From the Kalahari Desert to the rugged coasts and ancient oakwoods of Devon
The Old Way - Rewilding For Resilience
The Old Way was dreamt up by Emily Fawcett, Robin Bowman, and Charlie Loram, with the help of friends Jessie Watson Brown, Pete McCowen, Bruce Parry, Jon Young, Linda Lemieux and Sam Kouzarides. Two things were instrumental in it’s coming about...
It began with a trip to the Kalahari in 2016 to stay at a Living Museum where they learnt and swapped bushcraft skills with the Ju/Hoansi San people of the Nyae Nyae. While working at a Mesolithic Living Museum in Germany, Emily was offered the extraordinary opportunity to fill a combi van with eight people, and be guided by the wonderful Werner Pfeifer. Robin, Pete and Sam joined the infamous trip: the group had the incredible experience of sleeping out under the Kalahari stars on a hunting expedition with four San trackers, the honour of witnessing a cheetah kill and meeting both a puff adder and a black mamba and the frustration of getting multiple flat tyres, one of which ended up hilariously being mended using a condom…
While they were away, Charlie and Jessie got chatting and the second piece of the puzzle was born: a rewilding group where they’d peer mentor each other in wilder ways of living. Along with Emily, Robin and Pete, the group met for an afternoon a week for several years. At first they would scratch their heads about what to do each time, but it soon became clear what the abundant foods in their area were and what they needed to learn and do. This “club” fast-tracked their journey to living off the land, leading them to experiment in all things wild from 'stealth fishing' to trying to eat scrambled frogspawn. This kind of group is something they now recommend to all their students.
The Old Way, inspired by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ book of the same name, was first developed by Emily and Robin as a yearlong programme where people could come and form a modern hunter-gatherer tribe, learning to forage across different habitats in Devon, after which they’d all travel to the Kalahari Desert to learn alongside a community of San Bushmen trackers. A meeting of two tribes. Here's a representation made after the 2018 expedition.
While Emily did the bulk of the organisational work for the running of the programme, Robin worked with some leading San trackers as well as Louis Liebenburg, author and originator of Cybertracker, to create the San Master Tracker Project. With alarmingly few bowhunters and expert trackers now remaining among the San, this project provided an opportunity and incentive for their skills to be valued and preserved. By bringing groups to a temporary village of trackers and their families, it ensured that the San’s ancient knowledge, knowledge that informed the evolution of our species, would continue to be passed down the generations. Four such trips to the Kalahari have now taken place and the San Tracker Project is still going from strength to strength.
During the pandemic, we all had the chance to slow down. Planes stopped flying, hardly a car passed in the lanes while out gathering wild greens. For Emily and Charlie, living in the woods, it was a time to really deepen into what a foraging life might actually look like. They radically reduced their food bills and harvested enough to eat at least 50% wild. They finally felt they were living much closer to The Old Way.
Robin, Emily and Charlie continued to run The Old Way as a combined hunter-gatherer experience in both the UK and Namibia until 2023, their interests gradually diverging into two clear pathways: Tracking in the Kalahari and Foraging in Devon. After five wonderful years of co-hosting The Old Way as a yearlong programme, they decided to focus their energies on their own particular passions and to de-couple the two aspects of The Old Way so that both could continue to flourish independently.
Robin continues to run trips to the Kalahari to live and learn alongside the San Master Trackers, contact Robin to find out more.
Emily and Charlie run and host The Old Way which is now based solely in the UK. This includes the original Old Way UK Immersion, four rewilding modules in different ecosystems in Devon, which Robin still teaches on along with Jessie, Linda and other inspiring guides: same incredible team, same unique programme. The Old Way also now offers the Wild Practice, a monthly rewilding club, as well as various other Wild Camps, all facilitated by Emily and Charlie in and around Devon.