I’D spent many years as a travel writer, exploring often wild and rugged landscapes. On one occasion, though, I was abandoned by a guide on a remote jungle path in Guatemala. At first I was livid. How dare he leave me on my own? It was a long, sweaty hike to the next camp. After a while, my anger turned to anxiety. Who knew what dangers lurked in these wilds? On either side of the trail were twisty vines, gnarled branches and trees laden with toxic sap.
However, as I walked, my fear ebbed away. In its place grew a feeling of elation, the sense that around me lay a living, breathing natural community — and that I was a part of it. The separation I felt from my wild environment melted away. When I reached the next camp, I was jubilant: that walk had felt fateful and life-changing. It made me want to explore nature and place in more sensitive, creative, reflective ways — and to do so closer to home. I was after experiences that are gentle, enjoyable and that don’t require you to be an adrenaline junkie or a challenge-obsessed adventurer — and I’m passing them on here. Hippyish? Tree-huggerish? Maybe. But I think you’ll enjoy these unusual wild times in Britain.
A full Moon meander
The Moon is the source of myth, the setting of tales and the inspiration for worship. Yet how often do even the most ardent of nature-lovers set out to walk with the light of the Moon to guide them? Rarely, which is a shame, for nature is different at night — and we are different too.
Why not head to Suffolk and join a nocturnal amble? They’re led by the owners of eco-friendly Ivy Grange Farm every month, all year round, and are absolutely free — whether you’re a guest or not. The gentle walks last anywhere from two to three hours and you could find yourself on a river, coastal, estuary, forest or heath walk.
£75 per night, including a light evening meal and breakfast, ivygrangefarm.co.uk
The ancient coastal paint palette
In Britain we’re evangelical about the coast. But have you explored it in the spirit of our artistically inclined Neolithic ancestors? Give it a whirl with a day that starts with a walk along Staithes Beach on the wild North Yorkshire coast to ‘harvest’ ochre from the cliffs and rocks, and ends with a session of natural paint-making using the earth pigment, followed by a seafood picnic feast.
The one-day ancient paint palette day including lunch costs £75, realstaithes.com
Stay at Roraima House, £85 per night, bedandbreakfast-staithes.co.uk
The deer rut at Knepp wildland
Across Britain, autumn is the time of the deer rut, when the males put on a superb show of machismo, bellowing to attract females and fighting for supremacy.
If you’d like to experience this display on rewilded land, head to the Knepp Estate in Sussex, home to 400 fallow deer and 100 red deer (as well as Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies and longhorn cattle), for a deer safari complete with venison or veggie sausages, hot chocolate and home-made Knepp sloe gin.
The place is a source of inspiration for ecologists and glampers alike, who can book into yurts, shepherd huts and tepees, and enjoy gentle safaris led by expert guides.
£35 for a two-and-a-half-hour deer safari, kneppsafaris.co.uk
The Nature Quest
Way Of Nature UK offers retreats that include supported solo time in nature, fasting — to sharpen the senses — and wild camping.
I went on a three-day wildlife-rich adventure on land in Wiltshire amid rolling hills, valleys and megalithic stone circles. It was the perfect introduction to more immersive time amid the elements: two nights of group camping followed by a 24-hour period of solo time.
Way Of Nature UK hosts adventures around Britain and further afield, ranging from weekend to week-long excursions. The locations vary from year to year and aren’t always revisited.
For more information on upcoming retreats and nature quests, visit wayofnature.co.uk
A forage and feast
‘Autumn presents the perfect medium of warmth, cold, rain and sun that fungi just love,’ says wild food specialist Mina Said-Allsop, who leads foraging walks in and around Leeds. The Yorkshire city is home to some of Britain’s largest country parks, including Golden Acre Park, which is studded with lakes, woods and parkland.
The best bit? The picnic feasts that cap Mina’s walks, and are held in the parks we forage in, are wildly creative and reflect her multicultural culinary influences.
On my walk they included a curry made with coconut and polypore mushrooms, pakoras made with fat hen (a herb), stir-fried fungi, chai-spiced wild plum cake and zingy herbal kefir drinks made with blackberry, wild spearmint and billberry.
£15 for the walk, plus accommodation in Mina’s family home, £30 per person for one per night/£50 for two sharing, with a full breakfast, msitu.co.uk
An island escape
The promise of seeing an island is the stuff of lush, wild dreams, as is the chance to wander, follow your whims and immerse yourself in nature with no aim and no one to answer to.
This particular adventure may lead you to the Island of Shuna, a tiny (population: two), secluded dot in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Here, you’ll have a chance to witness otters, dolphins, deer and other wildlife. Shuna is something of an ode to the delights of feral, free-range roaming and has a crumbling, crenellated castle for added mystery.
Stay at the recently converted glass-fronted Boat House, which sleeps six and offers wide-reaching views over Loch Shuna.
From £820 per week, islandofshuna.co.uk
This is an edited extract from Wild Times, £14.99, bradtguides.com
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