SECA Co-founder Nicola Peel brought like-minded people together in early September to discuss how we can learn from nature. In this blog she describes what participants got up to, and how we can find out more about the topics discussed.

Over the first weekend in September Nicola Peel held a Summer Gathering for SECA and non-SECA members with the title “Informed by Nature”. Those who attended were already well versed in the current climate and ecological breakdown so we did not need to talk about the immediate problems. Instead the weekend was focussed on learning from nature (not just about it), and on issues that are often overlooked, such as agriculture and death. Time to be quiet and to make new friends was also an integral part of the weekend.

On the Saturday 42 people arrived at the Knepp Rewilding Project and the group was divided in half. One group went with Sussex Wildlife Trust President Tony Whitbread to learn about the ecology of Knepp and the incredible results that have been gained by allowing the land to do what it does best without human interference. Participants got to see the storks, Tamworth pigs, longhorn cattle and deer, whilst learning about the process of rewilding. The other group went with Environmentalist and Solutionist Nicola Peel to learn about Biomimicry.

We learned about why nature uses the branching pattern all around and inside us, how owls fly so quietly and how butterflies could help the solar industry become more efficient. The group swapped over mid walk before coming back together. A quick coffee refuel at the Stork Coffee Hut and off for lunch under a huge oak tree.

Time was spent listening to the land and becoming a part of the landscape through deep observation. Amazing insights were gleaned and poems shared. Back at The Willows Lakeside Retreat we shared a delicious feast and enjoyed music and laughter around the giant fire bowl under the starry sky.

Sunday was a day of panel discussions. Carrie Cort from Sussex Green Living spoke about thriving communities and the activities of the Bright New Future Roadshow with the Inspiration Eco-Station, a 1970s upcycled milk float which goes out to engage with local communities and schools.

Pooran Desai OBE from One Planet gave an inspirational talk about his work in sustainability over the past 30 years and the development of the One Planet application. This has huge potential for use with councils and organisations by showing them how to join up the dots and implement climate action throughout every department. If you have not already seen the work of One Planet then be sure you look into it.

After a coffee break where so many ideas were being shared it was hard to get bums back on seats, we carried on with a discussion of regenerative agriculture, which is rarely discussed within climate groups.

Old Tree Tom spoke about the wonder of soil and biochar. Anyone thinking of setting up a community compost scheme for their village should check out Old Tree Soil. Dr Compost Nicky Scott went into more detail on the wonders of compost and why it is so important. If you need to find out more check out Nicky’s website. Antony Melville spoke about Forest Gardens and Nicola Peel spoke on an agroforestry project in the Amazon and how regenerating soil can prevent deforestation and might just even save chocolate at a time when monocultures of cocoa are under fungal attack. Nicola also discussed the 42 Natural Principles and how to Think like a Tree.

After another communal feast we came back to discuss the ecology of death, another topic that is often overlooked. The environmental implications of death can be terrible with chemicals and vast amounts of fossil fuels needed to burn bodies. Cremation is certainly not an environmentally friendly option and West Sussex does not even have a natural burial ground.

Jean Francis from Circle of Life Celebrations spoke about the importance of our final decisions and Yuli Somme surprised us with an enactment of a funeral procession with a body entering the space wrapped in a beautiful felt cocoon rather than a box. If you are interested in thinking outside the box then see Yuli’s site Bellacouche (beautiful resting place)

A great weekend was had by all and it was wonderful to bring so many movers and shakers together outside into nature. Cooking food together on the fire, using compost toilets and camping together brought a sense of community which is so often lacking in today’s world and was such a welcome respite from the world of Zoom.

Nicola can be contacted at,


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