Climate change conference focuses on Hebridean adventure

Climate change conference focuses on Hebridean adventure

The experiences of eleven students from the University of Cumbria who spent a week kayaking around some of the most inaccessible and beautiful areas of the Outer Hebrides formed the basis of a presentation given to one of Europe’s most prestigious outdoor research conferences.

Segovia in Spain was the venue for the sixth annual Adventure Tourism Research Conference which this year focused on the climate change. Titled, Climates of Change; Rethinking the Outdoor Experience the event brought together a wide range of academics and experts from the tourism industry to learn and debate issues relevant to nature-base and adventure tourism, outdoor recreation and learning.

In a presentation entitled ‘A Degree of Latitude’ Nigel Dykes, Ambleside-based course leader for BSc (Hons) outdoor adventure and environment, told delegates of the experiences recorded by students who used sea kayaking as a way of acquiring knowledge.

“It was fascinating to see how the students developed during the course of the expedition,” Nigel Dykes, principal lecturer, said. “From reading the diaries the students submitted, it was possible to see how their outlook changed during the trip. They became more reflective as they became less concerned with paddling and more interested in their surroundings.”

Students were encouraged to keep a diary, share thoughts, record video and comment on the 60 mile trip in changeable weather conditions from Berneray in the north to Eriskay in the south along the east coast of the Outer Hebrides

With no curriculum or module outcomes, the course was run through the departments ‘upskill’ programme. The staff’s role was to facilitate student learning, oversee safety and share knowledge and experience as the students requested. The students kept daily diaries and were interviewed at the end of the trip.

Plastic and the impact it has, even on remote areas such as the Outer Hebrides, was an issue that became more concerning to students as the trip progressed. A number wrote of their concern that beaches they hoped would be pristine were strewn with plastic.

Another wrote about how they learned more about people during the expedition than during their three years at university.

“One of the things I didn’t notice so much at the time was that when you go to a new location is the need to spend time getting to know the place – it’s ok just to ‘be’ for a while,” Nigel said.

Nigel’s now looking forward to sharing video of the expedition at an international kayaking event to be held in Australia later this year.