It’s Knot a Problem

Usually during the school holidays and over the summer months the Northumberland National Park Ranger team assist with delivering a wide range of family events around the Park.

Under the present circumstances we are adapting how we deliver these events. One way of doing this is to bring some of our regular activities to you. One of my favourite events is our Bushcraft Basics day where we build mini-dens, light fires, toast marshmallows and make whistles. I realise trying to explain some of these activities in a blog would be difficult as well as a health and safety nightmare and you may not have the appropriate equipment.

However, one Bushcraft skill we can bring you is how to tie a variety of knots. When doing Bushcraft activities rope/string is essential, and being able to tie knots is a great skill to learn which you can then use in a variety of activities including den building and putting up tarpaulins.

So I’m going to show you how to learn how to tie a selection of five knots, which are:

  • Figure Eight (Stopper knot)
  • Clove Hitch
  • Bowline
  • Sheet Bend
  • Reef knot

For this activity all you will need is two lengths of rope and some patience!!

Stopper knots

Stopper knots do as the name suggests, they stop things from moving along the rope. The stopper knot we are going to learn is the Figure Eight. These types of knot are good to use when putting tarpaulins up. Put the rope through the eye on the tarpaulin and use a figure-eight knot to keep the rope in place.

Make a loop at one end of the rope, taking the end of the rope over the long piece of rope hanging down.

a short piece of rope

Take the end of the rope behind the long piece hanging down.

A short piece of rope being wrapped around

Pass the end through and out the back of the loop.

a short piece of rope being wound into a bowline knot

Pull both ends to tighten the knot.

A completed bowline knot

Clove Hitch

The Clove Hitch knot is the next one to try. We will look at two different ways of tying this knot, again both very useful when building dens and camps. You would use a clove hitch knot when you want to tie the rope around something – say a tree when putting a tarpaulin up.

For this one as I don’t have a tree I am going to demonstrate on a fingerpost.

Hold one end of the rope and put it around the structure you wish to tie the item to. Make sure you have enough rope to go round the structure a couple of times.

The start of a clove hitch knot around a fingerpost

On returning to the start cross over the first length and take the end of the rope around the structure again, keeping it below the other pieces of rope.

Tuck the end you have just brought round under the diagonal piece of rope and pull to tighten the knot.

A clove hitch knot wrapped around a fingerpost

You can also use the Clove Hitch to help drag larger pieces of wood to your camp; it’s a good way of moving things which saves carrying larger items. This next Clove Hitch is also a good way to start ‘lashing’ (tying or securing) two pieces of wood together.

At one end of the rope make a Q, to the right of the Q make a P.

Put the P behind the Q.

Place the piece of wood through the two loops and pull it tight.

A clove hitch knot around a piece of wood


A Bowline knot makes a loop in the rope, which can then be used for hanging things on a tree.

There is a little story which may help you when tying this knot. There is a rabbit which comes out of its hole runs round a tree and then goes back down the hole. The hole is the loop in the rope, the tree is the long end of the rope, and the rabbit is the end of the rope you are going to use or the working end of the rope.

Decide how big you want to the loop to be and where in the rope you want it. Once this has been decided make a small loop/hole in the rope.

Pass the rabbit up through the hole.

Round the back of the tree.

And back down the hole.

And finally…

Sheet Bend

The  Sheet Bend can be used to join two ropes together of uneven thickness.

  1. Make a ‘hook’ at the end of the thickest rope.
  2. Pass one end of the thin rope up through the hook.
  3. Around the back of the hook.

Then pass this end of rope between the thin rope and the hook staying on top of the hook.

A sheet bend knot being created

Pull both ropes to tighten the knot.

A completed sheet bend knot


Reef Knot or Square Knot

The Reef Knot or Square Knot can also be used to tie two lengths of rope together.

1. Place the left rope over the right rope and then go under.

2. Place the right rope over the left rope and then go under.

3. Then pull both ropes tight.

Good luck. If you’ve KNOT had enough and are keen to learn more knots then a good website is