Personal Development

Team building day inspires winning Poetry

Team building was a day to remember,
Every minute was full of fun.
Long-term friends were always being made,
Until the day was completely done.

The day involved different and unique tasks.
From first aid to tent making,
Spear throwing and fire burning.
But best of all was marshmallow baking.

The instructors were encouraging,
Talkative, informative and keen.
But best of all were the happy girls.
Enjoying a change to the school routine.

Even though it was a bit chilly,
We were dressed appropriately and warm.
We were successful in building a tent,
To save us from the imaginary storm.

First aid taught me loads of new facts,
But firstly to assess for dangers.
Working together as a team,
With people who used to be strangers.

A task involved using flint and steel,
To make a crackling fire.
We chatted happily between us
Whilst the flames were getting higher.

COVID may have stopped original plans,
As PGL didn’t take place.
But that didn’t stop LEH thirds,
From making our team building day really ace.

A school day with no lessons,
Instead a timetable full of games.
We learnt a lot of memorable skills,
With the ultimate goal of learning new names.

Friends are so important,
As they accompany us along the way.
Supporting us through challenges,
With words of wisdom and smiles everyday.

Huge thanks to our competition winning student, from Lady Eleanor Holles School, for sharing this amazing poem. The Polaris Outdoor Team really enjoyed our day with these inspiring young people.

Christmas Bushcraft Bash at Reddam House School 2020

Nestled in an ancient woodland lies Reddam house school, a Hogwart-esque building with the grandeur of a sizeable stately home. The perfect location to host a bushcraft camp for the pupils leading up to Christmas. Typically, the build up to Christmas is quiet for Polaris Outdoor on the schools front as they are winding up to the end of term and is in most cases the busiest time of their year. However, 2020 was not like any other year as we all know and the pupils were in desperate need of some outdoor fun and epic adventures.

What a fantastic week we had with Reddam house! It was high energy for almost every minute of every day. The youngest in attendance was 4 and the oldest was 13 so we catered for a  wide range of capabilities every day. What impressed us most about the students was their ability to mingle across the age groups and support one another. We had particular student stood out as being exceptionally helpful throughout the whole week. Plus another whose passion and commitment to learning new skills was exemplary and infectious – such a curious little bean. 

This was a fabulous week to remember and the students enjoyed it so much we have been asked back again for Easter to run another week which we are looking forward to. This occasion will be progressive for the pupils and they will build upon the skills they have already learnt. Among some of those skills are: fire lighting and sourcing materials and fuel, foraging, search and rescue, first aid, Spoon carving and more.

Take a look at the below video to see some of the highlights of the week:

What to do in troublesome times… Looking forward without regret.

Snow shoes sunset

Here is a short story to help you think about personal preparation and how to live life without always looking backwards with a twisted stomach of anxiety and regret. 

A lot of people are saying that we will all look back at 2020 as one of the worst years ever. Worst year for our finances and businesses; worst year for exam results, worst year for anxiety, obesity, hair loss (too late for me), job loss, stress, and even suicide. I can think of someone for every verb in that last sentence, which is super sad, but I’m not alone in that. Its tough times for nearly all. 

But what if 2020 wasn’t the worst year to remember? What if this year fades away as nothing compared to 2021 or 2022? You see… we just don’t know do we? That last sentence might be a sobering one, leaving daunting thoughts for the future. But I don’t think it has to necessarily be that way.

Those who know me know that I like to get remote. Right out there in the unknown is where I love to be. On one particular trip I got to rub shoulders with some of the best climbers in the business. There was so much knowledge in that group, I felt like I could sit back and chill the whole climb. Before the trip I spoke to the team, we chatted preparation. “Shall I bring ‘X’?” I asked. “No Mat you won’t need that”. “What about ‘Y’ or ‘Z’?” “No no, you won’t need any of that stuff”. We were going off the map, very, very far off the map. Uncharted territory gives me a skip in my step. I love it. But as I looked at ‘X, Y and Z’ next to the rest of my kit on my bed, with the words “you don’t need any of that stuff” whirring round my mind; and knowing that I was capable of hauling the weight, I packed it anyway, because I wanted the reassurance that comes to someone who is well prepared, and if needed, completely self-sufficient. With my prep done, I hit the road. 

So, did I have an epic situation where I needed the kit and it saved all our lives?! Well, not really; although my water purifier came in handy and it certainly stopped us all from getting the squirts, which in turn could have turned into something bad. My solar panel kept all our phones charged so we could get great pictures, and my extra comprehensive first aid kit sorted a lot of the group out with blisters, sprains and cuts. And that’s the point really. If you are well prepared in knowledge and whatever physical needs that are required, you usually don’t end up having an ‘Epic’, and your time is often much more relaxed and enjoyable. But what has that got to do with the crappy year for so many that has been 2020? 

It’s been a tough year for us for sure. I lost a business partner. We have had major financial worries because of the pandemic. I have seen friends lose loved ones to suicide and so on. Yet as we are coming to the end of this calendar year, I feel calm and surprisingly good! The reason for that is because I didn’t give up, and I took action. I looked at my situation, got some great advice from the team and people around me and I went to work, and boy did I work hard! Did I fix all mine and the world’s problems? No way, not even close… but looking back from lockdown in March until now, we have achieved some brilliant things, and even if it doesn’t work the way we want it to, we will go out of this year giving one another a hi-5 saying “good job!” 

