The South Downs in Sussex have been inhabited for thousands of years. For the vast majority of that time, our ancestors lived in close contact with nature and with the land around them.
photo: Sandra Keating
Our Sussex ancestors knew where the good water was, where to gather the best food, and the best wood for their fires.
They knew the trees, and the birds that lived in them. They knew how to find their way using the landscape, the sun and the wind.
They knew where was safe to walk… and where to avoid.
For thousands of years, this was our neighbourhood... our supermarket... our office… it was our home.
Making fire is an essential camp and survival skill
When you're out in the wilderness, being able to make fire - along with making a shelter, drinking water, and finding food - is a key survival skill. Even if you're just out camping in the woods for the weekend, you need to eat, and you might want to boil water, keep warm and tell stories round something.
But do you have the skills and the know-how to make a fire? Did you bring what you need to make it? Matches can get wet or run out. A lighter needs fuel and can be hard to use if it's windy. A fire steel or a fire striker are both good options.
Then you'll need to gather dry wood, kindling to get it started, and tinder that'll catch an ember and help get your fire started.
Chances are that there are natural tinders and ignition extenders within sight that'll help you light a fire.
Have a look around at what's growing nearby. Dry, fluffy material - dead thistle heads, old man's beard, dried animal poo, cedar bark, dry grass - can all make good tinder.
Here's the lowdown on some of my favourites:
"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered...
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader."
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, "This could be a good time!"
"There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.
"Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
"The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
"We are the ones we've been waiting for."
Attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder
Last weekend we ran a solo walking session around Saddlescombe Farm, near Devil’s Dyke.
In the hall where we started was a display cabinet full of artifacts that'd been found on the land, including a 500,000-year-old stone axe head, various paleolithic and mesolithic tools, Roman pot shards, and remains of WW2 bombs, as well as several animal skulls and bird feathers.
These days we live lower down and on the coast, so it’s easy to forget that the South Downs were once inhabited.
Author & Curator
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.