We attempted to survive in the woods for 3 days. Bear Grylls would be ashamed.
- [Ben] I can barely swallow it, dude. - I hate you. Hi, have you ever felt the need to plonk yourself in the middle of a forest, and attempt to live off the land for three days straight? No? Fair enough.
Me and my brother, Ben did it, and it didn't go that great. Here's the full story. Last summer, just after I'd completed my "Straight-line mission across Norway." Yes! Me and my brother, Ben who is a fairly keen, foraging enthusiast, decided to do something that our ancestors decided to fuck off thousands of years ago, forage, hunt and live off the land.
Now, obviously this is nothing new in the world of YouTube, and beyond. There are countless people that do this and do it exceptionally well, like without tools and shit. But for me and Ben, the idea of just camping in the woods, even with pots and pans and a stove for three whole days with no guaranteed source of food was a leap into the unknown.
Ben's knowledge on plants and mushrooms would definitely help. But apart from that, we were pretty clueless, especially when it came to fishing and hunting. (laughing loudly) Oh mate, you absolutely- - Well that would kill a pigeon. - Basically we had very little idea of how this was going to go. (laughing) We are driving down to our survival in the woods for three days, foraging, hunting, location. How you feeling Ben? - I mean, we've trimmed our diet, haven't we? - [Tom] Yes, we have.
- So I've stopped eating English muffins and kilos of pasta. (chuckling) In a bid to prepare our bodies for hunger, really. - Yeah. - But, bring it on in a way, because with that will come incredibly high spirits. When we catch that fish, when we find a big raspberry bush or just when it's all over. - Yeah, yeah.
My fear is that none of those things happen. The fish slip by, the raspberry bushes are withered and wilted. - Yeah. - And we have to resort to really bland food. - Fuck. - No salt, no scrumptious English butter.
- Yeah, no garlic, no carbs- - No carbs, no sugar. - The only other thing that could go wrong is we could be booted off. -Yeah that's true Booted out of the woods which would be really demoralising. We don't know, this is an adventure and I'm excited for it. - Yeah, me too. - [Tom] So where were we going to do this? Well, we wanted somewhere remote and far from civilization but it was also equally important that the area was lush and bountiful.
And with at least some berries and mushrooms, and preferably with a small river so that we could attempt to catch fish. The wild mountains of Wales and Scotland would actually offer us very little, in terms of forageable plants and fruits. So instead we look to the squirrel infested, deciduous forests, and lush Meadows of the South of England. Wiltshire, to be precise.
There's our river. What do you reckon? - I think it's a decent size. - [Ben] Yeah, it's promising.
- [Tom] Oh, there's a van coming. - [Ben] Yeah, wiggle on. Do you wanna have a look here. Pull in here, yeah, on the left. - [Tom] Yeah go on then. - [Ben] There's a style there.
Keep out, private property. Private fishing. (chuckling) - [Tom] Oh. But this one's very groomed and- - [Tom] Yeah it is. - Private, really. - [Tom] Despite early warning signs on the Eastern front, we had a whole day ahead of us to scout out the perfect place.
So we headed West along the river towards the heart of the forest. - This looks very groomed. Doesn't it? Look, they've mowed the grass look here. - [Tom] Yeah, that's private fishing.
Yeah. - Beautiful spot though, isn't it? - [Tom] Maybe there's a section further downstream that's not privately fished. - I'm in love with this river already.
I mean, look how clear it is, no problem drinking that and bathing in it. - It's a paddler, isn't it? - [Tom] And it wasn't long before we met some of its residents. Oh my God, that is the biggest fish.
That is so good. If you dangled a worm. - [Ben] You should surely throw a worm in there with a line on it. - [Tom] Yeah mate. - [Ben] Asking for it. - [Tom] Hopeful about our fishing prospects.
We entered the forest where Ben, quickly found signs of more food in the form of unripe hazelnut husks and a fancy leaf called Woodsorrel. - Just chew on it - [Tom] Oh, that's nice. That's really nice. - It's like apple peel isn't it? - [Tom] Yeah, yeah.
