Fired Up February! Teenage Woodland Programme Update

February’s session of the Teenage Woodland Programme saw an eclectic mix of handy craft, skills and pizza fired straight from the hand built oven itself.

Making fires at the Teenage Woodland Programme encourages team building and confidence

 

During the day there was the usual building of fires which time after time provides a great sense of teamwork amongst the group and in turn strengthens the relationships between the participants on the teenage woodland programme.

Warmth is such a basic human need and so by working with each other to create that, it becomes even more meaningful.

Pizza oven! - find out more about our woodland site!

 

Of course then made all the more tastier when creating ones own pizza with an impressive variety of toppings for the outdoors, I’m sure I saw some chorizo!

 

Find out more about our woodland site!

 

The pizzas certainly went down a storm and I’m sure they’ll will be back on the woodland menu again (even if I have to champion it myself).

 

 

The Teenage Programme - showing off our skills!

 

There was an abundance of craft and skills happening throughout the day. At one end of the base camp a participant was using aerial silks and showing off her learnt moves – very impressive and a joy to watch.

 

The Teenage Programme - making bird and bat boxesOn the other side of the camp participants were continuing to build their bird and bat boxes which helps to enable the crucial conservation of the wood itself.

A couple of participants also took to creating little leather pouches, just big enough to hold something significant like a grounding stone. I for one still carry my stone and leather pouch, with its drawing of a bear paw with me wherever I go. I made it in 2012 when I was once a CAMHS participant on the woodland days. Sometimes the smallest and simplest of things carry with them such power and almighty strength.

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery - visit our website to find out more about us

 

S’mores, music and discussion sealed the day and what a packed day it was. Yet throughout there was an air of calm and thoughtfulness amongst the group which was interesting.

Not too far off we’ll start to see the beginning changes of nature heading towards Spring. That’s one of the brilliant things about this month by month project is that we began in Autumn and we’ll finish in Summer, so all the changing seasons will be witnessed in our woodland.

 

By Emma Thorne

CAMHS Peer Trainer

Circle of Life Rediscovery

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery has been working alongside young people and CAMHS East Sussex (Discovery College) for 10 years co-developing nature-based days where you can come along and be with other people who listen without judgement.

The course is free and has been designed and delivered with young people who have experienced mental health challenges. The programme will continue to run throughout the year ending in a camp in July! We will co-create a fun, safe and healing time together, have discussions and stories around the fire and rediscover our gifts and how nature can support our well-being.

Forest School and Therapeutic Play

A creative approach to managing difficult behaviour – Forest School and Therapeutic Play

Play and the Outdoors - an Experiential & Theoretical Journey into Forest School, Creative and Therapeutic PlayEmotional insecurity can prevent children from positive participation in activities and relationships. Children often use unacceptable behaviour as the way of coping with negative feelings. Forest Play recognises that these children require a more therapeutic approach to enable them to calm anxiety and fully engage in forest school.

Develop understanding of Attachment Theory and how it relates to emotional insecurity.Join our two day CPD course on 20th & 21st March 2018 to learn new creative strategies to help manage difficult behaviour and help young people enjoy all the benefits of forest school.

This course is suitable for forest school leaders and facilitators, outdoor educators, teachers, youth workers and anyone who works with children.

Play and the Outdoors – an Experiential & Theoretical Journey into Forest School, Creative and Therapeutic Play

Day one

  • Theory: Including – Child development and attachment; How to grow a brain; Importance of nature in childhood; Sensory Play and Stress; Group Dynamic: Importance of connection to others; Spectrum’s of emotions.
  • Activities: Role-play – The brain, baby to adult; group work to develop your skills and confidence. Group games and sensory experiences – forest school, fire and the creative use of clay, setting up your space – tarps and shelters, sand play in nature.

Day two

  • Builds on the outdoor skills of participants – fire-lighting, knots, mask making and story making.
  • Importance of risk and challenge. Focus on the need for individual therapeutic play when working with groups and developing skills.
  • Theory: Principles of child-led play – wild play/free-play/therapeutic play; Communication skills – instruction/reflection; Safe boundaries & Health and Safety in the outdoors; Risk Assessment; Directive/non-directive.

