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Earlier in 2020 before the world changed I was invited to join Wander Women’s ‘Seaweed and Seaswimming’ event at Yellocraig Beach near North Berwick. Anna Neubert-Wood has been running Wander Women for over 2 years now and with outdoor events centred around yoga, mindfulness, wild swimming, and fire making she has created something that many women in this day and age of urbanization crave. Growing up in the strict regime of the DDR (East Germany) Anna found freedom and happiness on regular family trips into the woods and to the coast. This connection to the natural environment and the liberty and joy it can provide is what she intends to share with everyone who joins her Wander Women excursions. Since their first outing the group has grown into a tight knit collective of similar minded individuals and in 2020 they were nominated as finalists in the Holistic Scotland Wellbeing Awards.
When we started out in the carpark conditions were perfect. It was one of the first mild days this year, the sun was shining, and it felt like spring was finally here. After meeting everyone we set off on a silent walk through the forest and when we reached the dunes we lay down to soak in the sun and the fresh air whilst Anna guided us through some breathing exercises. It is incredible how quickly you can forget about all your daily worries when quietly enjoying nature. At the end of our little break all we heard was the gentle waves on the beach and a skylark singing nearby. Having fully disconnected ourselves from the outside world we then wandered along the beach chatting and getting to know each other a little bit. We gathered some driftwood along the way and once we reached our destination it was time to build a fire.
Once the fire was going it was time to brave the cold and go for a dip in the sea. I found that the key to swimming in water at a temperature that makes your entire body tingle is breathing. Most people’s immediate reaction is to hold their breath or breathe very shallow and fast. When you focus on breathing deeply and fully though you almost forget about the cold and can immerse yourself in the refreshing sea even at this time of year. Admittedly my ‘swim’ didn’t last much longer than a minute once I was all the way in, but it made me feel alive and strong none the less.
We returned to the fireplace to warm ourselves and have a foraged feast with locally harvested seaweed, mushrooms, berries and flowers, courtesy of Judith Lamb and Edinburgh Forage and Eat who partnered this event.
Edinburgh Forage and Eat is a company that aims to educate, inspire and delight through guided foraging walks/courses and wild food preparation events and hold events and courses year round helping people get out and about in nature. They hold events and courses all year round and have some excellent oppurtunities to get out and about in nature and learn a little more of the natural produce available to us all.
It started off with homemade nettle wine and was continued with pickled mushrooms and seaweed, seaweed truffles and bread. To top it all off we had some potatoes and raclette cheese roasted on the fire. I am not a stranger to foraging myself, but I had no idea what a variety of dishes seaweeds can be used for. Did you know that all seaweeds found in Scotland are edible? And that there are local traditional pudding recipes using Carrageen (a seaweed also known as Irish Moss) as thickener? There is much more variety to the flavours of seaweed than what most people know from sushi rolls and similar dishes. Some seaweed tastes like pepper and some like truffles. Some can be eater as salad and others are best enjoyed dried and roasted. The possibilities are endless.
After lunch it was time for the second part of our journey. On the walk back towards the carpark Judith introduced us to all the edible plants along the way. Even this early in the year there is plenty that grows in and along the sea. We tried sorrel and pink purslane which make lovely salads, we had bramble sprouts that taste have a very strong coconut flavour, and we tied a variety of seaweeds such as pepper dulce and channel wrack. It was a delicious, invigorating and inspiring day out with a group of amazing women all seeking to incorporate nature more into their daily lives. Needless to say, I had a fantastic time and can only encourage everyone to give a course with Anna and Wander Women Scotland a go and to generally integrate more outdoor time into their daily routine.
As getting more people out into nature is what we at Nordic Outdoor are all about we love what the Wander Women group are aiming to achieve - encouraging more people to get out and enjoy mindfulness, nature and the outdoors. Now that restrictions have begun to loosen across the country we can't wait to get involved in our next Wander Women experience and you can see the full calendar for Winter 2020 here.