A BIT ABOUT MY PERSONAL HISTORY


One of my collection
of Fred's books.

As a nipper in London in the first half of the 60's I was lucky enough to go to a junior school that sent us on field trips to Epping Forest in Essex. Even luckier still, we made regular monthly visits to the Epping Forest Field Studies Centre at Roseville, High Beach, run by none other than Fred Speakman, one of Britain's best known bushcraft and naturalist authors at that time. Fred taught us natural history and bushcraft with a passion and those days at Roseville Field Centre are some of my happiest memories from that time.

Once a month about a dozen of us would be put on a small coach and arrive a little before ten in the morning, sandwiches and thermos flasks in our satchels. Fred would give us a talk for an hour in a kind of "prefab" classroom and then take us out for a long walk through the forest, pointing out all kinds of things as we went and chatting with the forest rangers. We had small exercise books which we were encouraged to take notes in as we went - although I seemed to be the only kid doing any writing. When we arrived back at the centre a couple of hours later we would eat our packed lunches and then draw and write about the things we'd seen.

I consider myself very fortunate that Fred took me under his wing and spent a lot of his time talking to me about the habits of foxes, badgers, squirrels, how trees differed, wood lore and how to set up a camp. I have no doubt at all that it was Fred who sparked my life-long interest in wildlife and bushcraft.


Fred J Speakman out in
Epping Foerest, just as
I remember him.

About the same time (or perhaps starting even earlier) my parents would take my brother and I to Hainault Forest at weekends. From the car park there was what seemed at the time to be a vast ocean of green grass to traverse before you reached the actual forest and I couldn't wait to get across it and get into the woods, where I spent many a Sunday exploring.

As a kid growing up I was always a bit of an "adventurer"; while days were spent playing on and studying the wildlife living on the local bomb sites, I loved to spend nights out in the woods and, before long, I'd put together a kit of what I needed ... my essential equipment. You know the kind of things: spare string and tent pegs, things to help make the camp fire, an old saucepan, pen-knife, etc. The more time I spent out there the more situations I came across which I hadn't the tools or equipment to deal with, so gradually things got added to my old army surplus haversack.

Later on a good mate and I used to take long distance hikes around the country. We would hike no matter what the terrain and no matter what the weather - even in blizzards and for up to two weeks at a time. We bought the lightest tents to carry, the smallest stoves and even drilled holes in our cutlery handles to reduce their weight. Yep, we were bordering on the fanatical.

My enthusiasm has never waned (even if my physical fitness has) over the years. I've put together many personal kits for camping and surviving, especially spurred on by the technical progress that outward bound equipment has made over the years.

THE IDEA BEHIND SSUK

Recently, however, I have been taking a look at the various commercial "survival kits" available and, while I won't criticise any of them in particular, I have found quite a few of them lacking in many aspects. Just as an example: the sewing kits included in many packs are the sort of cheap thing you'd find in any hotel room in the country and when I look on YouTube at people putting together their own kits I see them using the same sort of crap. Now, I ask you: who in their right mind (if they really thought about it) would rely on a little kit consisting of ten different colours of weak cotton as opposed to a couple of metres of very strong black thread? I know from my own experience that that inferior stuff is never going to hold a seam together for long, let alone your torn shelter material ... and that's NOT a risk you can take in the field.

That's just one example. So I looked at my own kit. I costed it out and thought "Ah, that's why. It's difficult to put together a decent kit at a price that people are willing or able to pay."

Now, that would have been it, if it hadn't been for feeling that people were putting their faith, safety and lives into potentially inferior products. That feeling was one of GUILT. Guilt of knowing that someone somewhere might be putting themselves at risk because they bought something that was affordable to them that they had faith in. Faith is a great thing, but it won't get you out of a cold wind or increase your chances of catching something and avoid starving to death.

So, I started to wonder what I might be able to put together that would be more substantial and give people a better chance of survival if  I could get the costs down. I trawled the world markets and soon realised that I could only do it if I bought the individual items I needed in bulk ... and that costs real money. I'm by no means a wealthy person ... far from it, and it looked to be an impossible dream until an insurance policy that I had forgotten about matured. Suddenly I had a little bit of cash to spare. I thought about all the things I could buy that would make life better, but that original idea haunted me and I eventually decided to take the plunge.

My only problem now was, with limited resources, what sort of survival kit was I going to put together?

A few years of angling when I was younger told me that I'd be lucky to catch anything with most of the fishing kits on the market unless I was very lucky or plopped my hook and line into a particularly rich source of fish. Luck should not be playing a part when your life is at stake! So that's where I've started. I talked to friends who were very keen anglers, I planned, purchased and built the best kit I could at the most reasonable price I could. It was no mean feat to negotiate the best prices, but I eventually put together a kit for under twenty quid that I felt would catch fish. I tested it and, sure enough, it caught me enough fish that I felt I could live on. I gave my experimental kits to angler friends who also managed to catch fish with the gear. The final test was to give kits to friends who had never fished in their lives ... and they caught fish. I was satisfied and launched the kit on Ebay. The kit sold and the feedback was great (just take a look at the genuine comments on THE Ultimate Emergency Survival Fishing Kit). One or two people made suggestions about how it could be improved and I incorporated them. The kit contains equipment you won't find in any other fishing kit ... yet! No other kit contains a Trot Line or as many weights, hooks and extras.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Now I have plans for a range of three straight-up quality Survival Kits (the Mini, Midi and Maxi). I have costed them and begun to purchase what is needed for the first ... the tobacco tin based "Mini". The mini will come in at under twenty pounds but will include a Gerber Bear Grylls lock-knife (RRP 15.99 alone) and you won't believe what the Midi and Maxi kits will have in them for the price. All I need to do is sell enough fishing kits to fund the next phase - and that's where you come in. If you're a serious survivalist, bushcrafter or prepper then you won't want to waste your money and risk your life on anything other that THE Ultimate Emergency Survival Fishing Kit. That's a blatant sales pitch I know, but I guarantee that you won't be disappointed with the product you receive.

AND A WORD ABOUT THIS WEBSITE

I have built this website myself to save money which would be better spent on quality stock. It may not be as glossy or as professional looking as other Bushcraft Shop sites, but that's all in the spirit of frugality. There's some limited general information available at the moment which I will be building upon to make this a worthwhile resource centre. I'll also be making some instructional or informational videos which will start to feature here soon, so please make sure you come back and visit often to see how the site grows.

 

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