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Need a shelter in the woods? Ashley shows how to make them quickly, using whatever comes to hand. Another in the Survival series from WoodlandsTV and Dulwich Studios
Angus Hanton: So, Ashley, what's happening here?
Ashley: Basically what we have here is a simple lean-to with a fire reflector on the front here. We've used a couple of handy trees and put a branch up across there. It's made of beech and hazel. On the back part of it we have a woven section along the back there. Look at these branches on the back of it. We've woven them in and out by the supports. We put some tarps on there to make sure that it's properly watertight. Then we covered it over with natural fibers - the firs and beeches - around the back and then the moss on the top to help bed it all down.
Angus: What is it?
Ashley: It's a shelter. We would sleep in here. We're actually going to use it to store some stuff in. The idea would be that if you were sleeping in this area here... Let's go in.
Ashley: What we'd normally do is, if we were in here sleeping, we'd have the fire going on outside. And the heat would be coming in, reflecting off of the back here. The reason that we put the little front section on here is to stop all the heat from coming back out again. So as we warm this space, the heat is going to rise up. It's going to come back off here and roll back down to where you are, to keep you nice and warm, keeping the heat in and keeping us nice and dry.
Angus: How long does something like this take to make?
Ashley: Well, on and off between the four us, this morning we put this up - pretty much this morning. The main roof and beam, some of the larger struts across the back were up. But the rest of it we've just thrown together this morning, basically.
Angus: Is it waterproof?
Ashley: Yeah, it's pretty much waterproof. It's going to keep you dry, unless there's like a torrential downpour or something. You'd be plenty dry enough in here, especially with a fire going outside. That would keep you good.
Angus: What sort of sheeting is this that you've used?
Ashley: This is just some ordinary camping ground-sheet, some PVC stuff. We've just thrown it over to keep it watertight for the long-term.
Angus: Right. What other sorts of shelters are there?
Ashley: We have some shelters over here that are dome-style constructions. Basically some hazel sticks, bent them over, a couple of loops and then the same thing: the branches over the top, moss on top of that and leaves on top of that to help bed it all down and keep the water out. You can put a little fire on the end.
Angus: Lovely. Should we go have a look at those?
Ashley: We can have a look at one of those, yeah.
Ashley: All right. Here we have a single-man dome. You can see the hoops running over from side to side and then making the ribs on the way down. We put in these side struts to hold everything together, all across the top and one on each side, and the tarp over the top of that.
Angus: How do you fix that?
Ashley: Basically, we use some string here, just to tie off the cross-members on the top and at the sides along the length. There's a little V at the other end to help the rain come down off the other end. This is going to keep you warm and dry. It's quick. You can throw this up. It would take maybe an hour to do something like this. So you can quickly turn up, throw a few sticks together and throw some branches on top. You're warm and dry, out of the wind and the rain for the night.
Angus: So you'd sleep in this?
Ashley: Yeah, yeah. We'd sleep in this. Simon was sleeping in this one last night and the night before.
Angus: So what's the order? You do the hoops first.
Ashley: The hoops first, yeah. We put one hoop in at the front and then one at the back with equal space in between. Then you get the branch across the top. That's going to hold them all a set distance apart, so that it's not pulled in one way or the other. The side braces help to keep everything square.
Angus: Yeah. Why do you have branches on top? Why do you need those?
Ashley: We put the branches on to help with the insulation, to keep the heat in and to keep the little air gaps in between the branches. That's going to help keep the air in. Though, the firs actually help keep the rain off as well, so it's something else to help keep you dry. I like to put a tarp on this one as well.
Angus: What sort of wood, what sort of rough twigs have you used? Presumably some would be too brittle.
Ashley: Yeah. This is hazel. We're bringing this in, because it's nice and flexible. It's not going to snap as you bend it over. And then I think there are extra hazel supports down the side, as well. So, this is almost all hazel in here.
Angus: What do you do with the ends, then? Are they buried in the ground?
Ashley: Yeah. We just sharpened off the ends and stuck them into the ground, much the same as a croquet hoop. You stick one end in, and stick the other end it.
Angus: Sweet. When you're sleeping in there, do you cover the end of it?
Ashley: No, the end would stay open here. If you find that you were getting particularly cold, you could have a little fire going just outside here. The heat will come in; bring the heat in for you and help keep you warm.
Angus: Great. This is another piece of ground mat?
Ashley: That's another piece of ground mat, yeah, to stop the damp coming up from underneath.
Angus: Right. It takes about an hour?
Ashley: It takes about an hour to knock up something like this.
Angus: That's pretty quick.
Ashley: Providing you can find the wood and everything, but yeah about an hour.
Angus: How do you cut the wood?
Ashley: Just a small axe, machetes. It's not very thick wood. It cuts pretty easily - snap it off where you need to.
Angus: You've chosen for it quite a dry spot.
Ashley: Yeah. You want to pick an area where it's not on too much of a hill or too much of a slope where the water's going to run in underneath the sides, because that's where it's going to be the weakest.
Angus: Yes. You've avoided being under any beech trees or the sort of trees that might drop their branches.
Ashley: Absolutely, yeah.
Angus: Yes, great. Well, thank you very much.
Ashley: You're very welcome.