Coastal Survival Courses – student feedback.
Complete Coastal Hunter Gatherer course in south-west Scotland
From the 29th June to the 4th July, 9 other students and I undertook the course in south-west Scotland. I took the course as my residential section for my gold Duke of Edinburgh and had a wonderful week learning new skills in foraging, hunting and bush-craft.
Most of the students arrived on the Sunday night- with tents pitched the next morning we went got up early to check the long-lines and nets. We caught numerous fish including 2 starry-eyed smooth hounds and a large bass. Despite having to get up really early I thought it was well worth it for the experience. As Monday progressed everyone arrived and we went down to check the lines. On the way down to the coast we were taught about the plants and their medicinal properties and their use as food. We were taught about seaweed and shellfish and how to forage and harvest sustainably. We learnt how to fillet and skin different fish such as the shark family compared to flatfish and round-fish.
Over the next couple of days we caught and foraged our lunch and dinner which we prepared and was cooked by Fraser and I must say was some of the tastiest food I’ve ever had. Eating fish that was caught less than 5 hours ago was great and after only a couple of days I felt really good for it. For some of the days we had freshly baked bread, baked in a Danish oven on an open fire which accompanied the lovely soups made for lunch. We learnt how to make gill nets and long-lines. We kept our gill nets in a pristine condition to take home with us but set our long-lines out on the next tide, making use of old salmon net posts. We caught quite a bit on our long-lines over the week, including dogfish plus large plaice and flounder.
Then later on in the week we learnt primitive skills, such as making willow crab traps. The weather was variable but the days when it was bright sunshine were great as we could learn in the sun. We learnt how to make oak and black-thorn hooks attached to nettle cordage which we all made. Every one of us made a long-line snood which we attached to a single long strand of natural chord as a long-line. By having three people teaching us, we could take advantage of a wealth of knowledge from each individual- learning different ways of performing the same task, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.
Over the next couple of days as the course came to an end we learnt about survival and how to make the most of limited resources. We learnt how to make traps from beach rubbish and the essentials to survive on the coast. On the last day we learnt how to smoke and preserve effectively both hot and cold smoking fish. On the last tide one of the long-lines that one of the students had made caught a decent size dover sole which we had in the risotto for the last meal which was cooked beautifully.
Despite at some points some students being tired and there being difficulties, I would say that we all enjoyed ourselves and came back with a wealth of knowledge. The weather had been difficult at times but we all pulled through to the end and by the end, worked as a single team unit.
I personally would highly recommend Fraser’s courses and would like to thank not only the teachers but the students for a fabulous week,
“I must admit I was a bit uncertain before starting the course, which I was given as a gift – I am a total newcomer to foraging, with no bushcraft experience whatsoever, no flashy kit, nothing. What’s more, I was the only girl amongst a group of blokes so I did feel a bit intimidated at first. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Fraser and his team ran the course so that everyone learned something and everyone got stuck in. We packed in a huge amount of activities, without it feeling too stressful, we ate and drank amazingly well, had interesting fireside chats, met new people, and discovered lots. I came away inspired, feeling like I’d been part of a team and thinking a little differently about my place in the landscape. Fraser is a generous soul, who works hard to make sure everyone is happy and challenged in equal measure, and I am pretty certain that most people would benefit from some time learning alongside him. ” Micha, 32, London.
“I had long wanted to do something like this. In an age where we increasingly rely on technology to run our lives, it was incredibly refreshing to peel back the clutter and to reconnect to a more traditional way of living. I thought the dynamic in the group was really good, which I feel had a lot to do with how the weekend was set up. It felt like you were getting a genuine experience and a lot of the learning was achieved by being immersed in the environment. Although there were discrete tasks, I felt one of the plus points was how flexible the course was to fit around the people and their abilities. As a total novice, I was put at ease by the way Fraser allotted campsite tasks so that everyone felt useful. This was far more than some naff ‘how to start a fire’ course, but an entry into a whole new way of living. I hope to do more bushcraft in the future.” Tom, 30, London.
2 day (private) off-grid + 3 day CHG. March 2014.
I have recently returned from the above mentioned courses with Fraser and his team at coastal survival, as i intend to move to Portugal in the near future to live off grid.
