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Doing a bit for the environment?

October 21st, 2013 No comments

The felling in our woodland (not really ours as it belongs to a landowner!) is starting again now with more rides and glades being slowly opened up. The wildlife is already improving from three years of active management. Some of the glades have lovely oak standards growing nicely in sunlit conditions. When timber is felled it is then then cut into manageable lengths and kept in the glade areas overwinter. Brashings are left to rot in piles for insects and fungi. Taking timber out in the depths of winter is risky as the ground is too wet sometimes even for a landrover. These trunk sections are stored in situ for a year then cut and removed from the woods when the ground conditions improve. The trunks then undergo another year of seasoning at home having first been split into small logs to get more surface exposed to the air (see the picture). Our aim is to develop a system of open glades and a circular ride of land rover width.

DSC04820My new mini allotment at home (of four raised beds) is now in place (we have only been in this house for two years and so we have had to start again with vegie patch, chickens, fruit trees, etc.), the chickens seem happy, and the log pile for the wood burner is starting to get piled up high for the winter of 2014/15! Two years from felling to burning  – that is what is required if the timber is to be seasoned well enough so as to not cause excessive soot and tar build up in the chimney. The advantage of seasoning wood well is that separate chopping of kindling is not required – why? Well the wood is so dry the bark falls off and bark is great kindling for starting the fire!

The chickens produce a lot of poo, and the soiled bedding and grass waste from the lawn and kitchen waste all go into my two compost bins….and eventually this makes a rich matter for the growing of my vegetables. The garlic has gone in now and my order is on its way for some new raspberry plants. The garden will then have apple, pear, walnut, and plum trees…….and the trellis will get put up this winter for my new blackberries…hard work but well worth it!

 

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Malaysia

September 4th, 2013 No comments

DSC04709 I have recently returned from working in Malaysia and Singapore. The train from the international airport to Kuala Lumpur city is extremely fast and relatively cheap and takes a mere 28 minutes. My work in Singapore was just for one (long) day and it was quite an experience flying down from Kuala Lumpur to Changi airport and back again. I was working with people who in turn work with youth at risk. Back in Kuala Lumpur the next day I ran taster sessions for corporate clients in the hope of booking a few places for a program next April 2014 I am delivering with my friend Dr. Roger Greenaway. I then went on to deliver a two-day staff development programme at Sunway University, one of Malaysia’s most successful private universities. The event was very well received and it is likely that I will be returning to do similar work next year. (see my university lecturer development download on the academic work page). This blog is especially for the person who picked me up each day, and took me to the University, and then returned me back to the hotel safe and sound at the end of each day. (Thank you for your great sense of humour and your entertainment in the car each day-I won’t mention the car that just missed us when we did that u turn!) She told me that she loved reading the blogs-so this is for you!

At the end of my week my good friend Yuen-Li, who is the owner of Nomad Adventure, took me out to her Earth Camp in Gopeng. There were many corporate clients staying there doing a team development programme and they were staying in very basic dormitories. I had the choice however of selecting any one of a number of treehouses. The treehouses were superb, built around old rubber trees from a now defunct small rubber plantation. Of course I selected the cleanest one, with the least amount of bat droppings though I was happy to share my accommodation with a bat or two! I spent the night keeping cool under a small fan dangling from a cable in the ceiling, and emerged in the morning with only one or two mosquito bites. The photo above is my view in the morning, from my bed. Later after breakfast I was taken to explore a fabulous cave, and high ropes structures at the Nomad Mountain Centre nearby. I was also due to go white water rafting but the raft numbers panned out so that there were no spaces left and so my friend asked me if I would kayak down the rapids. What an experience! Brilliant! But I was following a first-class kayaker who nimbly navigated her way between the rocks and seemed to glide smoothly down the course. I can still remember sitting in the kayak at the top of a waterfall with Yuen-Li saying ‘follow me down, but when you first drop-down you will have to take a quick left as there is a large boulder in the way!’ I was in an inflatable kayak which had less manoeuvrability but was probably well insulated against my mistakes! I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down only to falter on one of the rapids where there just happened to be several rafts floating about in the backwaters whilst everyone was taking a rest. Yes I capsized and I remember surfacing to a round of applause from the many spectators enjoying my error! I was paddling down some of the quieter stretches when I was shown some shiny material in the river and it was the very reason why the British took such an interest in Malaysia. It was Tin  – and the story has it that tin was first discovered when elephants that were washing in the river stood up and walked out onto the land with sparkling bodies strewn with shiny material that been deposited on their skin. The rubber plantations in Malaysia came later and believe it or not all consist of Brazilian stock. The reason for this is the 25,000 seeds were taken from the Amazon and shipped out to Singapore and Malaysia where they were grown successfully and resulted in rubber plantations which were much more economically harvested than the random natural forest trees in the jungles of Brazil.DSC04695

 

 

This was the very reason why the ‘white gold’ of Brazil went into decline. It’s hard to believe that in the same day I went from kayaking down grade three rapids to sitting in an aeroplane just before midnight, flying home. The Malaysia trip was a wonderful experience – though I was glad to be going home mostly because I love Malaysian food too much and if I had stayed longer I think I would put on a considerable amount of weight! I caught up with many good friends in Kuala Lumpur and I am looking forward to seeing you all again next year.

