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The Primitive Skills Year

The Primitive Skills 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: 18+

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

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The Primitive Skills Year

This modular course is designed to instil the willing student with a range of so-called 'primitive' skills such as making buckskin clothing and footwear, making a flat bow and arrows, weaving mats and containers, learning to recognise, harvest and process a huge range of plant materials and identify wild animal tracks.


We do not pretend to preach what happened in our stone age era rather we aim to open your eyes to what can be accomplished when relying utterly on natural materials found in the woodland environment.


The modules are designed so as to run in complimentary order equipping you with essential skills and gradually building your understanding of natural materials and your confidence in living within the wood until you are ready to undertake your test phase during module 10.

 As with our Woodland Wayer programme you have the option of paying in instalments - please contact us for details.

Course summary


The Primitive Skills Year starts in early summer and runs through until the autumn of the following year. This course will be run within our 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 lunchtime Sunday afternoon, with a long weekend module starting 19:00 Thursday and running to 15:00 Monday during module 2.


The test phase at the end of the course will run from 19:00 Thursday until 13:00 Tuesday.


The longer modules are designed specifically to allow students the time in the woods to effectively make buckskin and then ultimately to give them a suitable test phase at the conclusion of the course.


Throughout the duration of this course, we strongly encourage participation beyond your modules in the woods and set our students 'Homework' throughout the year either in preparation for the module 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 more holistically in the stone age.




Largely your weekends will be self-catering apart from those modules 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. As with many of our longer duration courses, it is likely that students will end up clubbing together for course food and electing a nominated cook for a main meal, day or even entire weekend as decided by the group.


Ultimately you will be collecting, processing and eating wild foods during your 5-day test phase and will be provided with a range of game foods to prepare.




Initially, you will need to bring along a sleeping system for the woods until everyone has created their sapling and animal hide shelter during module 6. A hammock and tarp or a tent will be perfect to get you started. From the outset and throughout your course, customers will have access to a group parachute shelter which will form a centre point for teaching most modules throughout the course. Students will be able to stay in their own primitive nomadic style shelter or their own systems.




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 (see our recommended kit list below). 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 linked to a definitive 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 Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers and this will be complimented by contemporary bushcraft and survival training/ knowledge.


During this course, you will work with our senior instructing team here at Woodland Ways. You will forge friendships that open up opportunities both with Woodland Ways as well as the UK bushcraft community. All attendees on our more advanced courses are granted specially invited access to our other woodlands, are included in one off events and often find themselves behind the scenes with Woodland Ways learning about the bushcraft industry and supporting us at events throughout the calendar year.


Course detail


MODULE 1: Introductory weekend 12 - 14 May 2017



  • Course welcome and safety briefings
  • Camp area and woods orientation
  • Resource awareness walk
  • Introductory tracking and foraging walk
  • Stone age fire kit production
  • Camp fire maintenance and primitive cookery techniques



MODULE 2: Buckskin and rawhide 10 - 14 August 2017



  • Fleshing, bucking, graining, rinsing, dressing and working deer skins
  • Making buckskin and rawhide from various deer species
  • Using a fleshing tool and beam
  • Dry scrape method discussed
  • Smoking methods



MODULE 3: Clothing 22 - 24 September 2017



  • Continuation of working and smoking hides
  • Cutting out patterns and sewing of shirts and moccasins
  • Stitching methods and materials



MODULE 4: Flint and bone work 17 - 19 November 2017



  • Students given pre made adze blade to haft primitively with raw hide
  • Production and use of Mesolithic core and blades
  • Arrow heads
  • Bone and antler work: Needles, awls, etc.



MODULE 5: Primitive bow making 19 - 21 January 2018



  • Making a flat bow: comparing and contrasting metal and stone woodworking tools
  • Natural bow string options: twisted hides, sinew or plant fibres



MODULE 6: Bark and basketry 27 - 29 April 2018



  • Basic willow basketry
  • Making a simple cray pot
  • Using licensed cray pots
  • Simple and plaited bark containers



MODULE 7: Shelters and grass mats 22 - 24 June 2018



  • Sapling dome shelters thatched with grass, rush and skins
  • Making a grass sleeping mat



MODULE 8: Fibres and glues 27 - 29 July 2018



  • Processing plants and trees for useable cordage materials
  • Plants: nettle, rosebay willow herb and bramble
  • Trees: willow, lime and elm
  • Glues: hide, pine pitch and birch tar



MODULE 9: Consolidation weekend 17 - 19 August 2018



  • Focused look at foraging and food sources for test phase
  • Strategies discussion for test phase: division of labour amongst group etc
  • For all those projects and crafts that require tying up before the test phase, this weekend will provide the time to get them completed


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 will be called upon


MODULE 10: Test phase 18 - 23 October 2018


Living in the woods with only what you have made and the skills you have learned

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 and equipment whilst functioning more efficiently in the woodland environment

Your instructors will be on hand throughout to help with any final questions or offer advice on techniques with various skills

We will not be able to hunt or trap during the test phase but game foods will be provided for meals. We will be trapping crayfish under license

You will be invited to give a brief talk (10 mins max!) around the fire on one aspect of the Mesolithic period of your choosing as part of rounding up your immersion in the skill sets of that era

On your last day as a celebration of the course achievements and forged friendships, we will acquire a whole wild boar for an end of course banquet.

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.

Course feedback

 ''Walking through the woods in a pair of moccasins you have made is perhaps the most wonderful of experiences. It gave me a newfound respect, not only for primitive people and their lifestyle but for all the aspects of bushcraft I had previously gained skills in. Every job slows down - that's a good thing - you naturally look for the materials around you instead of diving into your rucksack...'' 

"Prior to the course I would say I enjoyed reading about primitive people's and our ancestors way of life... now I have real insight, empathy and passion for it. I'm now doing the Woodland Wayer and although I'm learning new skills, I'm looking at everything we do with the question... how would that have been done in the Mesolithic period?" (Mark) 2015

'The Primitive Skills Year course was an incredible experience that completely altered my perception of the outdoors. Through the year we covered a wide range of new primitive skills covering all aspects of bushcraft, developing a mentality that turned spending time in the woods into a completely immersive experience. The Primitive Skills Year gave me a wonderful satisfaction of knowing that I have been taught the skills to live sustainably in the outdoors in the same way that our Mesolithic ancestors once may have, providing a unique connection.' (Alex) 2015


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.