But the forest floor here was far too damp and saturated to call home. So we moved further up the hill where we spotted something incredible. That is huge, mate. - That's it, mate.
That's chicken of the woods. - [Tom] Oh, mate. Get in. But as if a giant edible mushroom wasn't enough, this forest had another surprise for us. - [Ben] Oh God. - [Tom] Oh, pigeon?
No. That's a grouse or pheasant, yeah. Yeah, there's loads.
- [Ben] This is a joke, mate. - [Tom] This is a pheasant farm, isn't it? Ooh, I mean- - Look Tom, look at that. It's like Jurassic park with the velociraptors. Tom, look at that! - [Tom] Oh mate, look, feeding platforms. - [Ben] Tom, look at that.
- [Tom] Oh shit. - [Ben] Now this is wrong isn't it? - [Tom] This is serious, yeah. It turns out that this entire forest was part of a private estate, in which pheasants, grouse and other game birds were bred and hunted on mass. A disappointing revelation for me and Ben, who would come here in search of a challenge that was out of the way of human activity. Not to run around pinging stones at hordes of confused pheasants, while avoiding the landowners.
Who had gone to great lengths, by the way to warn people away with these pretty aggressive signs we discovered on the long walk back to the car. A brief search, further downstream for the perfect spot was completely fruitless. And all of a sudden, it started to feel like the trip was in jeopardy.
But time is ticking on. You know, we need to find a place. We need to scout it out. See how hot it is. Rustle up our final meal tonight, which is crucial and set up camp, which all takes time.
So this is bad right now. Back in the car, we toyed with the idea of driving down to the coast, just West of Bournemouth. But despite the appeal of shellfish, it was too much of a gamble at this point. Instead we headed 10 miles Northeast, to this forest by the River Avon.
Which despite its smaller size, somehow felt more welcoming. We do have another grouse farm but there's no sign saying you're gonna get shot and you're not welcome here. It was by no means a perfect situation. And we did question whether the whole thing was going to work, but ultimately we decided to give it a go. Well, here we are. As you can see, it's late at night "and I'm not feeling right." (laughing)
Nah, it's the last supper, you know, the last meal- - [Ben] For a long time. - [Tom] For a long, long time, possibly ever. Nah. But yes, it's the last time we're gonna digest food that you would buy in the supermarket, put it that way.
Who knows what food we'll consume after this, but it's not gonna be a large amount. So you know, this is a monumental moment. Well, here is our camp spot. This is the forest that we'll be staying in. Morning Ben? - Morning. - [Tom] How are you feeling? Any cravings yet? - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. (chuckling)
- Should we get foraging, Ben? - M-hmm, let's try. - [Tom] So nice and early, we left the camp in search of whatever low hanging fruit we could find. And it wasn't long before we started to find some. These might be the most pathetic- - Shriveled specimens. - Yeah, not a good start.
We've also found these, but we'll consult- - [Ben] Bilberry? - Bilberry, yeah, maybe. That's edible but we'll consult the book and come back. But my thought is that they're not edible and are poisonous. We've got a fair bit of elderberry, which is edible. Some young nettles all along here, for a nice, tasteless nettle soup. - Ground-ivy, down there.
That pongy stuff that you tried yesterday. - [Tom] Oh yeah. Lets keep moving. (chuckling) - Shit, crab apples. - [Tom] Oh yes, Ben. Are they crab apples? Or are they actual..
They're in like- - Granny Smiths. - [Tom] No, not Granny Smiths but- - I think they're crab apples. - [Tom] Cooking apples or something. Well, that's good. Surely they're edible. - Yeah, if you cook them, I think.
- [Tom] A bit of sugar. Nice man. - Maybe with some elderberry, have a little pud'.
- [Tom] Yes, just need the crumble. - Look at this as well. - [Tom] Oh wow. That look like just normal... - Field mushrooms. - [Tom] Do you think they are? Are they pink in there? - Yeah, I mean the Field mushrooms I've seen, usually have brown gills. Yeah, I don't trust the pinkness.
