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The Old Way - Rewilding For Resilience

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The Old Way was dreamt up by Emily Fawcett and Robin Bowman, with the help of dear friends Charlie Loram, Jessie Watson Brown, Pete McCowen, Bruce Parry, Jon Young, Linda Lemieux and Sam Kouzarides. Two things were instrumental in it’s coming about.

Firstly, a trip to the Kalahari in 2016 to stay at a Living Museum where we 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 up to eight people and the wonderful Werner Pfeifer would be our Kalahari guide. Robin, Pete and Sam joined the infamous trip, on which we were treated to sleeping out under the Kalahari stars on a hunting expedition with four San trackers, witnessing a cheetah kill, meeting both a puff adder and a black mamba and getting multiple flat tyres, one of which ended up being mended using a condom… the rest is history.

While we were away, Charlie and Jessie got chatting and the second piece of the puzzle was born: a rewilding group where we’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 week, but it gradually became clear what the abundant foods in our area were and what we needed to learn and do.  I remember a lot of hilarity when we wondered at the abundance of frogspawn in February and made an attempt at scrambled frog’s eggs.  This “club” fast-tracked our journey to living off the land.

The Old Way, inspired by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’ book of the same name, was first conceived by Emily and Robin as a yearlong programme where people could come and form a modern hunter-gatherer tribe with us as we foraged in different habitats in Devon, after which we’d travel to the Kalahari Desert to learn alongside a community of San Bushmen trackers.  A mutually beneficial meeting of two tribes.
Robin worked with some leading San trackers as well as Louis Liebenburg, author and originator of Cybertracker, to create the San Master Tracker Project, whereby Louis would seek out the last few remaining bowhunters and expert trackers among the San and provide an opportunity and incentive for their skills to be valued and preserved.  By bringing groups to a temporary village of trackers and their families, the project 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.  It is now run separately to The Old Way.  Contact Robin for more details.

During the pandemic, we all had the chance to slow down.  Planes stopped flying, hardly a car passed in the lanes when we were 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. We radically reduced our food bills and harvested enough to eat at least 50% wild.

One May day that year, as I halted in my task of collecting pine cobs laden with pollen, balanced in the crook of an old Scot’s pine, looking out over the Dart valley, I realised I wouldn’t be going to Africa again.  What I had learnt from the bushmen was contentment, the deep peace of being hefted to place and people.  That was what I was feeling as I sat in that tree, in that valley, knowing my tribe was close by. I was so grateful for my experiences in Africa, but I knew that my long-haul travelling days were done.  I chose, in that moment, to follow my foraging practice, locally.

Robin and Emily 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. After five wonderful years of co-hosting The Old Way as a yearlong programme, they each decided to follow their own particular passions and to de-couple to two aspects of The Old Way.

Emily and Charlie now run 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, as well as their Wild Practice monthly rewilding club and other occasional Wild Camps.  Robin continues to run his own trips to the Kalahari to live and learn alongside the San Master Trackers.  You can find out more about these trips here.


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