Site visits a world apart

April 16, 2016

Fell Foot Wood - View over Windemere

A few years ago a site visit would have meant something very different to me. With notebook and pen, donned in a hard hat, high vis jacket and steel toe capped boots, I would march around construction sites conducting audits, advising on concepts like resource efficiency, waste management and environmental legislation.

Maybe I would squeeze in a talk on buying sustainable timber to some trade contractors, or some coaching in the site cabin for a new unsuspecting graduate who had just been given the title of ‘environmental coordinator’; attempting to bring the reality of mans unsustainable ways into the workplace to influence finding a different way.

Graced by a Buzzard

Today my idea of a ‘site visit’ is a world apart from that corporation reality. I am sitting in a circle of yews, my gaze casting out over Lake Windermere, surrounded by spring birdsong, and the sound of a Cumbrian waterfall close by. The sun has revealed his face and is dappling the ground around me with a mosaic of light and shade. Buzzard has been here, welcoming my arrival by gracing her presence in the central glade area below; a rare close up display, signalling that I have come to the right place, and at the right time once more.

Fell Food Wood - The Glade2Fell Foot Wood is another really special place for us up here in the northwest of England. It’s where we run our annual shamanic woodland retreat Space to Emerge, amongst the blue bells and bunting in mid May.

I have come here today to put the finishing touches to our plans, and I have been flooded with excitement ever since I drove up the track. My mind filled with good memories from last year, and the anticipation of what is to come in this blissful place in just a few weeks time.

The door to my corporation days is firmly closed behind me, but only last year this was not the case. I clung onto my career running a climate change training business, with many of the big names in my client base.

Convinced that this was my path, despite the consuming agony of constantly fighting upstream, burdened with the ever growing threat of legal battles, and uncomfortable commercial harshness, through the tears and anxiety I thought I must have to soldier on. But it was Space to Emerge, and the few weeks leading up to that retreat which, looking back, was the beginning of the turning point for me.

My life was to change forever, and a new chapter begin, which had been a long time coming.

Space to Emerge is conceived

Space to emerge was conceived on the day after our handfasting, although it didn’t have a name then. The conversation went something like “let’s have another gathering in the woods, for a whole weekend next spring, and see what happens.” One of my guides, the ancestral guide I work with on designing anything to do with holding community, told us to call it Space to Emerge.

I thought it was just for other people, to come and emerge through spending time in community in the woodlands. But last year I came to realise it was also for me. It was my space to emerge into something different, aligned with my soul purpose here in this life.

Less than two months after our gathering in May I was able to do something I had tried to do so many times before. I turned my back on the corporation, and stepped into a relatively unknown but becoming increasingly familiar reality; The Way of the Buzzard reality.

Fell Foot Wood - The Yew Tree CircleThe Circle of Yews

I remember falling to my knees in this very yew circle on the first day of our retreat here last spring, tears cloaking my face. Here on my own before people had started to arrive on the Friday afternoon, I had come to say hello to the old yews, and was suddenly overwhelmed with happiness as I entered the circle.

I began to build the male altar, a place to honour and work with the Green Man. He was so close at that moment, closer than I had ever been to him. I felt him next to me, and he remained in this circle all weekend. He watched over our activities, and shared his guidance whenever we asked.

On the Sunday I held a workshop here, I remember five of us huddled around a single candle, wrapped warm in blankets, with slightly soggy drums, incense clinging in the damp air. That morning the Green Man showed us what community will look like in the future, something we ask him often in groups we run, and we are consistently shown the same images. But that is for another blog, another time.


Today I am sitting with how transformation happens, and how it has happened in my life. How we can cling onto something which we convince ourselves in our mind is right, but how wrong it feels in our bodies. How we can fear the change so much, but where the fear of change brings far more suffering than the change itself. How when we come into nature and let go, and find our support in community, the magic can truly unfold.

So let’s turn off the chattering in our minds, listen to our hearts, and watch the path unfold in front of us, one step at a time together taking us to the new Earth.

Fell Foot Wood - The Glade

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty in north Lancashire, England.

Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. Nicola, I felt I was there in the circle of yew trees with you and the spirit of the Green Man whilst reading this, I was transported to that magical wood, a moment of escapism, thank you. Keep writing, you have a gift xx

  2. That is a truly beautiful post and it looks like an incredible place, particularly the circle of yews – it’s brought to life wonderfully through the photography as well. It really does sound like the Green Man is a source of support and guidance, one that you’ve felt before and will likely feel again in the future.

    I can relate to the consuming agony of constantly fighting upstream and this insightful, sincere piece reminds and reassures me – and potentially all of us – how it is nature that can nurture, sustain and importantly, transform our life. We all need a space to emerge.

    1. Thank you for sharing Simon – I am so pleased that this writing gives some reassurance that turning to nature can help us all find the space we need.

    1. I love reading all your blogs, Nicola and this one is no exception. Fell Foot Wood looks fabulous and I’m really looking forward to my first Space To Emerge.

  3. Hello Nicola and Jason,

    Thank you for sharing this, it looks a beautiful and peaceful place. I remember the first time I did a Reiki course in 1994, I cried, but it was a cleansing weep that left me feeling like a weight of sadness from my life had been lifted and I knew I was doing the right thing at that point in my life. Trees definitely helped me as well as other aspects of nature, so I totally understand what you mean. I hope your plans continue to emerge yourselves and others to a happier place. I hope one time to see it too.

    Blessing to you both, Linda xx

    1. Its lovely to hear a little of your story Linda, thank you for sharing. Nature is an extraordinary healer. With blessings to you too, Nicola 🙂 xx

  4. Thank you for your inspiring words, Nicola.
    I am still in a place trapped by fear, but you have given me hope. Thank you.

    1. I know that place well Peggy, and I am touched that I can offer some inspiration, as others have done for me. I still feel the fear from time to time but its much quicker to pass now-a-days

      1. Bless you,hun. I look forward to the day when I’m brave enough to join one of your workshops. I’ve nearly cone before but something stopped me.I love reading The Way of the Buzzard and Jason’s photography is stunning. Thank you both.

  5. That sounds as if it was real awakening, and it sounds like a special place. I too have shed tears on the mother earth, and asked for direction and Earth Spirit has consoled me and my guides blessed me. Always with peace…
    Your path sounds truly magical, I would like attend one of your retreats in the future. Meanwhile I look forward to the next circle,
    love and blessings, Chris.

    1. Ah so you have found the magic too Chris. It will be lovely to share a retreat with you when the time is right, and yes in the meantime we shall enjoy the circles together 🙂

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