“Inspiring the next generation is our most important work”

I have been a passionate advocate for the outdoors all my life and have received enormous benefits from my time and experience in nature. I have been lucky enough to live and work outside as a landscape gardener and bushcraft instructor with Woodland Ways. This has meant that I spend a huge number of hours outside in all weathers and in many different contexts. This is certainly not something that I take for granted but is a large part of what makes me who I am.

Preparing a group meal on the Family Immersion course

More and more it seems that we all live in a world where everything is required to happen fast and competition is at the forefront of our minds. Being top of the class at spelling or mathematics or being the best footballer in your year group can easily become the preoccupation of the young person. I do not dispute that healthy competition is a useful tool, but surely there is more to life!

Taking the time to connect with the earth and form pinch pots dishes and lanterns

I am very blessed to be the proud father of four boys and regularly reflect with my wife about how we are influencing the young people in our little tribe. There are so many distractions and influences in the modern technological age, that were not available to influence me in my childhood. Today we are constantly fighting with the ever-present lure of the highly addictive dopamine hit inducing social media. Talk to any parent up and down the land and I suspect screen time is never too far away from their weekly worries. The competitive nature of social media and the cruelty that it is capable of bestowing can be very destructive.

Lighting up camp and imaginations on the Family Immersion course

Ever since my boys were babies, we have made a conscious effort to take them outside as much as possible to role model that it is normal to be out in all weathers and exploring the boundaries of what they are able to do.  

It is often said “Give a child a love of nature before the age of ten and they will love it for life.” I have found this to be very true with my boys.

Arnott Boys

As I have said in a previous blog, “there seems to be a dominant western view of superiority over nature, that we are separate from it and that we need to be the masters of it. This has led to the feeling of isolation, alienation, and uncomfortableness in wild places.” It is thought that this viewpoint gained traction with the 17th Century French philosopher Rene Descartes who saw nature as inanimate, devoid of soul and aliveness. In his famous assertion Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, he created the notion of superiority over other life forms. I believe that this persists in society today and I am very determined to challenge this as parent and bushcraft instructor with Woodland Ways. In his book “Last Child in the Woods” Richard Louvre talks of “Nature deficit” and how this is affecting the health and wellbeing of our developing young people.

Cooking food in a ground oven on the Family Immersion course

It is important to remain open to influence from nature which is never static or heading in a straight line. This can take so many different forms from gardening and walking to birdwatching or bushcraft. This list is long, and we all have different ways to explore this.

Out exploring with navigation

I am passionate about engagement with people and land. This is the key to developing a stronger sense of caring for nature and the planet. Without a love of the natural world how can we expect people to nurture it, or themselves?

We are sentient beings and as such we have the potential to experience feelings through our physical and sense impressions, which in turn gives us the potential to have empathy for the flora and fauna we share the land with. There is a flow to be had between plants, people and places if we allow ourselves to connect with it.

Stephen Harrod Buhner the award-winning author on nature, indigenous culture, the environment, and herbal medicine talks of our feeling sixth sense as one of the keys to unlocking a deeper spiritual connection to the natural world much more in keeping with our indigenous ancestors.

No digital or electrical plugin needed here with the camp kettle

In his huge body of work Stephen explores many aspects of our feeling senses in relation to the natural world. I have only just begun to scratch the surface in his books “The secret teachings of plants” and “The lost language of plants.” His philosophy is much more animist based and rallies against the modern reductionist view point. He has certainly opened my eyes, ears and ultimately, I hope my heart as an organ of feeling perception. He continues to fascinate me, and I look forward to exploring more of his work.

Here at Woodland Ways, we have been working hard for many years to foster a culture of deeper understanding and engagement with nature, and it was my great privilege to work with a lovely group of customers on our Woodland Ways Family Immersion course this year.

Family Immersion Group 2023

I met with 6 families, once a month for 6 months in our beautiful Oxfordshire woodlands with the sole intention to teach them some wilderness bushcraft and survival skills and allow them to immerse themselves into a simpler way of life. They learnt many skills from shelter building, fire lighting and cooking to natural navigation, cordage making and foraging to name just a few.

Enjoying the outdoors together

It is precious time when you can unplug from the busy technological world for a little while and be a human, being in nature. The individual families had time together and as a group they bonded over communal tasks and activities. I really hope that in some small way I was able to inspire them with a Love of nature and set them on a path for life. For a detailed description of the Family Immersion course please see our website.


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