Set in the heart of the Dorset countryside in the Blackdown hills, lies a series of fields which is host to the Buddhist community retreats and festivals throughout the year. I’m fortunate to participate in the summer festival which is a very peaceful yet celebration towards life (and death) with a focus on sustainability. The festival is managed in a structure which allows problem solving and solutions to develop naturally and is lead by a team of volunteers who organise everything from workshops to onsite recycling to the compost toilet cleaning…
I arrived to the camping field and was immediately introduced to my neighbour Tim, who offered to help in set up he is a music technician manager and through morning cups of tea rituals we felt more at ease.
Songs and music fill the air throughout the day and evening, finishing in time for sleep, to rise for yoga the following day. This is not a 24/7 music festival but it integrates them effortlessly into the broad programme.
I’d harvested a selection of wild herbs to take with me, to use in advance of any we’d find in the fields. Before leaving london I’d also offered to bring a small selection of herbs; lavatera flowers, horsetail, rose petals, self heal, hogweed, nettle leaves and seeds to supply the simply rawgeous vegan cafe run by Pete and his fabulous crew.
My herbal medicine and wild food foraging walkshops took place on Friday- through to Saturday morning in the Land and social care section (permaculture). The heatwave was broken by rainfall and instead of exploring the fields, the group of women decided to continue under cover in the main tent, from where we shared experiences. Samantha Sibanye Moyo (social entrepreneur/Morning Glory) dropped in before her own session began. The group shared Our wisdom surrounding medicinal plants to support our health and ‘guess the herb’ intro based on the new cyanotype prints, displayed as bunting inside the tent.
The evenings brought great music; my favourite performances were by:
Seize the day.org
DJ Benjamin Crystal ecstaticshamanic.co.uk
Bob Hillary.com We sat around a campfire side sharing stories with our neighbours. Bob’s newly published first book ‘Simplify’ is now available.
Delicious vegan & raw meals are prepared continuously inc. Parma pancakes delicious savoury mushrooms (on one half) and sweet banana (on the other) I helped out to Pete’s juices and raw pizza and the buddhafield cafe crew supplied delicious hot food.
As night falls, The evenings are much cooler and I take saunas to warm up my bones, cleanse and purify from the day, followed by a cold shower and plunge in the mini pool, makes me feel like naked swimming in a private pool; refreshing.
Our next walking group was much larger and we found many species including patches of wood sorrel (tiny spear head shapes leaves with pointed downward tips). Ziv kindly assisted and with his seasonal plant wisdom magic, we munched on fresh nettles, the group collecting the seeds. I was tiring after walking so I gratefully accepted an invitation to enjoy ‘forest bathing’ with Liz and Rory in the Glade area, away from the tents. We lay beneath the trees, ate a simple but delicious lunch of fruit and bread and witnessed a birch tree tea ceremony, Made and performed by Rory with a Kelly Kettle; a fabulous addition to camping for outdoor hot water, made using a fire within the kettle (the reverse of a traditional style kettle). Birch tree leaf tea is quite pleasant with a smoked flavour similar to lapsang souchong tea. Resting beneath the branches watching the seeds on a blade of grass and 2 hrs lapsed… later I met Ian Cook, another raw-food enthusiast and discussed the healing properties of herbs at length over raw chocolate and tea.
We danced for our lives with DJ Benjamin Crystal in a sweaty mass and I finally sat down long enough to construct and weave myself a fruit basket; a tangible, object to take home from the field as a useful memento. The process of weaving willow is therapeutic and rewarding. Thanks to the great, patient team teaching all weekend.
On the last night the sauna was full; sweat poured through our pores. (Perhaps that’s the origin of the word..!) We chatted about the day’s experiences and a group of 7 started chanting, singing a song they’d just leant at singer Susie Ro’s session with approx 100 new voices. Her all powerful songs penetrate deep into the soul and We sat absorbing the lyrics and harmonies. Letting go, letting the river flow…