Takes place at our woodland site near Laughton, East Sussex
The course is led by Forest School Trainer, Marina Robb (Director of Circle of Life Rediscovery) and creative play and sand therapist Kate Macairt (Creative Spark). Both have many years experience in their field (and forest!) and have co-facilitated successful creative outdoor training programmes for many years.

Location: Mill Woods, East Sussex at our woodland site.

Cost: £165 per person for both days.

 Circle of Life Rediscovery

To find out more please visit the Circle of Life Rediscovery website, or book your place online. For any questions please send an email or call 01273 814226.

January’s New Beginnings – The Teenage Programme

Woodland Project Teenage Programme – Windchill & Chocolate Muffins

By Emma Thorne
CAMHS Peer Trainer

Happy New Year and a great big hello to 2018!

Woodland games at the Teenage ProgrammeJanuary saw in the fourth Teenage Programme Woodland Day of the current Woodland Programme and it was certainly a chilly one with a ‘refreshing’ breeze flowing through the camp.

Though despite the cold (which a roaring fire always helps to rectify) we had the weather on our side and were free from the rain – woo hoo! Although wellie boots remain a necessity, of course.

Connection & Friendships

We had a big ol’ group of participants in the teenage programme session this month which was brilliant. It’s particularly special when the same participants keep coming back each month. It really feels now, in our fourth session, that the young people are becoming more connected with one another. Friendships are forming which is heart-warming as a Peer Trainer to see.

Baking chocolate muffins! Part of the Teenage ProgrammeActivities

There were plenty of activities this month to satiate the participants’ bounding energy. Such included baking (think chocolate muffins ft. brownie- the squidge was right on point!), games, a long walk deep in the heart of the woodland and a craft making activity.

The participants began to build various type of bird boxes which coincides with the thinking around conservation of the precious woodland. So whilst we’re all out enjoying our time in the woods, the young people are doing something to give back to the woodland itself.

Fire making

 

 

It all comes full circle. If you look after a space, the space will look after you.

 

 

 

Pizza oven cookies!Food, Stories & Music

Fuelled with sausages and burgers (and cookies made in the pizza oven) participants and team sat around the cosy fire to hear a story from Sheila. Sheila is a woodland volunteer on the teenage programme. It’s one of my favourite moments of the day, to sit calmly with tea in hand, and feel captivated by the often – thought provoking story.

We were then treated to some music from a participant whom had brought his guitar along, which was fab and the young people were soon quick to identify the hit songs being effortlessly strummed out. Inspiration in hand this soon provoked the idea to adlib a song from scratch, guitar playing and all, which I’m sure will one day become a woodland hit!

See you all in February!

Samurai Games

Circle of Life Rediscovery have been working alongside young people and CAMHS East Sussex (Discovery College) for 10 years co-developing nature-based days where you can come along and be with other people who listen without judgement. The teenage programme will continue to run throughout the year ending in a camp in July!

 

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery is a Community Interest Company that has been working since 2004 to reconnect people from all backgrounds and ages to the natural world. They offer outdoor learning programmes including forest school sessions, forest school training, CPD’s, bespoke curriculum linked outdoor learning days and tailor made residential camps for schools.

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

website: www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Teenage Woodland Day, October 2017

Toffee Apples and Mythical Creatures

Our Teenage Woodland Programme

October 23rd saw in the first session of the Teenage Woodland Programme. The new woodland season, which has been kindly funded by The People’s Projects in association with The Big Lottery Fund and ITV, will run from October 2017 to June 2018.

You can read about the full Programme here.

It’s exciting to begin the Teenage Woodland Programme when the woodland is in such a great period of change. The leaves have turned from vivid green to burnt orange, mushrooms and toadstools strewn across the woodland floor and in the air, the smell that Autumn is in full swing.

What we did, unicorns and all!

Toffee apples on the fire! Our Teenage Woodland Programme

It was a jam packed day, for both participants and the woodland team. The rain poured, but it didn’t dampen spirits. It was all happening from fire building, to toffee apple toasting, to wood carving utter knives and mythical creatures – a participant made a fabulous unicorn!

