I’m super proud to say that last month we ran a Hills Skills programme for seven tenacious women in conjunction with domestic abuse charity Crossroads.
Sponsored by our friends at ACAI Outdoorwear, participants spent the weekend with us at the YHA Castleton learning to plan and navigate their own outdoor adventures. They even received some fab kit from ACAI to get them started!
Participants came from a range of backgrounds, and had complex needs including domestic violence/abuse trauma, loss of children, past drug addiction, anxiety, depression, ADHD and other health issues, as well as severe lack of confidence and self-belief.
What they shared was a common goal of wanting to learn new skills and get outdoors and a strong desire to help and support each other.
We all arrived on Saturday morning and stayed until Sunday afternoon, spending the night in YHA dorms on Saturday (it was all a bit like a fun school trip!)
On Saturday, instructor Suzanne covered a range of topics including:
- The benefits of walking
- Things to consider when going walking
- How to find and follow walks
- What to wear outdoors
- What to carry in your bag on a hike
- Route planning
- What to do in an emergency
As well as lots of practical activities using different types of maps and navigation apps.
In the evening we had a big YHA dinner, and were even treated to some extra puds!
Sunday was a big walk, navigated mainly by our participants themselves. By the end of it all, everyone felt more confident going out walking, including how to spot the perfect wild wee spot!
It’s safe to say the programme was a great success, with all of the participants saying they were “very satisfied” (the highest possible rating) with the programme.
In the pre and post programme surveys participants were asked the same five questions relating to their existing skills/confidence knowledge, and were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1-6 (one being very low and 6 being very high). Across all five areas participants indicated substantial improvements.
Participants were also given the opportunity to write what they feel they got out of the weekend. Their responses were as follows:
- “Map reading”
- “Everything I needed to know about walking. How to stay safe, how to read maps & how to have fun”
- “Learning how to read a map and navigate a walk, and learning the knowledge of what to do in an emergency”
- “Map reading, 999 knowledge, sore feet”
- “Made me understand the map a bit more”
- “Mixed with people i wouldn’t normally”
- “Being introduced to adventure queens and knowledge of where to find walks”
- “Confidence! In my ability to go on an adventure both on my own and as part of a group”
In the post-programme survey participants had the following to say about what they enjoyed most:
- “The walk around Castleton was amazing”
- “We was all looked after with the food, also and the bedrooms were really good too”
- “The people”
- “I enjoyed learning new skills and gaining knowledge about walking/hiking. It’s made me want to do it all the time.”
- “The lovely people and the facilities and the support”
- “The hostel we stayed at and the big hike on the Sunday and learning to map read”
- “Meeting new women, socialising and walking in the hills”
- “Being outdoors”
- “Map reading and socialising. Being away from home in a safe environment”
Many of the participants were surprised by how much they enjoyed the map reading component of the project. One of them even commented that instructor Suzanne was “making maps cool”!!! I’m not so convinced…
In the final workshop, participants were asked what they would do as a next step following the weekend. Their responses included:
- Join the AQ Derbyshire group
- Plan a walk that can go on with friends and/or family
- Upgrade their kit and plan a walk to follow with the map
- Join Glossop walking group (that is being led by Suzanne)
- Lead a short walk with a small group
Additionally, one participant has since been in touch to say she is now planning a multiday hike and would like some support. We are currently in the process of matching her with a volunteer mentor.
Another participant has indicated an interest in becoming an outdoor instructor for young people so we will share some relevant resources with her as well as introduce her to our contact at the Outward Bound Trust who runs a women’s’ leadership programme.
We’d love to run more programmes like this in the future and are currently sourcing funding.
Watch this space for more exciting initiatives!
This blog post was written by Adventure Queens Community Leader Nadia Weigh