Anyone who finds our site interesting will probably have a deep connection with the idea of “…jumping over the back fence…” with our old sack stuffed with the essentials needed to sustain us on an adventure. That’s probably why you’re reading this blog now.
We follow the well trodden path of explorers before us like Burke and Wills, Lewis and Clarke, and Hillary and Norgay in their quest to go somewhere where no one has been before, and document their experience for the benefit of all.
For those of you who enjoy the odd science fantasy film, a favourite of mine – the Matrix – gives an interesting parallel with this need. The main protagonist, Neo, spends night after night trawling the internet because he knows that there is something disjointed or disconnected in his world, little does he realise the enormity of what lies over his particular fence.
But for me, and to bring things back to reality, there are two big forces at work here. Firstly as men we have a genetic imperative to discover what’s over that hill, and secondly that modern life provides us with virtually no avenues to scratch that particular itch. In many cases – and here’s a subject for a philosophical discussion – society and life conspire to take away the challenges of such discovery because it’s either unsafe, unproductive or someone else has already done it and posted the video on YouTube.
The need to explore is in our DNA. It is a survival imperative of all animals to explore and exploit the niche in which they find themselves. Charles Darwin suggests that the organism most able to explore, understand and take advantage of its environment is the best placed to reproduce. Especially so in an environment that doesn’t remain static, where food sources, water supplies, seasonal migrations and weather patterns can conspire to make the habitat so dynamic, that only the most agile and adaptable organisms can survive and thrive.
There are many businesses in the world, especially in the rich first world countries, for which ‘survival training’ has become big business. The sense of impending ‘this can’t last forever’ and ‘what if this faction overthrows that government…’ which generates a morbid fear within us that makes us want to prepare for some apocalyptic future scenario. In this dark future, only those who can make fire from a coat hanger and the innards of a squirrel will live on. Terry and I regularly joke about the forthcoming Zombie Apocalypse, because it’s a bit of fun and makes good television, but we really don’t hold out much chance that it’s going to happen in our lifetime.
This is not to say that being prepared to survive in any situation is a bad thing: quite the contrary. Every adult should know and regularly practice first aid (you may have to save the life of a person who chokes on their sandwich on the 6:49 to Paddington), know how to swim (your ferry boat may just capsize) and rescue someone from the water (their ferry boat might capsize), navigate with a map (your iPhone will fail you one day) build a fire safely and change a car tyre. To not be able to do these basics is akin to devolving yourself of your responsibility to society: life is precious, and it is beholden on every one of us to preserve it to the most of our ability.
But planning for a dystopian future is – in my mind – a little extreme. Whatever extremity we will find ourselves in in 30 years time, be it driven by war or the environment, chances are you wont have done the right training to be able to survive that particular event. If only you’d done the week-long course instead of just the weekend… Instead, by being a generalist in adapting to your environment, being aware of your surroundings, being fit and able to adapt, able to use basic tools and to work productively as a team will see you better prepared to deal with the unexpected, and ultimately increase your chances of surviving in any given crisis.
And most importantly, it is these skills which are a joy to practice in the beautiful countryside that surrounds us. Not because we need to plan for disaster, but because we should take time out of our hectic and largely unfulfilling lives, to get away from the sapping demands of modern life, throw off the shackles of our always-on technology, and get out there into the wild. To pick and pack the bare bones needed to make the adventure comfortable, and recharge our batteries from the simple joy of being in nature, with nature, simply because it is so good for you.
And that is what we practice in Stone Circle, and why we love to do what we do. To pack only the essential equipment we need for an adventure, and purposefully set off to learn new skills and experience new things, in the wilderness that surrounds us.
And that is what we invite you to do with us, to recapture some of the indomitable spirit of the Explorers before us, to learn some of the basic skills of exploration like how to find shelter as you journey, map the places you find, use the natural resources around you and come home with stories of your adventures to inspire the next generation.
We’ll see you by your back-fence as the sun comes up…