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31.01.2014 admin
With mud, blood and insects on the menu, a Bear Grylls family survival course is no picnic for Ben Hatch and daughter.
Half an hour later, Scott Heffield, Bear's right-hand man (Bear's away filming), is ordering us to daub mud all over our faces and arms to block out our natural smells.
We're in the car park - the Bear Grylls family survival course hasn't even started and children are already volunteering to eat insects.
Each is limited to 12 places (six pairs), although one place per course can be reserved for an adult with two children. It's the first sign my daughter Phoebe, 10, and I might be in over our heads.I'm not an outdoorsy person.
I had agreed to this commission on a boat in the Mediterranean without the wifi to research it. I had some dim idea Bear Grylls was a slightly cooler version of Terry Nutkins and I knew the course was set on the 500-acre Whithorn Estate in Brook, Surrey.
We'd maybe cook sausages on an open fire, I thought, whittle pointed sticks and learn how to find the North Star. It would compensate for the lack of camping in my daughter's life - only someone else would be in charge of erecting the tents.


After another stumble into brambles, I am picking her up when she looks at me and says, with city-girl hurt: "Daddy, you said this was camping!"But worse follows. Soon we're crossing a river on a commando rope (my chest a week later is still - I kid you not - hot to the touch from rope burn). We are purifying rat-infested river water by filtering it through an old sock.Then there's knife skills conducted by John, a former Parachute Regiment sniper, who will later reveal the secret of his job is "patience and control.
And escape in the ensuing panic when the high-value target goes down." On similar courses, he says, children aren't permitted hunting knives for insurance reasons.
I'm the sort of man who takes his favourite pillow with him whenever he sleeps away from home. I fell off the commando rope (the only dad to do so), I tangled our net up fishing and, right now, I can't follow Scott's instructions. Phoebe and I desperately gather bracken to soften the hard earth and cover the frame to keep out the rain. An instructor forces a knife into the gap between the broken bones and, using it for leverage, tears off the animal's fur like he is reupholstering a cushion.
Young Bear fans fight over who gets to chop off the remaining limbs."I feel sorry for the rabbit," I whisper to Phoebe.


I walk into a tree.After our rabbit dinner and chicken stew, eaten from a ration mug, we retire to our shelters at 1am. Phoebe's head-torch breaks when I panic and thrash about at the sight of a giant millipede in my sleeping bag. It's the only comforting reminder of the world left behind."Have you seen the harness in our packs?
We're going to have to climb something tomorrow," I tell Phoebe, sorrowfully."Think of Sunday lunch," she says.
Things crawl across my cold face and I don't sleep until I see sunlight through the trees.After an army ration breakfast that is less appetising than the mealworms, John gathers us in a circle.



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Comments

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