During the school holidays, I visited Branching Out Adventures with my family, after it had been highly recommended by a friend.
Branching Out is an adventure activity site, situated in the heart of the ancient woodland of the Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum (my mind has always boggled at that unlikely combination) near Lewes, East Sussex.
Anyway, Branching Out boasts a range of activities including high ropes, low ropes, a giant swing, a climbing wall and zip wires. These, I have to say, are most definitely not my bag. The woodland, the onsite cafe and the super friendly staff are much more up my street.
My girls love all that sort of stuff though, so they got harnessed up and went adventuring with my husband through the trees whilst I chatted with Mark, the owner, over a cup of tea.
So what does this have to do with ceremonies?
A good question. Mark told me about how, often, completing the activities is very scary for people and it really stretches their comfort zones.
I’d recently been reading about coming-of-age ceremonies around the world and musing about how to make them relevant and meaningful to modern teens in the UK. In many cultures, coming of age celebrations include some kind of physical challenge for the subject of the ceremony, whether that be a sweat lodge, being stung by ants, sleeping out in a forest alone, being taught to hunt or having tattoos or other body modifications.
Knowing how big a deal it would be for me (both as a teen and as an adult) and many others, I wondered about how something like a high ropes course could be a fantastic inclusion in a coming of age or other ceremony. With most rituals, we enter as one thing and leave in a different state having gone through some sort of change, internal or external, legal or spiritual.
How wonderful would it be if a teenager’s transition into adulthood were marked by completion of a ropes course that required skill and courage, for example? Or if one or both halves of a couple had to scale a climbing wall to reach their partner? It could also be used in adult naming ceremonies to celebrate a new identity for transgender or other reasons.
Of course, all of this is helped by the fact that the Branching Out site can be hired for private use, is set in beautiful woodland, is run by incredibly helpful staff and has plenty of parking and a cafe on site.
Does this get your imagination going like it did mine? Let’s chat about possibilities – I’d love to help you create a meaningful and very memorable ceremony in the woods (but please don’t ask me to zipwire into a rope net… :-/ ) Give me a call on 07929 764162.
And, in the meantime, do go and check out Branching Out Adventures and say hello to Mark for me.