Ashleigh Brown, Co-founder of Ecosystem Restoration Camps and facilitator on Embercombe’s Rewilding Camps, shares her experience of our land as it rewilds, on healing the world, and getting stuck in and making things happen.
Embercombe is an oasis. It’s a haven for all life. Many people arrive feeling parched, personally, emotionally and spiritually, and the land here, so buzzing and thriving with many years of loved poured into it, holds and receives you in a way hard to put into words.
Embercombe has been a site of tenderness and love since it came into the guardianship of Founder Mac Macartney nearly 20 years ago. Over the years it has held so many people through journeys of empowerment, self discovery, transformation, grief, exploration and healing. And although a love for our non-human relatives has always been a part of the work that Embercombe has done, it is now taking centre stage. Embercombe has released control over the land, and let it rewild, taking its own course. With the climate emergency screaming at us to live in a different way, this felt like the most natural and connected form of action we could possibly take.
And oh, how the land is responding! Finally allowed to grow as she pleases, habitat for all of the creatures crowded out of our towns, cities and farmland is re-emerging. Grass snakes, lizards, frogs and toads, butterflies and moths of many colourful varieties, three species of bats, swifts and swallows nesting in the buildings, buzzards circling overhead. The land has come roaring back to life.
And so have the people. Since the start of 2021, Embercombe has run three Rewilding Camps. These camps are four day experiential learning journeys into how to rewild land, ourselves, and our society. People from across the UK and beyond have entered through the Embercombe gates, into a flourishing paradise, and breathed a deep sigh of relief.
In partnership with the international movement to restore degraded ecosystems, Ecosystem Restoration Camps, Embercombe was the UK’s first camp to join the network. The camps are a chance for people to come together each season to learn about the 12 step process of rewilding land, and do an exercise as to how to rewild our own piece of land, however large or small. We visit rewilding sites nearby, to hear their stories and see rewilding done in a different context. What is needed? Who needs to be involved? What are the activities we need to put in place?
We also focus on ways in which we as modern human beings can reconnect to a wilder way of living, on how re rewild ourselves and society. We’ve learned how to make fire by friction in the woods. We’ve learned how to create ceremonies and rituals and written new children’s stories to help our species reconnect with the web of life to which we belong.
People have been moved to tears, wearied by the constant onslaught of bad news about our earth and our behaviour, and have come away with a renewed sense of hope, peace, inner calm and resolution to go back out into the world and enact change. One of our most recent attendees is now creating her own rewilding charity, helping local councils rewild and restore pieces of public land across the country.
This autumn, the next camp is approaching. Together we will learn how to rewild the land whilst visiting the Sharpham Estate, a 19th century estate that they are rewilding, which has also buzzing and thriving with life. We willreconnect with our landscape through the creation of cordage from plants on the land. We will give our hearts time and space to grieve and release the sadness, fear and anger that we feel about the destruction of our planet. We will come together to regenerate the earth, ourselves, and our society.