From his woodland hideaway in the Cornish countryside, Thom Hunt is sharing outdoor skills to inspire a hunger for new experiences.

From his woodland hideaway in the Cornish countryside, Thom Hunt is sharing outdoor skills to inspire a hunger for new experiences.

I dive into the cold water, take a few strokes and turn round to see that Thom Hunt’s idyllic 7th Rise has all but disappeared. Hidden by the trees that shield it from the prying eyes of the boats and canoes that pass on the River Fal, it’s not hard to see why this hard to reach spot deep in the Cornish countryside was once a smugglers’ stronghold.

Just 20 minutes drive outside of Truro, but only accessible via a chain ferry and a long walk through the woods, the 300-year-old hand-built stone charcoal-burner’s cottage is nestled among 20 acres of oak woodland. Rather than using this isolated spot to plot a guerrilla uprising, it’s Thom’s base of operations for his mission to put a sense of adventure back at the heart of society.

7th Rise works with a variety of skilled local people to offer courses in outdoor craft, such as fishing, hunting, foraging, butchery and knife-making to adult and school groups, but Thom’s underlying vision makes this more than your average activity retreat.

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Our first task is filleting mackerel, caught with a fishing line from the jetty earlier in the day. Standing barefoot in the majestic butchery cave behind the cottage, Thom skilfully demonstrates how to cut the perfect fillet with one of the sparkling blades from his impressive collection of knives – many of the hand-made.

Once the fish is filleted, we head into the woods to find some kindling. Thom shares a few tips on the art of firelighting, then steps back to watch. As the fire eventually sputters in to life and we sit down to tuck in to a fresh fish supper, Thom reveals the philosophy at the heart of 7th Rise. “I really feel like modern society has lost its sense of adventure,” he explains. “There’s more to adventure than the outdoors. It’s about going where you’ve not been before and being comfortable with that – ‘it’s outside of my comfort zone, I don’t know what to expect.’ I think there’s a real richness to life when you manage to make decisions that take you to those places. I think a large part of society has lost that sense of adventure and that’s why it’s a little bit boxed up, a bit homogenised, and that’s why it’s a bit predictable.”

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The currency of 7th Rise are: NBDs – ‘Never Done Befores’. The activities on offer are about more than just escaping into the outdoors, they’re about pushing people beyond what they thought they could do and helping them broaden their experience. Thom remembers fondly when a group of London Underground workmen arrived for a team building weekend. Their tough nut masks began to slip when they were confronted with tasks they had never encountered before – or were even sacred of. Some refused to play ball, but eventually, one-by-one, they opened up to the new challenges.

“Sometimes we’ve had people down who’ve been a bit mouthy, a bit lippy, with lots of outside confidence or a bit of arrogance,” Thom explains. “They seem very courageous, but when it comes down to it they’re not. I really love putting those tests in front of people because even if they don’t necessarily pass first time, at least it dropped a seed in their mind: ‘Could I or should I do better next time?’ I think there’s something lovely in that. Not everyone has to love what we do, but as long as it creates a new way of thinking about something, then that’s what we’re after.”

Next morning, waking up in the treehouse that straddles the stream, it’s time to shower with the watering can on a rope. Looking out over the cove as the cold water runs through through the planks of wood, the benefits of this digital detox are really starting to sink in. We collect eggs from the rescued battery hens who wander the gardens and make breakfast before heading out into the cove to forage for shrimp.

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As home time approaches, plugging back into the grid seems less and less attractive. New skills learned creates a satisfying feeling, but Thom’s goal is that people take just a little of that hunger for adventure and new experiences back to the city with them. Why does he believe in the transformative power of the outdoors? “Actually, less is more sometimes,” he explains. “The simplicity of the outdoors is brilliant and you can’t get that through a screen. We’re human beings, we live with the five senses: touch, taste, etc. You can’t inspire someone with all the senses through a screen. We need to have more balanced lives that have a sense of the natural world, or something real in them.”

Find out more about the range of outdoors skills course available at 7th Rise.

Thom has collaborated with Francli to create a hard-wearing Butchery Apron for gutting, skinning and filleting meat and fish. Check out the making-of film below: