Posts Tagged ‘canoeing’

Two-thirds sky

Sunsetting over Helsinki Harbour – November, 2011

As I was driving home tonight a flock of Brent geese flew through the sunset. In a few days they will be heading north to the Baltic and Siberia, foretelling of the advance of winter. The visual image of mare’s tails across the red-gold glow had me thinking of the importance of reading the sky on my walking and canoeing trips and also in my photography. Here is a small collection of two-third sky landscapes.

Dawn, Norfolk Broads, April 2011

Dawn, Norfolk Broads, April, 2011Sunsetting over Kamarajar Lake, Athoor, Tamilnadu, August, 2012Sunsetting over Kamarajar Lake, Athoor, Tamilnadu, August, 2012Sunset, Brecon Beacons, January 2010Dawn, Kintyre, January, 2010Dawn, Kintyre, January, 2010

I notice that these photographs have all been taken during the golden hours of dawn and dusk.

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship: 2001

Outdoor Education for Women: Journeying Gently Through Australia: Making Connections with Nature.

In 2001, I travelled to Australia on a Churchill Fellowship. My Fellowship was an inspiration. Colleagues and friends told me that I walked around with a smile on my face for weeks. It confirmed that I am not alone in recognizing that some people feel alienated from making connections with nature. It helped me to identify ways that people can be encouraged to engage with the outdoors.

The Fellowship

As an outdoor educator, it is easy to become hooked on ‘adrenaline rush’ activities. However, it is these activities and the associated image of the outdoors that can alienate.  Some of my colleagues have even expressed a personal fear of venturing outdoors. In my work in play, youth and community development, I have been concerned that many colleagues, and particularly women colleagues, have been reluctant to offer outdoor experiences to the people with whom they are working. In a broader context, at a time when there is an increasing concern about the local and global impact of our carbon footprints and the consequences of global warming. this may have an impact on environmental awareness and literacy,

The purpose of my Fellowship was to explore ways in which women, in particular,  are supported in developing relationships with the outdoors through adventure and learning. My Fellowship took me to Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territories and Western Australia. Initially I met with outdoor educators. However, as the Fellowship progressed, I met with naturalists, artists, museum curators. I also explored a range of tourist sites.

My stay in Australia showed me that low key activities can be just as powerful in facilitating connections with nature as ‘adrenalinerush’ activities. The exploration of cultural activities was the most significant experience, providing me with ways of developing activities that value their cultural context, for example story telling and art. I became more conscious of the power of community and environmental arts projects, as a vehicle for enabling people to work together and connect with their environments. In addition, my understanding of the meaning of sustainable communities was challenged.

My Fellowship was an inspiration. Colleagues and friends told me that I walked around with a smile on my face for weeks. It confirmed that I am not alone in recognizing that some people feel alienated from making connections with nature. It helped me to identify ways that people can be encouraged to engage with the outdoors.

Since the Fellowship, I have lead workshops for play, youth and community development workers on exploring the ecology microenvironments; creating stories and writing poems in and inspired by the outdoors; and using photography as a means for increasing the powers of observation, capturing the essence of a place or group experience and increasing environmental awareness. I have also worked on community-based projects to support residents in developing their local open spaces so that they are attractive and accessible. This can be a first step in encouraging people to start making a connection with nature.

My learning from the Fellowship has prompted me to deliver workshops on informal learning and serendipity for both the Institute for Outdoor Learning and the European Institute of Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE) in England, Wales, Scotland, Sweden, Finland and Poland. In informal learning, it is the role and responsibility of the facilitator to open up stimulating and varied opportunities for connecting and exploring, while the participant takes responsibility for the direction of their learning. Serendipity involves optimizing the chance occurrences and opportunities that are encountered as a part of an activity or of everyday life.

The Fellowship has certainly changed the direction of my career and life and I trust that through my work with colleagues and children, young people and adults I have influenced the aspirations of others.






A Paddle up the Piddle

It had to be. If a river deigns to be called Piddle, it is certainly worthy of exploration.The Piddle flows through Puddletown, Tolpuddle, Affpuddle and Briantspuddle before meandering through Wareham and into Poole Harbour. There must be a certain titillation about its name, for it has obviously been adjusted so as not to embarrass the gentle folk of Dorset. In Wikipedia the suggestion was made that this was to avoid the mortification of Queen Victoria. However, the inhabitants of Puddletown must be less sensitive as they held on to the name Piddletown until the 1950s. The river’s identity can be further refined, by referring to it as the Trent.As usual, we had no concrete plans for our trip, but we did know the time for high water. Using our OS map and our abilities to navigate ‘map to ground’, we set off from Hamworthy to the opposite shore of Poole Harbour and identified our exact position. After a break for lunch, we paddled up Wareham Channel and when level with Gigger’s Island, headed north into the broad entrance of the Piddle. At times we had to ‘feel’ our way into the main channel of the river. However, once away from the mouth, we were in an idyllic environment of clear waters, dancing damselflies and towering vegetation, which hid the calling wild fowl from sight. A pair of swans with their twin cygnets slowed our progress, barking and hissing aggressively, until they took refuge in the shelter of a meander.


Along the banks are jetties, their construction alluding to bygone times. Our conversations turned to smugglers and poachers and illegal activities.


This was a real journey of discovery and we are wondering whether we can paddle further up the Piddle beyond Wareham.