Posts Tagged ‘outdoor’

Corona Chronicle Eleven: REMEMBERING

Almost a year has passed – a creative week on Anglesey (May 2019) – painting, photography, sewing, reading, watching the world go by — dreaming — remembering.


We had deliberately routed ourselves along the Ogwen Valley. A scattering of snow still kissed the shaded valleys of the Glyders , where in our distant memories the mists around Y Garn had opened to give a window across to Devil’s Kitchen . Tryfan stood clear and proud – Heather Terrace distinct; the Ridge silhouetted against the spring sky; specks of walkers. Did they have the courage to jump between Adam and Eve?

Holyhead Panorama

I had remembered the hut circles on Holyhead Mountain, visited one damp day of escape from the soaking of Snowdonia. I had remembered the pathway to South Stack. I had watched the TV Climb …. Gogarth …. and the names that conjured mystery …. A Dream of White Horses. I lacked the expertise and confidence to consider climbing on Anglesey …. but I could dream and I still do. I remembered tales of the pioneers of my early climbing days … Joe Brown, Don Willans, Ian McNaught-Davis.

Across the Inland Sea, Anglesey

Perhaps it is a mistake to re-visit a place full of such personal nostalgia. Creativity refused to flow, except with the camera. Searches for archaeological sites were unsatisfactory, Yet, remembering eventually prompted a feeling of pensive calm. And, it is good to remember today, when feeling interred in the four walls of the house, as the lockdown continues. Again, I will escape with my memories and dreams and plan new adventures.

Path to the beach, Anglesey

Corona Chronicles Eight: GETTING LOST

I was reading The Guardian (30 March 2020, page 28), and was hit by the headline, “Mobiles mean children will no longer be free to get lost – Attenborough”. The article begins “Children will never again know true freedom because mobile phones mean they cannot get lost, David Attenborough has said.” Further on, he explains that this is something that those of us who are pre-mobile may have experienced, but is unlikely to be experienced by today’s teenagers,

In my most recent experience of being lost, I had a mobile with a map, but no compass. I was going to a conference in London and full of false confidence, I had booked an Uber Taxi. I departed the station and looked for a road sign, but could see none. I wondered around. On the map I could see a ‘blob’ moving, but I couldn’t work out where I was and I couldn’t orientate the map as the sun was obscured. I could feel a panic rising and decided to get a coffee and ask for help. I ordered another taxi, this time confident …. only to see it disappearing into the distance, as I hobbled after it, trying to attract the driver’s attention. I felt tearful. I gave it one more try and this time was rescued. It was a sobering moment. I might be able to navigate across the world, through forests and in mountains, but in an alien environment, the city, I am lost.

Port Quin. The Headland from the window.

Recently, pre- isolation, I went with a friend to Port Quin on the north Cornish, and looked longingly as the sunset over the headland. The next night I commented that I thought I could walk as far as that, but that I might be slow. “We must leave now, to get there and have time to get back before the light goes completely.” She was bemused that I could be so direct. She is not an outdoor person and said that outdoor people develop an innate knowledge of being on and moving through the environment. How could I work out. by looking at a map and the landscape, the time required? How would I know about the time it would take for the sun to move below the horizon? How could I judge that we would have enough ‘night sight’ to return to the cottage? This amused me.

The Headland at sun sets

I am a Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition assessor, working mainly in the New Forest. I think it is this innate way of being in the outdoors that we are encouraging, along with many other things. I am always heartened when young people get lost and manage to sort out their position and put themselves back on the right track. I am also surprised at the numbers of adults I meet who seek reassurance from me, that they are on the right track, when faced with being a few metres from a carpark. Let’s hope that post-lockdown we will again be able to access the outdoors and have the valuable experience of getting lost and then finding ourselves …. and congratulate others when they experience the joy of this simple event.

The DofE group is ready to move off!

Autumn in the Lakes

“Let the mountains speak for themselves”, Rusty Baillie.

I have just returned from an energising four days in the Lakes. The EOE Network Conference was stimulating and the scenery invigorating.

