I recently [April 2020] reached out to Ralph and WeatherWool with some design ideas for garments [Trail Pants and Trail Poncho] born from the unusual lifestyle I have lived for the last decade. Ralph was very receptive to these ideas and asked if I would write a description of my background and experience to give you an idea of where the design ideas come from.
I was reared in a famous former wool milling town and now World Heritage site called Saltaire in West Yorkshire. For the first 25 years of my life I lived a fairly conventional life. Then inspired by the life and work of Peace Pilgrim around a decade ago I shut down the life I had created, gave all my stuff away and set out on a really long walk with the few possessions in my bag and no money. Vowing not to beg and to be supported only by that which is freely given. Walking took hold of me and over the years I have walked many thousands of miles in both the UK and New Zealand, walking for up to 5 months at a time on trails like the Te Araroa.
In amongst thru-hikes and penniless pilgrimages I have lived as a Buddhist monastic, spending around three years ordained and training in Western Buddhist monasteries of the Thai Forest Tradition, again based in either the UK or NZ. This tradition was born from a group of hardcore and austere monks who lived very simply in the unforgiving forests of Thailand, eating only the food put in their bowl and practicing meditation intensively. Often doing a practice called Tudong where they would walk great distances and live outside. During my time in the monastic form I was privileged to touch into this ancient way of life. On occasion having long periods of retreat, living and sleeping outside for months at a time on a 1 metre by 2 metre wooden platform with only a mosquito net and umbrella for protection, meditating day and night without distraction, either fasting or eating one meal a day which was generously offered by supporters.
Even before my time in monastacism, I gave myself to the practice of solitary meditation retreats in nature, and over the years I have spent many, many weeks living alone in secluded spots in forests and in nature, being completely alone for up to 2 months at a time, sitting through sunshine and snow.
It's this combination of long and arduous walks and prolonged periods sitting still in meditation that had me arrive at the design ideas I sent to Ralph. When one lives in and close to nature, transitions from high-intensity movement to sitting still for hours, has to endure changing weather and temperatures and often doesn't have ready access to heating, washing facilities, resupply or the ability to replace broken or failing gear, the ideal fabric one arrives at is wool. And from my research, the finest producers of wool seem to be WeatherWool. So it is I reached out.
These designs are born from a love of simplicity, minimising, multifunctionality, and durability, and from experience gained from being in nature in dynamic ways for extended stays, trying to create two garments that are highly functional, applicable and dependable year-round. I hope you like them!
29 April 2020