The first weekend in September saw us packing up our woodcarving tools, tent and camping essentials and boarding a flight to Amsterdam to attend the first ever Campfire Stories, a micro festival in The Netherlands organised by a friend of ours, Selfa Verlaat.
We were lucky enough to meet Selfa by chance during the Fjallraven Classic hike in Northern Sweden back in 2011. Those familiar with our story will know that this event was a life changer for us and set us on the path which lead us to creating Miscellaneous Adventures, so when Selfa decided to put together her first festival and asked us to join the line up, there was no hesitation.
Set in Roggebotstaete, an hours drive from Amsterdam, the festival was set to be a weekend of inspiring stories set around a central campfire, workshops, yoga and even ice bath training all designed to bring people closer to nature, inspire creativity and give them the space to unwind, switich off from the digital world and relax.
We were invited to tell our story and teach two woodcarving workshops over the course of the weekend. As soon as we arrived, we knew it was going to be a fun weekend. The location was not what we had expected from Holland (having only visited Amsterdam before) lush, green and full of trees, it was the perfect spot for us to teach. However, as this was our first time taking our workshops on the road, we found ourselves having to improvise a little to make sure the experience would be similar to our workshops at home whilst working with the surroundings and facilities we had to hand. We usually use freshly felled silver birch as our carving material but with only a few fairly mature specimens dotted around the estate we decided instead to use hazel, equally good for carving and in this case, taking it would have less of an impact on the environment.
After felling one branch that would provide enough wood for 9 people, we set to work finding suitable chopping blocks. There are not many mature trees in this area of The Netherlands as the land was only reclaimed from an area of sea (the Zuiderzee) in the early 1900s. This meant there was some work to do in finding large enough chopping blocks for woodcarving and then more to do to make sure they were safe enough to use. Fortunately for us a friend from Holland had packed his chainsaw on a whim at the last moment 'in case it was needed'. It was. We managed to forage nine chopping blocks from a big pile of firewood and set them up in a secluded meadow on the edge of the woodland ready to teach our first group of students.
Over the next two days, under perfect blue skies, we taught 18 people how to turn a log into a spatula using only an axe, saw and knife. As always, it was great to watch people who had never before used these tools become empowered through learning some basic carving techniques that will also serve them well on many future adventures.
On the Saturday evening, with everyone gathered around the campfire, Andrew was invited to tell the story of how Miscellaneous Adventures came into being and to give an insight into the things we have learned from our seven years of living and working in a woodland and the impact this has had on our lives.
Thoughout the weekend there were a host of other inspiring stories to be heard from adventurers, entrepeneurs and creatives. A highlight for us was a wild flower walk with Maidie from Blosembar. Maidie makes incredible drinks from foraged ingredients and we were really interested to hear her story and sample a couple of delicious wild cocktails from her pop up bar.
We finished on Sunday with a delicious lunch cooked by Conan the chef who had cooked tirelessly over fire for the three days to prepare all of the weekend's incredible meals. We said our goodbyes, packed up our tools and headed home.
A huge thank you to Selfa for inviting us to attend what was a really inspiring weekend. Also to Rogier for bringing his chainsaw and helping us prepare and to Esther for pizza in Amsterdam on Sunday evening. See you next year!