Making stuff happen with group coaching walks

White Nancy from Oakenbank Lane, near Rainow
White Nancy from Oakenbank Lane, near Rainow

I have to admit that when it comes down to it, I can be a bit of an avoider of groups. I lean, in general, towards one to one interactions and very small gatherings.

Having said that, I am not a loner. There are groups that I positively enjoy and seek out. Some are light and energising, and some are rich and complex, and as you might expect, some have a good dose of annoyingness mixed in. Groups can be hard work, frustrating and stifling, but also warm, inclusive and accepting. And there’s not usually a clear, binary division between the two. I’ve come to know that my life is richer for the groups that I am a part of.

Anyway, I’m saying all that because I discovered a wonderful thing about coaching small groups of people, and I have built these experiences into my occasional ‘Making Stuff Happen’ group coaching walks – one of which is coming up in July. Check it out here.

One to one coaching in the outdoors is a wonderful thing. You have the undivided attention of a professional to listen to your goals and gently and almost invisibly structure the conversation to help you work towards these things. And all the time, the outer landscape has a way of reflecting your inner landscape back to you, offering the wider view, a new perspective and a steadying rhythm.

But coaching in a small group also has a kind of magic. In this case, though, the structure must be clearly visible. There has to be a well defined framework to help a group of people who may not know each other come together, and to provide the pegs to hang their questions on.

Waterfall at Walkmill farm, Ingersley Vale, near Bollington, Cheshire
Waterfall at Walkmill farm, Ingersley Vale, near Bollington, Cheshire

It works by pairing people up to explore an opening question, then each pair is changed and the next question asked. At the start, some basic active listening skills are reviewed so that everyone can tune in their listening ear. There are formal and informal moments to enjoy the landscape and give it a chance to impact on your thinking. And a good deal of laughter and lightness too – even when serious issues are discussed.

You may not have the one to one attention and invisible structure of a highly trained coach, but you do gain a supportive network and a variety of experience that brings a bit of ‘otherness’ into the mix. Plus there’s the sense of all working together – even if that is on very different things. It’s amazing how quickly this creates a rich, honest and potentially transformative space.

People I know have used these sessions as an introduction to coaching – as a way to get to know me as a coach and to make a start on articulating and shaping their goals. They may go on to book a one to one session, but equally, a group session may be enough to get started on moving forward and making things happen.

So, if you’d like to give it a try, I’d love to see you there!

Making Stuff Happen Group Coaching Walk

Tuesday July 3rd, 10:00-12:30, Rainow, near Macclesfield
£30

Click here to book

 

Spring Walking, Spring offer…

Bluebells in the woods at Danebridge
Improbably mystical Bluebells in the woods near Danebridge

Oh goodness me, the spring!

When it gets going it’s an overload of fresh colour, frantic activity among the birds and beasties, and – at last – some dryer ground.

I saw this season’s first screaming school of Swifts in the Trough of Bowland last weekend, and in recent walks there’ve been sightings of Wheatears on the moor near Axe Edge, Lapwings in the Goyt Valley and a pair of Ravens doing backflips (genuinely, they do this when they’re enjoying the thermal air currents) near Windgather Rocks.

The bluebells are full on, the wild garlic is nearly over and the Red Campion is gearing up for a summer carnival.

In short, it’s a great time to be out there.

I’m offering a special 60% spring offer on 1-1 coaching walks for those of you who fancy combining this spring abundance with some deep thinking and positive action. You can take the session anytime as long as you book it by the end of May 2018.

To book, contact me – Victoria – at info@natural-thinking.co.uk, or call 01625 425049 and quote ’Spring walk’.

Want to know more about coaching and walking? Check out something about coaching and walking here. And there’s more about me and Natural Thinking here.

Quizzical landscapes, curious lives…

Chrome Hill near Buxton on a misty morning
Chrome Hill near Buxton on a misty morning

Some landscapes make you ask questions. There’s a spot between Buxton, Flash and Chrome Hill where I experience this intensely. From Axe Edge, I can see several long, sharp slivers of rock pointing up to the sky. Are they natural or chipped out of the rock by ancient humans? There’s lots of quarrying around here – it could be either. Sometimes mist settles in the dips and all you can see are the strange lumpy peaks poking up through a blanket of mist.

Looking at the map, it’s noticeable that the local pathways multiply in this area to become a tangled mass of tracks, footpaths, bridleways and byways. There are several 5-8 way junctions, and in one place four footpaths wind in parallel through a single narrow valley. The river Dove rises here, and near Tenterhill, far away from the road, there’s a robust stone packhorse bridge over the river, designed to take some heavy use that it doesn’t get now.

