John Muir Trust
In a former life I used to run an outdoor centre; now I’m an artist who sails. But, on occasion, I’ll get a phone call from a local outdoor centre to ask if I would like to take a group for a week and invariably I will grab my bag. It isn’t just the chance to do some gorge walking, kayaking or canoeing but because I get to share all these wild places and adventures with a group of young people who generally have never experienced anything like it before.
A couple of weeks ago I took a few children from Glasgow for a ‘John Muir’ Session. John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838 and loved its wild places. When he was eleven he moved to America but as an adult, he advocated the discovery, exploration, conservation and sharing of wild places.
In 1983 The John Muir Trust was set up to purchase Britain’s wild places to be conserved and shared by us all, for future generations and promote their enjoyment of these places. Ben Nevis, for example, is owned by the trust.
This basic premise of introducing young people to wild places and inspiring them not only to appreciate where they are but who they and what they can achieve are is incredibly effective.
Part of the John Muir course we ran with the children of Glasgow involved a canoe session. We were lucky with the sea like glass and pale yellow sunlight gently lighting the afternoon. We had four canoes made into two rafts. As we made for home one canoe raft pulled forward and my team brought up the rear. Suddenly fins broke the surface and a frightened shoal of sprats cleared the water trying to escape the porpoise. Shouting children started pointing and a feeding seal came alongside and looked at us with it’s great Labrador eyes. We sat and watched the porpoise as the seal watched us. In fact, the seal was as curious as the children and followed us back to the bay much to the children’s delight.
The other canoe who had been head down paddling for home ignored our shouts and pointing until they got to the beach where they waved their hands in the air shouting, ‘We won! We won!’ A little boy who was sitting in my raft said, ‘They won the race but we won really.’ That’s why I love taking groups of children out and I think John Muir would have approved.
‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.’