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Rubber trees on a plantation, being scarred and bled for raw unprocessed rubber. Nature was, and still is, the source of all our wealth – often we forget that all our possessions ultimately come from the raw materials of our earth, & nowhere else as far as I know!

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International Conference on Experiential Learning – a call to friends in Asia!

August 18th, 2013 No comments

ICEL [International Conference on Experiential Learning] was a great success again this year. It is held every two years and on the last occasion it was held in Santiago, Chile. The event in Chile was the first time the conference had been to South America and so it was nice that the South American trend continued this year with the conference in Lima, Peru. Although there were just less than 100 people attending the atmosphere of the event was remarkably positive and friendly this of course made the learning more enjoyable. There were people attending from many areas of experiential learning including coaching, corporate learning and development, higher education, adventure education and outdoor education. These areas of course overlap with many people working more than one field. It is likely that the next event in two years time will be held in North America and plans are already underway with several delegates committed to the hard work of conference organizing. The conference has of course been to North America before and the turnout was probably the highest is ever been. Look out for further news and dates that will be announced in the coming months. What is also exciting is that many people have talked about the conference moving to Asia in four years time and this possibility for me is extremely exciting as I have lots of colleagues in the region, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. It is with this in mind that I’m hoping my friends will show expressions of interest and start to mobilize and active network in Asia to lay the foundations for a big ICEL event in four years time.

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Queen’s University, Belfast

July 13th, 2013 No comments

Stowaway!

I really enjoyed my time in Belfast working with staff at Queen’s University. There was a great atmosphere at the conference. After the conference I was picked up by friends I had not seen for 30 years! We drove down to Portaferry and I stayed in place that they have acquired to develop as a place to stay, to meet and to eat! They don’t call it a hotel and I can see why! The experience was lovely and each morning we sat in the large breakfast room watching the ferry go back and forth across the powerful currents of Strangford Lough. We celebrated meeting up again after such a long time. We knew each other from the days of working in the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. A few glasses of wine slid down easily! The next day we join forces with some great kayakers and went ‘paddling’. This is what serious kayakers call it! They make it sound so easy but then for these people it is – one of them, Elaine Alexander, was the first woman to circumnavigate the whole island in her sea kayak. Paddling around Strangford was great and watching the front of the kayak cutting through the small waves was almost hypnotic. Unbeknown to us it was Elaine’s birthday a few days earlier and as a surprise her friend had hidden champagne and smoked salmon and trifle inside the kayaks! We hauled up on a few islands and had a few courses  – it was absolutely wonderful. I now have more friends in Northern Ireland and I’m hoping to meet up with them again when our family travels over for one of our annual holidays on the Ards Peninsula, in our favourite cottage by the sea.

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Keynote in Peru

June 20th, 2013 No comments

For my Opening Conference Keynote speech in Peru I will focus on the ‘Thinking about the Experience of Thinking’. I will introduce some key books used to construct the presentation. The presentation will be a different ‘experience’ from reading these texts. This leads me to question whether reading can ever be categorised as experiential learning? My copies of these books have annotations, folded pages, bits of paper in them: they are mine, they are changed and altered with my own thoughts and scribbling, and the best bits have been variously highlighted. My multiple experiences of these texts become what I will share. My thinking becomes intertwined with the texts as the presentation is constructed, from many different parts. The original narrative form moves into a new weave, of a conversation-based presentation format. Then it hopefully journeys out into the audience into other conversational forms, blending and merging into other thinking from conference workshop sessions and keynotes. It may end up reconfigured many times, moving in many unexpected places………..For the content I will briefly explore the evolution of the human brain, and the recent evolution of learning theories. Then it is time to look at different ways of thinking: fast thinking, slow thinking, left brain thinking and right brain thinking, old brain thinking and new brain thinking, positive thinking and negative thinking, thinking with the subconscious and the conscious, thinking with the gut, thinking with feeling, thinking with the senses, thinking with the body, thinking with compassion, thinking in patterns, thinking in a spatial form, thinking too much (ruminating) and the benefits of just not thinking at all! It is of course always ‘work in progress’ until that moment when it is time to stand up in front of the audience and speak! I am hoping to produce a short synopsis and list of texts to be more widely available after the conference so please do e-mail me if you want a copy.

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Room for improvement

Beard and Price RSA Spring 2013

Here is a copy of the article written by Professor Ilfryn Price and myself on space (spatial ecologies) and how spatial environments affects our learning and working. It is published in the recent Royal Society of Arts Journal.  There is also an interesting article in this edition by George Clarke called ‘Restoration Britain’.

