Andrew Thomas Price is a broadcaster, wilderness survival instructor at Dryad Bushcraft and nemophilist (that’s a lover of woods and forests to you and me). Presenter of ITV Wales Coast and Country, he calls the Gower Peninsula home.
Where in Wales would you most like to pitch a tent?
I love the rugged landscape of the western Brecon Beacons. I could never get bored of waking up to that view. One of the greatest pleasures of wild camping in the remote areas of Wales is having an opportunity to observe the night sky, free from the light pollution that reduces our ability to see so much of the celestial beauty surrounding our little blue planet. As our seafaring ancestors knew all too well, the stars can also be used to guide us. We teach celestial navigation on several of our courses, and it’s just another tool in our repertoire of knowledge that enables us to travel comfortably in wild places.
Why are survival skills still as important as ever today?
Living in the 21st century, it would be very easy to forget that we humans are a part of nature. Everything we need for our basic survival is available at the switch of a button or the swipe of a credit card. Yet despite all this convenience, our mental health has been in precipitous decline for several generations. I attribute many of these problems with our collective disconnection from nature and our loss of self reliance. Learning survival skills helps us to reconnect with our natural instincts and enables us to become the masters of our own destiny. These are traits that can help us through challenging times.
Nice. So if you had to survive in the Welsh wilderness for good – where would you go?
I’d have to say the Gower Peninsular in South Wales, as this is where I grew up and I know every inch of it like the back of my hand. Gower is sparsely populated and has a unique range of terrain offering everything from salt marsh and a tidal estuary in the north to a rocky limestone coastline in the south. There are dozens of caves, some of which provided shelter to our Stone Age ancestors. Coastal areas are rich in shellfish and seaweeds, as well as edible plants like rock samphire and sea purslane. Inland there’s ancient woodland, productive farmland and a whole range of natural resources that would make long term sustainability possible.
How about the rest of us? How can we learn to survive in the wild?
I run bushcraft and wilderness survival skills courses at Park Woods, right in the middle of Gower, surrounded by a mixture of ancient woodland and coppiced young woodland. This gives us a lot of materials to use for activities like shelter building and friction fire lighting. Our one-day intro to bushcraft course and two-day woodsman courses are most popular. Or there are week-long ‘Bushmaster’ courses for those seeking more advanced training.
Besides training for the public, we offer specialist practical archaeology courses for Cardiff University, covering subjects like flint knapping and using Stone Age tools in an everyday setting.
We hear you’re a keen forager. What wild food can we hope to find in Wales and when?
Foraging is very seasonal and there are two times of year when we can really fill our baskets. The spring is the time of new growth and vibrance. As I write this, our woodland is full of wild garlic, and coastal plants like sea purslane are bursting into life. In the early autumn, we have a second bounty as the blackberries, nuts and fungi start to ripen.
Which hidden places did you discover when filming Coast and Country?
It’s difficult to choose a favourite, but Crib Goch in Snowdonia would definitely be high on the list. The coastline of North Pembrokeshire by kayak is another special memory for me. Wales has so much diversity for a country of its size; I love the fact I can be kayaking or surfing on the coast in the morning and climbing a mountain in the afternoon.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – what’s your number one survival tip?
The most important aspect of survival is mental strength. Learning skills and gaining the correct training helps us to build and maintain confidence in ourselves.