Sometimes we look back on the hard times as some of the very best of times. As it is through resistance and ‘the squeeze’ that we come to shine the brightest; kind of like how a diamond is formed, going from black coal to a shiny precious something after undergoing huge pressure. Good preparation can stop us from cracking under that pressure when it comes upon us.  

To sum up. Try to be self sufficient and be prepared in body and mind. Be humble and get advice from those who care about you, especially those longer in the tooth, or your mother ? Then work work work, and don’t stop or give up! Don’t give yourself that chance to think afterwards “but if I had just given it a little more effort that week or that month”… don’t do it. Then, you will be able to move forward…and you won’t even need to look back, unless it’s to think about how well you handled that tough patch, to stay connected with the people who you helped and to give thanks to those who helped you along the way. 

See you all in 2021

Staying Grounded in Times of Uncertainty

Many of us have, until recently, been living life in the fast lane with our foot pressed firmly on the accelerator, our gaze fixed on some desired distant destination. Quite often our minds are either living in the past or cast far into some future hope, dream, or worry. We sometimes forget to enjoy the journey and stop to take in a breath-taking vista or notice the changing scenery as we pass by. How often do we notice the visceral experiences that our 5 senses bless us with? Do we see them as mere pleasantries, superfluous to one’s utmost benevolent strivings? Truthfully, they are vital instruments in building our own reality and teach us about the world and our place in it.

Take time to notice

It’s easy to understand why we sometimes ignore our senses and live in our heads with the complexity of 21st Century life. Our brains have never had so much information to consume. Constant information is now flowing from various channels and we seem to have become incessant consumers of it. With a pursuit such as this and a failure to live presently our minds can easily become disconnected from our moment to moment physiological experiences.

How often do we notice the way our heart beat increases in rate when we feel anxious, or how relaxed we are when we consciously take a moment to fill our lungs with fresh air? These seemingly simple and insignificant phenomenon are what help maintain a connection with our experiential reality.

Life has dealt us all a curve ball with current circumstances and, with almost everything shut down, maybe we have a little more time to be still and enjoy a diary that is not booked up for months in advance. We have an opportunity to think differently about our lives and the course we could take. As we evaluate and assimilate these new ideas and objectives for our lives moving forward let us include goals for our wellbeing and mental health as a high priority.

It is often said that joy can be found in the simple things of life so here are a few suggestions or conscious challenges that can help you stay grounded in your experiential reality and improve wellbeing:

Eat a meal mindfully

Who doesn’t like to eat? I have yet to meet someone that doesn’t, however do we give full attention to this mostly enjoyable experience? Go ahead and try eating with your full attention. Turn off all distractions and sit comfortably at a dinner table. Observe the colours of your food and how it looks. How does your body respond to what you see? Eat the food and notice what sensations and flavours you experience. Try closing your eyes and see if that changes anything.

Connect with the natural world

Many of us are now enjoying walks in the countryside or getting out to a local park for fresh air and social distancing. It is well established by research the benefits that nature has on our health and wellbeing. Go for a walk by yourself in the woods or some natural environment. Consciously breathe in and out deeply and rhythmically as you go. Notice any smells or noises that your nose and ears bring to your attention. You may hear the sound of the wind brushing through the leaves in the tree or the sound of a myriad of birds singing their joyful songs or simply the sound of your body walking on the earth. Count how many colours you observe. Stop to look at the detail and structure of a flower or plant. What thoughts come to your head while you are walking?

Get creative

When engaged in a creative process it is difficult to be worried or anxious about anything else. Whether you love to draw, paint, sing, dance, crochet, play sport, complete a puzzle, write poetry or any other activity; you may find that it serves as a great way to escape or soothe feelings of anxiety and worry. Whatever you choose to do, give your full attention to it. Be spontaneous leaving behind any expectations of yourself and let your curiosity guide you.

You may want to keep a diary to record your observations and experiences. You will find that through practice of these exercises the detail will become richer and more meaningful.

If these suggestions don’t suit your needs then come up with something that works for you. Pick an activity of daily living which you take for granted or consider to be menial and live the experience fully, being mindful of any thoughts that come to you. Observe those thoughts and judgements and let them pass.

Ultimately, each of us are responsible for taking care of ourselves. To become more useful to others we first have to replenish our own resources. At Polaris Outdoor we understand the importance of the relationship between our environment and our personal development. We teach people to become observant and knowledgeable to the resources around them. When equipped with the right knowledge and skills an individual will feel confident in any environment.

Confidence is a huge contributor to wellbeing and those who tap into this state of mind regularly find that they are pushing the boundaries of their existence (or in other words they grow)! When we grow life becomes meaningful. When life is meaningful, we have purpose and when you have purpose you find joy.