- [Tom] No, fair enough. I'm totally fine with that decision. (chuckling) We discovered the night before that the section of the river nearest to our wood was heavily private. So we decided to walk North, through the Meadows and down to the river upstream, where we were hoping that we could attempt to fish in peace later that day.
On the way we found a main course that we weren't quite ready for. And a blackberry bush that we would come to heavily rely on during our time here. To those, we added some ripe looking elderberries and headed down to the river, to see if we could spot ourselves a proper meal in the form of this fellow's distant cousin. And it seemed, we were in luck. There's a few... There's another one. - [Ben] Yeah.
- [Tom] There's big fish down here, guys. That's promising. I don't know what they are, trout or what? - [Ben] I think they look, yeah, like trout.
- [Tom] Yeah, well, why don't we just drop a line with a hook here, do you know what I mean? We can fish here. Yeah, we can fish here. We couldn't, it was strictly illegal and punishable with heavy fines, but we didn't know that at the time. And with our stomachs already rumbling from the epic mile-walk down there, we were keen to head back to the forest to rustle something simple and tasteless up. Starting with these hazelnuts, perhaps.
Got a couple on the floor here, hazel kernels. Oh yeah. Yes, yes.
With a view to return to the river later that morning to catch ourselves a juicy one. Right, what we got Ben? - So, we got some burdock. - [Tom] Yeah, nice. - So I've never actually tried burdock. - [Tom] Okay.
- And then we've got young shoots of curled dock. - [Tom] Okay. - Or broadleaf dock or whatever. - [Tom] Well, is that just nice? - Yeah, you can eat it raw, or you can just cook it down. - [Tom] Yeah? - And then nettles.
- [Tom] Okay. - And then I've got the fat hen. - [Tom] Yeah, yeah. - I mean...
- [Tom] And then we've got that piece of chicken of the woods. - Yeah. - [Tom] That should be a good breakfast. Well, yeah, with the blackberries and stuff But again, we were badly mistaken.
Burdock, looks tasty. - [Ben] Yeah man. - [Tom] Smells awful. Fat hen seeds are a kind of wild version of quinoa. Ben explained to me proudly as I scraped enthusiastically at its bushy clusters.
- Mate this is gonna be a fucking hearty meal, if it doesn't do anything wrong to us. - [Tom] Yeah But this particular plant was highly unripe and would go on to haunt us for weeks to come. First up though, the burdock root. - [Tom] How's the burdock man? - Oh man.
- It's like, you've just taken a bite out of that rotten log. - [Tom] Oh shit. Okay, I'm expecting the worst. My turn now. And I was hoping that the quinoa-esque fat hen seeds would sweeten the rotten log.
- [Ben] I can barely swallow it, dude. - I hate you. - [Ben] Mate, if we didn't have this, we have nothing. - Surely that's poisonous.
(laughing) Are you sure that's what it is? - [Ben] What, burdock? - Yeah. - [Ben] Well I'm like 97% sure. - Yeah, the burdock is... isn't too bad actually.
Compared to that other thing, it's sweet. - Oh man. - It's like a Roundtree's Fruit Pastel compared to that. - There's something in there that's just harrowing. (chuckling) You know I'll settle for just vague soil taste. - Yeah.
Mmhm, soil. First meal. - Oh, fuck. (chuckling) Why did I fucking do this Tom? (laughing) We need to get a fish. - Yah, I think we do. Can't live on this for three days.
- No. It's possible, but- - Not without being sick. Having forced down a few measly mouthfuls of some of nature's more acrid offerings, we moved swiftly onto the chicken of the woods mushroom we'd found the day before. A couple of months prior to this trip Ben and I had successfully cooked a giant mushroom, known as dryad saddle. - Fuckinell', dry ass saddle. (laughing) - And we had joked about the uncertainty of the situation and its possible outcomes.
