So we lived for many years on the road in trucks or on the ground in tipis, as a part of a group consciousness process. We started making yurts in 2003, and set up Spirits Intent, making yurts and other nomadic tents in 2005, and at that time there were only a handful of other yurt makers in the UK, and the word ‘glamping’ didn’t even exist. We focused more on the canvas sewing side of things, as that was what seemed to be missing in the UK— our clients included other yurt makers, and obviously campsites, who need replacement tent covers, which we do from afar using measurements, whilst also supporting them with ongoing canvas care.
We always had an idea to build a new kind of campsite, with a focus closer to the origins of these tents, and as a base for the group consciousness process which we have part of for many years. The cost of land in Britain was prohibitive, so fast forward to 2015 when we packed up and left the little valley in Wales, where we had been living and working, and headed to Italy.
Who doesn’t have romantic ideas of La Dolce Vita in Italy: good food, a rich history, beautiful language and great climate. As we crossed the border into the Abruzzo region of Central Italy, we were welcomed by a magnificent double rainbow, so knew that this was going to be our place. We had never ventured this far south in Italy, and were amazed at the extraordinary variety of the land, with dramatic peaks over 3000 m just a short drive from the beaches of the Adriatic Coast, hardly any big industry, and hilltop villages with spectacular views.
Abruzzo is a land of mystery, who has never forgotten her history and origins: traditions, folklore, festivals and ancient varieties of grains and vegetables have stood the test of time. It still stands like a stronghold against the mainstream of Italian culture, like it did when the Samnites, its nomadic people, fought with Rome and is now known as the Green Heart of Europe with rich vegetation, forests and wild life: wolves and bears, deer and wild boar, magnificent birds of prey.
We found 12 hectares in an old abandoned farm with an old stone house, as we found that having a building on the land helps considerably with any project. The farm is called La Difesa, an ancient term that comes from its prior land use, where the feudal lord had a parcel of land, defended (difesa) for the grazing of large animals, feeding on the acorns under the massive oak trees, which were not allowed to be cut. As well as oak forests, it is abundant with fruit orchards and olive groves.
It stands on the doorstep of the Majella Massif, known as the ‘Mother Mountain’, whose views are so jaw dropping we still can’t believe we live here. It’s a wild powerful land, lying between two rivers and the nature is strong — the mountain has a rhythm of its own and it’s not unusual to have intense storms, interspersed with endless sun, never mind the myths of old goddesses lying asleep next to sulphur springs that are hidden in a grove 500 meters away.
To begin with, alongside our UK canvas work, we just focused on building Heartland, our site: clearing the land, restoring the orchards, making yurts, renovating the house, and running small non-profit events with a theme of well-being and sustainability. The local people were curious and overwhelmingly welcoming, coming to meet us and bring us gifts of their produce, the local priest even came to bless the house, and recently, the mayor of the local commune came and sat around the fire and joined in the singing.
We soon realised we couldn’t just focus on our project as we could help the local region, which like much of rural areas in central and southern Europe suffers from the disease of depopulation with outlying areas of villages being abandoned as the farmers compete with big industry on the plains and youth leave the villages for jobs elsewhere, taking with them ancient knowledge of the region. We realised that we could design glamping sites as a tool for famers and land owners to diversify and supplement income and bring energy to the area in a sustainable way. Glamping in Italy is no where near as established as it is in the UK, and still in its infancy in Central Italy, so a Glamping Revolution was born: GlampItalia. It started promoting Glamping products in Italy, and got names like Featherdown Farm, Outstanding Safari Tents, and others on board.
We started sitting in meetings with famers and local bodies, eventually gathering a whole network of small eco-projects and farms in Abruzzo, for the creation of an integration between sustainable tourism, and organic farming that has roots in the rich farming tradition of the area. Abruzzo is a well kept secret, and doesn’t need an invasion of mass tourism, but a slow tourism which supports the local culture. There is an opening to put together a methodology based on a concept that has transformed the hospitality industry in the UK, but here it can actually save villages from ruin.
Meanwhile we started hosting more events: yurt-making, healing arts, green building, with personal transformation work always an underlying theme. Living as a group around the fire in the quiet of wild, abundant nature is a profound experience. We intend to host two events every year, Spring and Autumn, and this Autumn we plan to raise the central canopy of our Zodiac Tent. We have always had a passion for tent palaces and, over the years, have made or been part of making several of the grandest. This tent is a reproduction of a court tent of the Mogul emperor Humayun: a grand 20 metre central tent (representing the celestial sphere) surrounded by 12 yurts in a circle (for the 12 Zodiacal signs) – a micro cosmos, and will form a magical venue for events for all over Europe but with a base on our own site – Heartland.
