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As part of my work on the Hedgelaying In Ontario’s Landscape project I have set up the Ontario Rural Skills Network (ORSN) to teach a range of traditional skills such as green wood-working (slojd), basket weaving, dry stone walking and of course hedgelaying. The idea is to use these skills to connect people to the landscape and to each other. I’ll be posting here soon about the thinking behind this approach but in the meantime Paul Kingsnorth’s wife Navjyoat has written this piece on why working with your hands- and teaching kids to do so is really important, especially in this digital age.

Home Edgeucated

(With thanks to our great friend, artist and T’ai Chi teacher Caroline Ross)

Since the summer, the children and I have continued to learn about evolution and prehistory of humankind. We have spent a lot of time discovering how hand tools were made and how they were developed and refined over a long period of time. By the Upper Palaeolithic, the making of microlithic and composite tools had become a diverse set of incredibly fine, precise skills and using those tools would have required similar hand proficiency.

Using hands while still living in the trees, becoming bipedal beings and then using and making tools, have been considered important markers (and possible conveyors) of our big primate brain evolution*, enabling us to become creatively human, and importantly helped to bond us socially through this shared hand-work.

Haptic perception is the scientific name given to the human ability to experience and interpret…

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In wildness is the preservation of the world- Henry David Thoreau, in  ‘Walking’ (1862)

Its Sunday June 3rd and back in the UK my colleagues at Surrey Wildlife Trust have already been busy filling social media with their #30dayswild posts to encourage their friends, family and the public to take time each day through June to connect with the wild. Lou took a walk in a local wildlife with her dog Banjo and photographed all the flowers. James has revamped his garden with new plants to attract wild pollinators. Lucy  and Nicole have been exploring the mountains of Scotland. My computer screen is brimming with colour and energy and life.

I have been meaning to update my blog but I have been too busy living #MyWIldLife to write about it, but now happily both my love of writing and my need to spread the word about some of the exciting things i’m doing coincide, just in time for this annual celebration of wild living.

My Canadian adventure which started in 2016 has now reached a new phase  and I am at the start of a 10 month sabbatical from SWT. I am working as Visiting Scientist at the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Innovation and Resilience which is part of the University of Waterloo. I have joined the team on the Hedgelaying in Ontario’s Landscape initiative  who have been using a partnership approach to explore complex issues of landscape planning and management within southern Ontario’s Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). I’ll be working with partners to support their hedge planting and hedgelaying visions at both site and landscape level, together with exploring the development- or rather curation-of a rural skills network in Southern Ontario. This practical work will explore new pathways of sustainable transformation towards landscape and community resilience. More on this in later blogs!

I am living with my partner Sarah at the wonderful Mount Wolf Farm, owned and run by the Crandall family where my friends Nigel and Jef demonstrated hedgelaying back in 2016 and last year we planted the first plants in the First Canadian Hedgerow (probably not but every hedge needs a story!).  Mount Wolfe is at the centre of a transitioning landscape, a complex theatre in which i find myself an actor exploring solutions towards a sustainable future.

Thoreau’s thoughts about wilderness are iconic. Today, in the age of the Anthropocene as we struggle to maintain ecosystems and reverse biodiversity loss from a myriad of pressures perhaps we might restate this famous quote- in our world  is the preservation of the wild.

Here are a few highlights for my days 1-3 of #30dayswild

 

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