Seasons of the Wild: Craft, Fire & Feast Winter Gathering (Ad)
Living in the countryside has taught me to live more seasonally. From growing our own vegetables to watching the landscape outside our windows change, I’ve become more attuned to each season. Even in the city, you can embrace the magic that the seasons bring, but when you step into the wilderness, the little nuances are more pronounced.
Think about the food that each season brings - spring greens & autumn mushrooms. The way the colours of the landscape change, flowing from soft blossom hues to vibrant greens, falling into rusts before fading to white. The lifecycle of nature; watching buds bloom and leaves fall. And the light, how the position of the sun in the sky affects how you see the world.
This past weekend, I was invited to a unique event in the south of Manchester that aims to helps its guests tune into the seasons and embrace the wild. The first of a series of monthly events, each outing of Seasons of the Wild includes outdoor feasts, fireside crafts and a chance to connect with nature. There’s an emphasis on rewilding and reconnecting people with the wild - something that is so important in this era where we tend to coop ourselves up indoors.
Seasonal traditions and rituals are incorporated into the events, with this February event celebrating Candlemas & Imbolc. Each event is held in the wild grounds of Abney Hall, near Didsbury in south Manchester, a grand house that once hosted Agatha Christie, who based several of her stories here. There’s a sense of magic in the air when you wander around the site. Yes, there are local dog walkers milling around in the larger grounds, but the site of the gathering is tucked away from prying eyes. Here, teepees sit below the bending branches of ancient trees and logs are positioned for perching on around the fire. An outdoor fire kitchen is set up in a clearing, where the delicious vegan feast and accompanying cocktails are prepared. A trailing path leads guests through the woods, over marshes and past fallen trees. The heart of the setting is the collection of wooden tables set below a towering chestnut tree, a candelabra hanging from its branches and fire pits keeping the guests warm.
The afternoon begun with a fireside craft session, using common rush to create crosses & ‘dolls’. As we sat around the roaring fire and weaved, everyone got to know each other. The theme for the fireside crafts was St. Brigid, the pagan goddess of fire, fertility and poetry - topics which flowed into the conversation.
Soon, it was time to move onto the meal. The table had been expertly decorated in a style that complemented its surroundings. Nestled beneath the protruding branch of a gigantic chestnut tree, the wooden tables were adorned with feathers, foliage and glass bottles filled with rosemary water. Each course was served on a different handmade woven mat or slate.
The food was undoubtedly a highlight of the afternoon. I was expecting good things, but the presentation and flavours surpassed my expectations. Fully vegan, the two starters, hearty main course and delicious desert were followed by a candlelit cocktail toast. I couldn’t pick my favourite part of the meal, as every course was utterly delicious. The charred artichoke and crispy woodear mushroom rolls were perfectly light starters, while the presentation of the woodland stew & wild mushroom rice (served inside a hollowed out loaf of bread!) definitely scored points for its inventiveness. The meal was finished with a delectable dark chocolate mousse served with poached pears and toasted nuts - served inside a coconut shell.
Eating outdoors in February worried me at first. I love dining outside in summer, but I was dubious to how the al fresco meal would feel in freezing temperatures. Luckily, the weather held out for us, and the fire pits placed around the tables (and our sensible outdoor clothing) kept us warm as we dined.
Following the meal, we were led down a dark path and over a stream into the teepee, where we learnt all about natural candle making. Local maker, Gwaredd Greatorex, demonstrated his methods using soy wax heating on a wood burner, natural wicks and natural oils. We were then talked through creating our own candles, something that I thoroughly enjoyed and would like to continue to experiment with.
Full disclosure, I was paid to attend the gathering - to take photographs & to share on my blog and Instagram. Regardless, this was exactly my kind of event. I’ve been searching for something like this in the north west for years, and was thrilled when I heard about their plans. I’ll be back again & again for future events, hopefully enticing my friends to join me. It’s very rare that someone has the guts, creativity & organisational skills to plan something like this and pull it off with such finesse - but Seasons of the Wild definitely deliver.