Wild Wanderings 9 – Gottröra, Sweden

Wild Wanderings 9 – Gottröra, Sweden

Pine and spruce trees in sunshine
Trees of the forest near Gottröra, Sweden. Photo: Paul Kirtley

You don’t always have to travel far to have a wild wandering. Admittedly for this edition of Wild Wanderings, I was already in a rural part of Sweden. All I needed to do was to step back into the woods and there was a range of interesting, trees, plants and fungi…

Gottröra, not far from Stockholm, was the venue of the 2017 Bushcraftfestivalen. I had been invited there to deliver some fire workshops over the weekend festival as well as be one of the adjudicators on the Swedish bow-drill championship, which is held at the event. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I recorded a series of short interviews and conversations with other workshoppers, presenters and organisers at the event for Paul Kirtley Podcast Episode 22.

Despite it being only a small hamlet, you may have heard of Gottröra, not just because the Bushcraftfestivalen has been held there since 2016 but also because of the “miracle of Gottröra”. On 27 December 1991, Scandinavian Airlines Flight 751, following take off from Stockholm airport, made an emergency landing in a field near Gottröra, after both engines failed. The aircraft broke into three parts but all 129 passengers and crew survived.

I travelled to Sweden with a couple of my team from Frontier Bushcraft. Since we travelled by plane (it’s only a couple of hours from London), we couldn’t take a lot of equipment with us or any materials for our workshops. We carried with us enough for a basic teaching camp plus our personal clothing and equipment. All the raw materials, we would have to source locally.

On arrival, we found an area we could base ourselves, on the edge of the forest, close to the main display area of the event. We set up some group tarps as a teaching area and erected our personal sleeping set-ups. We then needed to source materials for our fire workshops.

tarp in the woods with lenghts of pine underneath it
Part of our workshop area, with one of the expedition tarps pitched and resources being processed and stored. Photo: Paul Kirtley

The focus of our fire workshop was to be feathersticks and bow-drill. So, we needed to source straight-grained, dead, standing timber for feathersticks, suitable dead, dry wood for bow-drill friction fire sets plus tinder materials to take embers to flames.

Wilderness Bushcraft Applied

Turning up in a foreign country, going into the woods and getting everything we needed was also going to be a teaching point within the workshops. The capability to locate, identify and use the correct resources with the skill necessary for success is the purpose of learning wilderness bushcraft skills.

Swedish forest with pinus sylvestris and picea abies
Would the forest hold the resources we needed? The trees here are mainly Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, Norway spruce, Picea abies and silver birch, Betula pendula. Photo: Paul Kirtley

For feathersticks, there was plenty of dead, standing Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, from which to select some quality lengths. For bow-drill sets we found willow, Salix, common juniper, Juniperus communis, and again made use of Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris. I was particularly pleased with the bow-drill materials collected. We had found three species with wood in viable condition for the friction parts of bow drill sets within only a few hundred metres radius of our teaching area.

In terms of finding tinder materials, it was a little harder but we found a limited amount of dead bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, some outer bark of common juniper, Juniperus communis, and plenty of dead grass, Poaceae, which became dry enough once we had left it suspended in some branches near our camp, where it benefited from the sun and breeze for the afternoon. With a bit of preparation of our foraged materials, including fashioning bow-drill sets, we were ready for our sessions, starting the following morning.

While we were out wandering, I also took the opportunity to take some photos of other species that caught our attention. The photos in this article were all taken 25-27 August 2017 inclusive.