- Groovy t-shirt, man. (laughing) Ahhh! - [Tom] But in reality, on both that occasion and this one, Ben was about as sure as you can possibly be that the mushroom was in fact edible. And that's exactly what I would urge anyone watching this video, to make sure of too. There is a question mark over the chicken of the woods, it's edible, but it can affect certain people. Certain people can have a reaction to it, a bad reaction. - I don't know about bad reaction, but you can...
Some people get like a mild stomach-thing. - [Tom] Okay. - And also depending on the tree that it comes from.
- [Tom] Yeah, if it's on Yews and seeds it can have toxins in it. - Which we are relatively sure it wasn't. - [Tom] Yeah, not that sure. - So we're gonna have a little bit, as advised. - [Tom] See what it does to us. If we're fine, we can eat more.
- Don't know how little they mean, you know what I mean? - [Tom] I know, yeah. Okay. Here we go. It's good. Whenever I eat mushrooms there's like this a little niggling doubt when it doesn't taste like the supermarket mushrooms, like what's this gonna do to me? But no, that's good, man. And it does taste of chicken. - Does it?
What are you thinking? It's good, innit? - Slight Amsterdam truffle. - [Tom] No, that's so much better than what we've just eaten. - Yeah. - But if the mushroom tasted sweet to our now, tortured taste buds what would a Blackberry tastes like? Oh, dessert. Yes, yes indeed.
Day-oh! It's nothing new, this one, but we know it's gonna give us some sugar, and some protein in the maggots. Mhmm, God, that's good. (chuckling) It's just pure sugar, isn't it? - Oh, so much better.
(Tom laughing) It makes you realise how... Why they're such a staple that everyone knows. - Yeah. If you're used to eating cakes and chocolate bars and sweets and you go out and eat these, you probably won't like 'em. But after eating dock... (chuckling) Dock root and hen seeds, that's like pure honey. - Well, it really is. It's like
you put two things together, makes you appreciate. Like this to the normal palate might just be like absurdly bitter. But we're just like... - [Tom] Yeah, yeah, it would be. Another scout into the Meadows to our East, produced some wild parsnips, which would make a great addition to our fantasy trout dinner later on. But then Ben checked his notes and remembered that the roots are only really edible before the plant flowers.
And because the pre-flower plant looks extremely similar to poisonous plants in the same family, it makes it very tricky to identify safely. So we wolf down some more mushroom and set off into the rain, back down to the river where the fate of the trip, kind of hinged on catching a large trout. Okay, we have it on good authority from the old man in the fishing shop in Tamworth, that a worm is by far and wide, the best bait if you wanna catch a trout.
An earthworm. So let's dig one up. Every thing I do now takes so much energy and it's only half way through the first day, but there's a nice worm. Not too big, just the right size for a trout and it's in one piece.
So there's one. There's another one. Okay, we got two. Where's that other one gone? Fuck, I've lost him.
How you doing man? - Good. Oh fuck. Have you got anything? - [Tom] I've got four worms. - Have ya? - [Tom] Yeah. - Where have you put 'em? - [Tom] In my pocket. 'Cause I put one on the side and it just like must have wriggled back into the ground.
We had decided that a rod would be cheating for some reason. So using a short stick as a reel, and a lead weight given to us by the man in the fishing shop, which we had absolutely no idea how to implement. We tied the hook on.
Yeah, is it right? Attached the unlucky worm. That's it, that's on. That is absolutely on. And prepared to cast. Here goes. (Ben chuckling) - [Tom] Shit - [Ben] Maybe get some slack and just lob it in.
- That's caught on the side. (Ben chuckling) - That is such a fail. This is how you fish, ladies and gents. There it is, we are fishing.
And we would continue to do so, for some while. Ben taking his position on the bridge, with myself, perched lower down by a stiller area, casting technique improving with every launch. Mate, the line snapped. - [Ben] You serious? So we've lost that weight. Okay, I don't think we can cast it out like that anymore. - [Ben] I think what you'll need to do, is to just get some slack. - [Tom] Yeah, just lob it.