The courses where first class, and I would reccomend them to anyone intrested in Bushcraft, Survival or the present social climate.
Coastal survival HQ is in a woodland off the beaten track in Dorset, plants, trees and wildlife are in abundance, parachute teepi’s hang from trees and little vegetable patches are here and there every thing is in harmony with nature.
The Primitive hunter gatherer course was packed with everything you you need to thrive on the coast and inland with a healthy balanced diet, all methods of fishing using natural, man made materiels and scavenged debris where covered, seaweeds, shellfish and plants both edible and medicinal where covered in great detail, every thing we collected was taken back to camp and turned into fantastic fireside evening meals “Huckleberry Fin by day-5 Star Michellin diners by night”.
The course was made up of people from all walks of life, everybody mucked in and enjoyed themselves .
Sleeping arrangements were up to yourself, hammock, basha, parachute or the 5 star Army 12×12!. Breakfast was allways a big part of the day good food and a chin wag to remind and revise on the previous days instruction.
Thanks to Fraser’s team, Zoe- natural cordage and lashings, Laff- hedgerow basket making, Paul-animal tracking and trapping, Steve (Frasers 2ic).
I have over the years been trained by and worked with some of the best people both military and civilian in the survival industry, Fraser is right up there with them, he has created something special at Coastal survival school, the fact he has been chosen by the Royal Marines to train it’s own Elite speaks volumes.
Fraser lives “Off grid” his Bender/shelter made from natural and skip scavenged items, this is his home and office, he taught me the pro’s and cons of 12 volt solar panels and wind turbines, wood burning gasifyer stoves, and his daily routine.
Home cured air dried bacon and road kill smoking where covered as was foraging, wine making with basic items and primrose flowers, water collection, storage and purification, self composting toilets, herb and veg growing all this and much, much more was crammed in to two days, I think in the near future more people will wish they had these basic skills, A great course, I learnt so much, iI am planning to return soon for more!
A Royal Marine survival instructors review
Hello Fraser my review
I am in the royal marines and attended the hunter gatherer course that coastal survival and Fraser Christian run over a three day period. I went on the course with very little knowledge of coastal survival and I wanted to learn as much as I could over the three day period as I have been tasked to deliver a coastal survival day for the royal marines. I was not disappointed. From what I was taught over the course from the highly knowledgeable instructors I was able to run a coastal survival day for the royal marines. If anything I had too much information to put across to the lads and not enough time due to tides. Feedback from the lads and the higher Archie came back along the lines that it was a very good lesson and all of this just from one weekend with Fraser and his instructors. When on the course it met all my expectations. The manor of which the course is run was ideal really relaxed with some very small amounts of pressure. When the day’s lessons have finished from improvised lobster pots, costal vegetation and to my favourite the gill net or pulling wild carrots out of the beach you will be back at Frasers camp under a parachute around a fire eating what you have caught and foraged over the day. For me this is what I liked CATCH IT KILL IT EAT IT. Nothing went to waste. After that and everything is cleared away and clean and you have got a beer open you are still learning as everyone is spinning their dits (stories) around the fire about their methods and experiences. I would recommend this course and Fraser Christian to anyone that fancies getting into or enhancing their knowledge of survival or just getting back to the basics this environment would also be ideal for some father son bonding time. There will always be a link between the Royal Marines and Fraser Christian as what he has got as a product is exactly what we need and delivered at the rite standard and tempo. With that in mind we will be looking to put lads on the course in the future to keep our own knowledge current and up to date.
