bottom half underneath the top half.
2 – Concertina back in on itself, following the direction of the preformed creases.
3 – Fold in half again – Done!
What does map scale mean?
The scale of a map depicts its direct relationship between a distance measured on the map and the distance that this measurement relates to on the actual ground.
For example on a 1:50,000 map, this means that for every measurement you take on a map, everything is 50,000 times bigger in the real world, hence the scale of 1:50,000.
OS maps are generally produced in one of two different scales – 1:25,000 & 1:50,000.
What does 1 2500 mean on a map?
It means that 1cm on the map, equals 25,000cm in the real world. This is known as 1:25,000 scale.
Using the 1:25,000 scale as an example, a 1cm measurement on the map = 25,000 times that distance on the actual ground.
So if you convert the real-world figure to meters – a 1cm on the map would become 250 metres in the real world (1cm:25,000cm).
4cm on the map would become 1km (100,000cm) in the real world – and so on.
How big is a grid square on a 1 25000 map?
At 25,000 scale, a map’s grid square is 4cm x 4cm and equals a 1km x 1km square on the actual ground.
What does a 1 50000 map mean?
It means that 1cm on the map, equals 50,000cm in the real world. This is known as 1:50,000 scale.
Using the 1:50,000 scale, 1cm = 50,000cm in the field, is equal to 500 metres.
This equates to 2cm = 1km.
How big is a grid square on a 1 50000 map?
So a grid square on the 1:50,000 scale, is 2cm x 2cm in size, as opposed to the 4cm x 4cm for the 1:25,000 scale.
So, although the size on the map is different, the grid squares represent a 1km x 1km square on the actual ground for both scales. Hopefully, that’s not confusing.
As you can see, the 1:50k map’s 1km grids are smaller (2cm). This means that the map can cover larger areas, which at times has its advantages.
On the other hand, the 1:25k map’s grids are larger, with the total map covering an overall smaller area, but because the grids are larger, the map is ‘zoomed in’ and therefore shows more detail.
The video below is a Royal Marines training aid and helps explain this visually.
Which os map is best for walking
In simple terms, if you want more detail, go for 1:25k scale.
If you want less detail and more ground distance covered on the map – go for 1:50k.
The way I remember this quickly is ‘Less is more’, i.e., the lower number (1:25k) gives more detail than 1: 50k.
Your selection should be based on the situation and preference.
Conversely, in some situations, a 1:25k can actually show too much detail and in doing so, cause the location’s features to become over detailed and less clear.
A 1:50k version of exactly the same section, showing the same feature, although less detailed, can actually be clearer to read – as it is less convoluted.
If you are covering larger areas, such as in a vehicle, then the 1:50k version is probably more appropriate and also means you can take fewer maps with you.
Personally, I like the 1:25k version for outdoor navigation on foot here in the UK.
One of the most popular here in the UK is the Ordnance Survey Explorer range of maps. These come in either the standard version or the Active version, which features a waterproof coating – allowing it to be used in all weathers.
I tend to opt for the standard version and keep it in a map case if the weather is bad.
How to set a map
Setting a map simply means aligning the map’s North, with actual North in the real world.
Do this visually by aligning landmarks on the map, with landmarks on the ground. Your location must be known to do this though.
You can also do this by using your compass. More on this in the compass section later.
How to find a grid square
In order to identify a location on a map, you need to accurately pinpoint its location.
This is done in the form of a grid reference.
On a larger scale, for mapping purposes, the UK is broken up into 100 x 100km squares, or grids.
This is known as the National Grid.
These grids are assigned a pair of letters to identify them as per the diagram below.
Note: The USA, Canada, and many other countries have a very similar system. For this article, we will use the UK system – but the same principles apply – just adapt to your area.
When you purchase a map, you will no doubt have noticed that the map has two letters stamped on it in certain places.
These two letters correspond to one of the areas in the image above that your map is covering.
Your map will likely cover a few different sections of these squares and will, therefore, mention multiple letters in places.
What comes first in a grid reference?
Whichever of these sections you are working off on your map forms the first part of your grid reference. e.g. NH
This way, if you are trying to communicate this grid reference to someone else, they will know which section of the country you are referring to when you state the two letters.
Now that we have established the 100 x 100 km mapping area you are working from, we now need to narrow this down considerably, in order to pinpoint the specific location.
How grid squares are broken down
Now, this 100 x 100km NH section mentioned above, is broken down further into 10 x 10 km squares as below.
You will see these on your map, as the thicker blue lines that intersect at every 10th digit on the map, ie 10, 20, 30…
This has now given us a 10 x 10km (100 square km) area to work in, as shown by the yellow box above.