As the rain dripped down from the trees, with participants sat under the dry tarp, we were treated to a story from the newest member of the team, about Norse mythical creatures. Tea in hand, it was a wonderful way to bring the group back together after participants had been tending to their fires and making homemade toffee apples.

New and Old Faces

“I can’t express enough how much relaxing, healing and peace there has been for me today.”

Listen carefully when toasting an apple over a fire, its skin will blacken, but the sound that is produced is best described as though the apple is ‘screaming’. Eerie, but intriguing. I’m looking forward to hearing more tales and stories.

It was great to see so many participants join us on the day, new faces and old. My greatest wish is that everyone who came in October’s session, will join us in November’s session and so on. It’s such a unique project for Discovery College, and one which I believe holds a lot of energy and power.

For a young person who is struggling with their mental health to get out of the house is one thing, but for that young person to develop their skills and knowledge in a place that could soon become a familiar, safe space is another. I’m just so grateful for this funding as it enables us another opportunity to spread the word to young people who are struggling, that the woodland is a wonderful and magical place to be, and in the space that we hold in Vert Community Woods, full of kind and supportive people.

By Emma Thorne
CAMHS Peer Trainer

About the Woodland Programme

The Woodland Programme is aimed at young people aged 13-19 who are experiencing mental health difficulties.

Circle of Life Rediscovery, our woodland site

Circle of Life Rediscovery have been working alongside young people and CAMHS East Sussex (Discovery College) for 10 years co-developing nature-based days where teenagers can come along and be with other people who listen without judgement.

 

The programme will continue to run throughout the year ending in a camp in July. The woodland is a very calming and relaxing space, young people who have been before tell us it is very freeing. 

 

Circle of Life Rediscoverywww.circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

Our Teenage Woodland Programme, by Emma Thorne

Grab your wellington boots, gather the kindling, and have those marshmallows toasting at the ready. Why I hear you say? Because the Teenage Woodland Days are back and I for one cannot wait.


At the beginning of 2017 Circle of Life Rediscovery in partnership with East Sussex CAMHS (Discovery College) successfully secured a grant from ITV’s The People’s Projects. This well earnt money will be used to fund the upcoming Teenage Woodland Days, as well CLR/CAMHS-LD/FISS Family days.

As a CAMHS Peer Trainer I feel very excited about the forthcoming project, particularly as I had such close involvement in spreading the word and rallying up the support for it through its stages of public voting. Yes, this Peer Trainer was even featured on ITV Meridian doing just that, although I will confess that the fame has yet to go to my head.

Asides from getting back out into the ever changing mystical woodland, I’m especially looking forward to working with the fantastically enthusiastic young people whom have been previously involved in woodland projects. Their continued energy and passion for being outdoors is wonderful to watch. But one thing that I’m really hoping for is that there will be some new faces on our Teenage Programme. The woodland welcomes all to its beautifully calm space and all you need is an open mind and an invitation to yourself to allow your senses to take in the wonder of nature and its beauty, as it changes throughout the seasons.

The weather is already beginning to change and soon it’ll become more apparent that Autumn is ready and waiting to announce its presence. The leaves will darken and fall to the ground and suddenly the annual childlike desire to crunch all over them underfoot becomes all too irresistible. The changing of the seasons is something that I’m most excited about in relation to the upcoming woodland days. The programme will run from September 2017 through to July 2018. All four seasons will be experienced over that period of time and I’m intrigued to watch how the woodland changes in its entirety.


So, are you between the ages of 13-19 and are experiencing mental health difficulties? Why not try something new, take an exploration into the heart of the woodland or simply unleash your inner Bear Grylls and start learning how to build a fire whilst cooking something delicious on it to enjoy.

Come along and you won’t be disappointed, although I cannot guarantee that you won’t get muddy – see you in the woods!

 

Weekend Dates:
2017
September 16thOctober 23rdNovember 18th,
2018
January 13thFebruary 3rdMarch 3rdApril 6thMay 19thJune 9th, July 7th & 8th.
Celebration Event
May 29th – all families & supporters welcome.

Where:
Mill Wood, Vert Woods Community Woodland, Park Lane, Laughton, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6BP (map available on request).

