"Is this cooked? It doesn't look cooked to me," says Jonathan as he probes the spit roast chickens with his Sami knife, squinting as the wood smoke stings his eyes. "Yep," says Greavsie, carnivore-in-chief of the group, visible only by the beam of his head torch. "Looks cooked to me. Here, have another slug of Battle Vodka, that'll protect you from any salmonella."
For the past five years our small band of men, all Impact colleagues, have been gathering for weekends under a rustic shelter in a remote and wooded Cumbrian valley, affectionately called The Cradle Of Filth, because of it's glutinous clay soil that bonds our boots to the land. We tend to meet in the dark months, after the autumn leaf fall when the tree sap is down. Weather conditions are at their least optimum for outdoor work and living, this adds some spice to the whole experience.
These woods are our escape from the world outside, just for a short while. Away from our phones, laptops, away from electricity, central heating and running water. A sanctuary, where we are immersed in a natural world where just the bare basics matter; the provision of good food, warmth and rudimentary shelter. We don't need to read specialist medical research to know that being in the woods is good medicine. It is written on our faces. This is not a place where deeply confused 'nineties men' have to craft emotionally intelligent emails. This is a place where we overcome our domestication and act in true masculinity, embracing adventure, risk-taking and problem solving. Here we rewild ourselves, strengthen our relationships, build our connection with nature as well as fulfil a very tangible purpose.
This is no leisurely holiday. There are fifteen acres of overgrown woodland to manage. Tree felling and timber extraction on the steep boggy ground is unashamedly 'manly' work. It is physically brutal and often dangerous. We manage our fifty year-old egos, hoping our bodies don't write cheques we are unable to cash. There is no long search for meaning here, no dark cries of the soul, the human-nature connect is self-evident; chainsaws are dangerous, logs weigh a tonne and a falling tree can kill you. This is a wild place where we state the bleeding obvious. Forestry work, unlike our day jobs and family lives, is refreshingly simple and straightforward.
The accommodation is rough; we joke about what reviews we would write on Trip Advisor; "I had to sweep the mouse droppings from my pillow". "We had to de-tick ourselves on departure."
The rewards are many, including takeaway firewood for all. Knowing the provenance of each log you put on the fire brings satisfaction at home for months to come.
We return to the modern world battered and bruised, but having savoured nature in the raw, we are also psychologically recharged and back on the pathway to mental wellbeing. ReWilding nourishes the soul and washes the spirit clean. The Battle Vodka just helps.
Simon Wheatley is a Senior Consultant at Impact UK.