A beginners review
Arriving after dark on a Thursday evening nestled somewhere on the outskirts of Bearminster we arrived at our destination. Coastal Survival HQ. Walking out from the darkness to greet us was Coastal Survivals founder & chief instructor Fraser Christian. I have a keen interest in all things bush-craft & being a newcomer to all things ‘bush’ I had high hopes for the weekends course; The Coastal Hunter Gatherer. After arriving & personal introductions we got all our kit together and were led a short walk up a secluded track in to the woods. It was here in a clearing amongst the ash that we arrived at what would be our base camp for the weekend. The suspended parachute canopy slung low amongst the trees greeted us with the kettle already on the fire and ended up becoming a great space to socialise and cook over the weekend. There was plenty of suitable space for students to to rig up a hammock as well as the option to bed down in a lovely old army canvas 12 man open tent if you were feeling particularly lazy. Generally sleeping arrangements were flexible on camp & I ended bedding down round the fire most nights of the course. We were told there was even a tent allocated for couples should they want privacy. The set-up was minimal but functional and struck a good balance between necessary comforts and deliberately making the experience an authentic ‘back to basics’ true outdoors one. Students were encouraged to participate in the general running of base camp including group cooking and food prep as well as firewood collection. I felt nurturing a group dynamic in this way based on hands-on participation ultimately bonded the group & reminded us all of the value of resources & comforts we would normally take for granted in the outside world. The first day of the course the morning after our late night arrival began promptly at 08:00am to the sound of bacon & egg crackling away in the pan over the fire. A great start. After breakfast & a brew Fraser and one of his instructors went through the itinerary for the day and it was certainly due to be a busy one. It became clear that this first day was part of a bigger picture planned for the weekend which was basically an ambitious hunting expedition to the coast to provide for a wild seashore feast in the evenings. After rendezvousing in town with the other students attending we proceeded on to our weekend hunting grounds a short drive from base camp. The coastal site selected for the weekends course was stunning. Clean blue waters, shingle beach but more importantly huge areas of of rock pools which is where we ended up harvesting most of our bounty. It very quickly became obvious to me the amount of experience & knowledge chief instructor Fraser Christian had on coastal terrain. This started with essentially establishing amongst the group the hunter-gatherer mindset. To readjust ones view of the area that begins to see it in terms of its resources. Tuning in to the living landscape in a way that opens your eyes to the ever changing weather systems that influence coastal areas & how this affects your methods and results as a coastal hunter. It was so much more than just throwing a few nets out. You had to think like our ancestors. Once we had walked out to our rock pool hunting grounds Fraser went through the seashore edibles we were targeting as a group as well as the techniques & tools we were going to employ to harvest them. It was clear everything was on the menu. Juicy crustaceans such as crab, lobster and shrimp as well as small fish would be collected using a combination of spring traps and hand made bottle traps. The latter being made directly from salvaged waste washed up on the beach. Other shellfish such as periwinkles, mussels & limpets would be foraged by hand. For the latter we were shown a simple technique of swiftly striking with the heel of your boot to remove easily from rocks. The endless supply of limpets were also smashed in their shells to be used as highly effective bait for the spring & bottle traps. Large fish such as bass & mullet were to be targeted using gill nets. There was also a huge variety of seaweeds to be collected all of which had their own different textures, colours & tastes. Not only would the seaweed supplement perfectly any protein we caught but were also packed with minerals & vitamins. Every food resource in the area was covered & explained individually in depth. Everything from its nutritional content & calorific value; taste; texture as well as the best means of cooking with it in the kitchen. Foraging in a coastal area also meant doing it safely. The limited window of opportunity afforded by the tide meant we had to work efficiently & affectively. The Coastal Survival instructors really highlighted how perilous this terrain can be and did a superb job of ensuring everyone was both mindful and respectful of how quickly this environment can change. Personal safety and avoiding injury was a number one priority from a survival & primitive hunter point of view After spending many hours in glorious sunshine setting traps, nets and foraging a bountiful supply of fresh crabs & seaweeds we headed back to camp to begin preparations for our first foraged meal. A mixed seafood paella. This is where chief instructor Fraser Christians michelin cheffing experience & knowledge added an exciting twist to the simple practice of foraging which took it beyond mere survival. Limpets cooked in their shells over the fire; a creamy crab & shellfish stock; pan fried seaweed. All cooked together with rice over the fire. The first day of the course was great but it was the following day where we went back to check our traps & nets that really was the highlight of the weekend for me and many of the group. After waking to another slap up breakfast over the fire and walking back out across the shingle to our hunting ground, we revisited the spring and bottle traps set the previous day. We were not disappointed. Every single trap pulled out from the rocks was a gastronomic treasure chest of fresh seafood treats; shore crabs; velvet crabs; shrimp; mini