Spring is here after February’s spell of abnormally ‘is it May?’ weather and I’ve kicked off into the new Element year with ‘Extraordinary Women Talking’ for International Women’s Day 2019.
Invited to speak at an evening in Brecon as part of their week-long festival, I’m still maintaining that I am the ‘ordinary’ bit of all this without the ‘extra’ added.
I believe that there is ‘adventure overload’ in today’s social media world and so I provided a new take on what adventure is and discussed the process of creating fulfilling and developmental experiences and how this demands curiosity. ‘Adventure’ is not always about ‘climbing to the summit’ or reaching for the ‘ultimate’ and being physically out of your comfort zone but is much more about process and comes in unusual forms. As Nan Shepherd says in The Living Mountain, “We shouldn’t walk up mountains but into them, thus exploring ourselves as well as them.”
Later in the week I ran a workshop exploring Inhibiting Fear which created an interesting and rich exchange. I am reminded again of the need for connection and discussion talking about important facets of our lives – something which I will be building on with new events.
The Sense of Place weekends in May and October are booking well – and everyone who has booked so far is coming on their own. I’m delighted that people have had the courage to do this and stepping out into new and creative experience and seeing what comes.
I’m looking forward to working with the energetic talent of photographer and writer Mikaela Toczek on these weekends with me. I call it ‘flexing muscles in new directions’ and the weekend workshop is all about thinking and exploring new areas.
We’ll be exploring maps in their widest sense, stories and image as part of the weekend and what a personal sense of place means. It’s a chance to make new connections, get your mind and body into a new and refreshing space as well as simply be in glorious surroundings at a glorious time of year. Take a look and feel inspired to participate in something a little different.
Element doesn’t, as a business, wear one simple hat. It’s about finding relationships with the outdoors in a number of different ways. It was very nice to have an article in The Western Mail that covered this sensitively and intelligently; you can read the article here: https://element-active.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Ruth-Pickvance.pdf
Each year in February I aim to travel slightly out of my ‘comfort zone’ to somewhere new, somewhere a little more challenging and usually very rewarding. I notice that as I get older I’m defaulting to familiar countries with worrying ease!
I maintain that ‘you need to get your feet on the ground’ in somewhere new to fully understand what’s going on. We often get skewed perspectives delivered by our media and certain parts of the world are completely ignored. Travel is a great enricher.
Last year I explored the mountains of Oman – this year it was Jordan. Without lapsing into long travel blog, suffice to say that stunning mountains, very cold temperatures, incredible desert were all apparent but I hardly saw a local woman for the whole of my trip. It is of course culturally complex but women are kept mainly behind closed doors and niqabs in the conservative south of the country. They are rarely permitted to work by their men. I felt increasingly shocked and enormously grateful for my independence to explore and for my freedom of movement and place in the world. This was possibly the biggest and most unexpected ‘takeaway’ of the trip for me.
In January I went on a two day Re-Wilding Conference in Cambridge. I’ve become increasingly interested in what’s happening to our land and landscape as our systems of farming intensify and our population grows. It was useful to learn that more than half the people there were there because they were interested. Our biodiversity is falling – insect and bird populations decreasing with alarming speed. It’s a complex issue and there are tensions and frustrations between naturalists and some of the farming community. There was much food for thought and I have to say that surprisingly Germaine Greer (yes, what was she doing there?!) was very engaging and outspoken at the age of 80 speaking with no PowerPoint. She talked about her own rehabilitation project, her woodland failures and that ‘confusion is the only fruitful state of mind’.
The photograph here is of the Knepp Estate which is the UK’s flagship re-wilding project. I felt very envious of European projects where elk, beaver, bison and wolf are making strong returns. They do have much larger areas and already have a partially re-wilded landscape due abandonment as young people continue to leave the land. A film will be released at some point on Europe’s New Wild but the short film trailer here is worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xyir6xQsQr0
New Element ventures for 2019 are the Italy trips. If I had to say where am I most ‘in my element’ it would be in the mountains of Italy. June is already booked up but September isn’t. And – if you’d like to get your own group together for a ‘bespoke’ Italy walking trip then just drop me a line – I have three areas that I know well and am happy to create trip according to fitness levels and preferences.
We have our first ‘Bespoke Day’ for a running club this year where we’ll be looking at off-road running, training and fell running. If your club might be interested in a similar day just get in touch.
The Beginning Fell Running workshop day continues to be very popular – April 14th is fully booked but we still have spaces on July 28th. It still gives me real pleasure to pass on the delights of wilder running and to see women develop confidence on this day.
Details of all our events are on the website: https://element-active.co.uk and do follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.