The site now has 4 yurts, a tipi, a kitchen area, compost toilets, outdoor wood-fired bathtubs and a Shepherds Hut under construction. As well as running our own events, we intend to open the campsite, including the Zodiac Tent, for groups of people to run independent events such as team-building workshops, bushcraft courses, and holistic health events.
Bureaucracy in Italy is agonising and about 20 years behind the UK, but the legendary red tape for planning permission has been surprisingly not so red, and can be as easy as liasing with the local Commune. Obviously the nature of permit is defined also by the activity, but there are options that do not exist in the UK, where tents can be pitched on agricultural land, or the commune can bypass a need for a change of land use with a simple declaration from the mayor.
The Italian tax system is more prohibitive than in the UK, but like many people that have moved here, the sun, food, culture and warm hearted people by far make up for it. It is important that a place inspires your love strongly and we advise people moving over to allow two years for the leap, and to work with a solid local team of commercialista, geometra, lawyer and architect. There are an endless amount of rural properties at a fraction of the price of land in the UK, and some villages in Italy are even giving away houses to reverse their abandonment. If you have a dream of moving out to Italy to start a glamping site or similar project, it is a good time now before Brexit as who knows what will be possible then? We are happy to offer advice and bring more projects onboard to create a sustainable tourism network throughout Central Italy, and a movement of visitors between them.
Abruzzo is unbelievably beautiful, and we are finding a balance between reversing the abandonment yet loving the quiet it produces – living in a myth of ancient Italy, on the verge of a new dawn of sustainable redevelopment. It’s a full, fulfilling life and a good cause to live by.
Summer has been somewhat hot: some people even gave it a name “The Lucifer Heatwave”.
Its Obvious to anyone who have got eyes that global warming is already here. I am not scared about it, the earth will look after itself it always does: it’s us, the people, that will suffer.
Don’t get me wrong I do think we should do something about it, but I have this approach to activism that is very simple: I don’t believe we can change it without changing ourselves. This takes me to the core issue I’m dealing with these days.
We are working on the creation of a very special type of performance/event series, the idea is one we have been working 5 years to realise, is to create a sort of tented camp, based on the nomadic designs, a sort of contained travelling city with a heart.
Nomadic tent city
The heart of that city, or performance if you wish, is the Zodiac Yurt Palace. It’s a sort of tent venue that hopefully can address the real issue, that we, “the white race”, have lost our connection to this earth and to each other. It’s a blatant opposite to our work in the Glamping world – to take an individual into a sort of togetherness, an experience that will focus on taking us into a connectivity. The idea behind this show, this series of events, is to take people back into a state of mind and of being which is primal, and hopefully to help address the real issue, that we have lost our place in society, our role as beings on this earth.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about the fact that many people we know, take to other cultures as a solution to move away from where the Western world has got to. My experience from travelling for 16 years, and from studying other cultures is this – contact with the white race has always brought disaster, but also that the core of the issue seems to be that there is this mental disorder that affects everyone in western society, and simply being exposed to it seems to spread it to any other society or people, so I guess, to me it seems like an answer must come from the western world, from the white people. Like our friends, we hope to glean something that is lost here, from other cultures, and we wish to use it to find a way to help people back into a state of being that we never get exposed to anymore. In working with people at our events, we have noticed that it can take over a week for people just to shed off the problems of being in society, the city, the demands. It’s little by little that their natural inner being comes out again: that’s why its all worth it, for those moments when they break through, when they go home and make a little difference.
I admire those friends that go and live with the Indians, people leave their lives and uproot into native and indigenous society but I feel like my place is here, in Europe.
And so this platform has come into being, we aim to use the biggest yurt palace ever made as a centre to take people into another state of being. It’s called together.
The yurts of the zodiac tent are all in a circle so there is less room for each person to go into his separate self. Instead we each are almost pushed into being together, then the central arena is also a place that hosts performance, but the line between the public and the show is eliminated, so it’s a series of lead participatory workshops, where the performers and the public are one.
The idea behind this venue is to try and work out a remedy for this mental Illness, to use Glamping for sustainability, and inner work as the torch bearer. We teach groups about telepathy, and inner psychic ability, how to affect others through service, and working together, but more than all we teach others about this space, the group mind, where miracles seems to happen, and so this performance we have been working on is the real focus, to raise this tent as a sort of hospital, where we can connect to our real network, to open up to a state of being that is lost in the West, and to affect the cure for the separation we all hold so dear.
