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ECL’s very own Bear Grylls

Interview with Jason Farmer

If you ever find yourself in survival mode, we may just know an ECL member that you can call: Jason Farmer, the real Bear Grylls of ECL. 

From Cub to Scout Leader to Assistant District Commissioner for the Scouts, Jason and his whole family have dedicated some serious time to support and teach hundreds of kids valuable survival lessons, and beyond this, Jason also founded the wildly successful Scouts Bushcraft School.

We interviewed Jason to learn more about his life and how this all came about.

Where did your love of the outdoors come from?

My love of the outdoors happened when the family relocated to Devon. I was just twelve and was drawn in by the spectacular countryside and coastline. And though the pace of life was much slower than my hometown, Hemel Hempstead, I wasted no time embracing the outdoor lifestyle and took to it like a duck to water.

The family always had dogs, mostly gun dogs, so I learnt to train gun dogs, and that extended to friends’ dogs. I also learnt to shoot, which I got pretty good at, competing for Devon and becoming a fully qualified shooting instructor.

From there, I got the bug for Archery and competed at a decent level for four years until I was 17. By then, I had become semi-pro before switching my ambitions to play rugby. That worked great for me for a while as I loved the sport, still do, but I now regret giving up Archery.

What made you move away from Devon?

When I was 20, my uncle invited me to move back up to Hemel Hempstead. He was working for a groundwork company who were desperate for lads to join his gang. So I moved back, worked with him for a short while, and within four months, I was running sites myself.  

But I still have a house there which I visit every other weekend.

It means I can still enjoy my outdoor pursuits and visit my eldest son, his partner and my two granddaughters who also live there. It really is a home away from home.

You sound like a huge family man. 

Yes, I have five kids, three girls and two boys. The youngest is 19, and the eldest is 30, and I have 3 grandchildren (so far!). 

There’s actually an amusing story about how I met my wife.

We have to hear it!

I was about 23, and my whole family from my dad’s side went on a family holiday to Zante. On the second night there, I met Sarah (my wife), you could say we had a two-week holiday romance. We exchanged numbers before I was due to catch the flight back home, and then the unthinkable happened.

As the plane back to the UK took off, there was a tremendous boom; it was the most horrifying thing I’d ever heard. The engine had backfired and, in doing so, had ruptured the fuel lines. 

It was an extremely terrifying moment inside that flight. We believed our whole family line was about to be wiped out.

The flight fell and suffered unexpected and sudden turbulence, but it managed to stabilise and make an emergency landing in Athens.

Everyone was ecstatic that we actually landed safely, with no harm caused to anybody from the near crash. 

But on landing, the plane was surrounded by a squad of fully armed military along with numerous emergency vehiclesOur flight had been reported as a possible terrorist attack.

It was a mad mix of emotions, euphoria from surviving the crash to complete disarray being placed in the middle of something that was likely to appear on the evening news. It was pretty insane. 

But eventually, after the engine was investigated, the pilot’s story checked out, and we could finally leave the flight. It took a week to get back home, during which time Sarah had thought I’d given her a bogus number (we didn’t have mobiles back then).

Luckily for me, she didn’t give up on me. I called her when I returned, and we’ve been together ever since.

That’s an insane story. You’re incredibly fortunate that Sarah was still waiting when you returned. You’ve both been together for a long time now. Is she as passionate about the outdoors as you?

Absolutely, Sarah was an assistant Scout Leader. The Scouts is something we did with our whole family. My eldest daughter Georgia is an assistant Scout Leader too.

The Cubs, Scouts and Explorers have been great for our kids and those we taught. It gives them an equal playing field where they can learn skills and the value of teamwork.

So tell me about your role in the Scouts.

In my last role as Assistant District Commissioner, I led and managed volunteers across the region, supporting the provision of Scouting to over 800 young people.

I’ve just temporarily relocated to Rushden whilst I’m looking for a new property to buy, so I’ve had to resign my position for the time being until I’m settled into the area, and then I’ll see what I can do for the local ward.

But I still support the Bushcraft school, which I founded with a group of other Scouting Leaders to teach kids and adults how to live in the wilderness, build shelters, light fires, and cook on fires. 

Bushcraft school is now an accredited and approved course teaching bushcraft, survival and wilderness living skills to kids from 11 years up to Adults within the Scouting movement.

I’m passionate about Scouts and bushcraft, especially supporting and enabling young people and adults to develop life skills they wouldn’t learn otherwise. You never know when you may need them.

Bushcraft school sounds appealing. I imagine people taking to the outdoors to learn survival skills and rekindle a lost connection with the natural world is increasing in popularity.

Bushcraft school has grown year after year, but we cap enrolment each year to just 40 new members so that we don’t get too overwhelmed. 

My fondest memory was when we took 70 Scouts to Scotland for two weeks. The Herfordshire Scouts own a disused railway station in Lochearnhead. We camped there in the highlands with the hills and mountains of the Trossach’s as our backdrop. The weather was typically Scottish, with one-day sunshine to the next being torrential rain. But that was ok. Each day we faced new challenges and adventures and created some great memories which will hopefully remain with those 70 young Scouts for the rest of their lives.

​Do you have a bushcraft tip you could share?

Yes, you should always leave an environment as good as or better than you found it. It’s a simple rule to show respect to nature, to property and to others.

Bushcraft school sounds great. How can someone sign-up if they’re interested?

Unfortunatly the school is only available to Hemel Hempstead Scouts. 

So you have to be a Hemel Hempstead Scout to sign-up.

Thanks for the interview, Jason. You’ve been super knowledgeable and informative; chatting with you has been a pleasure. We wish you all the best at your new home in Rushden.

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