A week of journeys. Over the #southdowns through #fields of wheat. Day and #night. Inspired by #virginiawoolf #skylarks metaphors and #conservation champions.
I wasn't going to do anything for Black Friday this year.
Last year, inspired by US outdoor retailer REI's #Optoutside campaign, we organised a walkshop in Stanmer Park. This year I'd been feeling tired and stressed, and it felt too much to organise something else, for another week or two at least.
But all week I noticed I'd been feeling a weird anxiety as Black Friday approached. A need to just buy something. A fear of missing out on a bargain.
Then I read this article by George Monbiot about how our relentless consumption is trashing the planet. It was a reminder that we need to break a cycle of relentless growth, fuelled by shopping, and I felt we had to do something to escape the Shopocalypse.
As the big retailers tried to pressure us into buying more things you probably don’t need - this year shoppers were predicted to spend more than £2.5bn - I scheduled a last minute Black Friday Optoutside walk again, and went to the woods with a bunch of like-minded folk instead.
We walked in silence through my favourite glade of Sycamore trees, shared shopping confessions amongst the fallen autumn leaves, and did a sit spot by the big beeches in Millbank Wood.
On the way back we found the site of an ancient stone circle, now long gone, marked on this old map of Stanmer Park.
Afterwards we sat chatting and drinking tea by the fire, inside the big house.
It was a calming and invigorating afternoon spent with some genuinely lovely people.
A real Black Friday experience to remember.
Escaping the shopapocalypse and finding stillness in nature, on our Black Friday walkshop in Stanmer Park.
"Interesting and informative, learned new skills, lovely group"
Sensing the Land is a nature-connected woodland and downland 'walkshop', We explore the inner and outer landscapes of the South Downs.
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.
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.
For the vast majority of human history, we lived in close contact with nature. Now 80% of us in the UK and more than 50% of the world live in towns and cities.
We’re losing our contact and our connection with nature.
Not only is this affecting our health and wellbeing - there are lots of credible studies that show how much we need nature for our mental, physical and emotional health, like this one from Stanford University - but also by spending very little time in natural and wild spaces, we don’t see what’s happening to them.
"When you walk into the wood, think of it as a community: walk with a feeling of reverence, a bit like going into a church,” says Alistair.
It’s a clear fresh morning, and we’re standing inside Butcher’s Wood, the first stop on Sensing the Land, a guided woodland and downland walkshop that we're doing around Wolstonbury Hill and the South Downs, in Sussex.
Butcher's Wood is a small patch of ancient woodland that’s just a few minutes walk from Hassocks station and quite close to the London to Brighton railway line.
SENSING THE LAND
A sensory walkshop on the South Downs - Sunday 7th Feb
We're lucky in Brighton.
We're lucky because we live just 15 mins from truly beautiful countryside on the South Downs, a rich tapestry of wildlife, landscapes and tranquility, that 'weave together a story of people and place in harmony.'
But what do you know about the history of the Downs? How do you feel when you're on them, when you're part of them?
And what can the South Downs teach you about yourself?
The South Downs have been inhabited since ancient times and there is a rich heritage of historical features and archaeological remains, including defensive sites, burial mounds and field boundaries...
On this nature connected woodland and downland 'walkshop' - Sunday 7th Feb - we'll explore the inner and outer landscapes of the South Downs.
You'll learn about the geology, and natural and human history of the Downs, and explore some relaxed practices to experience the landscape through your senses and your body, to learn more about the land and yourself.
Details and booking here: www.meetup.com/School-of-the-Wild-Sussex
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.