#sussex #outdoors #retreat #naturesbeauty
It was this big! Sensing the Land before a deep time travel walk on #wolstonburyhill on the #southdowns.
We're doing it again in a couple of weeks.
Last year a group of us made some land art on the South Downs. We're doing it again this Sunday. Join us?
Alex said he wasn't creative. Then he went and made this extraordinary piece of Land Art: a circle marked by leaves, with two found posts positioned to align perfectly with the i360 tower on the horizon.
It linked the place where he was on the Downs to Brighton in the distance.
Join us this Sunday for more Land Art and Mindfulness with Anniek Verholt.
@natureschildling leads us silently upward from Glynde towards a dark valley where the stillness and the mysteries of the night and the land draw us closer.
Fire keeper @the_barefoot_forge makes ready the tea and a welcome beacon for our arrival in Lewes.
Double checking the route for Saturday's night walk over the Downs with @natureschildling and Jake the Farrier. A few places left if you'd like to join us.
#schoolofthewild #wildtime #nightwalk #southdowns
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.
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.
Saddlescombe Farm nestles in the shadow of the South Downs
October. Outside the sun is shining and the air is clean and fresh. Inside, ten of us are sitting in a circle on the floor. It's a hard floor, but we’re on cushions, the woodburner is alight and no one is complaining.
We’re here at Saddlescombe Farm in the shadow of the South Downs for a Medicine Walk and Council, a ceremonial solo journey into the 'Mystery', a way of staying open to the land so that it can be a mirror for your inner landscape.
After a slow take-up over the last few weeks the event is full, and as we settle in, our guide, Rebecca Card, calmly explains what we’ll be doing today.
When she’s finished, one by one it’s our turn to speak.
As I listen to the others share their stories so that we can each find our own theme for the day, I'm surprised at everyone's willingness to talk openly about what's going on in their lives, and I feel a bit of an inner tussle: as organiser, I feel cautious about how much to share, as participant I want to say more.
When it’s my turn I also notice a familiar nervousness in front of groups, and in my first attempt I waffle, not quite knowing how to articulate what I’m feeling.
The morning has already started a little weirdly. There have been two last minute cancellations due to illness - we’ve found someone to fill one space but she’s worried about getting here on time - and my head is full of that and the small stresses and responsibilities of making sure the day runs smoothly. Plus there’s no mobile reception. And I’ve forgotten to bring milk.
I think back to earlier in the day: while Rebecca is setting up the room, I go outside to help guide people to the hall. Saddlescombe is part of the National Trust and as walkers and visitors turn up, I'm unsure if they’re here for us or not. I'm also mildly irritated that we won’t have the whole area to ourselves.
This time last year I was on an outdoors course in Stanmer Park.
As a group we met every Monday to sit around a fire and do some exercises to explore how nature can be therapeutic.
One particular Monday, Martin the course leader explained that we were going on a short solo quest.
We spent a quiet moment tuning into ourselves and then we each went off in a direction that we felt drawn, paying attention to what happened along the way...
A few months ago I was at forager Robin Harford’s Green Gathering on Exmoor.
It was a weekend of plant-based experiences. From workshops on foraging and fermentation to herbal remedies and storytelling round the fire… one of the sessions that had the most effect on me was an Earth Mandala workshop by artist Keith Beaney.
Keith got us collecting natural materials to contribute to a mandala frame that he'd created for us in the woods.
It was very muddy and wet, and initially I struggled with connecting with it, but suddenly something took over and I got caught up in the process, of being in the woods and looking around at the trees and wildlife for inspiration.
I started gathering white leaves, interesting twigs and unusual flowers for my section of the mandala, absorbed in a child-like flow.
It was an inspiring and fun creative process.
Each person in my group reported a similar experience.
During the summer months, you can find an array of wild flowers on the South Downs that are useful for a range of health complaints, as well as being vital for wildlife.
Local herbalist Lucinda Warner took us up onto the South Downs to forage for wild plants that make useful herbal medicine.
Here are 12 of the wild plants that she showed us, and their uses.
1. St Johns Wort (Hypericum)
Yellow flowers with tiny black dots. Leaves have tiny holes in, which are actually glands.
St John's Wort is good for nerve pain and sciatica (make an oil and rub it in, or use in a hand or foot bath). Because it has an affinity with nerves, it's good for depression where there's an anxious element. It's antiviral, so useful against shingles, herpes, and cold sores.
It is not a deeply relaxing herb, but it feeds the nervous system.
Good for burns, sunburn, nappy rash and skin healing - make a tea, when cold use as compress.
Caution: if you're on pharmaceuticals, or if you're on the pill - don't take it, as St John's Wort clears your system really quickly.
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.