Cultivating Connection at Christmas
Cairngorm reindeer herd
The most Christmassy experience possible - a hike to see the wild Cairngorm reindeer - is available all year round!
A trip involves hiking along a rough mountain path before heading off onto the open hillside to join the herd. Up on the hill, you will be right in amongst the reindeer, with plenty of information given by the herder and the opportunity to take photos.
The whole visit usually lasts around 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on the reindeer and the weather.
Stargazing by canoe
Our remoter National Parks are capitalising on their distance from urban light pollution and hosting Dark Skies Festivals.
There are loads of events on around the country available to book now.
The one that really caught my eye was stargazing by canoe in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Whilst eating pizza.
Nest Collective nature pilgrimage
The Nest Collective includes Adventurous Ink authors Nick Hayes and Amy-Jane Beer among their swirling crew.
I love their modern interpretation of our natural history and folk heritage, with ceilidh and campfire revivals, actual singing with Nightingales, and pilgrimages to revere and remember iconic species such as the Turtle Dove.
Giving your time to adventures with friends is priceless, not to mention free. But, to make your outing a little more impactful, why not take up Trash Free Trail's idea of a Purposeful Adventure?
They're inviting folk to #LeaveAPositiveTrace on people and places whilst enjoying their adventures.
And if you still need a low-cost gift to hand over on the big day, download one of their free stencils, apply it to the item of your choice and make your own Trash Free Trails product!
Traditional sea school
In a previous era, practical skills were essential; often a matter of life and death!
Coastal Exploration Company, based in Wells-by-the-Sea, transport us back to this more connected time, via their collection of working sailboats and at-sea experiences, including a Traditional Sea Skills course.
This full day includes boat handling, knots, creek and coastal navigation, traditional sailing, looking after yourself in a hostile environment and foraging.
Sea Swim Cornwall
For those who have gotten into wild swimming, extending the occasional dip into an entire holiday is the ideal way to deepen your connection with friends and nature.
Sea Swimming Cornwall offers a range of short swimming breaks, including a swim around St. Michaels Mount! Swims are generally 1500m – 2.5km in length, with a longer swim paired with a shorter one, for the sake of recovery!
Swimmers attending these holidays tend to swim in the middle lane(s) of a public swimming session. Most swims run parallel to the shore for safety, although excitingly, the odd swim will involve an island.
Fore Adventure gift vouchers
Starting out from a shack on Studland Beach, Fore Adventure were an inspiration in the early days of Adventurous Ink. They have since grown to offer a range of adventurous ways to reconnect with their lovely part of the world.
Tours and sessions run daily during the season and give family and friends an experience to remember. Enjoy stunning scenery, explore the arches and stacks and ride the waves whilst kayaking out to Old Harry Rocks or taking one of their Stand Up Paddleboarding classes.
On dry land, they have regular coastal foraging courses, rock climbing, as well as bushcraft courses for those budding Bear Grylls'! Along with outdoor activities suitable for children and families.
And all this can be gifted via a good old voucher; what's not to love?!
Unplugged Digital Detox
For those seeking a less energetic escape, Unplugged offer a network of minimalist modern cabins just an hour or so from city life, carefully placed in the beautiful British countryside.
A 3-night escape is the optimal time to break your digital dependency. Padlock your phone away to truly switch off. They provide all you need, even an old Nokia for emergencies!
Watch the sunrise through panoramic windows, explore the local wilds or simply read and relax.
Now that's an escape I never want to end!
Watch the cows come home
Max Jones is the host of the incredible Up The The Last, a traditional food conservation project for remembering and reconnecting with our forgotten food heritage.
He helps us connect with vanishing practices by organising immersive trips to the ancient mountain transhumance cattle drives in Italy and to the traditional wild Atlantic Salmon smoking in Ireland.
I've been a little bit obsessed with Max, ever since watching this short film of cattle coming down from the mountains through the commune of Biella (sound on for the full joy).
This is my absolute top pick of experiences that reconnect us with the things we have lost, which is why I am sharing it with you now, even though you can't currently book for 2023. I've spoken with Max, who promises you can join the cattle returning to the high pastures in May 2023. So well worth signing up to hear more when the time is right.
Nature Fix Subscription
Former leader of the Arts and Health programme at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Rachel Howfield-Massey featured in the Ink back in 2018 with her fabulous Other Ways to Walk cards. She has recently launched Nature Fix, a remarkable online subscription to escape and immerse yourself in the healing world of nature.
Rachel reminds us that self-care isn't the occasional bubble bath. It’s about tuning into the rhythms and reminders of the natural world and listening to what you really need. Her regularly updated content contains all kinds of inspiration to do just that.
There’s no commitment to join a regular zoom meeting or keep up with a course – just lots of beautiful resources and invitations to connect with nature in simple, easy ways.
Rachel has kindly offered members of the Adventurous ink community their first month free, simply use the code ADVENTURE before 31st December.
Whenever you mark your reading progress with an Adventurous Ink bookmark, you've made a tangible connection with the work Rebecca J Kaye, their designer.