Times:
10am – 3.30pm.

Trainers:
Mark Lloyd, Rivkah Cummerson, Luke Funnel, Marina Robb and Emma Thorne.

How to sign up:
To register for a course all you or your supporter (relatives, friends and carers) need to do is:
Phone: 0300 303 8086
Email: sussex.recoverycollege@nhs.net or
Write: to Discovery College, Aldrington House, 35 New Church Road, Hove, BN3 4AG giving the titles of the courses you would like to attend and your address.

A registration from will then be sent to you by post for you to fill in. If you find completing the form is difficult for any reason, please call us to confirm you can attend the first session and come along with your form, so we can support you to complete it. We can do a home visit if you would find that helpful.

If you have any questions about registration please contact Rivkah Cummerson, CAMHS Participation Manager, tel:  07876 037478.

For any questions about the content of the programme please contact Mark Lloyd, Circle of Life Rediscovery, tel: 07961 015307.

 

Outdoor Learning – A Win Win Situation

Most of us know that spending hours and hours in front of screens, bombarded by emails and message notifications causes us stress.  Humans are not surprisingly more stressed that we have ever been.  It’s subtle and eats away at our well-being.  Our world with all it’s current technological achievements has at the same time adopted dopamine-filled technology to hook us in to screen life.

IMG_4084It’s necessary to know and articulate what we are trying to achieve as educators.  In business the mission statement drives the business and it’s value’s forward.  Many of us educators have a good sense of what represents and motivates us to educate, and what is ‘good education’ but this is not always represented in the requirements at school/government level.

So we do the best we can.

Neuroscience is moving so fast, that what we now understand so much more about the brain, the hormones and how we learn.  Current research corroborates the importance of both play and the outdoors as vital for a child’s development and well-being.  A by product of this is that they also learn much better when they ‘play’ and indeed are outdoors using their bodies and in the midst of the greater living world.

This is true for adults as much as young people.  There are hundreds of top business leaders who are immersing themselves in nature for restoration of their stressful lives.   The outdoors represents to me ‘free medicine’, as well as every living thing that provides life for humans – which is clearly no small thing.

trackingim1My expertise is in working with people outdoors – and for 30 years more specifically working with young people of all ages and backgrounds outdoors.  I have an interest in what motivates people to care about the natural world, to have a greater sense of nature connectedness and to live healthy and satisfying lives.  Bringing nature into our everyday life is a really good idea! We know that our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) reduces once we stay more than 15 minutes in a green space.   This also means that we step out of our predisposition to fight, freeze and flight and into higher order thinking, where we can start to be creative, think out of the box, communicate more easily with others, get in touch with how we really feel, all the while building our knowledge and understanding  through experience with nature.

Within the field of education  there are many theoretical positions that underpin our approaches to education in the UK.   We continue to draw on centuries of theories of learning that include the  authorities like Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori, Steiner, Guy Claxton, Howard Gardner, to name a few. Essentially these experts value exploration and repetition as a way to learn, see the medium of the outdoors as valuable because it is so diverse and provides multiple sensory experience, and theorists acknowledge the importance of the role of the ‘teacher’ or ‘practitioner’ and how effective they are at communicating.  As brain science develops we understand that we loose what we don’t use, so it’s vital we are exposed to multisensory experiences so that healthy wiring can happen from day 1. Brains are wired,  strengthened and ‘grown’ by multiple experiences that include movement as a basic requirement as well as the critical role of care-giving to provide secure attachment for well-being.

20150407_141132Fortunately we have a win-win situation with ‘outdoor learning’.  The content of what we teach in schools can be delivered outdoors – so we teach all the subjects in nature.  This content is still decided by the teacher and the curriculum but it is taught in the outdoors.

A very large project, Natural Connections (2012 – 2016) was concluded this year.  After 4 years of working with 125 schools (primary, secondary, and special) in the South West of England – 40,000 pupils, 2,500 teachers and 2,500 teaching assistants they discovered that indeed outdoor learning has multiple benefits across any school. The Final Report of this project can be found here.

