When I started School of the Wild back in 2014, I was having a bit of a crisis. I’d spent the best part of a decade sitting in front of a screen, running an e-commerce business, and it wasn’t going too well.
Sales were declining. The pressure was mounting. I’d lost my way and my purpose… it was very stressful. In the end I opted to close that business down.
And then I discovered nature.
Spending time in the woods, and sitting around a fire was a revelation. It felt like coming home.
I noticed that my stress levels went down, my energy went up, and the barriers fell away in the woods, leading to all sorts of connections, meaningful conversations, and new ideas.
Since those early days at the beginning of School of the Wild, we’ve run all sorts of activities, like foraging, medicine walks, making fires, whittling…
And I’ve discovered all sorts of things I’d had no idea about: like which tree bark makes the best tinder, why nettles are a great remedy for stress, and how to use nature to help you find answers to questions of how you live and work.
More recently we’ve been working with purpose-driven organisations to harness the benefits of spending time around a fire in the woods, to bring teams together and to have meaningful conversations that impact on how they work and what they do.
It’s interesting, rewarding work, and a lot of fun.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a series of sessions for the US podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, who’d brought a group of twenty of their listeners to Sussex.
On their last night, I led the group on a silent, no-torches night walk up onto the Downs.
It fit with the central themes of their programme: of being lost and finding your way, of feeling safe in dark places, of trust - in your self and other people, and helping each other.
As we entered a dark tree-lined path on the way up, pheasants flushed out of the blackness, calling noisily, surprising us all. The rest of the path up the hill is wide open and steep, we stop a few times to gaze at the view of Sussex behind us with its twinkling lights, and to feel the quietness of the land at night.
At the top, there are dark clouds but it’s not too windy.
We stop. The group leader reads a passage from a Harry Potter book. People spread out to sink into the silence - it is profound.
I have a visceral experience of stillness, of peace.
The moon appears, like a beacon of hope. Moved, someone starts sobbing.
Walking down again along a winding paved road, it’s really dark. On a solo test walk of the route, I’d totally freaked myself out on this road, imagining that someone was following me in the dark. (They weren’t.) With the group I feel that same fear but not as strong.
At the bottom, the land opens out, it’s lighter and spacious, and the fear disappears. I love seeing the hill and its familiar shape.
One more really dark bit to navigate and then we’re home.
Afterwards standing in a circle, someone says they could tune their heartbeat with the wind.
Night walks are a special experience. A chance for the burble of daylight hours to subside, and the mysteries and the sounds and smells of the night, the wind, the moon, the stars, and the land to draw you closer. And to feel what you feel, and where you belong.
We have one more night walk this year - this time closer to Brighton. There's just a few spaces left.
As autumn moves into winter, join School of the Wild for a silent night time journey in gorgeous Brighton countryside on this guided night walk, ahead of Meaning conference.
This is pretty special and a chance to experience the land at night, walking in the dark without torches as part of a group, in a safe and supported way.
More Details and Tickets Here.
If you'd like something similar for your team, get in touch here.
Author & Curator
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.