- [Ben] Just lob it. - [Tom] Yeah, yeah. Alright, resist that, I dare you. Even I was tempted to eat that. But even with my new casting technique that reached over two yards and with Ben's worm, dangling invitingly under the shade of the bridge.
We still couldn't tempt one of the trout, who taunted us regularly, by leaping from the water. Mate, they keep leaping out here. Some of them all brazen trouts, even had the audacity to bite the worms right off the hook. Yeah, the fucking worm's gone, man. - [Ben] Really? - You had a bite then. - [Tom] I had a bite. Yeah, they've tugged it off again mate.
Needless to say, after three long hours we were both feeling pretty hopeless, humiliated and hungry. Been doing this a while now, seems pretty hopeless 'cause I don't think we're doing it right. Not casting properly and line's getting tangled up, it's snapping, and that disappointment coupled with... And made stronger by just huge pangs of hunger, and like dizzying weakness. I'm riding it out so far, but... And the sun's come out which is nice.
But tomorrow when it's raining, not looking forward to that if we can't catch a fish. We were so hopeful 'cause of all the big ones we could see just lying around. But they're smarter than you think. At about 4:00 PM, we came into contact with some mountain bikers.
How you doing? - Not bad thanks, not bad. Who told us how illegal it was to fish here, but that they did poach this same stretch of river themselves, and to great success, annoyingly. But when a clearly wealthy local family walked by shortly after and quizzed us on what we were doing, which I decided not to film. Me and Ben concluded that it was probably time to call it a day. I think we should call it a day then.
- [Ben] I think so. We're getting more activity, human-wise, not fish-wise. - I got plenty of fish bite the worm right off the hook.
That's the frustrating thing. So yeah, maybe we focus our efforts on blackberries- - [Ben] More blackberries, blackberries and blueberries. - More blackberries and whatever else we can find. - [Ben] Yeah. - Some stinging nettles soup.
- [Ben] Argh! - Ugh! So after picking some fresh water mint, Ben filled up the fresh water bottles. Is that you Robin Williams? - Yes it's me. - I ate a worm, purely because of how juicy it looked. Squeeze out the poop, all the bad stuff.
And just pop it in. Ugh, dude. And we both made a beeline for the blackberries. Okay, no fish, but we're gonna stick to our word and attempt to fill our little Tupperware box with blackberries, make some sort of blackberry, elderberry, nettle and mint stew.
And then maybe if we've got enough fruit leftover make a little sort of very bitter jam. (laughing) - Ugh! - [Tom] Despite the much needed injection of humor from Ben the walk back up to base with nearly two gallons of water was a tough one. Made worse by the disappointment of the fishing spot, the inevitable heavy rain. And in my case, an infected ingrowing toenail and a damaged knee ligament. Both sustained on the "Mission across Norway." I feel like the Tin man from "Wizard of Oz."
But back at camp, spirits were low. I won't lie, it's a bit of a low point. We're so, so hungry and weak. You know what time has it been, like 5:00 PM on the first day? And we know that it's gonna rain tomorrow and- - [Ben] Storms are due. - It's storm on Tuesday. It's gonna be 29 miles an-hour winds, we're worried about trees falling over that might keep us up at night or the trees creaking, and just horrible weather. We might even be confined to our tents for most of the Tuesday.
So if so, we're gonna need to prepare food tomorrow to eat on Tuesday. And so, yeah, it's a low point but the smell of this bubbling away, mint, blackberries and nettles- - [Ben] And curl leaf dock. - Oh, there you go. Didn't even know that was in there. The smell of that coming up is music to my nose. It really is.
Mhmm. Oh yeah, that's great. Something for our little bellies. Isn't it? (crying) Nutrients, man, can feel... can just feel that that's good.
- [Ben] Tastes quite nice, doesn't it? The broth Minty- - It does. Yeah, yeah, minty, fruity... It's like a tea that you would get in a hotel or something. All right, we're trying to break into one of our hazelnut shells. (knife clanking) - [Ben] Fuck me! Smell of praline? What, does it? - Not really. - [Ben] What are we dealing with inside? There you go, there's your nut.