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bio bio riverlodge

My good friend Camilo Mendoza has now opened his river lodge in Patagonia. He operates his own adventure company, and works with organisations doing outdoor and adventure training. Now his new addition to his portfolio is his river lodge. It is in a stunning location and there are lots of adventures that can be easily planned for you. Last time I was out with him we did kayaking with the best kayaker in Chile and paddled in a superb lake with four or five volcanic snow capped mountains around us. If you need a really great adventure in the river lodge then check out www.biobioriverlodge.com

I would love to take my son out there – maybe when he is 10, in a couple of years from now. So I think I am going to start saving up (!), do some early planning and learn some Spanish. Camilo and I are both giving keynote speeches at the next International Conference on Experiential Learning in Lima, Peru from 15-19th July. The conference details are on www.icel2013.com

 

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Giving Feedback

March 7th, 2013 No comments

My experience of being present on board a plane but recorded as a Missing Passenger from Langkawi to KL last year was stressful and the consequences potentially serious. The situation has now finally been resolved so I thought I would report back. The result is that KLM have lost my custom for my next flight to Kuala Lumpur in July this year. Malaysia Airlines responded positively by booking me a special discounted flight as a gesture of goodwill, and offering emergency exit seats at no cost on the A 380 Airbus. Their staff picked up my blog, responded in person with calls and e-mails to me. KLM on the other hand took back the gifted champagne that they gave me on the flight when I went to board the flight to Manchester, asked me to fill in three forms (lost luggage, lost extra leg room seat paid for, and details of the missing passenger incident from Langkkawi) and to find them myself on the website. KLM seem to use the ‘donotreply@’ e-mail addresses a lot these days! It is interesting that getting to speak to real people to give customer feedback when there is cause for complaint seems increasingly difficult – and in my view highlights which companies are really providing a quality customer service. Back home in the UK this weekend I had a great time working with Anaesthetists in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Liverpool, and also in the Maritime Museum. I was asked to do the after dinner speech at their conference, act as a judge for a series of research presentations, and deliver two workshops on Giving Feedback. I developed an interesting technique for one section of the session using paired words for group discussion, after which each team had to construct a narrative thread about the nature of feedback along the paired word sequence. Each group listened to other group narratives and a wider discussion then started about key principles. The response after the event has been very good. It is always rewarding to work with other professions, and get a glimpse into their world of work. I certainly learnt a great deal about the difficult circumstances and pressures that their work involves. I was particularly interested in their use of high reality simulations for learning from critical incidents in clinical situations. I am working elsewhere also with other NHS topics, including Organisational Development programmes, and assertiveness. I am of course a supporter of the NHS, and believe the Olympic Opening Ceremony in London was a symbolic Gold Medal for our UK NHS.

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Life coaching?

January 31st, 2013 No comments

I recently went to seek guidance from a financial advisor and it was well worthwhile. Out of interest he asked me about my role as a life coach. Afterwards I thought that perhaps a few people might be interested to know what life coaching entails. In my case I am more than aware that life is very challenging at times, and so the ability to focus on positive things, by doing continuous work towards getting the most from life should perhaps also be worth investing time and money in! At times life can be very hard, and perhaps mundane, and at other times life just seems great. This is typical of the rollercoaster of life, and so we have to embrace both with grace! There are many theories on the subject of human needs, however one I like is that of Max Neef and his work on general life needs and satisfyers. He argues that many people get hooked on pseudo-satisfyers that don’t really sustain us for very long. Shopping for material things is one such satisfyer that tends to be short lived. My approach to life coaching is to focus on and identify deeper more satisfying needs, and I work with some of the more interesting six core essentials of life: namely belonging (people, places and nature) , doing (what do we like doing want to do but don’t etc), sensing (sensory intelligence is really key to knowing our satisfyers), feeling (feelings both current and desired), knowing (knowledge is important for self-actualisation) and being (self transformation, mindfulness, presence, identity, ego). These aspects of life are where we have some of our fundamental human needs over and above subsistence needs, physiological needs, and health and safety needs. You might recognise the six core areas as they are also the basis of the whole person experiential learning model and in the third edition we cover some of these coaching issues.

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A Public Lecture: University of Derby, The Dome, Buxton campus.

January 11th, 2013 No comments

I will be giving a Professorial Lecture, open to the public, for the University of Derby at a place that was described by Prince Charles as a ‘truly remarkable building’. The building is known as The Dome in Buxton in the heart of the Peak District National Park  (the first National Park in the UK). The lecture/talk, will be in the evening of 23rd May 2013 at 6pm. I will be talking about learning and working in the knowledge economy: exploring how we learn and how learning affects how we work, and why learning and working are becoming convergent phenomena. What we know about learning is now much more advanced: we have moved on from old ideas that started with watching animal behaviour and thinking about how animals learned (ethology)! These ideas were even tried and tested out on people in factories!

Today the differences between learning and working are being eroded, as more people work in the knowledge industries. Information is easy to locate – what we do with knowledge, and how we learn from experience is key. I will also explore how physical buildings and the internal spatial design can facilitate changes in the behaviour of individuals and even whole organisations; space has considerable potential to liberate people and increase effectiveness in working and learning. One of the examples to be referred to looks at the refurbishment and redesign of the UK anti-terrorist monitoring establishment, which looks not unlike a football stadium from the airwhy is this, and how has its new shape affected the way people work……..?

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