The packhorse bridge over the River Dove near Tenterhill, Buxton
The packhorse bridge over the river Dove near Tenterhill, Buxton

Here you start to see pale limestone crust the hillsides, rather than the darker millstone grit, and the land is arranged into narrow valleys and hidden ravines that can take you by surprise. Some of the house and farms seem suspended mid-renovation, but they are places full of recycled invention and creative husbandry. The other day we came across a pig in a cosy handmade shed, and some extraordinary bear-like sheep flourishing around Howe Green. And up near Dove Head, a memorial stands in what seems like the middle of nowhere commemorating the men and boys who lived and worked in communities on Brandside who died in the two World Wars.

The bear-sheep of Howe Green, near Buxton. Anyone know what breed these are?
The bear-sheep of Howe Green, near Buxton. Anyone know what breed these are?

The look and shape of the land is, of course, bound up with the people who used it in the past and the people who use it now as well as the ancient seas that lay down sediment, the ice that scraped it out and the human events that tore it apart and put it back together. Walking the land is more than a means to get fit or feel good – it’s a participation in a small way in a place formed from world shaking events and everyday human use, and as such I like to think that sometimes the thinking that happens in these amazing places works its way back into the world for practical good.

If you feel it’s a good time to do some work on how your own hopes and aspirations could leak out into the wider world, I’ve got a special 60% off spring offer on 1-1 coaching walks. Book by the end of May 2018 for a session that can take place any time this year.

To book, contact me – Victoria – at info@natural-thinking.co.uk, or call 01625 425049 and quote ’Spring walk’.

Are you fairly confident in your map reading skills and fancy exploring yourself? You can download of copy of the GPX file for this walk here.

Why I walk

Track at Rowarth, near New Mills, Derbyshire
Pulling out of Rowarth, near New Mills. Still very grumpy. An interesting old track..

I am deeply, madly, emphatically in love with walking. You might have gathered that from the website and blog so far. I tone this down because enthusiasts can be quite annoying, but it does energise and infuse all my coaching work with clients. So here’s three reasons why I walk. There’s way more reasons than three, but I’ve stopped there today because of the aforementioned annoyingness. I’ll tell you a few more in another post.

Kinder plateau from Lantern Pike
Kinder plateau viewed from Lantern Pike. Hard not to be impressed.

It’s a great transition into the working week

I walk often and at all sorts of different times of the day, but I have one walking appointment that I always, always keep. And that’s first thing on Monday morning.

On Monday mornings I am mind-crushingly grumpy. I love my job (or more accurately, jobs), but I still find that waking up on Monday morning is like being thrown out of an airplane, as I once heard it described. This gets better or worse sending on how much work I have on (and that’s another story…), but a few years ago I discovered that if I put my horrified disgruntled-ness on one side, threw on clothes and breakfast, and headed straight out into the early morning hills, I returned a different person. Everything was just the same – the work, the multiple jobs, the crammed headspace and organisational skills required for these. But I was able to look more calmly and constructively at them. Sometimes I could make changes, sometimes not, but it either case, I was in a better place to think it through. The science supports this of course, but this is how that science plays out in my life.

Combes Rocks
Bewitched. Coombes Rocks. A finger of dark rock flanked by curved valleys.

It shifts my perspective of where I am in the world, opens up new possibilities

We all have a map in our heads of the places that are important to us. And these mental maps differ in all sorts of ways from actual, accurate, written-down maps. For instance, Macclesfield in my head is much bigger than London, even though an actual map would tell you that was daft. But my Macclesfield is full of detail and texture that London does not have. I believe clever people call this psychogeography. When I first started to walk a lot around where I live, I found a strange thing happening. Places that seemed far apart in my mental map turned out to be quite close. I’d always thought of Buxton as a good drive away from Macclesfield, but walking regularly on the moors between them told me that in fact in some places they are only about seven miles apart, and more significantly, walking that seven miles somehow draws the two places together. My view of the world around me has become less fragmented. I don’t know why I find this delightful. Perhaps cars and trains do fragment our lives. But also it may be that if I can shift my perspective on the physical landscape around me, then perhaps it will open up the possibility of seeing other things in a different way. And I find that infinitely refreshing.

Manchester from Combes Rocks
Manchester from Coombes Rocks. The rain hasn’t done with me yet it seems..

It structures loneliness into solitude, which is an altogether more constructive state

At one time I found myself working on my own a lot. My contacts were mainly on the phone our my email – there were plenty of those – but mainly my workmates were virtual people. I was lonely.

This isn’t always an easy thing to change, and also, you know, I like my own company. But walking gave me some time during the week that was a positive, steadily paced time to do nothing much but just be alone in nature. It was a time marked for the presence of something – solitude – rather than its lack of people.

In have more people in my life now, but I still find solitude a constructive experience. It recharges the brain and the soul and makes me feel more like a proper human being in the world.

Robin Hood's Picking Rods, Derbyshire
Robin Hood’s Picking Rods. Honestly. Actually the remains of an 8th Century double cross. At least two more of these in the area.

