Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Photo: Project Rewild

“Get outside this winter!”

Have we all lost our connection with the wild? The important lessons to be learned there? The play to be enjoyed? The vital top-up of Vitamin D? Luke Funnell and his team at Project Rewild feels passionately about our connection with the ‘outside world’ – and offers opportunities for both children and adults to experience and explore how it feels to run, dance, play and learn in our beautiful natural environments. HOT’s Zelly Restorick asks Luke why he feels so strongly about this issue.

“Get outside this winter!” urged Luke in a recent social media post. “Project Rewild is offering free outdoor activities to our local communities in Hastings and St Leonards this winter.” The opening words of an article I was going to post in HOT for Project ReWild, prior to out latest lockdown. Sadly, the free outdoor activities needed to be cancelled: activities including ‘woodland days, sea fishing, outdoor exploration and adventures in some of the towns most wonderful outdoor spaces’. *

* Due to start again after 2 Dec. Fingers crossed!

Photo: Project Rewild

I know I am not the only one to believe that cancelling outdoor activities like this feels an unthought-through, unwise decision. An OTT risk assessment, albeit one with which Luke has complied, much to the detriment of Project Rewild, (also in terms of their financial survival).

Over time, I’ve heard lots of positive things from parents I know, whose children have attended, thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted from Project Rewild gatherings – and Luke and his team, the parents and children – and the adults who wanted to attend Polly Palmer’s mindfulness classes – are all disappointed that the sessions haven’t been available, especially at this time.

Luke Funnell

I’ve known Luke a while and am aware that the Funnells are a long-standing family in the local community; multiple generations, living and working in Hastings. Luke is someone I really admire and respect: he stands resolutely by his principles and values; living, breathing, evolving and developing a project that resonates with his heart, mind and the integral core of his being. And the belief in the vital importance of the wild, non-domesticated and tamed natural world for our physical and mental well-being.

From a place of lockdown, Luke expresses his disappointment, frustration, distress and unhappiness. How this decision totally contradicts the common sense wisdom of the life-enhancing benefits we humans experience when we spend time in nature.

“We are being told in very clear terms from the government and scientists that the winter is set to be hard,” says Luke. “We are bombarded with messages of fear and impending doom for the dark months ahead, income’s squeezed, jobs lost – and now – another lockdown.”

Photo: Project Rewild

“The effects of this on our mental health are profound – for ourselves, our families, our children and our communities. We are suffering in untold ways. Strict Covid measures and guidelines govern schools and leisure activities across the country to keep us all safe. But the undeniable decrease in free play, social interaction and fun is affecting our children and all of us massively.

“With all of this happening, one thing we could definitely be doing more – with multiple benefits for our minds/bodies – is getting outside.

Photo: Project Rewild

“The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Broadly the scientific and medical experts have been clear that there is less likelihood of transmission of this disease outdoors than indoors”.

“Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, also previously stated that the virus appears to spread less easily outdoors because of natural ventilation. Speaking at a daily Downing Street briefing, he said: “There is a definite truism across all of the scientific literature that ventilation is a most critical part of reducing transmission from respiratory viruses”. Mr Van-Tam explained that normal breezes and air currents appeared to quickly disperse “any kind of plumes of anything”.

Photo: Project Rewild

“So, from that perspective, it is absolutely categorically clear that outdoor spaces with higher degrees of ventilation are less problematic environments for transmission than indoor spaces.

“Being outside is safer for us,” Luke continues. “It is better for our physical and mental health, for our immune systems – and it keeps us connected to the natural world at a time when we are becoming increasingly disconnected and isolated. At this time, more than ever before, we should all be getting outside as much as possible.”

For more information go to Project Rewild.



Luke Funnell works as an outdoor learning facilitator leading transformative woodland projects for children teenagers and adults. He is a qualified forest school leader and advanced level bushcraft instructor and has spent the last 5 years training in nature connection and and nature philosophy based on Native American teachings including rights of passage and quest work.
Luke has over 20 years of experience working with children and teenagers as a youth worker, mentor, teacher, coach, playworker, behaviour adviser and residential social worker. The work he is most skilled in and passionate about is working with young people with emotional and behavioral difficulties.
“I have been working with many of the most at risk and vulnerable young people in society for most of my career; without doubt the most important and profound changes I have witnessed in these individuals is when I work with them in nature. I passionately believe in the therapeutic and transformative effects of working with people in this way. I enjoy engaging and inspiring people to be outdoors more and I feel it is my purpose to help people connect with themselves, with others and with nature, to re wild people and our communities.”
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Posted 20:26 Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020 In: Nature

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