- That's a hazelnut? - [Ben] Well, the middle of it is, supposedly. - Soft and spongy. - [Ben] Is it? - I'm not gonna swallow it cause it's, in case it's bad in that stage.
But that tasted of nuttin' Argh, that's disappointing. It's one snack down the drain. (chuckling) - [Ben] Fuck it. Won't need to put all of them in.
I think, let's do that, see how it tastes. - [Tom] Yeah, cause we want the ratio to be right. - We want a bit of sweetness in there. - [Tom] Okay. - 'Cause we wanna enjoy it.
(chuckling) - [Tom] We do. Try it, maybe just see how sour that is. It should be pretty bitter. Mate, that's fine. - [Ben] Is it? - That's nice.
(chuckling) - Yeah, it's got- - Get 'em in the pot, mate, Fuck me. - [Tom] Oh mate, are you kidding? - Come on, dude. - [Tom] That's two in a row that didn't land in the pot. (chuckling) What a dessert. - Right, see how that bubbles up.
- [Tom] Mate, that smells like just the beautiful filling of a crumble. It smells sweet. - Maybe that's your brain telling you that you are about to experience a beautiful crumble. - [Tom] Yeah. - But in fact you're... - [Tom] In fact I'm not and it's gonna be very bitter.
I think we're gonna enjoy it anyway then, that's... Just the smell of that is raising my spirits a bit. - Yeah. - No, it's not that bad at all. - It's like, it's quite tart, but it's not. There's still sweetness there.
- [Tom] Yeah, I think the apple is fantastic. - Yeah, life-changing. - [Tom] Really uplifting pudding that is. - Yup. - [Tom] Gotta do better tomorrow though, I think.
- We'll try. - [Tom] So that we can last the storm. So, morning guys. It's 7:00 AM, second day.
Had an alright night's sleep, until the latter part of the night and I started feeling just sick, really. Just nauseous. So I thought I was gonna be ill.
And then as the morning came, as the cockerel crowed, yeah, I'm just feeling really sick, weak. The thought of eating any food now, even the most luscious fillet of trout makes me wanna be sick. I've got no appetite. I don't know whether it's the effects of what we're doing. The lack of food and the effect it's having on my body. Or I've got an infected toe but whether that can make you ill, I don't know.
So let's see how the morning pans out and let's see how I feel in an hour. But it turns out it wasn't just me and Ben was feeling pretty similar. So eventually we got up and sat about for a bit to gauge how we were feeling. You know, your hands are shaking, weak, heartbeat racing.
How do you compare? - I think I've got similar symptoms- - [Tom] Like you haven't got much of an appetite... - I haven't got any appetite. - [Tom] No? - That's all. - So what was it that had caused us to feel this way? Was it toxins in the mushroom? The cyanide in the elderberries? Polluted river water? Creepy crawlies, or maybe a combination of things? Well, we're still not a hundred percent sure but the most likely answer is that our bodies were going through a phase known as Ketosis. We'd eaten very few carbs during this exercise and during the two days leading up to it.
And when your body runs out of carbs and starts burning off fat reserves, it can actually make you feel pretty ill. AKA keto-flu, something me and Ben had clearly, not read up on. Sick to the stomach at the very thought of eating one more nettle. And only too aware of all the other issues that were affecting this experiment, the weather, the questionable privately-owned location, with its far away fishing spot, which I now have to hobble to, only to potentially receive a thousand pound fine. We began to admit that this probably wasn't our time. We decided to ride it out until at least 10:00 AM, which would mark 36 hours since we last ate normal food, and see how we felt then.
But we still felt fucking awful. So we packed up our shit and buggered off home. Overall, the trip was a resounding failure for a mixture of reasons. But as with any failure, you learn a great deal from it. And Ben and I went home eager to try again next year, but properly, with experience under our belts and a deeper understanding of how our bodies work under pressure. And of course, in a truly wild setting, such as Norway somewhere where we can forage and fish with complete freedom and hopefully better technique, we will surely return victorious.
For now though, I hope you enjoyed our story.