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The Pioneer Year

The Pioneer Year


Course Location: Oxfordshire

Course Time: Weekends 13.00 Friday-12.00 Sunday

Course Duration: 8 weekends and 2 five day modules over 18 months

Course size: 10 Persons Maximum

Course Age Range: 16+

Call US: 01234 351006 (09:30-16:30 7 Days) / 07843 064114 (Out of hours)

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The Pioneer Year

Dusk is gathering, it is time to select a suitable site to camp for the night. Ahead of you is the rest of your party, though they look a little different to when you entered the woods some months before. Instead of the jangle and rustle of their modern equipment they now seem to possess a softer, simpler garb that merges with their landscape. Across their shoulders is strung a bed roll, ready to welcome the gathering chill. About their person are, hand forged knife, flint striker and prepared trail foods. Inside your head is the knowledge to source, materials for a cooking tripod, bedding material and where to secure foods what other resources you need to make your life comfortable in camp.

These skills are just some that those braving the frontiers had to overcome on a daily basis. Carrying only what nature could not easily provide, they were able to travel light through remote areas while still providing all the comfort they needed.

We are aiming to travel back through the subject of bushcraft in the eyes of the pioneering past through to the golden age of camping. The aim of this course is to provide you with those skills that enabled you to travel light, reliant on your personal ability and working in tune with your surrounding in a way that conventional equipment does not permit.

"Go light; the lighter the better, so that you have the simplest material for health, comfort and enjoyment." (Nessmuk, woodcraft and camping 1920)

We will be travelling back to a time when this was very much the way things were done when less was more and someone’s worth was measured by the contents of their head rather than that of their rucksack. Throughout this course, we shall start a journey back to simpler times when, people equipped with the bare necessities, achieved everything they needed from the lands around them.

Course summary

 The Pioneer Year starts in the late Summer and runs through until the early Autumn of the following year. This course will be run within our stunning 250 acre woodland in the heart of Oxfordshire - a stunning rural location in which to immerse yourself in our great British countryside.

The course is comprised mainly of weekend modules running from 13:00 Friday afternoon through until 12:00 Sunday afternoon, with a long weekend module starting 19:00 Thursday and running to 13:00 Monday at the start of the course. The test phase at the end of the course will run from 19:00 Thursday until 13:00 Tuesday.

The long weekends are designed specifically to allow students the time in the woods required to make effective woollen and waterproof layers and then ultimately to give them a suitable test phase at the end of the course.

Throughout the duration of this course, we strongly encourage participation beyond our modules in the woods and set our students ‘Homework’ throughout the year either in preparation for the weekend to come or to build on skills previously covered. Largely this homework will entail the completion of select craft work and projects to the desired level by the customer. It will also include handouts on skills covered, recommendations for further reading and links to useful resources so that customers will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the subjects of the golden age of camping.

Whereas we would never turn any budding student away, we would expect students in attendance to have some bushcraft experience under their belts. In true Woodland Ways style this is a hands on and hard work course, we will be with you every step of the way for advice, tutoring and guidance but expect a level of commitment and enthusiasm to match the fascinating skills on offer.


Largely your weekends will be self-catering apart from those weekends when we are utilising seasonal foods or preparing game as part of your training. Students will be expected to provide their own breakfast, lunch and evening meals during typical modules so that we can apply as much time as possible to covering the skills you will need without ‘eating’ into valuable course time.

Ultimately you will be collecting, processing and eating wild foods during your 5-day test phase and both students and instructors all come together for meals on those modules that involve processing game such as Venison, Goose and Squirrel.


Initially, you will need to bring along a sleeping system for the woods until everyone has created their very own pioneer cloth shelter. A hammock and tarp or a tent will be perfect. Throughout the duration of the course, customers will have access to a group baker tent which will form a centre point for teaching for most modules throughout the course. Students will be able to alternate between staying in their own handmade cloth shelter and the baker tent.


This course is designed to show you exactly what you do not need!

Initially you will need to be equipped with the usual items to make life comfortable in the woods, our aim is to guide you through the process of replacing every piece of equipment on this list with handmade and natural alternatives or doing away with item entirely replacing toxic plastics and heavy metal items with weightless and indestructible knowledge.

During the course introduction module, we will set out the various modern pieces of equipment commonly listed as vital or highly desirable during an extended wilderness excursion. Alongside these we will talk you through the period equivalents, giving you the foundations for some of the projects during future modules.

Although the course is not specific to an absolute historical time period or location, a large percentage of the work you will be producing is based on the equipment thought or known to have been carried by Pioneers, Mountain men and famous expeditions throughout the time period... complimented by contemporary bushcraft and survival knowledge.

During this course, you will work very closely with our senior instructing team here at woodland ways where you will have access to not only just a course. You will forge friendships and relationships that open up huge areas of opportunities both with woodland ways as well as the larger bushcraft community. All attendees on our higher end courses are granted specially invited access to our other woodlands, are included in one off event and often find themselves behind the scenes with woodland ways learning about the bushcraft industry and supporting us at events.

Course Detail

MODULE 1: Introductory weekend 5 - 7 May 2017

  • Course context/ woodland familiarisation/ safety briefs
  • Establishing a frontiers camp
  • Introduction to camp cookery and game preparation
  • Tool familiarisation and utilisation
  • Making your pack frame & folding bucksaw


MODULE 2: Blankets, bedrolls and cover 3 - 7 August 2017

  • Stitching our own wool outer layer
  • Waxed cotton poncho tarp
  • Manufacturing your own Canvas bed roll
  • Correct use of blankets 
  • Producing your own period sewing kit
  • Homework: Finalising any stitching on garments should any seams require it.


MODULE 3: Pioneer cooking 8 - 10 September 2017

  • Preparing a broad range of game using traditional methods.
  • Focusing on a range of preserving techniques readying food for transportation
  • Methods of preserving foods around camp
  • What foods would have been traded with first nation peoples
  • Preparing a range of classic pioneer meals using a broad range of techniques from the period
  • Producing a range of ‘tin’ cook wear for utilisation throughout the rest of the course. 


MODULE 4: Knife making Weekend 3 - 5 November 2017

  • Learning the principals of blacksmithing
  • Making your own hand forged general purpose trade knife.
  • Learning to utilise basic forge technology for tool production
  • Importance of metal trade goods along the frontier 


MODULE 5: Traps and snares weekend 12 - 14 January 2018

  • Looking at the traps that for millennium allowed the aboriginal peoples of North America to source food and furs
  • How this abundance of natural resources was traded for metal goods and fuelled the expansion of the Fur trade and expansion West into new fur grounds
  • Learn the methods behind a variety of traps for different animals.
  • Gain experience at setting a variety of traps
  • Learn how to locate game trials and suitable trapping grounds

    (all aspects of this module are for educational purpose only. All UK legislation shall be complied with at all times)


MODULE 6: Flint and steel Weekend 2 - 4 March 2018

  • Forging your own flint sticker 
  • Understanding the charring process of organic materials
  • Sourcing a range of natural materials to char and field test and perfect
  • Exploring the full range of technologies available during the 1800s
  • Creating your own slow match
  • Creating your own authentic pioneer tinder pouch to hold your flint and steel kit
  • Exploring fire management that was used to sleep comfortably during the period
  • Master a fire lighting technique throughout the duration of the course in all weathers 


MODULE 7: Camp furniture Weekend 11 - 13 May 2018

  • Learning the broad variety of cooking cranes, tables and camp accessories 
  • Building suitable camp furniture to organise all your camp essentials
  • Allowing the time to construct a board range of camp beds and furniture, transforming your camps in the wood from 'roughing it' to luxury!