lobster; blenny fish & Eel. However what everyone was really excited about was whether we had anything big in the nets. The night before had been quite rough seas, not ideal for setting nets. We were a little concerned the nets may have been trashed by rough weather. When the group approached the large pool where our nets had been positioned a few were certain they could see a flash of silver under the surface water & movement on the nets. Being over waist deep the only way to check & retrieve the nets was for someone to get in the water. Two students were asked to strip down & wade out to the nets, methodically working their way along under the strict instruction of Fraser. Within minutes an enormous mullet fish was pulled to the surface. Then another, bigger than the first. After both nets were retrieved we ended up with a massive haul of 8 huge mullet. It was literally a fish for every student attending the course. After photographing the catch & with morale at a high the Coastal Survival team showed us how to properly gut & de-scale all the fish ready for transportation back to base camp. Everyone was involved & had an opportunity for some hands-on fish gutting under the guidance of Fraser. For the particularly brave we were also shown how to extract the fresh nutrient rich eyeballs for an interesting seaside snack. An acquired taste. The day’s hunter-gathering was not to stop there. After bagging up our enormous haul & resetting the traps for the following day we headed back to our transport to drive to another area of coastline for a wild food walk. Equally as beautiful scenery as our rock pool hunting grounds this area of beach was absent of shellfish & seaweeds but rich in other edible resources that weren’t present at the previous coastal site. Under the guidance of Coastal Survival our eyes were really opened to the sheer volume of medicinal & edible plants and roots that were in abundance on the coast. All of which remained utterly unnoticed & ignored by the general public walking by. As before each plant was covered individually in great detail, from its name & identifying attributes; historical use; nutritional & medicinal qualities; and of course how best to prepare & process each plant in the kitchen. The students quickly got to work identifying and collecting a plethora of wild plants & coastal veg. Some of which included wild carrot, sea spinach, sea kale, silverweed, plantains & yarrow. The latter was especially picked by Fraser to be used in a tea to alleviate one of the students respiratory problems. We also managed to locate some edible fungi, shaggy parasol and puffballs. These were added to the ever growing haul and were a tasty addition to our cooked breakfast the following morning. Coastal Survival instructors also educated the group on one of the deadly varieties of fungi when we also came across a notorious and fatally poisonous mushroom known as the ‘destroying angel’. At this point in the day the budding group of hunter-gatherers had amassed a huge quantity and variety of wild foods. Once back at base camp preparations for the evenings feast were under way. Fraser & Kris got everyone involved & with their expert tuition & guidance every student filleted their own fish and participated in salting & smoking the fillets. Other tasks included preparing all the shellfish, sea weeds & coastal veg. Students were also shown how to correctly manage and moderate a fire for a variety of cooking purposes.It really was a wild gourmet kitchen and the final spread was as much a delight to look at as it was to eat. Pan fried mullet, mixed sea veg medley all in a creamy shellfish sauce with fire roasted wild carrot & sea kale. The meal was also accompanied by some wonderful fresh bread baked over the fire in a dutch oven. Any sweet tooth’s in the group were satisfied by again baking fresh in the dutch oven a chocolate sponge cake for afters. There was nothing ‘survival’ about this meal, this was top grade restaurant standard eating. The rest of that final evening descended in to a late night haze of merriment & laughter round the fire till the early hours. The following day with some sore heads & after a hearty breakfast we did return to our rock pool hunting grounds to check the nets & traps. Despite the spring and bottle traps performing well again with a mixture of crabs & shrimp there was nothing this time in the nets. However the rest of the day got students trying their hand at the more crafty aspects of being a coastal hunter. Some very interesting & hands-on workshops back at base camp that included making & using a fishing spear & net making. As the weekend drew to a close, I and all other students really didn’t want to leave the woods at Coastal Survival HQ. The weekends hunter-gatherer course had really captured the spirit of ‘the tribe’. The Coastal Survival team worked hard to get us thinking & operating as one. A real mixture of people had attended from different backgrounds, careers & age groups but despite this we had successfully formed in to a tight knit group of efficient coastal foragers with the confidence to use the skills we learnt beyond the weekends course. For me personally what I got out of the course the most was exactly what I came for – knowledge. The level & variety of content covered by Chief Instructor Fraser & his instructors was vast but was taught in such a way that did not make students feel overwhelmed with all this new information. Every subject, practical skill, plant & juicy seashore edible was covered & explained methodically with clarity and without unnecessary jargon. Having someone recite all the Latin botanical names for plants is impressive however I feel our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have had a more no nonsense approach. Seeing the world of resources around them in terms of their known potential use; the habitats known to harbour these resources & the methods of harvesting or utilising these resources. This is and was The Coastal Survival approach. It was hands-on, enlightening & an authentic experience as well as I feel extremely good value for money.