If you are reading this and this is something that inspires you, we are now working on two parallel groups: one in Europe and one in the USA. We are looking for people to be part of the logistics, the performance and the network that operates this show, so feel free to contact us to talk about it in detail.
In Ancient times there was a mysterious theme the one of the sky mill, it wasn’t a motif, it was a symbol for the change the ancient viewed in the sky over the ages, through the procession of the equinox, different constellations presented themselves to the eye in the sky at different times, the change was so slow as to take hundred of years to present a new constellation all together at the time of the equinox, yet the ancients understood and saw that changed and called the whole effect a mill.
In the norse epic the Kalevala That heavenly mill is called the Sampo, its a multi coloured article, a magical mill forged by a the best Smith.
We want to use this motif and develop it into a themed event this coming September, In the Heartland campground in Abruzzo where we are researching a new type of hybrid between sustainable tourism and personal development work.
The idea is to run another of those special events which are a mix of tent making, and promotional work, cutting edge performance and inner work, but all the while in the wildest nature of Abruzzo, the mountains and the open air, we will be raising 4 yurts, and be focusing this time of the central tent portion of the Zodiac tent, the Zome.
Because the theme happens to be The heavenly mill, we want for the cooking part of the event focus on food made from the ancient grains of Abruzzo, to develop a way to feed the event participant that connects us to a gluten free or at least gluten healthy past, when the local ancient grains where still healthy to eat….. Before modern Wheat, so we will make pasta, and eat Spelt grain for staple, make bread in the fire etc.
The focus of this month long event will be to create a sort of alternative performance geared towards change Alongside a group of other people we are developing a type of activity that hopefully will turn into a participatory show, one that takes the spectator right into the show, like a sort of rite of passage from the past, the zodiac tent is going to be a sort of oracle edifice, and so we are working to have a sort of mix between challenging the self into deeper layers of connectivity, we hope to again touch on the subjects of telepathy, and well being, inner calling etc.
Like each of our events, there will be a sweatlodge to purify ourselves, this will hopefully take place around the equinox time, the moment of change.
here is a video of the last event we hosted in the spring, we hope to be holding two of these month long events every year.
Contact us if you feel called to participate, remember we will be living only in nature and sleeping in yurts, and the scope of inner work and this level of natural encounter isnt for everyone, its for people who wish to further into their psyche, for those of us that are willing to witness the mill of change and understand how it makes everything revolve, how it grinds the new age.
There is a small slow revolution happening in Central Italy, you haven’t heard of it because it isnt spoken of loudly, but its happening …….
In Italy all the subjects of Glamping and organic farming and slow nature walks are less developed, but where they do take place the approach is very different, its deeper, its like people have gone all the way back to an old life that still lingers in small village communities, villages that still hold their cultural identity and history, something which is becoming hard to find now in the countryside in the UK, not to say our villages arent special they are, its the link with the past that is lost.
Because of our work in sustainable tourism in the central Italian region of Abruzzo, we have little by little, been exposed to a host of small eco projects, always started by young people that have gone back to the land, and started farming the old way, usually with a twist, there is a wealth of ancient grain, cereal, fruit and vegetable varieties that are being harvested and preserved by these projects, from tomatoes to cucumbers, apples, melons, but above all in Italy, its the ancient wheat, the secret indigent in speciality pasta, some of which is almost gulten free, and if you have heard of people with wheat intolerance going to Italy and eating pasta and noticing that for some strange reason they can digest it….. well there is a reason.
We have made some efforts with the Heartland Association, to get all those projects unified and create some sort of net, a net that can share and offer some sort of alternative, obviously our main focus is sustainable tourism, but its there in Central Italy that a small revolution is taking place, its not Glamping, its going back to the nature of two generations ago, and its there where the old and the new are coming together in a way we believe is more wholesome, no longer camping in nature is just a chic experience, its a whole way of travel into the past, into meaning and health, into foods we forgot existed.
Having this window opened to us through our work in tent making, we felt that we need to help share it with others, especially now, as the UK is looking to be disconnecting itself from the Mainland of Europe, there is an option we must not neglect, and possibly one worth considering before (and if) the gates are closing, is that on the mainland and especially in the southern and central countries of Europe one, one can still reach back in time and develop a new way to socially innovate in marginalised rural areas.
