Wild Britain: Not just a walk in the woods
Think Britain is boring? Think again. Our coastlines might not be palm fringed and our mountains might not be snow-capped, but that doesn’t mean Britain can’t rival more exotic locations when it comes to wanting a nature-filled retreat.
Mon 7 Nov 2016
Jini Reddy has spent the last couple of years testing out some of the wilder, weirder ways to get back to nature in the UK. From full moon walks across Suffolk fields to bumblebee safaris, helping to re-wild forests and spending 24 hours on a nature quest fasting and alone in the Wiltshire countryside, Reddy details 26 different nature escapes in her new book 'Wild Times: Extraordinary Experiences Connecting with Nature in Britain' and shares what she’s learnt with us.
“Though I’m not naturally gifted at making things, I like to think I can now get a fire started. And it’s wonderful to know that I can experiment and create art and colour from earth pigments or berries." she says.
There are 26 different experiences in the book, all designed to get people interacting with nature in ways they might not have considered before. While most people enjoy a walk through a wood, or a bracing stroll by the sea, that’s really only scratching the surface of what we can do in our own backyard – Reddy’s book encourages proper interaction with our flora and fauna, whether it’s learning how to navigate using natural signs or spending a staycation weekend working on an organic farm.
“I would love for people to feel something of the magic that I did.” says Reddy. “I would love people who don’t normally engage with nature or the outdoors to pick up Wild Times and think, ‘Let me try…’ Equally, I’d love it if more out-doorsy types give the more unusual experiences in the book a go. They might be pleasantly surprised.”
“If people aren’t natural nature lovers then they can start with a day experience so they can dip their toes in – 'Msitu' the forage and feast experience is a great starting point as Mina Said-Allsop, the forager who leads the days often runs them in a country park outside of Leeds."
The book highlights the diverse range of landscapes and lifestyles that co-exist in Britain but one thing Reddy discovers again and again is passionate people, unsung heroes quietly creating new experiences that put us back in touch with our land.
“After researching the book, I feel a greater familiarity with more of Britain,” she explains. “I was struck not just by the natural riches of this land, but also the kindness and the decency of the people I met.
Image Photography | The Canoeman / Charles Dowding
In a post-Brexit world, Britain’s fields and forests, coasts and crags are even more appealing for a low-cost, low-key staycation. Wild Times shows us that heading to the country can be anything but boring.
“I’ve travelled widely in the world, but these days I’d much rather explore Britain. I really fell in love with Britain’s natural landscapes - the sheer variety, the unexpected, staggering beauty and the wildness at times but equally the quality of gentleness.”
And what does she get from a weekend in the country?
“After an immersive, wild, rural experience far from anyone, my mind feels quieter, my worries less significant,” she says. “More than that I have a sense of my spirit returning, a feeling of having reconnected with that magical thing I’m seeking deep down: enchantment."
While some of the experiences are more out there than others (horse-whispering is one, discovering pre-historic outdoor cooking is another), people shouldn’t be too cynical of others who are unashamed tree-huggers, she says.
“What is a tree-hugging hippie? Someone who has great reverence for nature and is fearless in expressing that. I love hugging trees by the way. I believe we are part of a sentient landscape. Why can’t we enjoy the more active, traditional ways of experiencing nature and the more reflective, ancient slow ways too?”
If you’re looking to reset or reconnect with the British landscape or heritage, Wild Times is a great place for inspiration. But where will we find Reddy on a windy winter weekend?
“Ooh, star-gazing on Holy Island with a flask of hot chocolate and staying on the island,” she exclaims. “That would be pretty magical.”