Worried about failing and anxious about looking stupid, I very nearly said no to an opportunity to take part in the Silver Level Navigation Course provided by Her on a Hill. I'm so happy that I eventually said yes! It's been a hugely positive experience for me, not just for my adventures but also for my confidence.
When Clare initially asked me if I wanted to join her Silver Level Navigation Course in November 2019, I thought no I’m not ready. I hadn’t been practicing much since the Bronze course the year before and I was nervous about taking my learning up to the next level.
“You’d be fine doing silver. Honest!”
I left the invitation open for a couple of days and then I mentioned it to my boyfriend Zak while I was brushing my teeth one evening. Straight away he pointed out that it was an amazing opportunity and that I shouldn’t let it pass me by. With his encouragement I made a decision within minutes and eagerly messaged Clare the following morning to see if the invitation was still open.
Sometimes when I’m nervous and things are spinning around in my head I really need that reassurance and encouragement from people. My tendency is to internalise my thinking and try to make all decisions on my own, but there is something very powerful about giving a voice to worries and fears. By talking to Zak I realised that I was worried about failing the course, but that didn’t need to stop me from taking part. I could focus the weekend on learning rather than passing, and on connection with other people instead of worrying about looking stupid.
Rather than taking the easy option of assuming that I would be rubbish and fail, I turned my thoughts around to thinking about it as an exciting challenge and an opportunity to spend some quality time getting to know the hills that surround me. On Saturday morning I turned up with only two expectations of myself - to listen and to be open to learning.
Letting go of the pressure that I had been putting on myself to pass the course really helped me to move towards a more relaxed and playful approach. Now when I think back to those two days shared with the group I remember laughing, working things out together, and a feeling of connection. Clare has a gift for creating an environment that nurtures learning and brings out the very best in people. Her courses have transformed my thoughts from “I can’t” to “I can” with gentle encouragement and practical lessons.
It may sound silly but I used to fear trying to use a map to navigate because I didn’t understand them. I used to feel frustrated that I had the information in front of me but I could only guess where I was, or where I should be heading. I was too impatient to really pause and look at the map, and I didn’t have the courage to admit to anyone that I was struggling. My imagination took me back to the days of school when everyone else seemed to get stuff while I wanted to quietly disappear.
But Clare’s patience with me has transformed my experience of learning. I felt that she believed I could do it despite my fears and worries. I trusted her completely on both of the navigation courses. I didn’t find them easy and I made mistakes, but I think that the challenge is the whole point. I really appreciated the way that Clare treated each person as an individual within the group environment, and adapted her teaching according to her intuition. There were times that I was close to tears when I was the last person to understand something, and times that I just wanted to give up and walk away. But Clare was by my side, giving me a reassuring look that said “you’ve got this”.
Since taking part in Clare’s navigation courses I have discovered many new beautiful places, and gradually I am gaining confidence, not just in map reading and compass skills, but in other areas of my life too. Clare’s teaching is practical in that everybody has a turn at leading parts of the walk, and this has sparked a confidence in me that extends to my work, personal life, and adventures.
One thing that I really love about using maps is that it makes me stop in my tracks to really notice the landscape that surrounds me. I pay more attention to the finer details and that’s new to me because I was so used to powering on and sticking to the main footpaths. It feels really good to slow down and to look with curious eyes, especially in my local area.
Now when I unfold a map I feel really excited to plot new adventures, and I have a better understanding of contours and distance. I feel like it’s a study of place, an understanding of home, and a deep connection with my surroundings.
I completed the Bronze level and Silver level navigation courses in the Peak District with Her on a Hill, a women’s walking company that also leads local guided walks and walking holidays abroad.
My mum has completed the Bronze level navigation course with Her on a Hill too, on a trip to Malham in Yorkshire. Mum didn't think she could pass, and she thought about quitting, but she did it! She stuck in, she tried, and she passed!
How do you know until you try?