My work is connected with who I am: it overlaps with what is my purpose, what I am good at and what I also love. What follows is the Journey of mine to get to Wildcraft, so you know where I am coming from (and going to). What follows is also going to be the longest blog I ever write. I promise.
A Boyhood Journey
I grew up on the coast in Fife, Scotland. Opportunities for unsupervised play, lots of time out in nature, and the occasional dangerous escapade were plentiful (as expected for a normal wee laddie) and I took them. As a far back as the mid-70’s, and thanks to (amongst other things); close encounters with wasps, reading Tarka the Otter, and (by then a teenager) joining Greenpeace and selling as many ‘Save the Whale’ raffle tickets as I possibly could, I got ‘switched on’ to nature and environmental issues. First steps on the path to Wildcraftyness.
Time to Hit the Books.
So I had to find out more, and went off to University, gained my Environmental Bachelor of Science degree, and went onto further Postgraduate Study in Ecology. I loved it all, and have been hooked on discovering more as a devoted Ecologist/Environmentalist ever since, particularly around nature and people, taking whatever training opportunity to inform myself and raise my knowledge and skills, both personally and professionally.
Learning my Trade – enhancing Nature through Conservation Work…..
After putting in the commitment of long-term volunteer work, I started working for a Nature Conservation Charity (TCV), in North East England in 1987. I became skilled in Nature Conservation Management work over all the major nature habitats and related skills: Woodland, coastal, wetland, grassland management, tree planting and nature area creation work/design, ponds, footpaths, fencing, drystone walling etc. You name it, I did it, and with relish and Joy. These fundamental understandings and skills are still with me, still being used and refined.
…and somehow finding that It’s All About People
We were a volunteer led charity. It is where I also realised that I had a natural affinity with people, and the human connection with each other and nature. I learned so much from the diverse volunteers we worked with: from their backgrounds, skills and outlook. We worked with folk with health, emotional, social and all sorts of specific needs, and the mixture of people and nature within our work did its magic. This is the start of me making that conscious connection between Repriming and Rewilding.
Teacher, Trainer, Learner
I went onto posts as a Trainer, Training Coordinator and then Area Manger. I designed and ran courses for internal/external staff, and our volunteers. These covered ecological and practical theory and skills, and also focussed on personal development, leadership, team building, interpersonal relationships and life skills delivered both regionally and nationally. Through this work, I watched folk developing and going onto great things, often beyond what they may have thought possible. I accessed and deployed European funds and National training/employment to develop training programmes and qualifications including NVQ’s (and now as a qualified Trainer/Assessor/Internal Verifier). Later on I gained a 7307 Teaching qualification, too.
Back to Earth
Around 1990 I discovered Earth Education (EE). And it blew me away. As an approach for fostering knowledge of the basics of how the earth systems work, it was unique, fresh and useful. As a way to structure experiences to connect our sensory and emotional side with nature, it was way ahead of its time. It is focussed on combining these together to encourage positive action for the earth. Many of the activities have been co-opted into the more established and generalised Environmental Education (also something we offer within Wildcraft). So its over 28 years of involvement, contributing to programmes like Sunship Earth, Earthkeepers, running Earthwalks and co-designing Earth Magic. I have been trained to deliver all these programmes, and am a Qualified Muir Trek Leader too.
Care in the Community
Both as a Manager (and then when I left TCV to become a Freelance Environmental Consultant in 2003), I became increasingly aware of the benefits of nature work to support Community Development. I became a Full Member of my professional body, the Institute for Ecological and Environmental Management. I trained in Planning for Real type approaches and later, in Community Participatory Appraisal, an approach that values the knowledge of local people in shaping their environment and empowers them with the tools to take it on: it is truly grassroots in value and application. I was for instance, an Expert Advisor to Heritage Lottery Fund, and worked with around 50 community projects over 15 years on programmes such as Living Spaces and Community Spaces, as well as delivering other designs, projects and commissions. For me though, it was all still about People and Nature.
During this time I was still directly involved in delivering Earth Education and Nature Conservation work, and delivering some training and design support. I could happily balance the strategic and supportive consultancy work with those more direct approaches to the outdoors. Mind you, I was also becoming increasingly aware of Bushcraft and Forest School, and with plenty of direct and transferrable skills, already in place, I am sure my subconscious was working below decks in parallel, eventually banging on the door-hatch of my practical, rational mind saying ‘do more of this’. So I did. During 2009-2011 I trained and qualified as a Forest School Leader, and took my first Bushcraft training.
From 2012 onwards I was delivering and increasing amount of Environmental Education, Bushcrafts, Earth Education, and other outdoor education to groups, schools and from a Woodland base in West Gateshead, and wherever needed. I co-founded and ran a Forest School programme in a new primary in Newcastle, and still run regular Forest School sessions, now based in Chopwell Wood. The unique focus on the whole person, self esteem and freedom of expression is what marks out Forest school from other approaches. I am a full member of the Forest School Association.
I continued my training in 2016 on an all round 3-day basic Bushcrafts course, and qualified with my Basic Bushcraft Certificate (Institute of Outdoor Learning Accredited) in 2017. Bushcraft is a philosophy and approach that can also develop a connection to other people as well as the nature world. Yes you can go solo, and the heart of bushcraft is learning self-reliance; but building a survival shelter is easier with more than one person, foraging is better with more eyes that one pair. I have always found the community aspect of this discipline is very important, and often overlooked: People and Nature again.
The need for something beyond ‘traditional’ Nature Conservation, has always been nagging at my mind since University. Traditionally ‘Conservationists’ have struggled against always declining Biodiversity, and by being way down the pecking order when it comes to profile and importance in the everyday lives of people. But Rewilding offers real, and large-scale solutions to Nature, Climate Change and so of benefit for us too. My practical Nature Conservation skills are now merged into Rewilding skills, and over the last few years it has reinvigorated my knowledge and focus. It underpins what we do in Wildcraft, too.
A Wildcraft Journey
Wildcraft is the term I use to describe the ‘grounding’ of Earth Education, Bushcraft, Forest School and Rewilding, either used alone or overlapping. It is the attitude and practical approach that is both personal and global, and it is the passion and commitment to share of all this with you through the Wildcraft team, our services and support. Everyone deserves at least some Wildcraftyness now and again.
If you skipped right to the end, well, fair enough, so heres it all in short (below): selected qualifications, skills and experience relevant to Wildcraft. If you read it all, then great thanks.
Bushcraft Competency Certificate (IOL accredited)
Forest School Advanced Leader, Level 3
Further Adult Education Teaching Certificate (7307)
University of Sunderland. Postgraduate Certificate in Ecology (MSc level)
University of Sunderland. B.Sc. (Hons.), Environmental Studies, (2:1).
DBS Enhanced Clearance
Outdoor 1stAid (SCQF level 5)
Introduction to Permaculture (2 day)
Muir Trek Leader and experienced Programme leader for Institute of Earth Education
John Muir Award Leader (John Muir Trust)
Advanced Community Participatory Appraisal Practitioner
Chainsaw Operator – Felling (NPTC)
NVQ Trainer/Assessor/Internal Verifier (TDLB)
Trustee: Earth Education UK, North East Dads and Lads
Member of Institute of Outdoor Learning and Forest Schools Association.
Yours in Wildcraftyness