I dont want to put people back home off, there is much scope of this in the UK too, and actually we who have been responsible for the glamping industry taking such an important place in countryside development, should have been a little more responsible, so yes often things did go hand in hand and organic farming and country life did get enmeshed with the this new way of camping.
But im afraid the biggest problem is that in the UK, rural identity has been mainly lost, and so the old way of farming, the culture of place can no longer be integrated as equal parts with camping in nature, and so we focus more and more on new ways and new styles to spoil ourselves in the outdoors, which is nice of course, but to me seems a little lacking.
This blog post is already quite long, but we havent even reached its main topic, and that is Ancient grains, hope you manage to keep on, we are almost there.
The vision we are trying to develop is where sustainable tourism is based on taking people into rural areas, developing a system of slow ventures into wildest nature, inner work, personal transformation, and all taking place in the framework of small scale organic farming based on local culture and most importantly local food, its food that can heal, its been cultivated by nature for us in an unbroken chain of the love of man and his surroundings, the toil of his soil and the mountains, the wealth of health these older food verities offer us is a link, and together with the cultural aspect of living in nature, one thats still holds in Italy undisturbed, you can reach back in time to pre-Roman inhabitants of the land, and thats the experience we want to develop, to take us all back into that primal connection that was lost.
So…. on our site in Abruzzo, we have been cultivating ancient grains, other have gone into this in more detail so here is a link to read further, most of these grain verities have been grown in the mountain regions of Abruzzo for over 1000 years, Solina (grano tenero) and Senatore Cappeli (grano duro) and others, those are wheats that have not been modified so heavily, and of course spelt the mother of wheat, it seems like what is the big deal, but you wait until you eat a plate of fresh Solina pasta, when you eat organic spelt whole grain cooked like rice, when your body accepts the right levels of gluten, and isnt poisoned by herbicide, its amazing to see our small whet field shining like gold next to the modern wheat fields of the neighbours, one of which we knew was sprayed with herbicides and is literally brown, and that should tell the whole story.
So this year having grown all of those from seed on our site, Its amazing to observe this integration with the old and the new, and I feel sorry that we have lost the chance to have the same in the glamping industry in the UK, the Vision we should offer to clients coming to nature is of slow walks, of local foods, but more than all we should be able to bring back the foods that have kept us healthy, and the culture that has made us rich, those should be key elements I think in going on holiday in a sustainable tourism destination, I feel that as we are developing the concept from the ground up in Italy, we have a chance to make it slightly different, and I hope it will be more integrated.
The waves of feeling keep undulating its worm and cold…. open and close, something really big has shifted, I have been on the go forever now, the rhythm is broken, I dont sleep at nights, sometimes go most of the day without eating, its this energy like something is coming.
We spent a month this spring with a group focusing on sustainable tourism, the idea was to build a few structures together, and take it nice and easy, but something else has happened, and its a little hard to describe but lets see if we can give it a go.
I believe that perception of this world is held by the way we have been taught to perceive, so its not like we see what there is, we see what we are made to see. Alongside tent making I was also exposed to some level of consciousness work that defies some of the normal parameters, or rather it bends them.
Thats what happened to me this spring, I like to have another edge when we hold events, somewhere between personal power and work periods, where people can experience living together, usually the group dictates how far it can go, usually there is someone who wants to go further, and the rest would rather not even know that further exists.
The event started quiet, we cut a lot of tree trunks in order to make a shepherd hut to replace my 4×4 truck, the rest of the plan was to make a few yurts together, and if we get to it work on a cruck frame marquee, but what took over almost from the start is group consciousness work.
I like to see group work like a field that can take individuals into a non-seperate state of awareness, I call it a tribal setting, we drop the boundaries bit by bit, sometimes people go as far as telepathy, things like empathy (feeling each other) is quite common, sharing dreams and so on. This month long event defied them all, its like the group was willing (mostly) to explore further, towards the end I find myself with some people on the edge of losing the plot, because of the amount of openness they shared with each other. I didnt expect that, it was like a mirror opened up and the exact replica of what happened to us 21 years ago in the mountains of Portugal, happened again, but it was even more than that, I realised that some of the people that have attended were like copies of our former selves, that really knocked me out.
I guess as a group we went further than shared awareness, we explored the esoteric side of tribalism, verging on sorcery even, the art of controlling time and space, its hard to describe now in the here and now of the everyday, and even if I could, who would understand me. There was loads of love, but also pain and fear, it was intense to share so much with a group of strangers, yet stranger to understand that they are us from another time, a window has opened up to another time and place, its eery but there is a magical message with it.