A Wild Times gallery

In her book Wild Times, Jini Reddy explores the ways in which we can reconnect with the natural world, to go beyond observing the landscapes and begin to really interact with them. 

Written by Jini Reddy


Wild Times by Jini ReddyWe may more often think of nature as green landscapes or as flora and fauna, but the earth – the very soil beneath our feet, the wind, the air and fire are nature, too. Sunshine and rain and snow are a part of our natural universe and so too is nightfall, with its moonlight and stars. And, of course, cities can be a haven for nature: that lone tree on the high street weathering our indifference is still a wild thing. In her book Wild Times, Jini Reddy explores the ways in which we can reconnect with the natural world, to go beyond observing the landscapes and begin to really interact with them. 

1 A full-moon meander – feel the lunar magic on a moonlit wander

A full moon, shining in a clear night sky. How often have you craned your neck for a glimpse when this celestial body is at its peak? The moon is undeniably compelling and magical. Since ancient times it’s been the stuff of myth, the setting of tales and the inspiration for worship. Man has even stood upon it. Yet rarely do even the most ardent of nature lovers among us set out on a walk at nightfall with the light of the moon to guide us. More’s the pity. For nature is different at night. We are different.

Full-moon walk UK by Michael Pelin, Dreamstime© Michael Pelin, Dreamstime 

In the witching hours our perspective on the world changes. A familiar landscape becomes terra incognita, full of shadows, bumps, textures and unfamiliar sounds and smells. At night, we experience both a velvety tranquillity and an unsettling strangeness than can crystallise into fear at the faintest of noises. The night, unquestionably, is a realm ripe for exploration; a journey into the unknown. And there is no surely no better way to experience its poetry than on a full-moon hike.

2 The art of horse whispering – natural bonding with equine companions

Jini Reddy horse whispering UK by David Wakefield/Adventures with Horses© David Wakefield/Adventures with Horses

There’s something magical about the relationship between humans and horses. Over the centuries our equine friends have helped us to farm, hunt, ride and holiday. But wild herds or retired horses aside, rarely are horses allowed to roam freely and to live as a herd animal, as nature intended. By the same token, rarely do we get to spend time with horses without jumping into the saddle. But what could be better than ‘joining’ a herd and learning the compelling art of horse whispering — walking shoulder to shoulder with our equine friends, connecting with them as sentient beings in their natural environment? Find your inner calm, approach the horses with trust and patience, and the art of horse whispering will gently reveal itself to you. 

3 The ancient coastal paint palette – creating art the Neolithic way

Ancient coastal palette North Yorkshire UK by Jini Reddy Ochre uk Jini Reddy
© Jini Reddy 

Most of us will have enjoyed Britain’s coastline with a bucket and spade in hand, but what about with a pestle and mortar instead? How about making paints and dyes from the ochre you find in old mining caves in the cliffs and on rocks? The earth, we seem to have forgotten, is an artist’s apothecary. But our ancestors understood this well. Ochre was one of the first paints used by man. A 70,000-year-old ochre cave painting found in South Africa is thought to be the oldest work of art in the world. And the best bit? You absolutely don’t have to be an artist to enjoy this: today is all about the beach adventure and the slow, sensuous enjoyment of the doing, not the end product. 

4 Rewild a forest – bringing an ancient landscape back to life

Coppicing Scotland mindfulness Jini Reddy© Danielle Styles

Rewilding is a movement gaining momentum in Britain, focusing on the idea that in giving nature a helping hand we can breathe  life back into ourselves. Close your eyes: imagine land, stripped of its natural riches, ecologically damaged, with little biodiversity and many species in dramatic decline. Now imagine that same land, carpeted with green grass, alive with native trees, birdsong, butterflies, insects, plants and wild animals – this is what can happen when you give nature a helping hand.

5 A barefoot walk – feeling the land beneath your feet 

Barefoot walking UK mindfulness Jini Reddy© Jini Reddy

Connecting with nature doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact, it can be as simple as taking off your shoes. People from indigenous cultures who live close to the land and spend their lives barefoot often talk of experiencing a reciprocal relationship with nature. It’s one that most of us in the West have lost – but that many are increasingly eager to regain. And it seems more and more of us want to experience the energy, knowledge and primal wisdom that comes from the earth. It’s an intense and exhilarating sensation. 

