#wework17 #wework #summercamp #camping #eridgepark
As we walked next to the lake, we suddenly noticed that the path was alive with hundreds of these tiny froglets under our feet.
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:
"I invite you to walk slowly up the hill in silence, taking in the surroundings, coming back to yourself and noticing how you’re feeling.”
It’s a sunny morning in October, and we’re gathered in a small lay-by in the shadow of the Downs. Dutch Artist and therapist Anniek Verholt is giving us a short briefing before we head up the hill to my favourite spot near Blackcap for a Land Art and Mindfulness session.
We’re ten participants from far and wide: London, Rottingdean, Brighton, Eastbourne... the journey here has been eventful for most. Two people got lost, trains were missed, and we’re running late.
I’m flustered to be honest.
Somehow Anniek has remained calm despite the back and forth in the car, and the herding of lost souls by phone and text. The mindful walk up the hill helps to clear my mind of the journey and the complications of organising the gathering.
At the top, the vista of the Downs, the clouds, sea and sky opens out in front of us. For a moment all else falls away as we breathe in the view.
We couldn't have picked a better morning for our Sit Spot on the South Downs, a great place to observe nature: animals, birds, plants, trees, and the sun, wind, and clouds. A place where you can simply be still and open your senses.
Good sit spot stories from all who came. And a quick walk afterwards to take in the breathtaking view of the Sussex coast.
It was an uplifting and inspiring summer's day.
Walking barefoot in the woods, listening to the birds, smelling the woodsmoke and feeling the soft touch of the breeze.
Simultaneous Awareness with Ben Rayner was a hit. Thanks to everyone who came along.
Last weekend I drove to Exmoor for a gathering organised by Robin Harford, the best forager I know. (I’ll take every opportunity I can to learn from him.)
Robin is an intuitive forager. His method is to use all of your senses to get to know a plant: sight, touch, smell, and only when you’re 150% sure, to taste.
Pictures from our most recent event: A Day in the Woods with Fire, Conversation and a few Exercises
Spending time in the woods round a fire, sharing food and meaningful conversations with lovely people, and practising skills to feel more connected, aware and alive.
I'm still feeling the benefits.
What's not to like? Fire, great people, relaxed atmosphere, awareness building, spending time in a wood, shared food and discovering a new skill to make smoke 'not get in your eyes.'
What a lovely day with lovely people in a lovely place. Thanks everyone for being so present and so mellow.
Friday April 22nd was a pretty big day for the planet.
170 countries signed the Paris Climate deal at the UN, and it was also Earth Day, a movement who's ambitious aim includes planting 7.8 billion trees, and making cities 100% renewable.
At a time when the planet needs us more than ever to make choices that are nourishing for body, soul and the Earth, at School of the Wild we're passionate about ways that bring us closer to nature.
I came across this article in the Guardian about sperm whales stranded on the German coast, a few weeks after a similar stranding near Skegness on the east coast of the UK.
These strandings show us the results of our plastic-oriented society. Animals inadvertently consume plastic, and they suffer because of it.
If we could see the effect of what we're doing, we'd stop doing it, wouldn't we?
Why We're Running Workshops that Help You Explore the Powerful Wisdom of Your Body
I was listening to comedian and actor, Eddie Izzard, on the radio this morning. He’s just finished 27 marathons in 27 days. (!)
They ask him if he’s taking a rest, or if he’s already planning to start running again.
"You're asking this now?!?" he jokes.
Then after a moment's thought, "I expect I'll be doing half marathons every couple of weeks,” he says. He pauses.
“I need to move... like we did when we were kids...
"At some point as adults, we decided that wasn’t a good idea, but we’re natural animals, and we need to move. We forget that."
He’s right. We are animals. And I know I forget that.
Since I was a child, Silver Birch has always been one of my favourite trees.
The wispy branches, and ghostly white bark always draw my attention in the woods.
Something about silver birch makes me feel safe. Perhaps because I can always tell it apart from other trees.
It has uses too.
The white peeling bark is great for lighting fires, and the buds and twigs have tons of medicinal uses:
I've just set up my dream course as part of School of the Wild - the project I decided to really 'go for' after doing The Journey at Embercombe in the summer of 2015.
