Bewildercamp came about as a collaboration between druidry and bushcraft. In one weekend, devoid if timepieces and interruptions, the idea was to allow the pace of life to return back to a natural rhythm, and with it to re-introduce people to a deep connection with Nature.
This June five brave souls joined Lewis Herridge and me at the Wild Man Spa – a secluded and generous woodland space in the heart of Cheshire. Between us all we had a lovely balance of men and women, and a good range of ages. This seemed to match the balance of rain and sun that switched places regularly during the weekend. Thanks to Lewis’ well thought-out permanent camp area we barely noticed the occasional shower.
We started with a walk down to the beautiful river side by some old tree for a meditation just to introduce ourselves to the site, to the area, to the spirits of the woodland, and to try to bring our energies into harmony with each other and the site.
Our first practical task was to build a shelter by creating a pyramid of branches. This structure was then added to with more branches along the two sides of the structure, and then thin spindly twigs were added to provide more coverage. On top of this woody mesh dead leaves were piled up and stuffed in until almost all the gaps were filled.
To make the shelter waterproof we gathered rhododendron leaves to begin to add impenetrable layers. Finally, some more branches were stacked against the structure to stabilise the covering. It looked snug and dry, and this would be tested as we intended to sleep in these shelters overnight, whatever the weather.
After a deserved break around the camp fire I divided the group into two teams. Somehow, despite my random method, it ended up being girls in one team and boys in the other. I had found each team a space to work in, and gave them some rocks and asked them to choose a labyrinth design to make.
Each team worked at their own pace to create the outline, to carefully place the stones at significant points in the design, and then to fill in the shape however, they wished. The girls used twigs and the boys gathered bracken to form a beautifully organic style to their design.
I asked them to walk the labyrinth, taking in with them whatever it was they wanted to leave behind. At the centre they were to leave these thoughts, emotions, and other psychological baggage in the middle of the maze, and then to walk out unencumbered.
It was slow deliberate work. The girls walked their design in turn. Each came out in tears. The boys walked it together, leaving a respectful distance between themselves. They were thoughtful and quiet. Everyone was affected by the experience.
In the evening, after cooking food on the camp fire, I sent everyone off to the shelters for a deep meditation. The shelter design acted like a sensory deprivation chamber and the ends were closed off to keep out the last of the day’s light. For over and hour the folks went deep into their inner worlds. All the while I drummed gently around the space, whispering questions and thought-provoking statements, such as “The spirit of place wants to know where you are going!”
John Kirby wanted to be buried in a shallow pit, and Lewis and I hastily dug one for him, covering it with branches and leaves, and lining it with a tarpaulin, and brave John climbed in while we covered him over, leaving the entrance flap loose so that he could emerge any time.
People emerged when they felt like it. Some had a relaxing rest, a quiet experience, whilst others had profound insights. This was the end of the day of being ” lost” in the labyrinth and the deep inner space. The next day would have activities which would help the group to “find” themselves.
The morning broke and after breakfast we invited everyone to go for a morning walk around the woodland. On their return Lewis took us all through some bushcraft skills – particularly various forms and methods of firelighting. This really began to put people in touch with their primal instincts.
Next we chose a space in which to construct a timber circle. It was to have eight stations, each aligned to the cardinal directions. Once we had established these, we set about digging post holes. It was hard work in the humid summer heat, but there was a delightful communal and co-operative feel to the dig. Everyone lent their strengths to the tasks.
Each person chose a dedication to make, whether it be a flower, a stone or something more personal. These formed the base for the posts. Before we could all believe it we had erected a new timber circle!
I made a dedication to the four directions, and then asked everyone to find their own path or shape around the circle. The starting point would be the place where they felt they had started this weekend from, and then the path would be something intuitively walked, until their arrived at where they felt they were now. We then talked about each path, and how the movement and the direction spoke of their personal journeys.
There was a nice discussion around the camp fire and then it was time to pack to leave. I think I can safely say that no-one wanted to leave that weekend – that wonderful close-knit group. It really was an idyllic moment when friendships had been made and enhanced, skills had been learned, and there had been some amazing insights made.