The evidence shows that giving children the opportunity to discover, learn about and experience the natural world is hugely important – it can help create a sense of belonging rooted in their local environment, enhancing their health, well-being and educational outcomes.  For example, greater amounts of natural space in or around living or learning environments is associated with higher levels of physical activity, better emotional, behavioural and cognitive outcomes and with children developing a greater sense of connectedness to nature.”

We need to also consider that in the UK (and worldwide) we have a huge rise in childhood obesity, mental health issues and a lack of a sense of community.  We are in need of a  vision for of a future where  where we don’t harm nature.  According to the Monitor of Engagement with Natural Environment Survey, in an average month in 2013 – 14 only 8% of all children in England (aged 5 – 16) visited natural environments with their schools.  During home time, exploring and playing outdoors has decreased by 90% over the past 20 years.  Fundamentally children (and adults) can’t protect what they don’t know and love.

DSC01155 - CopyInitiatives like Outside Classroom Day on 18th May helps us to remember to get outdoors. If you are a teacher why not join our Outdoor Learning Day?  These days help us recognise the value of getting outdoors. There are lots of official promotional materials to make it easy to get outside.  Tim Gill, an expert on the benefits of risk and play for children has produced a useful guide which you can find here.

Another useful guide is Michael Follett’s practical guide to help support playtime learning outdoors:

Learning with Nature

Learning with Nature

Finally, our very own book ‘Learning with Nature‘ is filled with nature-based ideas that connect young people of all ages, and their families to nature – it is the ‘Bible for Forest School practitioners’.

Our team at Circle of Life Rediscovery provide diverse nature experiences  for young people, schools and the wider world.  We offer trainings to develop these areas within your setting and offer year-round CPD’s for teachers linking the outdoors with the curriculum.

Have fun outdoors,

Marina.

Marina Robb, Director and Founder of Circle of Life Rediscovery

www.circleofliferediscovery.com | 01273 814226 | info@circleofliferediscovery.com

The Woodland Project needs your help!

Please VOTE for The Woodland Project.

Dear Friends,

We have been waiting for a few months, keeping quiet about something really important to me, our organisation and the families and young people we work with.

voteWe have the incredible opportunity over the next two weeks to secure funding for a year with your help!  We have been shortlisted as one of 5 finalists for the ITV People’s Project  –  this is up to you, the public, to VOTE.   There are so many worthy projects but I want to tell you why we think want you to make a little effort and VOTE FOR THE WOODLAND PROJECT.

About 3 years ago, Tracey Johnson from the Family Intensive Support Service Disability Team visited us in the woods working with families and young people who have mental health issues.  She took a risk and thought that perhaps the families that accessed her service could come out too – with the right support.  And she was right!

Marina

I have spent the last few years being part of a project that blows me away every time.  I can laugh like crazy, feel very moved, appreciate the calm haven that nature offers us all during one family day!  As a parent myself, I am continually heartened by the relationships, love and resilience I witness between the parents and siblings towards their brother or sister – despite the often continual stress and difficulty that this special relationship fosters.  In every day life, the parents are taken to their utmost edge – and mostly find a way back to be the best they can be for their family.   They are ordinary people living with extraordinary situations – where they rarely sleep, are met with fear and judgement in everyday lives, some children are violent and verbally difficult, others make distressing noises.   They cling on their parents for security when they are awake, and the truth is that there children are unlikely to ever be independent or reach many milestones.  I know I would struggle.

woodlandp (2)Yet what they tell us is that this project is fantastic – they can come together as a family and everyone gets something good out of it.  They can lie in a hammock together, they can meet another parent or sibling who gets it – they can have hope that people do manage as their child becomes a teenager.  They can rest a while in nature.  We all create a space that is welcoming and accepting.  And we push the boundaries and try all sorts of things that would be unthinkable inside – sawing, getting messy, making fire, exploring the space in a non-breakable place. Parents talk about the many firsts – that their child has never created an item at school!

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We all have many lives and different experiences.  I want to us all to be a more compassionate society, count our blessings and enjoy the company of people from all walks of life!  This project needs YOUR VOTE to help it continue.  Please take a moment to share the link with your friends and family and watch the VIDEO – and share it!