Becca has a unique approach to exploring the natural world, seeking a deeper understanding of the environment and the species that call it home by creating gorgeous data visualisations.
Armed with data in place of a map, her stats-shaped method defines every step of the process, from research, through materials and tools, to the overall design of each piece.
There is so much to discover in her work, in the most delightful of ways; each print takes you on your own journey.
Tom Frost printmaker
Tom has a much more traditional approach to creating nature prints of gorgeous flora and fauna illustrated in his fabulously colourful fashion.
His 'Otter stamp' has pride of place on our kitchen wall, and I love the reminder of its luscious Latin name Lutra lutra.
His work is filled with joy at the wonder of the natural world and will infuse any home with the same spirit.
Illustrator (of our own Windigo) and campaigner Nick Hayes is on a mission to reconnect us with our ancient rights to roam the land, in a bid to rediscover what really matters.
His stark black and white prints share that same spirit of deep connection.
Ben Edge Ritual Britain calendar
There's a deep seam of tradition running through these suggestions; our heritage leads us back to a more connected time and helps us rediscover the rituals that wrought meaning in ancient cultures.
Ben Edge is a fascinating contemporary artist reviving folk traditions. His Folk Rituals calendar notes over 300 customs and ceremonies of the British Isles throughout the year, the choicest of which are rendered distinctively by his most discerning eye.
A must for all folklore enthusiasts (if it's not in the shop yet, keep an eye out - it's coming soon!)
Alyn Wallace - landscape astrophotographer
Alyn Wallace's astrophotography calendar looks to the heavens for connection in a collection of mesmerising night sky photographs taken around the world.
Including significant astronomical events such as Moon dates, meteor showers, planet conjunctions, lunar eclipses and solar eclipses, it's a visually stunning way to orient yourself in the cosmos throughout the year.
Heather Dawe - mountains calendar
We first met Heather Dawe in our 2018 book Waymaking, in which she invokes the spirit of Nan Shepherd with the reflection that:
"painting mountains has helped me see them in a different way, almost an enhanced sight."
This year, Heather has put her super-sense to great use, creating a calendar of luminous oil-rendered mountain ranges, which capture the sense of vibrancy she felt whilst painting them.
Stone Mad Crafts
Combining folklore figures with traditional crafts, Stone Mad Crafts carves ancient designs on Scottish Stone, creating portable cultural icons with the deepest of roots.
Everything is carved by hand, and each piece is a unique representation of Bronze age, Iron age Celtic, Viking or Pictish tales and characters.
As a small maker, these affordable one-off pieces are snapped up quickly.
Otter have been handcrafting wooden surfboards in Cornwall since 2008 as well as throwing open their workshop to provide expert guidance and courses for anyone wishing to make their own.
With their help, you'll reconnect with your own two hands, find flow in the art of making and play in the outdoors with a reinvigorated sense of wonder and awe.
Making your own wooden surfboard is the connection that keeps on giving, first in the workshop and then in the surf.
They have courses from five days to make a wooden surfboard or paddleboard to one day to make a bellyboard or handplane.
Fforest Welsh Blanket
Before the era of global supply chains and fast fashion, textiles were an industry that wrapped us in the fibre of our locality.
Fforest keep this tradition alive with their classic Welsh blankets. The water that flows through the River Teifi and around the camp at fforest farm is the very same water that powers the loom that weaves their blankets.
The blanket is a traditional Welsh double cloth weave unique to fforest; with peony motifs within circular waves. They have added a few tweaks and new colours to an ancient design to give new life to an old way.
I bought my first axe from Fforest, one of those nice ones forged in Scandinavia.
It was the ideal tool for all manner of woodwork, whether brash or delicate. Alas, it was left on a riverbank during a photo shoot for the Ink.
Stupidly, I replaced it with a cheap version from the local DIY shop, which blunted easily and became a danger to use, a sharp contrast to the delight of handling my missing axe.
With this crude tool diminishing my love of woodworking and fire-making, I decided to rekindle my connection and ask for a new axe for Christmas. Shocked at how expensive those imported axes have become, however, I was delighted to discover the father-and-daughter team of Robin and JoJo Wood instead.
Their gorgeous, and highly affordable range of hand crafted knives and axes should give years of trusted use and, so long as I don't lose this one, become an heirloom for the next generation of fire starters.
My fond memories of hot food on a chilly March beach were thanks to a handy cast iron pan from the Netherton Foundry, a reminder of when I used to sell their enduring cookware.
This neat folding pan gave me a moment I'll never forget, and is so solid I'm sure it will be providing hearty family adventures for generations to come!
Or you could send some books!
Reconnecting with yourself and nature, by making moments and memories in the great outdoors is at the heart of everything we do; from the books we send out each month to these recommendations for people we admire.
You could give any one of these moments to someone special, or make your own choice inspired by giving the gift of connection this Christmas.
I'm sure the recipient will love not just the gift, but also it's spirit.