This is progress, but we still need to get this area down further to achieve any sort of accuracy.
Next, each of the 10x10km squares are broken down further into 1km x 1km grid squares.
How to find grid square
We are now down to the actual grid squares that you see on the map.
These are 1km x 1km wide and of course, give us a total area per grid square one square kilometer.
The red square in the image above signifies one of these squares.
We can now get a reasonable amount of accuracy by simply making reference to this square.
It is still a fairly big area but gives a good high-level indication of where something is located on the map.
We state this by giving a 4 figure grid reference.
How to take a 4 figure grid reference
What are eastings and northings on a map?
Eastings are the numbers that run along the bottom of a map, from left to right.
Northings are the numbers that run up the side of the map, from bottom to top.
How to read eastings and northings
Always start by referencing the numbers that run along the bottom first.
These are known as Eastings, as their numbers increase as they travel East.
To help with the correct sequence, remember the adage:
“Go along the corridor, then up the stairs”
So along the corridor = Eastings.
For the red square above, this would give us a number of 97.
Notice how we reference the number at the start of the square (97), not at the end.
Now we go “up the stairs” by stating the Northing figure.
This equals 18.
We now need to put these two together to obtain a 4 figure grid reference.
This gives us 97, 18.
We are not finished yet though!
As mentioned earlier, there will be multiple 97, 18 grid squares across the country, so we need to signify which mapping area we are referring to.
We do this by adding the area code at the start of the grid reference.
In this example, we are working off map section NH, which gives us a complete 4 figure grid reference of NH 97,18.
By communicating the above, everyone will know exactly what 1km x 1km section of the country you are referring to.
This is how you give a 4 figure grid reference.
How to take a 6 figure grid reference
Knowing where we are within a 1km square is helpful, but for a more precise measurement, we really want to drill down further and get that location within 100 metres of the actual location on the ground.
To do this we take a 6 figure grid reference.
This is done by breaking that 1km grid square down further, into 10 sections, from left to right and bottom to top.
We have our 4 figure grid reference from before of NH 97,18.
This represents the whole of the red square above, but we want to pinpoint the Boat House, so we need to go further still.
As you can see, we need to divide the grid square up further into sections of 10.
You will need to do this mentally, as the grid squares do not go any smaller on a map.
Your compass romer will assist you if this helps. Use the correct romer for the scale of the map you are using. In this case 1:25,000.
We can now locate the boathouse by counting along the bottom first – “along the corridor”.
Count upwards (“climb the stairs”) to reach the correct square.
In this case, it is 3,3
We now need to add this to the grid squares 4 figure grid ref of NH 97,18 to give us NH 973, 183
This is a six-figure grid reference and is the most common format used for navigation purposes.
Why do we use 6 figure grid references?
A six-figure grid reference is usually the most commonly used type of grid reference, as it gives a decent amount of accuracy for a location.
As above, it gives you an area of 1000m squared, which on the ground is a fairly ‘tight’ area to work with.
However, if you want to get more accurate, you need to break things down further…
How to take a 8 figure grid reference
As mentioned above, a six-figure grid reference is usually as far as you need to go for a good indication of location.
However, there may be times when you need to drill down even further still and provide an 8 figure grid reference.
How accurate is a 8 figure grid reference?
An 8 figure grid reference will give you an area accuracy of 100 x 100 metres – which gives us a total 1000m square area of accuracy.
This tightens things up considerably!
To do this, as you have probably guessed, the square from the 6 fig example above, is further divided into ten each way, to give us another figure to add to our grid reference.
You will again need to do this mentally, and it is a bit tricky to exactly pinpoint it sometimes.
Your compass romer may help, although the numbers are meant for 6 fig references, not 8, so you will need to mentally divide this up.
Example of an 8 figure grid reference
For the location of the Boat House above, we look at where its location is in relation to the smaller square that it sits in.
If we divide this up again – this sits at 4 across and 3 up of the square.
We now add this to our six-figure grid reference to give us NH 9734, 1833
This is how you obtain an eight-figure grid reference.
It’s just a question ofdrilling down further.
Grid reference quiz
Using the above principles, work out the following (answers at the end):
What is the 4 figure grid reference for the waterfall above, highlighted in blue?
Now, turn this into a 6 figure grid reference by dividing up the above blue grid square mentally.
We know the waterfall sits inside grid square NN 91,97.
We now need to determine where it sits within this grid square.
What two coordinates do we need to add to make this the correct six-figure ref?
The above grid square is an entirely fictional HL 15,76 (there shouldn’t be any churches in this region)
Turn this into a 6-figure grid reference, to give the church’s location.