Voting is now open and closes at noon on Monday 3 April. You can vote once per region and will need an email address to vote online. To support The Woodland Project, please visit the website here and then follow the instructions. You will receive an email to confirm your email address and your vote. If you do not confirm this, your vote will not count! Please check your junk email if you don’t receive it straight away.

Here’s why you need to vote for The Woodland Project!

Thank you all for the support #TheWoodlandProject

Offering support to children with learning disabilities, their families and young people!

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!

ww5

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

Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

In September 2016 we embarked on a weekend of Sacred Fire & Fire Quest with both adults and young people coming together to undergo a Rite of Passage. As a culture we have all but lost our traditional ways to mark transitions and to support us to move to another stage of life and relationship to the natural world.

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In 2017 we look forward to welcoming Salvatore Gencarelle from the Helpers Mentoring Society to share teachings and offer immersions through the ‘Living Fire Course’ – a four part training throughout the year commencing May 2017 (exact dates TBC). This offers an opportunity to adults to undergo a Rite, then support young people to do this in Part 3. For more information about this click here.

 

DANIEL FORD, from the University of Hull joined us in September to record his impressions and to begin to share the experience to others beyond the forest.

“We are forest people, and our stories and social networks are forest born”.
(Sara Maitland, Gossip from the Forest, 2012, p. 9)

“I prefer being in the forest than in school and I believe the more important lessons can be found there”.
(Teenage Fire Quest Participant 2016)

Stories from the Fire

It is dawn. Raven calls ring out through the wood, stark over the distant sound of traffic. The calls are not being made by birds but rather by a small group of people who, having tended a community fire throughout the night, are now making the agreed signal of return for those out beyond the encampment. Before long men, women and children emerge from the trees and gather together in a large circle. Some take seats, whilst others move closer to the fire. The man who has held vigil at the fire throughout the night, the acknowledged teacher and leader, sits on the far side of the circle silently welcoming those who are returning. When quiet descends on the gathering he asks for those present to sing the song or tell the story that has made it itself known throughout the night. Individuals are called upon to tell their stories, to share their visions and sing their songs from the solitary quests that began at dusk and that have now ended with first light. Those that have worked with these Fire Quest participants as guides gently encourage the members of their groups to share their experiences of being out in the wood, alone with their own fire.

InipiThe first group speak a little about their unexpected experience of time throughout the night. They talk of how they spent their time in preparation for their quests, how they tackled time passing in the wood through the night, and of how they collectively believed that dawn was breaking only to realise that it was the unexpected brightness of the full moon rising. There are murmurs and nods of affirmation from the others seated in the circle acknowledging shared experiences.

Attention moves to the next group. A teenage boy, standing in the outer circle, speaks out. He makes a statement that he feels sums up his quest, “that you don’t really miss something until it’s gone, but if you look hard enough you can bring it back”. He recounts how he slipped in and out of a pattern of sleep and attentiveness throughout the night accidentally allowing his own fire to die out in the process. Despite almost being overwhelmed by darkness he tells how he was able to re-kindle his fire from just an ember. An adult at the far side of the circle celebrates both his mistakes and his determination by offering a personal insight “that we can give things away, all of us, without tending to ourselves”.

IMG_4220
Returning to the sharing of stories around the circle a teenage girl is called on to speak of her experience. She begins by recounting the personal question that she took into the forest with her. “How can the dark be a friend, how can it be kin, and how can I not be afraid”. She speaks matter-of-factly about how her time spent in selecting and preparing her space for the night helped to settle her anxiety and make the experience literally grounded and friendly.

As the sharing at the fireside continues a boy is invited to share the song that he ‘received’ whilst he was out in the wood throughout the night. His voice is fragile at first and the group, perhaps through solidarity of experience, begin to sing with him. The song is a simple, repeated refrain giving shape to the boy’s experience.

I’ll be climbing in the treetops,
I’ll be hiding in the bracken,
I’ll be running with the wolves,
and I will find you.

He tells the assembled group that the focus of his thinking through the night was a question about how he could learn the land and that the song was his answer. The guide of the group explains that there were also many questions from the young participants “around school and college with the question – what shall I do?” being a common theme.