Developing Open Spaces: Using a Community Development Approach

Paper presented at the EOE Conference at Derwent Water, Cumbria

October, 2012

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ ”
(Lao Tzu)

The role of the outdoor educator is multifaceted. As a freelance consultant and researcher, with experience in play and youth work as well as community development, I was asked to take on a short term and part-time piece of work, acting as a catalyst to ‘jump start’ local involvement and action. I was to work with residents, and in particular young people and children, on an estate of social housing. The estate is situated on the outskirts of one of England’s South Coast holiday resorts. In the middle of the housing was a large barren and under-used open space, the equivalent of approximately five football pitches. Scattered around the estate were other smaller areas, some grassed and some tarmacked. Across a main road was a wild area, with some boardwalks across marshy land. This had become the domain of the dog-walking fraternity.

The long-term purposes of the project were to support the community in becoming more sustainable. The estate would become a better place to live. There would be a reduction in youth crime. There would be a sense of pride and belonging. This would be achieved partly by:

  • encouraging a greater involvement in the outdoor environment;
  • encouraging young people to use their local outdoor spaces and eventually the wild area;


  • encouraging young people to develop a sense of pride, belonging and ownership of their local open spaces, by developing these spaces aesthetically and in terms of the variety of possible options for activities.

The intention was that I would work with the children and young people, to draw up plans:

  • to make a barren tract of land in the middle of the housing estate more attractive and accessible;
  • to encourage the development of a ‘corridor’ linking this open space with the wild area; and
  • to promote greater use of the wild area by local people, and in particular children and young people.

These plans were to be used in submissions to various funding bodies, including the National Lottery.


Nationally, there is a concern about issues related to exercise and the health of children and young people. There are also concerns about maintaining and increasing an understanding of environmental issues. Related to these are considerations about accessing the outdoors for leisure, relaxation, environmental, physical and other activities, by some under-represented sectors of the population, such as people with disabilities, people from minority ethnic groups and poorer people.

The UNICEF report on well-being ranked United Kingdom (UK) children at the bottom of the world’s 21 richest countries (UN, 2007). Nairn and IPSOS MORI conducted follow-up research. They used subjective indicators and found that fundamental to well-being was time spent doing things with friends and family. However, children in the UK had fewer opportunities for fun outdoor activities, than those in Spain and Sweden. In addition, girls tended to play nearer home than boys. This indicated that there was a need to develop opportunities for outdoor activities close to children’s homes, as well as further afield. They highlighted the need to protect open spaces from development (Nairn and IPSOS MORI, 2011). Currently, playing fields in parts of the UK are under threat. There is a pressure on local authorities to infill spaces between houses, as the demand for housing continues to increase.

A brief overview of some of research highlights the values of children and young people accessing their local public open spaces. Valentine (2004) and Irwin et al (2007) endorse the need to protect public open spaces close to housing. They argue that these spaces are vital for young people to escape adult supervision and define their identities. This is integral to developing a sense of social well-being and a sense of self. Worpole and Knox (2007) identify that access to open spaces is important for developing ties to communities and a sense of belonging and sense of place. Pretty et al (2009) maintain that a continuing enjoyment of nature is linked to being able to access natural environments. Beunderman (2010) writes that by engaging with others in the local environment, children and young people develop life skills and a more positive view of their neighbourhood.

However, even where open spaces are adjacent to housing, research suggests that these spaces tend to be underused. Research conducted in England during the 2007 Playday found that only 21% of children and young people play out daily. This can be compared with 71% of the adults surveyed, who said that they, as children, had played out every day (Playday Research, 2007). Worryingly, 22% of adults surveyed by Living Streets (2009) thought that children should not be allowed out unsupervised until they were 16. The threat of violence, a fear of abduction, and the linking of groups of young people with anti-social behaviour were given as reasons for this reluctance to engage in outdoor play (Crawford, 2009; Playday, 2007). Some adults also valued structured outdoor activities more highly than free, spontaneous, self-initiated, ‘loose parts’ activities (Hofferth and Sandberg, 2000; Nicholson, 1971). Research conducted with 1000 parents during this year’s Playday, revealed that traffic and a fear of strangers were the two main barriers to children playing outside. 49% of parents identified fear of strangers as a barrier, 46% said traffic and 31% highlighted fear of accident and injury (Playday 2012). How will children and young people develop the knowledge and skills to manage risks (DCSF, 2007)?