You now should have a good understanding of how grid references work and how to obtain one.
I would suggest you now practice this with an actual map to hone these skills further.
Question 1 = NN 91,97
Question 2 = 3 & 2, which gives us the total 6 figure grid ref of NN 913,972
Question 3 = HL 157, 766
We now move on to the compass and how it relates to navigating with a map.
What makes a compass work?
So, what makes a compass work? Well, the short answer is that the compass has a freely moving and rotating magnetically charged needle, that points to Magnetic North.
This function can then be used to give you a North direction, as well as the others, such as South, East, West and everything in between.
The compass can be used on its own – as well as being able to working conjunction with a map.
As you will see, when M&C are combined, they become highly effective navigational tools.
Let’s explore further…
What are the parts of a compass?
Let’s start with the parts of a standard baseplate compass and what the purpose of each part is.
Note: I am using a plate compass for this article, chiefly a Silva Expedition 4, which is a time tested and an incredibly functional unit, used by NATO and many other organisations worldwide.
Your compass may vary slightly, but will not differ much.
I am also basing this article on the Northern Hemisphere. If you are in the South, you will need to adjust accordingly.
Compass Baseplate Section
What is the baseplate on a compass?
This baseplate is the main ‘plate’ section, that the compass is based on.
On here you will find:
The direction of travel arrow
This is the arrow that points to the direction of travel. There is also an illuminated line just past this arrow, which shows the arrow’s position at night.
Used to help measure distance on a map and provide a straight edge to draw and take bearings with.
What is a compass Romer?
These are sets of right-angled lines that will be marked out in different scales. These being 1:25,000, 1:40,000 and 1;50,000.
These are used to help obtain a grid reference depending on the scale of the map you are using – by dividing up the map’s grid square into 10.
This gives you a more accurate way of obtaining a 6 figure grid reference.
See the map (grid reference) section above for more info.
What is the magnifying glass on a compass for?
The magnifying lens is used to enlarge sections of the map to help you read it.
It also has the added benefit of being able to help you start a fire if needed.
This is the term given to the difference between Grid North and Magnetic North.
In simple terms:
Your compass needle will point towards Magnetic North.
Your map’s vertical grid lines point towards Grid North.
True North is different again and generally ignored for M&C purposes.
As you can see – they are not the same and are located at different points of the globe.
What is the difference between magnetic north and true north?
Ok, so let’s get this multiple North business out of the way!
As above, there are variations between Grid North, Magnetic North as well as True North.
To be successful in navigation, you need to understand the difference between the three.
Let’s run through them.
What is Grid North used for?
Grid North is what the vertical lines on a map point to.
The reason for the difference between Grid North and True North is the fact that the vertical lines placed on a flat map, do not perfectly replicate the physical ones that are present on the round Earth.
There is a variation – even though it’s hard to get your head around how this can be the case.
In practice, this variation is very minimal and for most navigational tasks, it can be ignored.
However, just know that there is a difference between Grid N and True N.
What is Magnetic North used for?
Magnetic North or MN is what a compass needle will point to – which is the Magnetic North Pole.
It differs from True North above, as the magnetic pole field sits slightly off centre to True North.
This magnetic pole also shifts ever so slightly over time.
Due to this, when comparing MN against GN on a map, an offset is manually added in to allow for this.
This is known as magnetic declination or magnetic variation.
How much of an offset depends on how far away the two Norths are between each other, at that point in time.
The magnetic pole is constantly moving and varies from year to year.
Therefore, when you need to transfer a bearing between a map and compass – or vice versa, you need to manually add in (or subtract) the difference.
The current offset is usually displayed on your map and is known as the declination diagram.
On this diagram, there will be a date mentioned and the offset figure in degrees.
It will state the difference between True North, Grid North, and Magnetic North.
It will also tell you what the variation is each year and in what direction the variation is moving.
What is the definition of True North
True North is the point at the very centre of the top part of Earth, otherwise known as the North Pole.
It is the Earth’s top axis point.
This is also what the North Star’s position relates to – when its position is transferred down to the Earth’s horizon.
For map and compass purposes, you do not need to worry about True North too much – just to have an understanding of what it is.
And now for the video explanation of the above:
Using a compass to navigate (How to use a compass to find direction)
So you have your compass, you have your map – let’s get moving!
Orientation of the map
What is map orientation?
Firstly, it is helpful to orientate your map, so that it is facing the same way as the land in front of you, i.e., North on the map is facing North in the field.
You don’t have to do this, but I find it simplifies things, especially when you are learning.
To align your map, you can use features on the ground, to give you a good idea.