My last post, which was longer ago than I intended, featured the trip I made to Fort William back in February for the Mountain Festival. The beauty of knowing people who live there now is that I found myself back there a few weeks later, after following my curiosity and responding to a tweet which intrigued me.
That tweet was from the Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research (CRTR), a research centre at the University of the Highlands and Island's School of Adventure Studies, based in Fort William. I'd been following the account for a while as the centre is involved in a number of projects I'm really interested in, including Sustainable Heritage, Adventure Tourism and Slow Adventure. They were looking for people to get involved in module testing as part of a project called ADVENT (Adventure tourism vocational education and training) focussing on Guiding and Interpretation. I'm always excited at opportunities to learn and was so pleased to get offered a place on the course, especially as I knew that other participants would be coming from Iceland and Finland - countries that are partners in the project.
The three day course was really varied, with some classroom teaching, outdoor learning, site visits and trips - all with opportunities for personal and group reflection. Stef Lauer of Hands on Consulting was our course instructor and guide and really made the week enjoyable and informative by enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the places we visited. I particularly loved standing on the shore of Loch Sheil next to the Glenfinnan Monument listening to Stef tell the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie arriving there to start the Jacobite risings...
We discussed 'sense of place', what that is and why it can enhance the experience of visiting somewhere or doing an adventure activity - a combination of the history, culture and the natural environment. Having studied interpretation previously, it was also great to revisit this topic and think more about how people connect to a place, and how stories can be a part of that.
We also looked at what makes a good guide, including responsibilities and environmental awareness. As part of our learning experience and to find out more about our surroundings, we spent an afternoon native tree planting with the Nevis Landscape Partnership in Glen Nevis. The rain and mist were pretty atmospheric and didn't dampen our spirits at all from this enjoying this beautiful glen, and knowing we'd helped to enhance its natural habitat.
Our course leader Stef is also a 'Leave No Trace' trainer, so we all learned about what that means, and got certified through our training that week. If you haven't heard of it before, there are 7 principles for enjoying the outdoors in a responsible way:
The Nevis Landscape Partnership also shares on its website what they've called 'beyond leave no trace' with some useful guidance on ways to make your time adventuring in the outdoors even more sustainable and responsible. I particularly like 'Educate yourself & others about places you visit' which is something I certainly try to do, and I love it when others share information about places too.
As with most things in life, it was the people I was with that really enhanced the experience. I was made to feel very welcome as most of the others had met before, and hearing about tourism in other countries was really valuable. There was also lots of laughter, sharing of stories, fascinating guides and instructors and even delicious Icelandic chocolate eggs! I attempted to speak the language...badly I'm sure.
Nan Shepherd is one of my favourite nature writers, and she was mentioned on the course, so I thought it would be appropriate to share a quote of hers (you can probably tell by now that I love a quote) She wrote "Knowledge is never finite - a goal to be reached or a state to be achieved" As Stef kept saying, every day is a school day, and for me that is what keeps life interesting. I hope I'll get the chance to put some of my learning into practice soon, and I may even get to take part in other modules later in the year.
I'd love to hear from you what you think makes a good guide or any examples of engaging interpretation you've experienced? What helps bring a place to life for you?
I'm Kelly. A thirty-something year old adventurer from Aberdeenshire. Read more about me in the ABOUT ME section.