Woodland Tales

The Woodland Wanderer Returns…

The woodland wanderer has returned with a brand new blog post.

The last time I wrote for Circle of Life Rediscovery was way back in 2014. Fast forward into 2017 and I am back for more blogging, capturing the involvement and adventures between CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and CLR. Oh, but there’s a twist. When I was last blogging for CLR I was a CAMHS participant on the woodland days, whereas now I’m a Peer Mentor for CAMHS. Meaning, that instead of directly participating, I am now supporting children and young people to take part in the activities involved on the woodland days – because let’s face it, it can sometimes feel a little daunting going out of one’s comfort zone.

wwFebruary last month was the first CAMHS and CLR woodland day of 2017 and the weather was on our side! It was a little grey and hazy but most importantly dry and mild- although wellie boots were still needed! The day was filled with an array of activities from making dream catchers using branches from Willow trees, to going completely above and beyond and baking gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and mini pizzas in a frying pan! I didn’t think it was possible to even bake in the woods, let alone make chocolate chip cookies that tasted like the real deal, if not better.

 

There’s something really down to earth and relaxing about cooking on a campfire in the woodland.

ww2Sitting by the fire, watching whatever it is that you’re cooking sizzle away. No timers to tell you when your food is ready to be devoured, no weighing scales to precisely measure ingredients to bake with, it all comes down to intuition. Not only that, but it’s the young people themselves whom have built their own fires. I think there’s something really special and inclusive about that. It’s getting together, being amongst others who share a deep understanding of mental health and being in an environment that is so unspoilt and forgiving to whatever you may be feeling that day.

There is that saying ‘Sharing is Caring’ which I really think rings true on our woodland days. My perspective has slightly changed since undertaking the role as a Peer mentor, as I’m able to view things from a different viewpoint, as opposed to when I was a CAMHS participant myself. I’m really seeing the way in which young people participate together and provide each other with a helping hand, if one sees another struggling. Helping each other out to achieve the same goal is all about teamwork – it’s brilliant to see first-hand.

ww3It’s the activities that young people participated in during the day, which really brought out this sense of teamwork and working together collectively. Activities including putting up a hammock, helping to build a bird box as well as supporting each other on a practical level when making a dream catcher, which sometimes felt as though it was a little too fiddly to complete. But all the young people worked together and achieved what it was that they came out to do. Of course that is subjective for everyone. Some participants come and experience the woods for the first time, step out their comfort zone and take in whatever the wooded atmosphere has to offer up them. Whereas other participants just need space to sit and just be present for that moment in time, away from the pressures of the outside world.

ww4As I mentioned before, the woodland radiates a presence of understanding. It’s okay if one is having a bad day, but if so, the woodland will equally lift your spirits too.

Participation and teamwork really is the essence behind a CAMHS and CLR woodland day!

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After all the hard work and energy spent from building bird boxes and dream catchers, it was time to reconvene together by the fire and share the magnificent gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. As a Peer Mentor I led this activity, which can feel a little daunting at first but I felt it ran really effectively and so I was equally ecstatic with the outcome (and taste!) of this activity.

ww8The result was best described as a hybrid between a warm cookie and a scone- delightful! I don’t think this will be the last of the woodland baking adventures that you’ll be seeing here…

For now and until the next woodland adventure occurs, I shall sign off here and leave you with the ever growing truth that Spring is on its beautiful way and is only right around the corner!

Em x

The Web of Life

I remember many years ago reading ‘Trees are actually alive”. For me it led to a shift in awareness. I knew that trees are biologically alive, but this felt different. I still feel wonder and awe knowing that some trees suck up hundreds of gallons of water per day, transforming sunlight into sugars, and that they can regrow limbs! I couldn’t imagine a world without trees.

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It is incredible that trees are hooked up by their roots to other trees through a network of mycelium! This cooperative web of plants and trees support the fungi with food and in exchange, the fungi provide nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. The trees, soil and sun are all interacting with each other.

 

The older, ‘hub’ trees, the elders of our land connect to hundreds of other trees. Working together the whole system is resilient.

Trees are alive

I don’t understand why we often dismiss how much the non-human world is alive. Our ancestral traditions are often written off as ‘primitive’ or ‘spiritual’ yet these people deeply felt the intrinsic ‘aliveness’ of the plant and animal kingdoms – from the trees to the stones.

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Long-standing earth-based cultures have this awareness and understanding and are experts in their fields. They are the great botanists, ecologists, zoologists, woodland/land managers.  It is only a matter of time before we have the scientific language that effectively describes this aliveness. Like us, the trees need air, water, earth and sun; they have particular characters, communication and intelligence and provide medicines. Birch trees for example have a bark that peels. It has particular medicine for psoriasis.

 

It is important to me that the experience of life and the natural world is not only understood in instrumental and mechanical ways. There are as many ways of knowing as there are trees! I love the smell of the forest, the colours of all the leaves, the shapes and textures, the peace, the creative thoughts that occur, the many sounds that are home to so many other creatures.

