To answer the call of the wild, to wander and forage in the woods, to learn about the Old Ways.
Imagine the scene … Taking the dog for a quick walk at your local woods, you wander along a familiar track. Your to-do list fills your head. Phone the dentist, arrange that work meeting. The dog sniffs the ground and hurries ahead. You quicken your pace to keep up.
As you glance down at the uneven ground, you notice pink flowers in the verge at the edge of the path. Fighting your mind’s ever-present need to rush, you pause to look at them a moment longer and call the dog back to you. Something happens in that moment – the spell of the woods, the clean air, that moment of stillness. Your thoughts quieten, allowing you to hear the birdsong all around. The pressure of all those future tasks simply slips away unnoticed. Your attention is here, now, and at what is immediately around you.
You begin to walk again, but differently this time. You amble along the path. There’s no hurry in your step. Your eyes dart along the edges, sometimes further into the trees. Yellow flowers in this patch, more of the pink ones further on. You wonder what they’re called. A bird breaks out into a distinctive song just above your head, and a faint breeze rustles the leaves. The track forks up ahead – the main part, your usual route, heading right and a smaller, much thinner path to the left. You’ve never noticed it before and decide on a whim to see where it leads. As you turn the corner, you spot an interesting stone on the ground. Small, rounded. Nothing spectacular but, when you pick it up, it feels good in your hand.
Without thinking, you slip it into your pocket and wander along towards the tree stump with the interesting fungus growing on its base …
…... This is Woodlarking.
If you take five minutes to look up the name of the pink flowers, you’ll notice them again next time and you’ll call them by name in your mind. Use their old folk name, discover their uses in medicine and everyday living. Another day, after another amble along this verge, look up the yellow flowers, or the bird who sings. Look at a map to see where the path leads and choose a day to follow it. Slowly, layer by layer, build your knowledge of this place.
We are Andy and Louise and we run a shop called Spirit of Old. Andy carves the beautiful items we sell. They are sometimes made from carefully foraged wood but also from ancient bog oak which is naturally preserved in the ground for thousands of years. I (Louise) run the shop side of things and ship items off around the world to their new homes.
Our lives have always been built around a love of the Old Ways: Broadly Pagan, broadly witchcraft, but with archaeology, ancient history, and a need to experiment with primitive living techniques thrown in. We both have a love of learning with overflowing bookshelves and, I have to confess, I can lose hours studying old maps.
We live in the area which was once the ancient kingdom of Wessex in southern Britain. The land is criss-crossed with a network of paths, many dating from prehistory, and there are still pockets of the original Wild Wood here and there. Some of those ancient paths are now modern roads and lots of the forest was cleared thousands of years ago to make way for farmland … but, if you know where to look, there are areas where things never changed. When you’re ambling along an ancient holloway, it’s hard to tell if you’re actually still in the present or if you’ve also found a path back through time.
For year upon year, we’ve been walking this land, learning about its plant and animal life, and discovering its folklore and history. Through our busy and vibrant Spirit of Old Facebook page, we’ve realised that so many other people around the planet also feel the same pull of the woodland, of the paths and of the Old Ways.
Together, we are Woodlarkers.
We invite you to follow us on our journey and to discover your own ...