He is the world’s best known adventurer - and now brave South Yorkshire souls can follow in the urine-drinking, rabbit-skinning, shelter-building footsteps of TV tough guy Bear Grylls.
The all-action hero has launched his Survival Academy - a 24 hour session where parents and their children can enjoy a taste of living overnight in the wild and taking on a series of tough challenges - right in the middle of the Dearne Valley.
And so it was that me and my two young sons found ourselves on the wet and windy tree-lined slopes of the former Earth Centre site near Conisbrough, faces smeared with mud, tired and exhausted crouched over a dead rabbit deciding how best to rustle it up into that night’s tea.
As you may expect, anything attached to the rugged, television survival expect isn’t going to be easy. And while we didn’t have to resort to downing bottles of our own pee, we did have to trek through waist high mud and water, hack through dense undergrowth and fashion a few fallen tree branches into a compact and bijou not so des-res for a night under the stars.
The courses will be held at the Kingswood centre throughout the summer offer “outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe the chance to learn Bear’s extreme survival techniques.”
Up until this point, survival for my two has meant ensuring the Xbox is plugged in while for me, being sat behind a desk eight hours a day means the closest I’ve come to preparing tea with nothing generally involves rooting around in the back of the kitchen cupboard for a tin of something or other.
Our instructor and bushcraft expert Frazer Davidson pointed us in the direction of our basic kit - a rucksack, helmet and multi-purpose knife - and then we were straight off to see if we could cut the mustard in the wilds.
My eldest son Luc, 11, eagerly slapped gloopy, thick, stinking mud onto my face as an insect repellent while Alexei, nine, scooped up handfuls of sediment from a stream to stuff into a sock to make a crude water filtration device with relish.
But that was just the start of well, let’s be honest, a pretty gruelling, but enjoyable 24 hours.
Along the way, we learned navigational skills, crawled over ropes, learned about poisonous plants and yomped across fields and over eight foot walls as we headed for our pre-established camp.
Never mind that energy levels were sapping, we had crushed up nettles and live, wriggling woodworms as tucker to keep us powering along (if you are wondering, the first doesn’t sting if you prepare it right and the second tastes like sawdust, unless you go, as I did, for the slightly more cowardly option of swallowing it straight down without crunching).
Bear himself says: “I love sharing my survival techniques and going on family adventures together. It teaches them useful life and outdoor skills when the chips are down.”
Chips would be a fine thing if we had them. Instead, Frazer has brought along a few spuds, carrots and onions to help us whip up a broth to go alongside tonight’s tea - rabbit.
Now, up until that point I’d never eaten rabbit, but like most people, when I do buy meat, its clean and nice and packagaed in little plastic trays from Tesco.
“It may hurt a little.”Bear Grylls
Its certainly doesn’t have fur, paws and look like some sort of horror-version of Bugs Bunny, but that was the sight which Frazer presented to us with squeals of disgust and wide-eyed nausea.
Needs must however and as gruesome as it might be, the paws and skin had to go - and there’s no easy way of putting this - the knife proved pretty effective in doing so, even if I’ve now got children who will start weeping uncontrollaby the next time Watership Down is on the box.
Replenished with fire-roasted rabbit and a fish which had met the same fate, we collected up our sleeping bags and mats and headed to our shelter we’d built while tea was cooking - a crude construction of logs and branches covered with a tarpaulin to keep the rain out.
Within seconds of the clock striking midnight, the kids were asleep, exhausted from twelve hours of constant activity. I, on the other hand, tossed and turned for hours on the hard floor, a chill breeze constantly wafting my face, while my spare hand shooed away particularly irritating buzzing, unidentified bugs and my mind played havoc with noises and shapes in the darkness.
Fortunately, after one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life, a hearty cup of tea and piping hot baked beans and pork sausages (OK, a few corners had to be cut) were enough to send us on our way for the second day.
“You’ll be feeling it today,” said Frazer. “The energy levels drop, you are tired, there’s not a lot left in the tank.”
Making it back to civilisation wasn’t going to be easy. Up and down hills, through patches of head high stinging nettles, abseiling down muddy slopes and starting fires to try and gain the attention of “rescuers” were all packed in.
But there was only one thing left to do - and that was to get deep down and dirty in freezing wetlands, splashing and crashing through water, reeds and boot-sucking mud and then an energy sapping jog back to base where piles of warm, dry clothes and the prospect of a red hot bath and slap-up Sunday dinner awaited.
Cold, wet, dirty, dishevelled and barely able to take another step, we’d come through it. “It may hurt a little,” says Bear in his welcoming pack. It most certainly did. But only in a thoroughly enjoyable, family bonding, adventurous kind of way.
Now, excuse me while I just nip to the loo - I’ve got a lovely, refreshing drink to prepare...
* The Bear Grylls Survival Academy is running courses at Kingswood throughout the summer. Contact 01483 424438 or visit www.beargryllssurvivalacademy.com for details.