A teenage girl, seated cross-legged by the community fire, continues with this thread on behalf of the next group. She speaks of how her fire bundle flared as she left the community fire at dusk on her way back alone to her chosen site and how it burnt out completely. She recounts how she retraced her steps along the path and found an ember. In the darkness she carried the ember back through the wood to her fire site and was able to bring the fire back to life. The girl continues to speak of insight gained through the process of tending fire and tending herself throughout the night. She says that she feels now “that growing in knowing is not an intellectual activity, that it is active and located in action”. To clarify her point she talks about working with her personal questions. She says that she recognised that she “had the need, the knowledge, the awareness that she had questions that needed answering but not sure about what they are or were… this led to the realisation that it is action itself that leads to knowing, and that this in turn leads to questions arising”. The teacher smiles on the opposite side of the circle.

The teacher continues by addressing the group as a community in relation to the girls sharing. He speaks of a teacher from his own wisdom tradition. “Black Elk, was an Indian elder and he had essential things to say about processing what happens out there, he spoke beautifully about this and although I not want to paraphrase – his message was this: ‘a vision without action is just a dream’”.

As the last group are invited to share their experiences attention turns to a teenage boy who decided not to venture out into the wood and instead remained behind with the teachers and guides, tending the fire throughout the night on behalf of the community, creating a link with all those out in the darkness.

Greenland sunset 4The sharing and harvesting of stories and experiences in the circle reaches its conclusion. The teacher finally turns to a woman who had joined the morning circle late and who was clearly upset and had been crying. The woman had been a key part of the ceremonies of the weekend and held an opening gratitude ceremony where all participants shared a little of their thanks for the coming experience and for life itself. She is asked if she will share her story of the night. Holding back her tears she begins.

It was a glorious night, with the strong light of a full moon and a sweet breeze. It passed slowly. I dozed occasionally, my fire dozing with me but rising back up every time I tended to it. I watched the fires of the young ones around me, rising and falling similarly to mine. I tracked the length of the night with the moon as it passed over us and with the change in traffic noise. We were near a main road and as the night wore on, the sound of traffic dropped until we were finally in total silence. In the depth of the night I heard a tawny owl call out a few times and the sound of a fox barking. The moonlight was so bright that I found myself listening out for a chorus of birdsong to confirm the approach of morning. We had been given strict instructions that our fires needed to be fully extinguished before we left them and tending the fire down to cold was an important element of the whole. I sat there, spreading the coals around with a stick and watching the embers sparkling up at me. I heard a crow call. I heard a great tit. And then I heard the traffic start up again, and the sound of traffic increasing. There was no further birdsong… The commuters were already on their way towards London and I knew that morning was upon us. And that’s when I began to drop into a well of grief. I sat there. Where were the rest of the birds? What were we facing as humanity? Going to work day in day out, by car, coming home by car, windows and doors closed to the elements, the wildlife leaving us… What have we done to the Earth? Stirring the last of the hot coals, listening to the traffic, pondering and feeling, I could not leave my site – I did not want to return. I just sat there in my well of sorrow.

At my most grief-stricken I heard the sound of movement in the branches above me. A few leaves fluttered down and then acorns started landing around me. As I looked up I saw a squirrel on one of the branches, looking down and scolding me in a way that only squirrels can. I had to laugh at myself. If nature communicates with us through signs and symbols, the different metaphors that emerge from a flying acorn brings us much information. Who knows what will happen in the future after all. Those young ones out there all night, tending to their own fires, igniting their passion and their personal fire – what acorns were being planted in them that night? How the Earth is now is how they know it to be. They have never seen a murmuration of starlings, chased butterflies or tripped over hedgehogs nightly. I realised that my grief was for how it was when I was a child and how it used to be. The weight of age.

Many, many people around us today are committed to doing what they can to change the world. We are planting acorns, both arboreal and metaphoric. With the energy and the optimism of youth – well maybe there is still hope for the future of my grandchildren and the future generations of all living things. I’ll keep praying that is so.