6 A weekend working on the land – reconnecting with the soil

Embercombe Farm Devon by Jini Reddy© Jini Reddy 

Twenty hectares of land. On them, a lake, a well, woods, orchards, ponies, sheep, plump chickens, buzzing bees, vegetable gardens, old-fashioned rope swings and endless wild nooks and crannies for daydreaming. All in the Devon countryside. A fantasy? Not if you fancy lending a handing on a weekend at this unusual sustainable education centre and farm just outside Dartmoor National Park. It’s one of those special places where both nature and people come first. 

7 Birding in the urban jungle – finding a city’s feathered delights

Connecting with nature in the city can at times feel like a contrary pursuit. Nature is certainly here, though. Rural dwellers may dismiss cities as concrete, cars, pollution and little else, but this is patently untrue: urban landscapes are home to gardens, parks, allotments, nature reserves, meadows, woods and rivers, all teeming with wildlife. It’s worth remembering that a wild thing is no less wild for not being in a pristine setting. Try telling an urban fox otherwise!

Urban birdwatching London UK by Jini Reddy © Jini Reddy 

There’s a whole world unfolding in our urban skies and green spaces and we should make time to explore it. Grab your binoculars and scan the urban skies – it doesn’t matter if you can’t identify the species, just enjoy the birds, their songs and the surroundings.

8 Build an earth oven – building, cooking and feasting the ancient way

Earth oven Wild Times UK by River Cottage Pizza earth oven River Cottage UK Wild Times by Jini Reddy
© River Cottage and Jini Reddy 

Making an earth oven is a tactile, physical experience. You can’t help but marvel at nature’s bounty and the ingenuity of our ancestors when you’re eating food that’s been cooked in a vessel you’ve made with clay that you’ve dug from the earth. Then there’s the glorious feasting at the end, partaken with those who’ve laboured with you. A true communion.

9 The nature quest – a solo communion with nature

Standing stones Wild Times by Adrian Kowel
© Adrian Kowal/Way Of Nature

A solo fast in the wild: I can’t think of a more raw, direct way to plunge headlong into nature. This is a traditional rite of passage within indigenous cultures: you immerse yourself in the elements, without food (as fasting is said to sharpen the senses), and return filled with insight and a sense of wonder reignited. Solitude, self-reliance, the relinquishing of phones, radios, watches: all make for a true adventure that you’ll remember – for the right reasons – for the rest of your life. When you’re without food or familiar props the boundaries between yourself and the natural world fall away.

10 A walk with wolves – a wild and intimate lupine encounter

Wolf walk UK Wild Times by David Dirga, Shutterstock© David Dirga, Shutterstock 

A lick, lick and a sniff, sniff – this is likely to be your first encounter with your lupine companions on a short hike in a quiet woods with two passionate advocates of rewilding and animal conservation who have an encyclopaedic knowledge of wolf behaviour. They’re keen to spread the word about all the good things wolves contribute to biodiversity. And you can briefly join the pack.  

11 A colour walk and botanical dyes – harvesting and harnessing the colour dyes of nature

Natural dye workshop Uk Wild Times Babs Behan Botanical Inks Natural dye workshop Uk Wild Times Babs Behan Botanical Inks
© Babs Behan/Botanical Inks 

Britain is rich in natural colour, be it the magenta produced by a blackberry or the dark brown to black the husk of a  walnut tree yields.  Harness  these hues by learning the art of natural dyeing. Forage for dye plants on a wild colour walk, and use the orangey-red created by rosemary or the greyish-green that nettles produce to turn organic silk into a natural scarf . Even if you aren’t ‘good’ at art, you’ll find your creative self-expression shines through. 

12 Forest skills day – from wood whittling to fire skills

Toasting marshmellows UK by Jini Reddy© Jini Reddy 

In Britain these days you’d have to struggle not to find a bushcraft course. But finding one where the goal isn’t to equip yourself for an SAS-style expedition can be a challenge. But there’s more to the art of bushcraft than simply surviving in the wild – it’s an opportunity to connect with earth’s gifts and truly appreciate the spirit of the forest. By slowing down and taking the time to understand the natural world, we can awaken an inner sense of wild, too often stifled in daily life. 