Access barriers

The big barrier is and always has been access to land. The new Tree Charter which is borne out of the Charter of the Forest from the 13th Century is a stark reminder of the importance of access to land.  Whoever owns land has immense power and determines the stewardship of their land.  We are all subject to the authority of whoever owns the land and much of the land continues to be held by big estates and top income earners. They manage their situation for a particular end and this always includes biological diversity. Though it must be said, they too have been guardians of our heritage and increasingly landowners are interesting in supporting ‘rewilding’. Thankfully we do have our public right of way. I support community woodlands, and am part of one in Sussex. It is a modern way of communities accessing land, (see Plunkett Foundation).

The present day situation

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We are more acutely aware than ever, that the things that benefit the people are inextricably linked to the things that benefit the non-human world. We are currently living in a vastly diminished natural environment compared even to a few hundred years ago – but we don’t feel this because we live relatively in the present, concerning ourselves with our present needs, favouring our own children, and not the future generations. Our brains scan and remember what we experience, so as our access to nature is reduced, so too is our awareness that nature exists – it is a form of cultural blindness.

To avoid this ‘blindness’ we have to expose ourselves to the trees and lap up the well-being that comes from this.

I would love to see more children playing outdoors, meeting the non-human world every day, creating brain patterns – the invisible mycelium of reciprocal relationships. I am very grateful for the tree under which I could hide and retreat in my childhood and am now very grateful to the woodlands in which I spend so much time!

Blog by Marina Robb (PGCE; Msc; MA), as part of the #TreeCharter. Marina is the Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery & Author of Learning with Nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides nature based experiences and programmes that are educational, fun and often life-changing! These include funded projects with our partners that directly support health and well-being for vulnerable members of our society, days for schools or family days in the woodlands and bespoke residential camps and Forest Schools. You can gain a qualification in leading your own Forest School programme or improve your knowledge and skills with our adult training CPD days.

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Have you got a memory of being out and about in the trees and woods as a child? What do you feel are the threats that trees and woods in the UK face? Add your voice to the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

 

 

https://www.circleofliferediscovery.com/

Tel: 01273 814226

Viva Lewes Book Review

bookreviewvivalewesAnother fantastic book review! Thank you Viva Lewes. Glad to see these activities being tried and tested! Special Christmas offer is available now.

State of Nature Report

For the first time ever, the UK’s wildlife organisations joined forces to undertake a health check of nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories. Here we show you the key findings of this amazing report. To view the full report check out www.rspb.org.uk/stateofnature.

  • 60% of the 3,148 UK species assessed have declined over the last 50 years and 31% have declined strongly.
  • Half of the species assessed have shown strong changes in their numbers or range, indicating that recent environmental changes are having a dramatic impact on nature in the UK. Species with specific habitat requirements seem to be faring worse than generalist species.
  • A new Watchlist Indicator, developed to measure how conservation priority species are faring, shows that their overall numbers have declined by 77% in the last 40 years, with little sign of recovery.
  • Of more than 6,000 species that have been assess using modern Red List criteria, more than one in 10 are thought to be under threat of extinction in the UK.
  • The assessment looks back over 50 years at most, yet there were large declines in the UK’s wildlife prior to this, linked to habitat loss.
  • The UK’s Overseas Territories hold a wealth of wildlife of huge international importance and over 90 of these species are at high risk of global extinction.
  • There is a lack of knowledge on the trends of most of the UK’s species. As a result, the report can only determine quantitative trends for only 5% of the 59,000 or so terrestrial and freshwater species in the UK, and for very few of the 8,500 marina species. Much needs to be done to improve our knowledge.
  • What is known about the state of the UK’s nature is often based upon the efforts of thousands of dedicated volunteer enthusiasts who contribute their time and expertise to monitoring schemes and species recording.
  • The threats to the UK’s wildlife are any and varied, the most severe acting either to destroy valuable habitat or degrade the quality and value of what remains.
  • Climate change is having an increasing impact on nature in the UK. Rising average temperatures are known to be driving range expansion in some species, but evidence for harmful impacts is also mounting.

 

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CAMHS Camp participant feedback…

CAMHS Camp May 2013

What have you enjoyed about the camp?

  • “The thing I’ve most enjoyed about the last two days in spending time with your friends and not your family, so you’re going out into the forest and having all this free space and free time and you don’t have to worry about any of the stress at home, or whatever it is going through your mind. You just come to the forest, open, new space, and be with your friends, be with people that you like and can enjoy time with and just have a good time.”
  • “I’ve really enjoyed making fires. Thats what I really like. It’s nice to get together with people that I know and that I don’t know. It’s been a really nice experience. I’ve never camped out in the woods before! So I was quite nervous about when it got dark, but it wasn’t as scary as I thought!”
  • “Fire making, cooking the food, playing the games, going to see the badger sets and just hanging out with others!”

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Jonathan Porritt at the South Downs National Park Conference

Jonathan Porritt has spent over 30 years or more caring for nature and finding ways to support healthy economies, educational and natural systems.

Edited from Jonathan Porritt’s speech at the South Downs National Park Outdoor learning conference March 2013:

“Most of my world is spent talking about great, big, abstract issues, and sometimes they’re lumped under the framework of sustainable development, sometimes under environment, sometimes under green politics, whatever it might be. Big, abstract, conceptual ways of looking at the world. The difficulty about this is that it can so often miss the mark when you try to explain what it really means!

I have two big things I would like to talk about today:

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