After this final story, the sharing of which leaves those listening in deep reflection, the group is invited to pay its respects to the site itself and encouraged to leave the woodland in better condition than they found it. The preparation to leave is unhurried and leisurely, with participants returning to their individual sites, raking over coals, covering fire pits with disturbed earth, and scattering leaves with the aim of leaving no trace of human activity. Once this had been satisfactorily completed people begin to clear away their belongings, leaving the wood without apparent sentimentality or the need to effuse to one another about the power of what has been shared.

The Fire Quest itself had been led by a man who openly drew on the traditional wisdom of his own culture, and of his own teachers and elders. This cultural aspect of the Fire Quest suggested that “the role of indigenous cultures” was to “ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy human being”. Promoted as a “rite of passage, which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood” this development would be brought about through “processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy”.

Although the processes of this Fire Quest had now been completed, the unfolding and blossoming of the young participants was perhaps only just beginning.

Daniel Ford is a doctoral research student and the recipient of a Freedom to Learn scholarship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Hull. He is currently working on an inquiry into what happens when young people have wild experiences within and alongside their formal education.

Correspondence: d.ford@2015.hull.ac.uk

For details on The Living Fire course with Sal Gencarelle, commencing in May 2017, please see the Circle of Life Rediscovery website.

The Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest

The Community Sacred Fire

Are you or your child ready to participate in a Fire Quest Rites of Passage? Do you want to come and support the village and Sacred Fire, whilst learning about this ancient ceremony?

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Join our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend

The Community Sacred Fire is a special container which holds space for people to connect on many levels. It is a place to remember departed loved ones, to honour the ancestors, to remember our ancient relationship with the elements, to reconnect with people, to share stories, to laugh, to cry, and to return to inner harmony. It is also a place remember the blessings of life, and to remember to live in service to the future generations.

 

 

The Community Sacred Fire is a multi generational event held at times of need. That need can include times of deep sorrow and times of great joy and celebration. It is a place that allows the safe processing for grief; and it can also be a focal point for a community during Rites of Passage.

In September 2016, we are offering a weekend of Community Sacred Fire teachings for people wanting to learn more. The weekend will be led by Salvatore Gencarelle.

People will be introduced to this powerful container and some of its applications. As part of these teachings we will be exploring our relationship with the natural elements (fire, water, stone, and air) and how to combine these elements into the event. On Saturday September 17th we will hold an overnight Community Sacred Fire for all those attending. The fire will be tended throughout the night allowing a time for people to connect. This Community Sacred Fire is being held in support of people doing a Rite of Passage called a Fire Quest.   We will also participate in an Inipi, more commonly known as a Sweat lodge – all ages welcome.

The Fire Quest

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Taking place in September 2016, Fire Quest Weekend & Sacred Fire for adult, young people and families.

Many people in the modern world so desperately want to live lives full of connection and love. Yet we were never given the opportunity to go through authentic Rites of Passage to support our growth out of childhood. People now find themselves locked into a childlike state of reactions and views.

 

 

 

How can we help ourselves and the next generation of children to become well grounded, completely connected individuals?

Historically, the role of indigenous cultures has been to ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy “Human Being”. The ancient cultures hold a deep understanding of the life stages, as well as how to meet the challenges that come with these life stages. They had processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy. This knowledge and understanding was necessary in order to prevent people from stagnating in their personal development and getting stuck in loops of adolescent behaviour, something we can often observe in modern societies.

The Fire Quest is a Rite of Passage which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood. The quest traditionally occurs during the formative teenage years, approximately between 12-17 years of age. The quest involves a person being honoured by the community, sent out from a Community Sacred Fire into nature to tend a personal fire throughout the night. During the night the quester reflects on their life, their gifts, their wounds, and learns directly from their interaction with the fire and nature. During the night the quester is supported by their family and the people at the Community Sacred Fire. In the morning the quester is welcomed back to the Community Sacred Fire where they share their experiences from the night.

In the modern world any adult undertaking this Quest will gain deep insight into themselves and their relationship with all of life.

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Taking place 16th – 18th September 2016 with Salvatore Gencarelle

 

Please click here to find out about our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend, taking place from 16th – 18th September 2016, for adults, families and young people.

 

 

Date: 16th – 18th September 2016.
Location: Laughton, East Sussex.
Who should attend: Adults, families (including siblings) and young people (aged 12 – 17 years).