At the end of The Journey, I pledged to stand up for what I believe, and this is it: The Nature Connection course.
The aim of this course is to experience a deeper, more participatory relationship with nature, learn new skills, and discover new ways of seeing yourself and the world.
The idea is that because it's local, and because it's weekly, we'll all go on a bit of a journey and the relationships and the connections - to the participants, and to the trees, animals, birds and plants - will continue beyond the course.
I've set this up because I truly believe that our separation from nature's health sustaining, nonverbal wisdom is responsible for the world's environmental problems, and many of the emotional and health issues that we suffer from.
If we can get the connection with nature back, we'll become better stewards of the planet, and of ourselves.
We are part of nature after all.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature.
The assurance that dawn comes after night and spring after winter.
Rachel Carson, Environmentalist
The ground is frosty and crunchy under foot.
The other day I get up at 6am and drive to some woods near Lewes with Alistair Duncan, to check them out as a potential new venue for School of the Wild.
It's properly dark as we set off, and it's only just getting light when we get to the woods.
The orange glow of the rising sun on the horizon slowly filters through the forest, lighting up the tops of the trees, and making the purple, gold and red of the early morning sky turn blue.
Purple, gold and red of the early morning sky
The track into the wood is frosty and crunchy under foot.
Along the way are puddles covered in single sheets of ice. I can’t resist jumping on a few, just to see and hear the ice break up into thick shards, like broken glass.
Dogs bark in the distance, and a few birds fly across the track. The trees are quiet and still. The world feels like it is slowly waking up.
The rising sun poking through the trees
Despite a bad night’s sleep and this early start, I feel happy and refreshed, and glad that I’ve made the effort to get up.
There’s something really special about the sounds and smells of nature, especially out in the woods, at the beginning and end of the day.
So while the days are still short, our next Wild session is in the woods in the dark, inspired by the idea of working on our relationship to nature through our own sensory experiences: the tastes and smells in the air, the feel of the wind as it caresses the skin, the sounds of nocturnal animals going about their business, the touch of the ground under our feet as we walk upon it…
As we filter out the sense of sight, it encourages us to pay more attention to the other senses.
And who knows what you might discover!
Romancing the Dark, a night time journey into nature connection is on Sunday 28th February. More details and booking here.
"I have a bad feeling about this," says Sharon, as we watch ten horse riders and twenty hounds run about excitedly across the valley. "It's supposed to be a drag hunt, but that feels like they might have got something," she says.
I'm standing in a field on the edge of Mile Oak Farm with Sharon Clifton a silver haired psychotherapist and Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator from Spirit Horse Works. It's a grey, damp morning, and the ground is wet and muddy beneath our feet.
We watch as the pack of hounds disappear into the gorse bushes on the hill opposite. Their barks drift over. The hunt leader, in red jacket, blows his horn several times.
Both of us hope they haven't found a fox.
It's my first time at this farm, coinciding with the local hunt who're following a trail down through the South Downs onto the farm land. A rare occurrence apparently.
We step away from Sharon's office - two camp chairs under a hawthorn tree - to get a better view. Sharon is distinctly uncomfortable. As are her two horses Charlie, an older grey, and Alfie, a young black and white, in the paddock behind us.
Alfie and Charlie. Photo courtesy Spirit Horse Works.
Sharon tells me about the work she and Charlie and Alfie do with her clients. "Because they are prey animals, horses are very sensitive and empathic. They're constantly on the look out for any sign of danger, and they sense and feel very keenly what's going on, in people and the surroundings, to keep themselves safe."
As we watch, both Charlie and Alfie, and all the other horses in the paddocks for that matter, run about, stand still, then run again, in obvious response to the excitement on the hillside opposite. They stop again, and strain in the direction of the hunt, alert to what's happening, getting ready to run.
"When they're grazing, they're calm," Sharon says, "They're hyper-sensitive, which makes them excellent reflective mirrors for us. They 'feel' us rather than 'think' us," she says.
Which also makes horses natural born healers. "They're not interested in what we do, or what we say. They're looking for honest and congruent communication and respond honestly to what we bring.... And they naturally take emotions off us and process them without thinking about the why’s or wherefores."
