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NOW and then we all tire of modern life and dream of a simpler, stress-free existence.

But for most, getting back to nature means a walk in the park and perhaps a couple of Gro-bags of spuds.

Edward Griffiths Jones went just a bit further. The barman, 28, spent almost a year living rough in a Swedish forest.

He turned his back on hot and cold running water, electricity and a warm, dry flat, braving snow storms under a home-made shelter. And he did it all with almost no contact with the outside world.

He swapped takeaways and processed food in his home city of Brighton for freshly caught fish and meals of rats, birds and even frogs.

After a conventional up-bringing and university he drifted into dead-end bar jobs. But ever since he was small he has been fascinated with nature, so after growing increasingly fed up with the waste created by modern life, he decided to become entirely self-sufficient.

He said: "It was my dream to do it in the UK but there were so many regulations and costs involved it was impossible, it was like I was being discouraged from living with nature."

After meeting some like-minded people at a "wild-living" camp in Poland, Edward decided an isolated section of a Swedish national park suited his needs best. He set up camp in March 2009 after saying goodbye to his parents and younger brother. Edward added: "My mum was worried and didn't want me to go... mainly because I had no experience of living outside through a winter." Yet despite her fears, he survived in the forest for almost a year.

Speaking of his incredible story of survival he said: "I wanted to live rent free in nature like the owls and the foxes, and see what genuinely sustainable existence would look like. Before I went I had been squatting for a couple of years but had become increasingly aware that living rent free, stealing utilities and getting all my food from dumpster diving was not only unsustainable but too easy. I had no idea how to provide the basic necessities of life - food, shelter, water, fire, clothes - directly from the land around me."

Arriving in Sweden the first thing he had to was to sort out a shelter and so built a "lean-to" using a waterproof tarpaulin, logs and branches. It worked for most of the year but when the temperature dropped he had to build a warmer shelter. He said: "For the winter, with the help of friends, we built a small shelter. We cut down hazel for the frame, juniper for the doorway, collected birch bark for the walls and carried around 80 rucksacks full of soil for the walls." He also built a stove from scavenged rocks but was forced to turn to modern cement when it collapsed one night leaving him freezing in minus 20C.

He said: "When building the shelter I went from extreme pride and satisfaction in what I was doing to deep tiredness and longing to be in a warm flat." The only time Edward left the forest, briefly, was after contracting potentially fatal Lyme disease from a tick. He said: "I learned to use a few plants for healing purposes. Spagnum moss is excellent for cleaning wounds and stopping bleeding while tormentil tea really helped with stomach problems. But once a tick transmitted Lyme Disease, I was in extreme pain before doctors gave me antibiotics to get rid of it." Although often completely alone, Edward also had people stay. He said: "I met squatters, thieves, hippies, anarchists, part-time hunter gatherers, people who pay thousands of Euros to learn how to live in the forest, benefit scroungers, dreamers and travellers.

"It felt beautiful to get to know people sitting around a fire, collecting firewood or fishing instead of meeting to play computer games or get drunk."

Among the skills he perfected was how to make fire like Neanderthal man using a bow-drill made out of Spruce and a bone handle.

He adjusted his diet to the seasons and says it was easier to collect food in the warmer months, from the first nettles, birch leaves and bracken shoots in Spring to berries and mushrooms in autumn.

During extreme hunger he tried eating insects, frogs and made traps for mice, rats and small birds. But he turned most often to fishing. Hunting large prey like deer would have needed a gun and licence.

Edward, who is single, finally decided to leave the forest just before his year was up in March, partly because he was missing female company.

He said: "Forest life mainly attracts young single men.

"While women come to visit, none live in the forest."

He has no plans to return to the UK and says he would struggle to readjust to central heating and package food.

Edward has now moved to a small farm nearby where he plans to grow and gather food and build houses to live in. To pay his rent, he plans to offer courses in wilderness living.

He is selling the perfect compromise - learn to sample life with nature but be able to go home and have a hot bath.




LOGGING ON No microwave, just a fire ICE PAD Sturdier abode kept out cold
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 4, 2010
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