It’s no secret that the pandemic took its toll on the nation’s mental health. But it’s also had a positive impact for many, making us appreciate nature, and our beautiful surroundings and inspiring us to make changes. That’s certainly true of Matt Dumbleton and Mark Cropley. This unlikely duo of dads (what is the collective noun for that?) were the driving force behind “Dad La Soul”, a grassroots movement that uses art, technology, music and play to battle social isolation and loneliness. “Dad La Soul” held events throughout the year including workshops, DJ sessions, Beat Box and was going from strength to strength across Sussex. Then Covid hit and everything had to stop for a while (although, “Dad La Soul” is now very much alive and kicking again).
With a love of the outdoors, a quirky selection of skills between them (think circus performer, scout leader, van fitter and considerable experience of hosting community-based events), these two seem to have a passion for making a difference and in January of 2021, The Wellderness was born. The Wellderness is a non-profit, community interest company that aims to bring people together by harnessing the power of nature and the great outdoors and combining that with a series of other activities. Based in West Sussex, it’s about nurturing social connection and wellbeing.
Gather around the campfire
Aimed at adults, their first event is on the 12th June and sounds like bliss. It’s being held at Furzefield Scout Campsite in Angmering in 7 acres of woodland in the South Downs National Park and the guys describe the experience as a chance to “disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with nature.”. It will involve, photography, Tai Chi, and a campfire. The photography element to the event is hosted by professional photographer Lee Milner and will focus on nature photography. You can bring along your DSLR or your phone camera to take part and it’s designed to provide everyone with something. The Tai Chi element is being run by Debbie Fox and she’ll focus on gentle movements to help the body to relax and release tensions. Debbie has 30 years of Tai Chi experience and again, this part of the event is suitable for all.
Both of the above are set against the forest backdrop and campfire and you’re encouraged to go for a walk, or just gather around the campfire, talk, or perhaps, if it suits you best, just listen. Mark will be cooking (although he tells me he keeps that element nice and simple) and the evening ends with a fire show performed by Matt and his partner (remember the circus skills).
Making a difference
Matt and Mark are limiting the numbers to each session and the June event is one of just three events they will host this year. The idea is that each event will include different facilitators as well as immersive experiences across different themes, with professional performers and entertainers. The next event in July is a family event and in October they will be exploring the Wim Hof method which is about ice water immersion and breathing techniques!
Matt and Mark are also keen to create an ongoing, online conversation using a combination of social media, podcasts and interactive live streams with guest speakers, professionals and celebrities across a diverse range of relevant topics. Their mission? To positively affect the lives of 10 million people, worldwide through wilderness rehabilitation and connection to nature. They host monthly photography competitions, have already planted 30 trees, and host a weekly “Walk on the Wellside” video on Instagram as well as holding down the day jobs.
These guys honestly feel a little bit unstoppable. They have a website (https://www.thewellderness.org.uk/) but their Facebook and Instagram pages have much more detail and you can book onto various West Sussex wellbeing events, space allowing, here: https://www.facebook.com/thewellderness.cic
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