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I'm happiest when I'm outside, whether that be in my garden, up a hill or walking along our local cycle track foraging for blackberries and elderflowers with my daughters. Coupled to this my enjoyment of reading, and the book "The Outdoor Pocket Bible" was a must-buy from my Amazon wish list. However, my expectations weren't matched.
Contents / Opinion
After a brief introduction which outlines some legal do's and don'ts under the Countryside Rights of Way Act, there follows a woefully short section about wild food. I wouldn't recommend that anyone use this book to gather any of the wild mushrooms it features - there simply isn't enough information given to make it safe, and there aren't even any photos. Mushrooms are too risky to be picking and eating armed only with a paragraph's description to go off. I would suggest that if you wish to go foraging, there are better and more comprehensive reference books for this purpose, like R Mabey's "Food for Free".
Logically following on from the food chapter is a section on fires and outdoor cooking - there's some good advice but again I feel the chapter suffers from a lack of pictures and / or diagrams. There's a few recipes using wildly foraged ingredients, but this too I feel is quite short and there are several other books that offer far more information about wild food recipes.
The section on camping has lots of useful considerations and would certainly help someone who has never camped before. The navigation chapter works well when put into practice - I've tried the 'stick trick' and the 'watch trick' to orientate myself in relation to the compass points and found that these instructions work well. Also covered in this chapter is lunar navigation, how to use a compass and what to do if you're lost. Quite a useful section for those that have only ever used a sat nav yet now find themselves "somewhere" in the Lake District and can't work out whereabouts on the map you are!
If you get hurt whilst following the moon through the countryside (probably trying to navigate towards a Waterstones to buy a better book!), there are some quite handy basic first aid tips and actions on in the event of certain natural dangerous situations like lightning and fire. The main problem about written first aid instructions is that the information doesn't remain current for long, as various medical associations constantly update their advice about breaths to compressions ratios for resuscitation etc, but in an emergency situation something is better than nothing I suppose.
Moving into the survival skills chapter I'm yet again going to say that the detail is lacking and overall it's far too short. I know it's a pocket book, but when compared to the SAS Survival Handbook pocket book then it is desperately short on substance.
The weather chapter however does have some useful bits and bobs in there like weather forecasting by cloud formations and pieces of folklore - red sky in the morning, nuclear warning etc. The coastline section has a sea shell identification guide for collectors - no eating guide though for the molluscs found within. I'm starting to think the glue on the book's bindings has disintegrated and that several pages must have fallen out of my copy. Quick check, no, it's just the information that's missing. There is however quite a lot of information about seamanship. Must be proper useful if you live in landlocked Cannock.
A chapter that I have found fairly useful though is about knots. You don't have to be Bear Grylls to make good use of a figure of eight - remember that the next time your busted sofa is spilling out of your car boot on the way to the tip! There are diagrams too, which makes following how to do the knots a lot easier as you can check that you've done it right at each of the various stages.
The book redeems itself slightly with the diagrams in the knots chapter, but then reverts to type with written descriptions of animal tracks. Useless - a mark in the mud is a mark in the mud unless you have a picture to compare it with. Also, every paw print that is described is either the size of a £2 coin or a 5 pence piece. Not helpful at all, and difficult to see how I could identify the difference between a suspected Siberian Snow Tiger paw print along the canal footpath and a stray West Highland terrier just from a written description - if I'm not carrying a £2 coin with me. Details like this are important, we often have Siberian Snow Tigers roaming through Lancashire! A guide to identifying animals by their appearance is attempted but without having any pictures to follow, I felt that it was as useful as saying to someone that if it moos, it is a cow and if it growls, run.
There is a guide to finding the position of the different planets in the sky, but any usefulness it might have had is made redundant by the statement that you'll only know the position of the planets after first consulting an astronomical almanac, as guess what, they move. A lot. I don't know about you, but show me someone who carries an astronomical almanac with them on a countryside walk and I'll show you Uranus. Quite a useless section and I wonder how many squids needlessly gave their ink to print that section of the book.
The best feature of the book for me is the moving picture of a falling leaf as you flick through the pages. Seriously. Here's my recommendation - if you want a useful book with rules of thumb and good practical advice about the outdoors - do a Google search for Lofty Wiseman and buy his book. Apart from being able to burn the pages on a campfire, this book is as useful as still having ashtrays in the arm of an airplane's seat and as pointless as trying to tell a Londoner that the Olympics is just a load of people running about doing school sports day type games. Two stars.