Happy Birthday WildWise! Chris Salisbury reflects here on the last 20 years of WildWise, and a special anniversary event...
In 2020 WildWise are celebrating our 20th anniversary. Woo Hoo! Congratulations us!! A birthday milestone is always a good time to reflect and I remember the day before WildWise was born was my last official day of work for the Devon Wildlife Trust - the 31st December 1999, which is a very good day to end a 7yr post. The next day being the beginning of a new millennium was a rather auspicious day to kindle the first WildWise flames......
A bit of history....
We kindled the first WildWise flames with a project with the Woodland Trust who gave us our first contract to coordinate 66 events in various locations around the UK to bring community groups into connection with the forest environment.
Right up our street of course, and a very helpful start for us. Our first baby steps in the new millennium were further substantiated with a series of courses and lectures with Ray Mears that we put on at Exeter university and Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial museum, with whom we are still working, contributing events on their summer programme in 2019.
Since then our nature connection aims and objectives have remained the same. Its our fundamental belief and commitment that unless there is connection, there will not be conservation, and that by offering invitations to step over the threshold from indoors into the outdoors, we are encouraging people out of a kind of exile. Looking back over this time, over more than a thousand events, its humbling to have played our part in a wider movement to bring about change, through a deep connection to the natural world. Our pedagogy has very much been through our experiential learning methods and if there is a quality that distinguishes the WildWise way, its the combination of head, heart and hands aspect that we to bring to all our events and courses.
We have such a long list of contributors, instructors and volunteers to thank over these 20 years all of whom have helped weave the colourful threads of the WildWise tapestry, and who have laid the foundations for the next 20 years of restoration that we want to be part of. Not least, and definitely most, of the gratitude must go to Joanna Gaddes who for the last 5 years has from the office desk, steered the WildWise ship in such a faithful and intelligent way. We certainly would not be where we are today without her skills and experience and so we count our blessings she is still coordinating our project.
At long last, a book from WildWise's director
Its only a coincidence, but it nevertheless is timed well with a 20 year anniversary milestone, that finally, after so many years of procrastination, my book 'Wild Nights Out' is being published by Chelsea Green. This is a book to support practitioners and/or parents with adventures and learning experiences in the dark, full of practical ideas, activities and information about nocturnal nature and 'things to do in the dark...!' Look out for it in the summer / autumn.
Special Anniversary Event!
And finally, in our 20th year, it is fitting to have an extra special event to bring to your attention, and this for me, is as special as it gets. Our Kalahari Expedition in March will guide a group of Call of the Wild alumni into the remote desert to live with the Bushman. This is part of a wider intervention initiative to help this ancient civilisation preserve their old ways, and you can read about the Namibia Bushman Fund here.
This project is multi-layered with complexity and delicacy, and its a big story that WildWise are humbled and excited to be part of. I do encourage you read more about it, because its such an important story to be aware of.
For me personally, I come around in a full circle of 30 years to make my second visit to the Kalahari with the sweet prospect of doing what my guides and mentors did for me when I was 24 years old, when I was part of an international youth exchange project curated by the Findhorn Foundation. Its a long story, but the gist of it was a trajectory altering experience for me that was a primary influence in shaping my values and priorities - and WildWise certainly wouldn't have happened without it.
So you can imagine that in my role as guide and curator of a deep desert immersion with a potent and humbling programme with the last of the Bushman is the sweetest return for me, and we are grateful to The Old Way team for enabling this to happen.