EcoWild Director Emily Malik looks back on a decade of EcoWild.
Back in 2012 I was aware that we all needed to get out in beautiful living spaces more and how helpful it was for my sanity. I had 3 young children at the time so began a woodland baby and toddler group called Nature Child. In the first year it was mainly just my friend Sally and I with our 2-year-olds Daisy and Rafa! A few other intrepid mums joined and were willing to sit on the woodland floor while I poured hot chocolate out of a flask around a little fire and shared activities that our toddlers mostly ignored.
Then Lucy, another parent, suggested we get together to take some bigger kids to the woods for adventures and fire-cooked sausages, and through this we formed EcoWild. We started sharing this love for the living world in local schools as their Forest School provision, and in 2015 when the B&NES Wellbeing College began as a pilot we moved into adult courses too. I’d worked in Community HIV services and with NHS partnerships for tropical health projects and through these had become sensitised to the burdens people carry all the time, just below the surface. I knew, like you no doubt do, that coming back to our belonging in nature is a powerful way of changing perspective and regaining our strength. And that as a species on track for self-destruction through overshoot, we couldn’t come back to nature soon enough.
10 years and a whole world of people, projects, partnerships and experiences later and I am still delighted and filled with awe by the immensity of the beauty and diversity of life that I get to encounter with groups on every session I run. I absolutely love the reflections and connections that emerge between people, and how the roundhouse at Greyfield Woods has become a strong base for this. The spiralling roof seems to mirror the spiralling of the cosmos and takes people out of their every day to a place of comfort and relaxation.
We have become a key partner in delivery of the Wellbeing provision at The Community Farm in Chew Valley and for the B&NES Somer Valley Rediscovered Project, and work in tandem with many other local organisations and projects. The children’s woodland Holiday Adventure Club continues and is over-subscribed, we deliver weekly sessions at St Mary’s Primary School in Timsbury and the original toddler group continues – these days called Wild Ones. We gather every Equinox and Winter Solstice at dusk to feel the special pause of the darkness descending as we sing, play, listen to stories and stillness around the fire.
We are always working for integration and collaboration to create a thriving future for all. I envision nature-based practices being routinely and widely offered and accessed so that we support everyone to feel well and shift away from polluting the water table with prescribed medicines wherever possible. As such in September we will again run training for local health and social care teams.
It’s exciting to see that the wake-up call of the climate emergency has in some places shaken off the apathy that exists in ‘mature’ economies such as ours, where so much is taken for granted. Many more sectors of society are actively asking what changes their field needs to make, and innovative thinking is everywhere. This is reflected by the fact that I have people who are trainee Psychotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Police Officers, Ecologists and more asking to shadow, volunteer or do placements with us. There is a groundswell of interest and belief in the space EcoWild creates because it puts us on a path to play our role in the Great Turning towards a thriving future. Whatever the next phase brings, I hold gratitude and respect for all that we have right now as EcoWild and all those involved.