Gill (2007:14) argues that these beliefs are the side effects of social and cultural change. Society has become risk averse. In addition, there has been a growth in road traffic. People have car-dependent life styles. Parents have longer working hours. There has been a decline in the quantity and quality of public open spaces. Children and young people’s lives have become media rich. The availability of indoor leisure activities has grown and competes with many opportunities offered outdoors. These factors have reinforced ‘the logic of containment” (ibid). Thus, nationally and locally, there is a need to change attitudes so that children and young people can have the freedom to enjoy their local outdoor spaces. This project sought to find ways of counteracting these beliefs and attitudes.

Community Development and Youth Work Models

Two models, drawn from community development and youth work practice in the UK underpinned my work. After wide experience and consultation in the field, Barr and Hashagen (2000) developed a model that highlighted key elements in the development of effective communities. They define the overarching intention of community development as the support of a healthy community, which is ‘liveable’, sustainable and equitable. The community has quality of life. This is dependent on the community being caring, safe, creative, sharing its wealth and being owned by its citizens. Community members develop these aspects of quality of life through personal empowerment (working with individuals), taking positive action (working with people to define issues), taking responsibility for organizing (supporting and developing community organisations) and participating and being involved (linking community organisations with others, making decisions and planning).

My work was very much at this foundation level. I worked with individuals in the community, so that they might have the skills, knowledge and confidence to develop and implement ideas. The individuals I worked with included residents, young people, children, community leaders, youth workers, managers on a local industrial estate, the police, housing officers, leisure services officers and many others. Initially this was to hear about their issues. As the project developed it focused more on dispelling some of the myths about young people and children and exploring the possibilities for change. I found that some of the adults had to be prompted to remember what they had enjoyed about engaging with the outdoors when they were younger, so that they could recognize the experiences that the children and young people were missing. I worked with organisations, affirming their skills to contribute to the overall project and offering informal learning opportunities so that some gaps in knowledge and skills might be filled. A key principle was ensuring that important decisions would be made by community members, the children, young people and residents, rather than by professionals on behalf of the people they represented. This was to be critical if the initiative was to continue after my withdrawal.

My work with the children and young people was guided by Hart’s (1992) ladder of participation. Hart’s ladder has eight rungs. He states that the three lowest rungs on the ladder are ‘non-participation’. These are rungs one to three. These are where young people are manipulated to say or do certain things, where they are merely visible as decoration, or where they are tokenized. Rungs four and five are where young people are assigned and informed or consulted and informed. At rungs six and seven, the young people begin to have more power.

Rung six is where action is adult initiated and young people make the decisions. At rung seven young people lead and initiate action. Hart suggests the top rung of the ladder, rung eight, is the sharing of decision-making by young people and adults. Here, I suggest that there should be a rung nine. Ultimately, young people should make the decisions and inform the adults.

I endeavoured to work with children and young people initially at rungs four and five, coaching and delegating as they became more familiar with the possibilities available. I had to be sure that I was working on young people’s agendas and with their ideas and that they were not the mouth-pieces of local adults. As the project progressed, we all became more confident and we understood the remit for the project, children and young people took more responsibility. My role was often to curb the enthusiasm of the adults, who were keen to have their voices heard. I also had to take into account the fact that young people are often transient within communities. Part of their maturation process may be to move on and away from the community. An over-reliance on a few key young people would not be conducive to the long-term development of opportunities and facilities in the area.

Using a Community Development Process

Generally, when developing a project with children and young people, I work through a number of phases. I start with my familiarization I spend time getting to know the area, the people who live and work there, the facilities in the area, and the range of understandings of the issues in the area. Then I move on to an awareness raising and education phrase, exploring and challenging the attitudes of local authority officers, professionals, key residents and children and young people. Next I work at a political phase, again challenging the ideas and power-bases of professionals, local authorities, community leaders and councilors, with the intention of identifying openings for action, ‘windows of opportunity’. In the next phase, the youth work phase, I work more intensively with the children and young people to build skills in consultation, influencing, planning, organising and to develop their confidence. I also find ways to help them to ‘look over the fence’ at the possibilities, to ‘dream for real’ (Judy Ling Wong, 2002). Without this the children and young people would be limited by their current experiences, whether actual or seen through the media. I can then move into a consultation phase in which the children and young people are conducting interviews, distributing questionnaires, visiting other locations to gather and refine ideas, mapping, planning and making decisions. The final phase is writing the funding bid. This I do in conjunction with the children and young people, explaining what is required and supporting them in writing parts and collating these with illustrations and photographs. Here, I would hope to be working at Hart’s eighth rung. However, because my time in the project was limited and there were prescribed dates for the submission of funding bids, I worked with the phases concurrently.

The key issues I faced were the scepticism of some adults, the strong views of other adults about what might be developed, and the limited experience of many of the children and young people. To generate ideas, the children and young people visited other places, armed with cameras, so that they could share their findings. They looked through catalogues of play and open space equipment. They looked on websites of organisations that have developed  open spaces, such as the Forestry Commission (, Playlink (, the Free Play Network ( /playlink/placesforplay/bs.htm), and Play England ( resources/design-for-play.aspx ). Their ideas included more seating; a structure that could be used for climbing, sitting on and sheltering under; a row of rocks and boulders leading towards the wild area that could be sat on, scrambled on and climbed on; more planting; a performance area, for impromptu productions, and planned performances; more planting; fitness trails; a nature trail leading from the estate into the wild area; and camping and barbeque facilities in the wild area.


Unfortunately, the funding bid in which I was involved, was unsuccessful. However, my intention was that once action had started I would withdraw from the project, confident that the project to develop the open spaces would continue and evolve, and that the children and young people, with the support of the residents, would have ownership of these developments. Since my involvement, funding has been found for play rangers to work on the estate, supporting children to develop their play ideas. There have been litter-picking sessions and abandoned cars have been removed. Children and young people have held tree and bulb planting sessions. An outdoor gym has been constructed. Relationships between residents and the local authority are reported to have improved. It is impossible to assess the extent to which I was a catalyst. The important thing is that the community is gradually moving towards being a healthy community, in which quality of life for community members, the residents, is central, and that at least some young people have a sense of pride in and belonging to their estate.


Barr, A. and Hashagen, S. (2000) Achieving Better Community Development: A framework for evaluating community development. London: CDF publications.

Beunderman, J. (2010) People Make Play: The impact of staffed play provision on children, families and communities. London: Play England.

Crawford, A. (2009) Criminalizing Sociability through Anti-Social Behaviour Legislation: Dispersal powers, young people and the police. Youth Justice: An International Journal. 9,1, 5-26.

DCSF (2007) Staying Safe: A consultation document London: Department of Children, Schools and Families:

Gill, T. (2007) No Fear. Growing up in a risk adverse society. London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Hart, R. (1992) Children’s Participation from Tokenism to Citizenship. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.

Hofferth, S. and Sandberg, J. (2000) Changes in American Children’s Time. (Accessed October 2012).

Irwin, L., Johnson, J., Henderson, A., Dahinten, V. and Hertzman, C. (2007) Examining hoe Context Shapes Young Children’s Perceptions of Health. Child Care, Health and Development. 33, 4, 353-359.

Ling Wong, J. ( 2002) Dreaming for Real: Engaging socially excluded communities in the built and natural environment. Cardiff. Conference Paper, Urban Design Alliance.

Miller, C. (2008) The Community Development Challenge: Management: Towards high standards in community development. London: Community Development Foundation.

Nairn and IPSOS MORI (2011) Child well-being in UK, Sweden and Spain: The role of inequality and materialism. ummary.pdf (Accessed October 2012).

Nicholson, S. (1972) The Theory of Loose Parts: An important principle of design methodology. Studies in Design Education, Crafts and Technology. 4, 2 5-14.

Playday (2007) Our Streets Too. (Accessed October 2012).

Playday (2012) Get out and play (Accessed October 2012).

Pretty, J., Angus, C., Bain, M., Barton, J., Gladwell, V., Hine, R., Pilgrim, S., Sandercock, G. and Sellens, M. (2009) Nature,: Childhood, health and life pathways. Colchester: University of Essex.

UNICEF (2007) Child Poverty in Perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries. Florence: UNICEF.

Worpole, K. and Knox, K. (2007) The Social Value of Public Spaces. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Valentine, D. (2004) Public Space and the Culture of Childhood. Aldershot: Ashgate.

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.