There was a lush green glow in the glade; the smell of fern and mulchy ground. A chiffchaff and a robin sang over each other unperturbed by our crashing through the leaf litter hunting for logs. We were on raised ground in the woodland and a small river gurgled down a bank to our south as, beyond our patch, which was darkened by the canopy, thick sun settled on the greenery like honey. A perfect place to build a shelter…or, as us slightly less survivalist like to call it, a den.
Just being in any wood is a treat and building a simple ‘A-frame’ den is the perfect way to get more closely acquainted. It is a magical place to secret yourself away, to watch the wood come alive and a cheap, warm way to camp the night.
Unless very dry, old clothes or a jacket are a good idea as the majority of the work is moving fallen leaves. Then it is just a case of finding two dead logs with ‘Y’-shaped ends and interlocking them with a long ‘spine’ to form an elongated, tapering tripod. Lay sticks along each side like ribs, before covering the whole thing in dried leaf litter until it is deep enough for you to plunge your arm up to your elbow into it. The whole thing should take less than two hours.
Kids love to build dens but it is a joy that shouldn’t be left in childhood. On our knees, working with the sticks and leaves, we draw close to the wood in a far greater way than when merely passing through on a dog walk. Build an A-frame den right and it will keep you insulated, soundproofed and dry. With the addition of a small fire and a sleeping bag, it provides the perfect overnight shelter to watch wildlife or just retreat to when you need an escape from the urban world for 24 hours.