Eye-Catching Fruit and Fungi

Vaccinium vitis-idaea berries
Vaccinium vitis-idaea, known as lingon in Sweden, is a typical constituent of the ground covering plants found under pines and spruces in this part of the world, so not at all surprising to see it here. Nevertheless it’s always good to find these tart yet tasty berries. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Green and red berries of Lily of the Valley dangline from stem
Here are some more fruits which caught my eye. They are not as widespread or common as lingon and you certainly don’t want to be eating these fruits of Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis, containing toxic glycosides and saponins. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Man, tree and fomes
Iain checking out a dead silver birch, Betula pendula, with a healthy population of horse’s hoof fungi, Fomes fomentarius. Note also the woodpecker hole close to the top of the trunk. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Looking up a tree with a lot of hoof fungi on it.
The bracket fungi were arranged as if inviting us to climb. Despite the fact that F. fomentarius can be attached very strongly, we didn’t accept the invitation. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Horse's hoof bracket fungus, Fomes fomentarius
One of the many horse’s hoof fungi, Fomes fomentarius. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Orange capped mushroom being held by hand
Another species of fungi associated with birch trees, which we spotted in the woods here, is the orange birch bolete, Leccinum versipelle. It’s a common, widespread and edible fungus. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Orange birch bolete, Leccinum versipelle showing some key ID features
Some distinguishing features of Leccinum versipelle on display here – note the margin of the cap drops down to overhang the pores underneath, the swelling at the base of the stem and blue-green colouring in the base of the stem. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

The Materials Collected Were A Flaming Success

You can see some photos of my demonstrations at the workshop, taken by participants, here and here. More important than what I did, however, was what the participants achieved. Below are a couple of images I managed to snatch while helping the many people we had at each session. At times it felt like the three of us on my team were a little over-run, we had so many people in our workshops but it was enjoyable and satisfying to be at the centre of such great enthusiasm for these skills.

Turning grass to flame
Both of these participants in our fire workshop very much wanted to succeed with bow-drill and they did. Teaming up they made a good ember and one of them blew it to flames. Neither knew each other before our session but the joy of achieving fire was certainly shared. Photo: Paul Kirtley
This family could not get enough of the fire skills, again showing quick success with one of our bow-drill sets. They loved it so much they came back to visit us again in the afternoon! Photo: Paul Kirtley
Hultafors knives with orange handles
We had dozens of people making feathersticks in each workshop, so we were glad to have been able to find such good materials in the forest nearby (we used the leftowvers all for our campfire in the evening). While many people had their own knives we are very grateful to the guys on the Hultafors stand at the show, who loaned us these knives for those people who didn’t have a knife to hand. Photo: Paul Kirtley

We had a wonderful time at the Bushcraftfestival and look forward to visiting our friends – old and new – in Sweden again in the future. We’re thankful to everyone for making us so welcome and to the forest for providing what we all needed to share skills.

What Are These Wild Wanderings Blogs Anyway?

Wild Wanderings is a series of photoblogs of elements of nature which, having caught my eye while out and about, I want to share with you, the reader. These observations are typically related to tree and plant identification, animal tracks and sign and other aspects of natural history which pertain to bushcraft and survival skills.

These blogs do not usually contain much written explanation other than concise photo captions. This is intentional, as writing long descriptions, including background facts or a large amount of context, whether it be historical or contemporary, slows down the sharing of these images with you.

Photographic Kit

Some of the photos in this article were taken with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge phone. The rest were taken with the diminutive yet powerful Leica D-Lux (Type 109).

Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog

PK Podcast 022: Conversations From Bushcraftfestivalen

PK Podcast 024: Why Your Bow-Drill Time Obsession Is Important

How to Avoid Mistaking Lily-of-the-Valley for Ramsons

The Easy Way to Use Fomes Fomentarius as Tinder

Wild Wanderings 8 – Damp And Green

6 thoughts on “Wild Wanderings 9 – Gottröra, Sweden

  1. Nice paul! Makes me wish I could’be been there!!

  2. Hi Paul!
    Great article as always. I hope one day to join your courses! Fire sticks are of particular interest to me because I am not an expert fire starter and I always have to be careful to carry lighters and starter with me. Please keep me updated on your courses and I hope to read from you again soon.
    Warmest regards

    1. Thanks Shawn. It’s definitely worth extending your repertoire of fire-lighting skills as much as possible.

      Glad you enjoyed the article. I’ll aim to write more in this series before too long.

      Warm regards,


    1. Thanks Ruud. I’m happy you enjoy them so much. I’ll try to do them more often in future… 🙂

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