MODULE 8: Fur trade Weekend 13 - 15 July 2018

  • To understand the importance of the fur trade in the history of the North American frontier
  • Gain an appreciation of the historical uses furs 
  • The Insulating properties of fur
  • Work our own fur on hide. Options of producing mittens or our very own winter fur hat.
  • Homework: Any stitching that may need finishing


MODULE 9: Consolidation Weekend 10 -12 August 2018

  • For all those projects and crafts that require tying up before the test phase, this weekend will provide the time to get them complete.
  • We will keep the weekend fluid and allow for any skills that customers wish to revisit,  in readiness for the test phase where all the skills learnt during the past 18 months are put to the test.


MODULE 10: Test phase 4 - 9 October 2018

  • Living in the woods with only what you have made and the skills you have learnt.
  • This full immersion into the skills you have been studying will allow you the time to make invaluable insights into how to better your clothing, equipment and function more efficiently in Woodland while relying on the breadth of skills covered.
  • Your instructors will be on hand throughout to help with any final questions or offer advice on techniques with various skills.
  • During this final module our instructors will be on hand to guide you through the skills on stalking in close to game, following up tracks and there will be a recap on the theory of trapping along with a workshop on how and where to set snares and other traps that woodsman and native peoples would have used throughout the period
  • You will be invited to give a brief talk (10 mins max!) around the fire on an aspect of the Pioneers period of your choosing as part of rounding up your immersion in the skill sets of that time period.
  • On your last day as a celebration of the course achievements and forged friendships, we will acquire a whole turkey for an end of course banquet. There will be a rough target shoot at the end with a prize for the most accurate student and the opportunity to debrief in full with your instructors around the fire on the last evening.


Component Skill Sets Covered:


  • Tool safety and selection
  • Green woodworking techniques
  • Safely sighting camps in woodland
  • Clothing making
  • Practical field stitching techniques for both cloth and hide
  • Making personal period sewing kit
  • Creating a bed roll sleep system
  • Learning to utilise blanket technology in a variety of weather conditions
  • Fire management for sleeping out using traditional technology
  • Blacksmithing skills; Learning to understand the properties of metal at different temperatures with the aim of producing;
  • - A general purpose craft knife
  • - Traditional Flint striker
  • Trade knife design and modern knife features
  • Woodland Forage set up and management to produce period tools.
  • Understanding and utilising a broad range of natural fibres that can be manipulated for flint and steel fire lighting
  • Creating your own slow match
  • Leather work for a range of storage pouches
  • Correct skinning techniques for preservation of fur-bearing hides for use in clothing
  • Full utilisation of animal resources using practical butchery techniques
  • Hide tanning methods for fur on tanning
  • Develop a range of construction methods for camp furniture, bedding and camp equipment from the period
  • A variety of traditional cooking techniques utilised by both pioneers and natives peoples
  • Correct preparation and storage of foods for time on the trail
  • Jerky racks and pemmican 
  • Learning how to harvest and process wild foods
  • Refrigeration techniques while at camp set up
  • Extensive study of trapping techniques of the period, both commercial traps utilised by the fur trade and also indigenous traps used by native peoples to acquire food
We Acknowledge that this can be quite an initial outlay for you, and so we are happy to offer you the opportunity to pay a slightly increased rate spread over 4 equal instalments. of £625.00 over the 18 months of the programme. Just email us on info@woodland-ways.co.uk to set up a direct debit.

This course can be purchased as an 18 month voucher, to book online choose "18 month voucher" from the options above and we will email the details over to you. Alternatively if you are purchasing this course as a gift we can post you a full colour gift presentation pack for just £4.25, just choose posted instead of emailed delivery option. Or contact us by phone to make the arrangements.

Call US: 01234 351006 (09:30-16:30 7 Days) / 07843 064114 (Out of hours)

We'll take your details and payment over the phone and then email or post you and information pack along with the booking form. All you need to do then is complete the form and return it to us, your places are confirmed at the time of payment.

Click here to download booking form. Simply download the booking form and pop it in the post to us with your cheque for payment. We'll get in touch once your payment has cleared to confirm your booking.