Charlie works with grief, and Alfie works with boundary issues, Sharon tells me. "They choose to do it, or not," she replies to one of my many questions.
I watch as Charlie rolls on the ground: "he's releasing his stress and emotions into the earth," she says. Horses in other paddocks follow suit.
Sharon explains more: horses snort, yawn and roll to release emotion (including ours) into the ground, they lick their lips when they're thinking, graze when they're calm and are totally in the moment.
I start to make sense of what I'm watching.
We shift our attention back to the hunt. The dogs are still in the gorse. Something bad is happening. Sharon feels it in her stomach. The horses all feel it too. In another field a chestnut runs around in circles, unable to go anywhere else.
Across the valley a herd of five horses are bunched together straining to see what's happening. Near them, six or seven black cows mirror them, also alert to what's going on. In front, in a tree, two magpies are watching as well.
From our raised vantage point, in that moment, I see the horses, the cows, the birds, Sharon and I all watching together, as a community, as one society responding together, alert to the hunt.
And Charles Eisenstein's words ring in my head: "When we as a society learn to see the planet and everything on it as beings deserving of respect - in their own right and not just for their use to us... Then will we realize that as we do to any part of nature, so, inescapably, we do to ourselves."
On the far side of the field, Charlie is licking his lips. "He's processing our meeting," Sharon laughs. And with that, I have to go.
We're planning to include some sessions with Sharon and her horses Charlie and Alfie as part of School of the Wild courses. Watch this space!
I read these words by author and speaker Charles Eisenstein on Facebook. They resonate with what we're doing at School of the Wild, so I'm re-posting them here. They're also on our Facebook page.
"I am certain we will not "save our planet" (or at least the ecological basis of civilization) by merely being more clever in our deployment of Earth's "resources". We will not escape this crisis so long as we see the planet and everything on it as instruments of our utility...
"In other words, what we need is a revolution of love. When we as a society learn to see the planet and everything on it as beings deserving of respect - in their own right and not just for their use to us - then we won't need to appeal to climate change to do all the best things that the climate change warriors would have us do...
"A Zuni man I met told me that they believe that the worst thing is to take so much water that the rivers no longer reach the sea - because how then can the ocean know what the land needs?...
"I predict that we will succeed in drastically reducing fossil fuel use, beyond the most optimistic projections - and that climate change will continue to worsen. It might be warming, it might be cooling, it might be intensifying fluctuations, a derangement of normal, life-giving rhythms. Then will we realize the importance of those things that we'd relegated to low priority: the mangrove swamps, the deep aquifers, the sacred sites, the biodiversity hotspots, the virgin forests, the elephants, the whales... all the beings that, in mysterious ways invisible to our numbers, maintain the balance of our living planet...
"Then will we realize that as we do to any part of nature, so, inescapably, we do to ourselves. The current climate change narrative is but a first step toward that understanding."
"Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
Aldo Leopold (1887 to 1948)
Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, writer, and father of the United States’ wilderness system.
If animals had a voice, what would they say to us?
This gorilla has been taught sign language, and she has a poignant message for us: nature sees what we're doing, and needs our help.
I heard someone on Radio 4 refer to poetry as "anecdotal evidence of the human heart". When science, rationalism and objectivity is the only acceptable truth for many, for me this ignores the truth of our hearts and of our lived experience. It's refreshing to acknowledge our own meaning of things as equally, if not more, valid.
This is one of my favourite poems, it stirs my heart whenever I read it.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
It's autumn. We're about to embark on the Spirit of Nature, our latest workshop.
It's a Sunday morning in late autumn. The weather is clear and bright. We gather at a new indoors venue in the dip between Newtimber Hill and Devil's Dyke, for the Spirit of Nature session. There are 20 of us.
By popular demand, Robert is running this shamanic journey class, but he has reservations. "The techniques I'm about to show you come from the Lipan Apache tradition, handed down by Grandfather (Stalking Wolf).
"I usually teach this class as part of a longer course that includes practical skills, to make it more grounded," he says. But due to popular demand, he's teaching it for us anyway.
[Click the Read More link to see more]
Author & Curator
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.