A sunny spot by the pond

28 September 2023
Down to earth wood whittling

David Sharp, Chief Executive at North Yorkshire Youth, attended one of our Down to Earth outdoor nature-based wellbeing sessions for leaders. Here he describes his emotional journey from storm to wood whittling to calm:

It’s a stormy start

A stormy day – specifically Storm Nigel saying hello – was the back drop to the second Down to Earth session being run by JK from Where the Mind Grows.

The session used nature to inspire wellbeing and give leaders a practical set of ‘value’ resources to take away.

So, in the intermittent bright sunshine and howling rain I made my way to Little Seed Field near Galphay, avoiding the sheep, tractors and squirrels. I was met by the ever smiling JK with a brew and an amazing view across the valley. It wasn’t raining at this point!

Having settled in and gone through the obligatory intros and welcomes to the other participants, we sat down to do some real work, with a soundtrack of banging doors, driving rain and a very grim view.

Goldilocks and personal values

JK asked us to look at how our personal values can be a living part of a strong wellbeing culture. The exercise gave me time to think about my own personal values, how I work, how I want people to perceive my actions and how my behaviours are linked inextricably to those values. We were asked to come up with 10 ‘value chips’. The first four were easy! It got a little harder after that but eventually I got there. We then had to think about how we were feeling at that moment and put the value chips on a compass. So which values were we focusing on too much, too little and, as Goldilocks would say, what was ‘just right’. As with all these types of things it depends on the situation you are in, how the day is going and such. In that way it’s a really brilliant tool to help determine what is happening right now and certainly something I will take away. As I reflect on a particularly tough day, I’ll use the exercise to help me understand what is going on.

Seeing the wood (whittling) for the trees

To finish the afternoon, we spent some time with Melanie and Claire from Thrive Outside. This session was all about practical things to help us place ourselves in the now. Our focus was on finding a piece of wood we could then create something from, using splitting techniques, whittling, rasping and filing to turn that ‘stick’ into something recognizable. The group chose to make knives, plant name markers, dibbers and spatulas. Using skills taught by Melanie and Clare, we actually managed to produce something resembling the perfect item we saw within the wood. For me, the finished article certainly looked better in my head, maybe just a bit more practice needed. To aid with the creative thinking, raspberry pancakes made on an open fire along with a beverage of choice certainly gave the energy needed. That, along with a gloriously sunny end to the afternoon, made the whole day a very enjoyable experience.

What’s your internal weather map like?

Reflecting on the session, JK started the day by asking what our internal weather map was looking like. Mine was very much around the eye of a storm with a small bit in the middle where I was sitting at that moment and all the chaos around me, getting ready for AGM’s, Board meetings and holiday. At the end of the day, the focus on myself really made a difference and I think that the actual weather was a mimic of my state of mind starting with a stormy, windy and chaotic feeling and then moving into sunny, relaxed and calm.

So thanks to JK, Melanie and Claire (along with everyone else on the day) for helping me find that sunny spot next to the pond.


If you’d like to explore your Leadership wellbeing by connecting with nature, there are places still available on the next two Down to Earth sessions: