Sunday, 21 May 2017

Guest Blog- Ambleside crew in the house!

Second year Outdoor Education students from the University of Cumbria wended their way to and from Camas on a self directed journey, their module which formed the week had it's own trajectory which looked like an alive version of this:

Towards the end of the journey they were challenged to stay up all night exploring the theme of intent on a static solo experience, whilst team Camas tended a hearth for them from dusk until dawn, in a reoccupied shieling in the heart of the Ardfenaig township.

The next day, they blew our minds with some themed reflective presentations, based on their lived experience at Camas.  Here's a transcript one such group presentation on the theme of 'Challenge' in this weeks Guest Blog...


Challenge is used in outdoor education as a tool for personal development. This can be a physical, emotional, or mental challenge. Barnes and Sharpe (2004) say that “outdoor education heightens awareness and respect for ourselves often through the meeting of challenges in the natural environment”.

We are going to consider the different perceptions of the challenges that we have faced and explored through our time at Camas. Starting with a poem;

The Challenge of time.


Time is a challenge for me,
It’s taken me Camas to see,
How so often I rush,
With no time for hush,
How can that possibly be?

Time is a challenge for me,
Oh how I long to be free,
Of the ever repeating days,
And such linear ways,
Oh how can that possibly be?

Time is a challenge for me,
New sequences are the key,
For our true human self,
To come out from the shelf,
Oh how can this possibly be?

Time is a challenge for me,
To follow a new trajectory,
Instead of moving so fast,
And skimming the past,
Oh how can this possibly be?

Time is a challenge for me,
I can finally be free,
To spread from the pack,
And get back on track,
With what nature intends us to be.

-          Lucy Allan

This poem expresses how our everyday lives have drifted from “our species original intimacy with the natural world and from our uniquely individual natures”(Plotkin, 2008).

“Given that we as humans are as natural as anything else, what might these archetypal patterns, like the rhythm of the sun and earth, suggest about how human life is meant to unfold?” (Plotkin, 2008, pg. 14).

These natural patterns do have slight repetition, but not always the same each year. The shifting dance between nature and culture is one of the dynamics that makes us human. Yet, a lot of people have lost the balance and have become controlled by a linear time structure in our days. E.g. Getting up for work at 9am every day.  French politician, Henri Lefebrve, believes that the rhythms of our culture and society are unhealthy for us, and are oppressing us. We need to be freed!

Berry (1999) suggests this balance as the time development model. His point is that we must use both a familiar nature-rooted cycle, as well as allowing an evolutionary trajectory for our species to unfold. Which together he suggests creates a spiral progression between space and time.  After all we are mere dust in our planets exuberant evolution. Plotkin (2008) says 
“we will either become a life-enhancing element within the greater Earth community…or we will not”.
My challenge of time at Camas, has allowed me to embrace a more relaxed time structure, creating a better balance between my natural and cultural time pattern.

Going Without...

Challenge is needed for personal development and one of the challenges faced was that we had no electricity. Appliances and lighting that id usually take for granted at home we had to do without at camas. It was a new/different way of living which opened my eyes. This is something I will take back home with me as I won’t be using electricity just because it is there. As Greenaway (1990) says 
“new skills of any kind open up more choices and chances”,
Not using electricity as much, is a new skill for me and is defiantly as valuable as the other skills I learnt on the trip.

To me the outdoors is a place to be.

I would now like to explore how the absence of challenge can be what challenges your perceptions.
I have found that the stay at Camas has not necessarily been a place where I have faced and explored too many challenges. They have been present, but for me Camas has been a place that has allowed me to develop by finding a way to learn how to feel comfortable with what I may have already known about myself, and particularly about my preferred approach to outdoor education.

To me the outdoors is a place to be, and the act of being might itself be enough.

This in some ways reflects my background from friluftsliv in Norway. To those who are not familiar with friluftsliv I have condensed “visitnorway”’s definition of friluftsliv: 

“Friluftsliv means spending time outside and experiencing nature first-hand. It offers the possibility of recreation, rejuvenation and the benefits of increased physical activity and reduced stress levels through a connection with nature and quality time with friends and loved ones” (Johnston, 2015).

Since moving to England two years ago I have found myself introduced to a more activity centred approach to the outdoors.
One benefit to a residential is the opportunity to fully immerse yourself and give yourself time to consider an approach that might be new to you. The Camas approach to me seems quite similar in many ways to the friluftsliv approach, compared to what I have previously been introduced to in England. Immersion into the program here has helped me challenge and find peace with my personal preferred approach.

Wurdinger (REF) said something about a similar discovery:
“For some the challenges of everyday life might be enough to discover untapped potential. It is not necessary for people to overcome physical challenges to discover their inner strengths”.

As we have discussed, challenge is necessary for personal development. But, whilst challenges can be found in the outdoors, the outdoors can also be used to face and deal with inner challenges, not just physical. Colin Mortlock talks about his ‘journey inwards’ and how he used the outdoors as a facilitator for this journey, in his book ‘Beyond Adventure’.

The challenges you yourself are facing, will also change.

Camas didn’t provide me with the challenges I faced during my stay, rather I brought my challenges with me.

Camas, the incredible outdoor space that it is and the community I was able to be a part of, has allowed me and provided me with the opportunity to face and deal with my already existing challenges. I often find my mind is haunted by the big questions: what is the meaning of life? Etc. I arrived on Friday with my thoughts bogged down by these very questions, the questions I have come to reason with whilst being here.

The opportunity Camas has given me is one of freedom. The opportunity to be fully present and surrounded by the tranquillity of nature has allowed me to understand and accept that the answers to these questions are fluid and will change. Just like the challenges you yourself are facing, will also change. But right now, we are here, acknowledging our different challenges and this very moment and thanking them for allowing personal development to occur.

Berry, T. (1999) The Great Work: Our way into the future (New York: Bell Tower) pp. 162 – 63 and 198-99.
Plotkin, B. (2008) Nature and the Human Soul. California: New World Library
Greenaway, R. (1990) More than activities. 1st ed. Glasgow: The save the children fund.
Johnston, S (2015) ‘Stark correlations between the changes within Norwegian friluftsliv and British outdoor practice’. Horizons. (70) Summer. PP. 8-11.ent

Mortlock, C. 2001. Beyond Adventure: An Inner Journey. Cumbria: Cicerone Press.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

And we're back!

As we share our final days together with our Garden Week guests here at Camas, it seems valuable to take a step back and reflect on our previous two weeks of Staff Training. What seems like ages ago, five new volunteers arrived at the end of the track, unsure of what lay ahead, but also carrying hope and excitement for the joys and challenges of the upcoming season. These five new faces added to the six already here, and suddenly we had ourselves a brand new community.

The first few days were jam-packed with learning and adventure, as we learned and re-learned the subtle nuances of leading the various outdoor activities offered here at Camas. This was followed by some key first aid training, lest anything go horribly wrong during any of said activities.

This set the stage for another week further of bonding and growing together as a community, while we absorbed some of the finer ins and outs of life at Camas. Of course, we couldn’t take ourselves too seriously, and made sure to include time to practice our wild camping skills relax at Knockvologan Beach, stranding ourselves on an island while blissfully unaware of the rising tide. And who could forget our informative session on the daily life of Camas, brought to us by the hip-hop stylings of the one and only MC Ab McFab.

But far more than the training, learning, and unexpected celebrity guest appearances, I’m struck by the people who made this time all that it was. We have an incredible team supporting each other here, showing a willingness to be vulnerable, put themselves out there, and give what it takes to make this season a success. We’re also deeply grateful for the many people who made the long journey down the track to give their time to support our training: for our guest instructors Kenny, George, and Chris, and for our wonderful cooks Rachel, Kathy, Jonny, Roz, Bex, and Jean. Each one not only contributed their time, energies, and wisdom, but also gave of themselves as a gift and welcomed addition to our community.

Now that our time of training has come to a close, we can only hope and pray that it’s been enough to prepare us for all that is to come. Time will tell, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this team will be ready to meet every challenge head on, together, as the Camas staff of 2017.