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Meet Lesley Swain

I grew up on a farm and as well as doing all of the things you'd expect a farmer's kid to do I tailed my grandparents around, who as a pre-war generation had been taught and absorbed the value of wild foods and so I absorbed what they knew as I wandered around the countryside with them.

As I grew older and became more interested in learning I amassed a huge collection of books about plants, trees, and fungi and learned as best I could on my own, supplementing it later - on courses with people I respected. My first job was as a veterinary nurse for a local farming practice, followed by some very eclectic stuff - taxi driver, life model, vermin control, abattoir worker, theatre dresser etc. - and eventually I went to university to study something very different from what I'd learned so far, to study drama, working as an actor and backing singer when I graduated, and later qualifying as a drama therapist and a counselor followed by establishing some of the first national support groups for people with HIV.

I worked for a while with local authority Environmental Health departments in the HIV/aids field and graduated through them to a training department where I wrote training courses from H&S at work to Personal Safety, the PACE Act to Plain English, and Assertiveness to Diversity and Equal Opps. Through this work, I met people who worked within the Ministry Of Defense and I was paid to establish lots of courses for them, eventually moving on to write and lead courses on what was then known as 'survival' in many different environments from the Amazon to the Andes and Himalaya. During this time I was taken under the wing of a specialist tracker from the MOD and with their help over time expanded my tracking skills until I was able to lead groups tracking humans and animals in the environments I worked in. As the people who I met through these courses began to move out into the wider workplace my contacts began to work overseas, some starting companies and so I began leading trekking groups, managing basecamps for mountaineering groups or leading expeditions concerning surveys of mammalian, bird and insect populations. I met and worked alongside many peoples as I went about my work, from Amazonian tribes to Sherpas, Andean (Quechuan) people, and many others and was lucky enough that they generously taught their way of life and shared skills with me that I hope I returned in some way.

Despite loving my work I gradually became less able-bodied and more restricted in my travel and began to provide the same services in the UK. Over this same period, the term 'survival' was gradually replaced by 'bushcraft' (even tho the skills remained similar) and so I wrote and led 'bushcraft' related courses and canoe expeditions and began to apply my foraging skills to these courses, eventually ending up running my own company teaching this alongside my other courses.

That's where I am today - writing courses for companies who teach bushcraft skills, teaching what I call 'country lore' (because it includes those skills that were common in the countryside when I was young but which have gradually been lost by many) and occasionally helping out on specialised expeditions for many organisations. I still sing and play instruments (melodian, whistles etc) - mostly in folk groups and for local sessions in pubs and community centers. I paint watercolours that I sell locally, love green woodworking (spoons, kuksa, hurdles, gates, baskets, etc etc that I sell here too) and I practice foraging - spending hours everyday sourcing as much of our food from the countryside as I can - and watching our wildlife as unobtrusively as possible, usually from underneath a tarp in quiet and out of the way places.

I've used my tracking and veterinary experience with badger vaccination groups and in managing deer and other wild animal populations. I love introducing people to the world I grew up in. I still have a wider family who are farmers and still manage land in the Peak District and spend time farming, maintaining, and improving (I hope) some beautiful places that I know you all enjoy too.

There are some conflicts and some disasters (we lost many hectares of moorland and woodland to fires last year) but on the whole, people are respectful and I enjoy sharing my love of the land with them. I hope you have a better idea who I am after this, and at the end of the day, I'm just like you all, another lover of the world's beautiful places who (mostly) enjoys the same things you do and collects an inordinate amount of kit in the pursuit of that enjoyment.

Lesley's Tutorial link here


Bushcraft Instructor,Lesley Swain,Meet Our Team

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