So those are just some of the reasons why I walk, and why it has come to underpin my coaching work. For more reasons, including how the ‘story’ of the walk helps frame my thoughts; how each walk is a small confidence building adventure (especially if you are afraid of cows), and the pleasure of getting to know people while walking, stay tuned.

Or you could sign up to receive notifications of when I post by going to any page on my website and scrolling down to grey bar at the bottom, and clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the left.

In the meantime I’ve love to know why you walk…

Walking and coaching; a magic pairing

The gigantic half cup of the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank sets its open rim to the sky in the distance. Today there’s a low dark mist that blends with the trees on the plain, making the dish look like it’s floating on a murky, blue green sea. Beyond are the welsh hills – I can’t normally see that far, about 60 miles. The natural Rorschach test of Tegg’s Nose and Bottoms Reservoir look like a butterfly today. A quirk of the air quality and humidity means sometimes I can almost pick out the sheep on the hill at Rivington Pike just 30 miles North Eastish, and sometimes I can’t see beyond, well, my nose.

butterfly 1230 x 400
What do you see today? Tegg’s Nose and Bottoms Reservoirs from Tegg’s Nose Country Park

Up here, a different drama unfolds every day. I’m not quite sure if what I see depends entirely on the weather and conditions, or whether I’m miserable, satisfied, muddled or elated. There’s a deep conversation going on between my inner and outer landscape that often directs fresh light onto my daily preoccupations and shifts things a little. However I feel when I go up there, I feel like a different person when I get back.

IMG_2221
Another day, another story. This time rather a murky one. Looking out over the Cheshire Plain. The Lovell Telescope is in there somewhere

This is something that many of us know from experience: there’s something about a walk that boosts the mood, settles the mind, gets creative juices going and puts things into perspective.

Artists and writers have waxed lyrical about this for centuries, and continue to do so, and scientific studies back this up. The data is robust and well established on the benefits of exercise to thinking, as well as giving lots of other health benefits too. But what’s the difference between walking in nature and walking on a pavement? Is is just a cultural one? Perhaps partly because we feel we need to build a case for nature’s value as it becomes increasingly threatened, there are more and more solid, scientifically proven connections emerging around being in nature and green space and how we think, feel and relate to one another. Florence Williams’ book The Nature Fix is a rigorous but readable review of the work happening in this area.

That’s all well and good, and very ‘internal’, but walking has made social, practical change too.

Getting out into the open to hear someone speak about ideas that were difficult to explore in more socially patrolled spaces was a common practice in 18th and 19th Century Britain. The spiritual, the starving, the unrepresented, the poor and the just plain angry have gathered and walked to demand change.

Manchester_from_Kersal_Moor_William_Wylde_(1857)
William Wyld, 1852, Manchester from Kersal Moor. later rendered as an engraving entitled Cottonopolis by Edward Goodall. Kersal Moor was a signficant open air meeting place

But it’s not just that lots of people speak more loudly and emphatically than one, or that they might be prevented from meeting in spaces owned by their masters. There’s something about the value of collectively visualising new ways to live which might be easier to imagine in the open air away from the dominant structures of the day.

One thing, then, we can be really sure of is that walking helps us think. This is how Natural Thinking came about – a conviction that investing time in walking and talking and thinking things through can sort stuff out and make stuff happen, and even sometimes work a kind of magic on our personal and professional lives. And that in turn can result in positive personal and social change.

IMG_0860
Chilly up there – a snowy walk looking out towards Shuttlingloe, and Danebower Hollow, just along from the Cat and Fiddle pub

Coaching, put simply, is helping people to think brilliantly. It springs from the idea – and the experience of good coaches – that the key to change is not in the head of the expert, or hidden in some book or on the lips of some guru, but inside each one of us. It has its origins in sports coaching. The American sports coach Timothy Gallwey (The Inner Game of Tennis, Golf etc.) noticed that his charges achieved more when he asked them to pay attention to their own experience rather than when he told them what to do. These ideas were swiftly picked up and applied to business, career development and personal change.

Natural Thinking is built on the idea that walking helps you think; coaching helps you think. It brings the two together and puts them to work on our jobs, our lives, our communities and our boxes. It aims for change, and even (whisper it, because I don’t make rash promises) for making the world a better place.

Come on board and discover what you can do

Resources on walking, thinking and social change

  • Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit
  • The Art of Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit
  • The Nature Fix, Florence Williams
  • Ramble On, Sinclair Mackay. Explores many of the ways that walking and social change have worked together.
  • Psychogeogrpahy, Merlin Coverley
  • Walking with Plato, Gary Hayden
  • Walking through Spring, Graham Hoyland
  • Walking Artists Network
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An evening walk. Looking up to Tegg’s Nose Country Park from the track between Tegg’s Nose reservoir and Bottoms Reservoir