Walk about and eat some chips: recipe for a perfect holiday

Loch Eck, Cowal Peninsula, Scotland
Loch Eck, Cowal Peninsula, Scotland

I was lucky enough to visit Scotland this year – the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll and then the Inner Hebridean Island of Jura. There’s something about Scotland that draws me back again and again. It could be its sense of ‘otherplace’ that makes me feel I’m away from home both literally and metaphorically; or it could be its knock-you-down gorgeousness or its real and gritty history. I adore it.

Beinn Shianntaidh from Beinn an Oir - two of the Three Paps of Jura, Isle of Jura, Scotland
Beinn Shianntaidh from Beinn an Oir – two of the Three Paps of Jura, Isle of Jura, Scotland

Anyway, as I sat with a glass of wine on the side of Holy Loch on the first evening, I thought, in a good coach-y manner, “What would I really like to get out of this holiday”. I decided that I wanted to it be like retreat, where you get away from everything, calm your mind, DON’T look at everyday stuff for a while and then when you come back to it, hey presto, great clarity emerges. AND, I wanted it to be a really good rest – goodness me, I slept HOURS on this holiday – and when it was done to be fizzing with energy. AND, I wanted it to be full of fun, adventure, new things, exciting things, interesting things. Things that live in your mind for years afterwards, enliven your memories and inner landscape and make you feel that having done them, you can conquer the world.

At the bottom of the my glass of wine, I thought, “I might be expecting a tad too much of my holiday.”

I told a good friend about this, and he laughed and said that what he wanted to do on holiday (I paraphrase) was to walk about and eat some chips. I think he might have got it about right.

A riot of colour: Wild Angelica, Purple Loosestrife and Meadowsweet, Jura, Scotland
A riot of colour: Wild Angelica, Purple Loosestrife and Meadowsweet, Jura, Scotland

So, I decided to let the holiday be what the holiday was. A dose of walking, a good deal of swimming, lots of sleeping and unfeasibly large quantities of Scottish Tablet. Larger issues and life-fixes will be part of my longer term personal, practical and spiritual development (by which I mean, meaning of life stuff rather than religious stuff). These things are better thought of as a long-term everyday project rather than a supercharged thoughtfest shoehorned into a holiday. A programme that ebbs and flows with enthusiasm and circumstance, but which is always going on. And, of course, for me, walking is an essential ingredient of that process.

Monkeypuzzle glade - Benmore Botanic Gardens, near Dunoon, Scotland
Monkeypuzzle glade – Benmore Botanic Gardens, near Dunoon, Scotland

So, I wanted to say: Enjoy your holidays, and I hope they’ll be wonderful. I’d encourage you, though, to let them be joyful, restful and exciting, but don’t fall into the trap of wanting them to fix everything. Not even gaffer tape can do that. Did I mention before my love affair with this practical and humble material? Another time maybe.

I’d love to know how you got on.

And, when you get back, if you feel like making a longer-term work of where you want to be in life, I’ve got an offer on…50% off coaching booked in August 2018.

This includes, if you’ve been coached by me before, phone coaching. Some people put a package together of phone and walking over a few months so that they can really get to grips with an issue.

Get in touch and quote ‘Holidays 2018’ if you’d like to take me up on the offer. info@natural-thinking.co.uk

By the way, for walking in Scotland, I love the Walkhighlands website. The right to roam may be a wonderful thing, but it makes planning a walk tricky without local knowledge. Walkhighlands to the rescue…

Corryvreckan Whirlpool, Jura, Scotland
Corryvreckan Whirlpool – not quite whirlpooling, but impressive enough. Jura, Scotland

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.

The Story of the Walk

wild garlic near Bakewell in Derbyshire
Meandering through wild garlic near Bakewell in Derbyshire

All my walks have their own story. The route, the weather, the mud, the café, the companions, the cows (or hopefully not..), the copulating frogs, the wild garlic, the wood anemones, the lamb carcass 6 foot up in a tree (I know, ugh. I’m not sure what this says about our Cheshire buzzards). You know the kind of thing.

But there’s another story that is woven in with this one – the stuff I bring in my head. And with this stuff, I notice a pattern, a rough gathering together into a beginning, middle and end that echoes the unfolding of the walk.

The River Wye from Monsal Head
The river Wye from near Monsal Head. Each season tells a different story…

After I set off but before I get going, there’s a sense of meeting myself in that place. Are my feet comfy in these shoes, am I tired, grumpy or does my back ache? What have I got to do this week, who’s annoying me, what tricky interactions have I got to manage? Why can’t I get enthused about gardening these days and why am I avoiding painting and decorating the bathroom?

As the walk goes on there’s a kind of settling. My body gets used to the pace, I warm up, I adjust my shoes and get my hair out of my face. Many thoughts fall away and I’m absorbed in finding the way and a steady, gently paced examination of the things that have remained. Inner thoughts and outer experience are woven together, holding each other in a comfortable relationship. There may be special revelations, or maybe not. Often it’s about noticing the line of molehills in a field or a weird cloud formation as much as realising that I could approach a problem with my work in a different way.

As the walk draws to a close, thoughts turn to food, fireside, ice cream (delete according to season) or the drive home. Or what’s got to happen next. There’s a kind of line drawn under the space, maybe with a colon pointing to what’s next:

muddy path near Wincle, Macclesfield
Alas, the story of my walking often includes a chapter on mud…although carefully avoided for my coaching clients!

This is not to say that I come away from a walk with all the answers to my questions, but that the mishmash of worries, ideas, interests and just plain chaff is settled into a framework that allows me to hold it all there for a while while I think about what to do with it.

One of the things that I do as a coach is to create a space and a structure for my clients to examine their own thoughts and decide what’s important. Answers or advice are less important than creating a constructive, fruitful space full of the potential for brilliant thinking.

It’s my experience that a walk has many of these characteristics too, albeit in an informal way. This is the raison d’être for Natural Thinking, my coaching business. Working with a coach provides a respectful companion with a listening ear and a sheaf of techniques to enhance your thinking, and bringing this together with being outside is what I do.

wood anemones near Lyme Park, Cheshire
Wood anemones in flower, near Lyme Park in Cheshire

But the joy of walking is that it’s available for free to those who are inclined and able to get out in some way. A walk is a natural coach.

I bet those of you who walk regularly – and I know many of you do – have noticed this or something like it. I’d love to hear about your experiences if you’d like to share them.