Anyone even remotely interested in foraging, good eating and the coast should seriously consider booking a course with Coastal Survival. Highly recommended.
I thoroughly enjoyed the coastal foraging trip yesterday. Your enthusiasm and knowledge was evident, and coupled with your undoubted talent as a chef a perfect day was had. I shall be looking closer at the hedgerows near my home from now on and will drink nettle tea more often! Thank you and all the best. Martin Holliwell
Thank you again for your Coast Hunter course. It was a lot wilder than I expected and more interesting because of it. This wasn’t the sort of make-believe survival course where everything has to be whittled from sticks and we pretend that plastic doesn’t exist. It was about using the things we are actually likely to find around us. I had no idea that so many plants were edible, nor that they would actually turn out to be quite nice to eat. I booked the course as a Christmas present for my son, with the idea that we could do some male bonding together. It achieved this goal brilliantly but what I didn’t expect was that I would also have as much fun as I did. You are a proper ‘wild man of the woods’. Not just an only-while-the-cameras-are-run
Here are some of the better photos from the weekend. Feel free to use any of them on your website, if you like.
When my best mate asked me to be his best man, my thoughts went straight to the Stag Do. I had previously arranged my brother’s stag with Fraser and had such a good time it was an obvious choice again.
Although the Stag was arranged for early February in one of the coldest winters for a few years, I decided a survival camping trip in Dorset would be a great idea!! Fraser and Si organised a bespoke 2 day course covering the basics of survival including, fire making, foraging, game preparation and cooking. It was not only educational but a really good crack. For some of us in particular who have moved from the “sticks” to living and working in the city it was a real reminder of our childhoods.
If you’re looking from a change to traipsing round dull bars and getting thrown out of strip clubs it is a great alternative. 12 guys all from quite different backgrounds all had a great time and there is even talk of a stag reunion (albeit in slightly warmer weather).
Big thanks to Fraser and Si (especially helping to take Jim’s wellies off).
“Many, many thanks for an outstanding weekend of knowledge sharing/learning, fun, coupled with great food which was caught by understanding and using sustainable, simple (once you’ve been shown) survival techniques and traps. The Seaweed risotto with wild picked salad was a revelation. Denise & I left richer for the experience.”
“Big thank you to Fraser and Tom for a brilliant weekend last week.
I’ll be in Dorset for a week after the wedding and will be foraging and cooking wild (whilst expending as little energy as possible – as I’ve been taught).
“Thanks for an excellent stag do last weekend. Everyone from the party agrees it was great and want to get together for a coastal version, maybe in the autumn. I particularly appreciated the mix of survival skills, other discussions, and anecdotes, which made the vast amounts of info easier to absorb, and put the foraging etc. into context, not just an academic study weekend. Also it was a good laugh.
All the best.”
Really enjoyed last weekend.
Excellent work done by both Fraser and Tom.
Thought that there was a good balance in the emphasis – enjoyment/learning. Maintaining an ‘edge’ on things with constant reminders that we are supposed to be in a survival situation but without shouting at us like pretend soldiers. Enjoyed the view of food for both fuel and for pleasure. Fraser is a legend. Great to have him share his rich and varied knowledge from various previous lives. I guess this kind of thing is something that is vanishing from modern life (especially urban living)- the sharing of wisdom and techniques through demonstration and great stories to both illustrate and entertain. I really appreciated the fact that F. didn’t hold back on his opinions about the failings of modern society and especially the food supply industry. Stuff that needs saying… whether to a receptive audience or not. Not to overlook Tom who also did a great job.
My mates and I all agree that we came away with plenty to think about regarding our lifestyles, and the future. But on the whole had a really good time and a great laugh. Many thanks and good luck with all your various activities. All power to you.”