13 A mindful beach walk – silence and serendipity by the sea

Mindfulness is simply about drawing our attention to our experience in the present, without being caught up in thoughts of the past or future. You might go for a walk but if you’re spending the whole time thinking about what you’re having for dinner you won’t necessarily catch the reflection of the light off the water or notice the flora and fauna around you.

Beach wild times UK by Jini Reddy© Jini Reddy

Outdoors, the practice allows us the time and space to notice minute details: the dew drops on a cobweb, the veins on a leaf, the waving of branches, the millions of shades of green in the grasses. It maximises our appreciation of the natural world and allows us to be totally immersed in it. 

14 A bumblebee safari – sharing the buzz with nature’s furriest pollinator 

How does one safari with bumblebees, you may ask? With a butterfly net in hand, through wildflower-rich meadows and preferably in the company of children, so as to share their uninhibited curiosity in one of the most extraordinary and precious of nature’s creatures.

Bumblebee safari UK by Rebecca Barrett
© Rebecca Barrett
Safaris help to inspire love for the bees and their strange and mysterious lifecycle. They foster an appreciation of the vital ecological role they play and they’re also a great excuse to slow down, saunter in the countryside and hover around beautiful, richly scented wildflowers – just as a bumblebee might.

15 An island escape – marooned in glorious isolation

bungalow Bay UK Wild Times by Jini Reddy
© Olivia Sprinkel
The promise of an island eyrie; the chance to wander, to follow your whims and immerse yourself in nature with no aim, no design and no-one to answer to: such is the stuff of lush, wild dreams. This particular dream will lead you to a tiny, secluded dot in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, more or less invisible on most maps. This cloak of invisibility lends the island an air of mystery. It’s teeming with otters, dolphins, porpoises, seals, deer and other wildlife and is an eco-friendly ode to the delights of feral, free-range roaming. 

16 The ‘No-Dig’ Garden day – getting green fingers the way nature indended

Tomatoes Garden Day Wild Times UK by Charles Dowding Garden Day Wild Times UK by © Charles Dowding
© Charles Dowding 
The garden is a symphony of colour, elegant and creative. This is no Royal Horticultural Society or National Trust property though, but the Somerset home of a renowned gardener. If you visit you won’t sow, weed or harvest, but rather experience both revolutionary green inspiration and a seasonal feast. Lush beds full of exotic yacon, standing kale which looks like a miniature forest, giant squash nestled beneath their umbrella-like leaves, with coiled stems like an umbilical cord that tether them to the earth, an apple tree named Katy and so much more  – you’ll feel as wide-eyed as James in his Giant Peach. 

17 Natural navigation – abandoning map and at-nav to follow nature’s clues

Natural navigation Wild times by Tristan Gooley© Tristan Gooley 

If you are a dab hand with map, compass or GPS, you may think you are a whizz at navigation. But what if you had to find your way without these aids? What if you’d like to navigate with nature alone as your guide? Imagine the magic you’d bring to your life: the sharpening of your senses; the trust you’d develop, both in yourself and the landscape around you. The land is a living map, its signposts the landscape features and elements: sky, wind, clouds, sea, hills, trees, plants, flowers, moss, leaves, puddles, birds, even insects. 

18 Wild food by sea kayak – paddling the coast in search of wild bounty from the ocean

Sea kayak Wild Times Jini Reddy© Jini Reddy 

Foraging on land among our abundant hedgerows is a fantastic experience, as enlivening for the senses as it is to the palate. But using a sea kayak to discover the rich harvest of edible seaweeds, molluscs, fish and coastal plants in and around the clean waters of our coastline adds a rich new dimension to the experience.

19 The hawk walk – sharing the world with a free-flying raptor 

Hawk walk Wild Times by Jini Reddy© Jini Reddy
The relationship between a falconer and his birds is deeply symbiotic: the falconer becomes hunting partner, protector and friend of the bird: he or she is sensitive to its wellbeing and, if the hawk hasn’t managed to catch anything whilst hunting, the falconer makes sure it’s fed. A ramble, shoulder to feather with a powerhouse of muscle, claw and silken feathers is simply one of pure enchantment.

