The 8 Shields model is a collecion of principles and tools to support deep nature connection,
and to grow cultures and people that more fully embody:
Happiness, Vitality, Commitment, Empathy,

True Helpfulness, Full Aliveness, Love and Compassion and Quiet Mind.

The model was developed by Jon Young supported by elders from many different lineages.
Find out more about the model and its lineage here.

Nature Culture Network, a brief history…

The first formal 8 Shields based events that we know of took place in the UK in 2009 and 2010 when Jon Young and Paul Raphael ran a few workshops in London, organised by Andrea Smith and Victoria Mew.

Prior to that Thomas Schorr-Kon had been running Tom Brown Jnr lineage programs and trainings at ‘Trackways’ in the South East of England for many years, training up a generation of trackers and bushcraft leaders, including many that got involved in the UK Art of Mentorings.
Some people also developed their skills through the Forest School Camps network and then went onto the 8 Shields.

Having been inspired by their experiences at Tom Brown Jnr’s Tracker School and Jon Young’s Wilderness Awareness School in the US, Andrea Smith, Victoria Mew, Maeve Gavin, Jenny Mew and others convened the first UK Art of Mentoring camp in 2010, at Green and Away in Worcestershire, with the help of many other people, notably Miki Dedjer from Sweden and Mark Morey from the US.

The UK Art of Mentoring camps were also supported by the existing European Wilderness Family, and the longer connections that groups in Germany and Austria have with Jon Young and Tom Brown Jnr’s work. Many folks from Austria and Germany helped to run and staff the early camps, including Alex Meffert, Andreas Ochsmann and Elke Loepthian.

There were larger Art of Mentoring camps in Scotland in 2011, 2013 and 2014, and one in East Sussex in 2012. More and more Europeans were trained up during and alongside these events, and then helped to run these camps, so less people needed to come across from America to help us.

From 2012 onwards Mark Morey initated the ‘Heartwood’ Leadership trainings in the UK to support the network and its facilitators. Following this wave of enthusiasm and commitment, national groups were set up – Nature Culture Scotland and Nature Culture England, and regional groups were also formed.

Art of Mentoring camps then didn’t happen in 2015 and 2016, and the regional and national groups faded out or went on pause.

In 2015 a new group of people got together to try and run a 2016 AoM camp in the East of England. This new impetus, combined with the inspiration of the 8 Shields Institute’s ‘Village Builders’ programme, led to Deborah Benham and a few others restarting ‘Heartwood’ meetings to resurrect the dream of a UK central ‘hearth’ for 8 Shields practitioners and regional groups.

Jon Young then came over to run a few trainings, and supported Deborah, Adele Clarke, Malcolm Clarke, Victoria Mew, Peter Cow, Amy Downing, Rebecca Card and Phil Greenwood to develop the ideas and vision of this organisation, which started life as ‘8 Shields in the UK’ and was later renamed as ‘Nature Culture Network’.

Since its formation the group has been involved in running two Art of Mentoring Camps – the 2017 camp in the wild wooded foothills of Dartmoor, Devon, and the 2019 camp at the Falkland Centre in Fife, Scotland. Apparently the 2019 camp was the largest ever, with 235 people attending it in total!

NCN has also supported smaller regional events to happen in the years without Art of Mentoring camps. 

After attempting to run a smaller AoM camp in 2022, which was launched late and didnt get enough bookings, in 2024 NCN is running a new summer camp, based on the Art of Menttoring, but with more crafts, skills and deeper explorations into parts of the 8 Shields map – the Nature Culture Connection Camp.

Art of Mentoring camp in Devon, 2017
Jon Young 8 Shields training
Jon Young leading the ‘Whollistic Culture Repair’ training at Embercombe, Devon, 2017

Since 2017 the group, using income from the camps, has funded and run a bi-monthly newsletter to help people connect, promote offerings and share their news with the wider network. The newsletter was started by Amy Downing and is currently curated by Peter Cow. Though based in the UK, the newsletter and the network serve and connect people across Europe and beyond. 

The NCN Steering Group currently consists of Deborah Benham, Adele Clarke, Malcolm Clarke, Victoria Mew and Peter Cow.

We want this story to be as accurate as possible, so if we have missed an important bit of this story out,
or got something wrong, please let us know how we could change it!