Sam Ambrose
BA Hons Person-Centred Psychotherapist

Fun in Lockdown #1

Work in progress... a spatula in the making on a log next to the bushcraft knife with a delightfully marked wooden handle.

Thanks for joining us on our social media this week, here’s a sum up of all the things we have been discovering, making and chatting about…

The Great Camp In/Out by DadsNet

Mat ran two very well received classes online for Dadsnetfirecraft and knifecraft. You can watch them on Facebook. Mat also takes questions from the live audience and you can even find out his favourite colour!

Firecraft

Find out how to make fire in six different ways, two techniques to successfully use a firesteel, preparing firewood, gathering kindling, and choosing the right fire lay.

https://www.facebook.com/TheDadsnet/videos/245825613305828

Knife and Axecraft

Work in progress... a spatula in the making on a log next to the bushcraft knife with a delightfully marked wooden handle.

Learn how to be safe while chopping firewood, discover the different types of knife, be aware of knife laws, then see a step-by-step guide on making a spatula.

https://www.facebook.com/TheDadsnet/videos/252304389215492

TheDadsNet

A fabulous resource and community to help… “Every dad equipped, connected & entertained. We’re passionate about making parenting easier whether that’s through a quick laugh to help you escape those stressful moments, a top notch recommendation or simply introducing you to a like-minded dad.

They have helpful groups for various interests, regional groups and support for all situations. Each year they run a camp which we are thrilled to be invited to, hopefully next year we will be able to see you all in person again.


Mat collects tinder

Collecting tinder is a really important part of the preparation for making a fire. Knowing where to go to find this important resource is a good idea. Dead grass, dead bracken fronds, silver birch bark and western red cedar bark are all found and discussed in this video. Remember the key to tinder is dry, fibrous and fine materials: it needs to be fluffed up as much as possible to get oxygen in. Lots of top tips here.

https://www.facebook.com/1600805796798146/videos/2223345667974220


Sam on mental health during Lockdown

Sam talks about how he has been taking care of his mental health throughout this tricky time.
Are you a “yes man?”
Do you have “fear of missing out?”
Are you living in the present?

https://www.facebook.com/1600805796798146/videos/257386342129412

Image from
National children’s day UK (17th May) https://www.facebook.com/NCDUK2020 https://www.nationalchildrensdayuk.com/

Birdsong

Enjoy a moment of peace and birdsong in our local woods. Can you identify any of the birds singing in this video?

The RSPB bird identifier is a great ID resource with 408 species of birds found in the UK (and some rare overseas visitors).

My personal favourite ID app on iphone is Birds of Britain by natureGuides Ltd. It’s an old one but it’s fab with lots of calls & songs sounds and so much information it feels like having a library in your pocket. The new version of it is contained within Birds of Northern Europe App.

2019 News Round Up

group of school student sin the jungle together group photo

What a year the students have had!

Many of our students have become exceptional outdoor practitioners due to their hard work and enthusiasm in the highly successful Survival Training. One student of note is Art O’Hara from Lewes who, whilst still in 6th form, has been asked to work for us in his spare time on a paid basis. His skills and his teaching practice have come on leaps and bounds, giving him a huge head start in life. He now has a strong ability to teach both young people and adults to a very high standard. To date, we have had eight students go on to work as trainees and instructors. Having completed the Survival Training they are now practising professionals in various fields in their own rights.

We have implemented two new and totally unique expeditions this summer that went extremely well. One expedition took a group to Peru where the students walked one of the Inca Trails to Machu Picchu and witnessed some magical sites.

The students also spent a record twelve days in the deep Amazon on a small island near the head of the Amazon River. Twelve days is a long time to spend in the jungle for anyone but with the right training they had a blast! They spent their time building a five thousand litre capacity water tower so that the village could have its first fresh water in four generations!

The students described their experiences as world-class and truly life changing. They also changed the lives of the hundred people in that village for the better. Well done everyone! Next time this school’s Peru Expedition will include digging for fossils in the high Atacama Desert for the Natural History Museum and if they find anything of import, they will be published!

Another Expedition took a London school to the very north of Finland where they learnt how to find gold. The gold prospecting trip included two days of canoeing down a serene and peaceful river where students developed their skills in a calm and safe, but super interesting and exciting post-glacial environment. They also wild camped under the northern lights, went fishing, hiking in the endless countryside and FOUND GOLD which they were allowed to keep. This will be displayed on an expedition plaque in the school with great pride.

Our new expedition programme called the 7 Wonders of the World is now due for launch. This will enable students in earlier years of the school to plan for trips and expeditions way in advance of their later years at the school, encouraging them to stay on to 6th form. Some of the trips include:

2019 saw many school activity days and UK-based school camps too. During these, students learned the importance of serving one another, of teamwork, the need to develop resilience and a host of other important values and life-skills in addition to developing a host of outdoor and survival skills. We were privileged to be invited to contribute to one school’s fourth centenary celebrations and to develop a whole school (pupil and staff) programme for another.

In addition to our work with students, we have led several successful CPD and coaching engagements for staff and senior management on areas such as wellbeing and change management.

Watch this space for exciting new personal development courses and resources coming over the next year and we look forward to seeing you on the adventure.