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We headed off to this new weekend event with very little idea what to expect.

It was titled “Gates of Autumn”, filling a lull in the wheel of the festival year, marking the changing season.  I knew there would be like minded folks with druidic leanings there so hoped it would be relaxed but stimulating, interesting and enjoyable. I knew there was to be some music and a story walk.  I hoped it would be a time apart to enjoy, with a good connection to nature, and to the others in the temporary community who formed.

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It exceeded all those hopes and every expectation I could have had of it.  It reached parts I didn’t know needed a hand in moving on and growing; and it was super fun with lovely, lovely people, intelligent, creative, sensitive, fun people all.

For starters the site it is based in, Wildways, is wonderful all on it’s own.  The lovely wooded valley with cosy clear meadows, babbling river, overhanging gorge edges and amongst all this subtly scattered artworks and special spaces.  The woodland is managed wonderfully inobtrusively, just enough to help you appreciate that people are living in harmony with the land there, but mostly just feeling spacious and natural.   Just when you least expect it there are occasional inspirational lines casually placed on little tranquil, natural boards.

If you’d missed quite how wonderful the site was on the first evening in the dark when much of the time was spent in the exceedingly cosy and comfortable, snug and holding yurt then the story walk made sure we were all engaging with the land as we squelched through the bog of despondency and transformation or as we noticed the troll turned to stone in the hillside, mouth open, so like a small cave, or the rocks he threw at the middle son by the pond-lake home of the serpent, and the monster in the undergrowth.  The power of a well crafted story, told by a talented bard, wove not only the adventure of the newly created mythology into the landscape, but over it’s telling during the walk it wove each of us into the whole.

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The various speakers over the weekend kept a very casual and relaxed air to the proceedings.  Each talking about their specialist areas of knowledge and helping us all find common ground and learn something new in an informal style.  Journeying to explore questions with the aid of power animals had a variety of responses, all of them in some way significant to the travellers.  As for the sound bath, I can barely describe it – it was a totally awesome wrap up. I have experienced a few different gong baths and sound therapies in the past, but this really was a tremendous journey of healing joy.

At some events alcohol plays a significant part, here we were high on the land, on the sounds, on the experiences, but even so, we didn’t let that stop us sharing a little home made mead around the fire on the second evening, in much the same way as we had been sharing the tasty pot luck food in the kitchen & dining areas through the rest of the weekend.

This was one of those short events which packed in what felt like weeks worth of wonderful experiences without there ever being a sense of being rushed or bustled.  A wonderful time of being utterly present in all of the experiences so well crafted together.

At the end I had heartfelt thanks to offer to Wildways’ guardian: Elaine,  our story guide: The Travelling Talesman/Cliff Eastabrook, Phillip Shalcrass and his wolves;  Leo Rutherford; all the musicians and artists, the wonderful guests and participants I met there, especially Harriet for her lovely crumble, the most seasonal food you could ask for helping connecting us to the land, (more special than you’d imagine) and last but by no means least: Massive thanks to Steve R for causing this excellent festival and celebration, a superb ritual for transition, which worked on me at many levels, to come into being in the material plane.

May our memory hold what our eyes and ears have gained,

because it was so very much.

I can but hope that I am able to attend next years “Gates of Autumn” and again contribute what I can with the other lovely souls gathering to mark the seasons turning, and our own growing,  in an awesome location.

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