20 Wild medicine – forging a deeper connection with plants

Wild Medicine Wild Times UK by Nathaniel Hughes/Intuitive Herbalism© Nathaniel Hughes/Intuitive Herbalism 
Learning the healing properties of a plant from the plant itself may sound a little mystical – diehard rationalists might want to look away now – but we’re talking about connecting with nature using our senses, our intuition and our hearts. What awaits is a multi-sensory adventure with a botanical twist . Given the impact our disconnection from the natural world is having on the planet, isn’t it worth keeping an open mind? 

21 Deer rut safari – taking a ringside seat for the battle of the antlers

Deer rut safari UK by Mark Bridger© Mark Bridger 

Across Britain, autumn is the time of the deer rut, when males put on a superb show of machismo, bellowing to attract females and fighting for supremacy. Have you ever heard a buck bellow on a dusk deer safari It’s a haunting, primal sound, a cross between a deep cough and a growl. The raw ferocity of the antics of male deer is enough to silence anyone. In daylight, the leaves still clinging to the trees are a riot of copper, russet, turmeric and yellow and best viewed on a trail walk. 

22 A forage and a feast – foraging for mushrooms, berries and other wild treats 

Foraging UK Wild times by lucina dransfield
© Lucina Dransfield 
The popularity of foraging adventures has exploded in the past decade. They appeal to a broad church: foodies, nature-lovers, budding cooks, campers, ramblers and gardeners alike. People who are happy to poke about in tall grasses and scratchy hedgerows, stoop at the foot of a tree or crane their necks in search of strangely shaped mushrooms. Foraging cannot but make you keenly aware of the earth’s bounty. A wild food walk rewards a sensitivity to the landscape, for it is nature who calls the shots.

23 A slow paddle in search of otters – a canoe safari with a night under the stars

Otter safari UK by Jini Reddy© Jini Reddy 

When you’re on the river, you’re not just observing things; you’re a part of the scene. You glide between grassy banks, reed beds, overhanging trees and marshes like a giant amphibian. And, if you choose your season well, you might not see another soul. It’s all about slowing down, not clocking up the mileage. At every bend in the water a new scene unfolds: one minute, you’re ducking your head under a bridge and checking the arches for otter poo – or ‘spraint’ as it’s called; the next you’re gliding past an arboreal guard of honour. Scan the muddy banks for tell-tale webbed footprints, nature detective hat firmly clamped on, before setting up camp for the night: there are few more poetic ways to connect with nature than with a night under the stars.

24 Dark-sky gazing – watching true darkness bring the heavens to life

Aurora borealis northern lights Northumberland UK by Martin Kitching northern experience
© Martin Kitching/Northern Experience 
Mariners, desert explorers, farmers, gardeners, storytellers, soothsayers and even common folk: all were once guided by the alignment of the stars alone. Alas, in modern times, though we may rhapsodise about the Milky Way, rarely do we see it with the naked eye the way our ancestors did. This is hardly surprising with the advent of street lamps, and the haze over our cities. Fortunately, crossing over to the dark side is still possible. Several areas inBritainthat are blessedly free of light pollution have been designated Dark Sky Parks and International Dark Sky Reserves.

25 Prehistoric outdoor cookery – hot stones, pit ovens and Stone-Age cuisine

Outdoor cookery Wild times by Rosie Hazelton/Wild Rose Escapes Dumplings outdoor cookery Wild Times by © Rosie Hazelton/Wild Rose Escapes
© Rosie Hazelton/Wild Rose Escapes 
Ancient cookery techniques are still used today among isolated communities around the world, depending on the environment and natural materials to hand. Primal and pleasurable, this is true ‘slow’ cookery: dining campfire-style around the fire, log plate on your lap, a glass of wine by your side – there is not just food but a whole story on your plate. The joy of cooking in and with nature will leave you feeling replete and relaxed.

26 A wild pottery weekend – clay excavation and wild pottery in the woods

wild pottery weekend UK Wild Times by Ruby Taylor© Ruby Taylor 

The rich gifts of the earth are often just beneath our noses – what better way to appreciate them than to get people involved in creating something beautiful from nature, in a sustainable way, whilst spending slow time in a beautiful wood? Once you have dug for your clay, make your material fire resistant.  It might sound like a chore, but here in the woods, working in pairs, it has a creative, meditative feel. Crafting quietly in nature reminds us of how madly fast-paced our lives have become – take this as an opportunity for a digital detox. 

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