A Day in the Woods
As an entrepreneur who works from home, I prioritise getting out for fresh air every day. I value this time for the physical benefits I get as well as for my mental well-being. With two energetic dogs and early morning boot camp (with the fabulous Lisa Zone Fitness), I make the most of the Cambridge countryside and local parks.
My friends Ruth Sapsed and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs were founding members of Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination in 2007. This arts and well-being charity often works in the pockets of wild spaces we can still find in our local areas, to learn and explore how creativity flourishes there. This summer, they launched A Day in the Woods – a corporate away day. I meet with Ruth to discover how this exciting new initiative is providing a breath of fresh air.
Creatively healthy communities
“The work that we do at CCI has been thoughtfully researched and evidenced. Our backgrounds informs the thinking for this day. I am a psychologist and Filipa a movement artist. But also the 15 years of experience we have planning creative adventures in the outdoors.” Ruth proudly announces some of the supporters of CCI. “Writers including Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Kay have worked and published articles with us and about us. And closer to home we have an amazing network of skilled artists who nourish creative health in communities.” One of the artists is the wonderful Hillary Cox Condron who I interviewed last year for a scuseme blog.
Better out than in
“A few months ago, one wet day, I was working from home with the rain lashing down and it reminded me of a t-shirt my daughter used to have. It said, ‘better a bad day at sea than a good day at school’.” Ruth continues, “I then thought, wouldn’t a t-shirt that said, ‘better a wet day in the woods than a dry day in the office’ be great? The seed of an idea had germinated, and we went from there.”
The UK was recently described as one of ‘the most nature depleted countries in the world‘, whilst another report found three-quarters of children spend less time outside than prisoners. Alongside this our mental health issues are spiraling – stress, depression or anxiety account for 44 percent of all work-related ill-health cases in Britain, and 57 percent of all working days lost due to ill health.
“The evidence is clear – time spent in nature is crucial for us but also for our planet.” Ruth confirms, “We feel better when we spend time outdoors and we need to do this to know and love the world around us so that we will care for it.” Ruth tells me there is a short film that captures much of this evidence so well. You can find it here.
The benefits of outdoors
Spending time out in nature, whatever the weather, is life-affirming and even life-changing. The evidence tells us this time and again – but it is something fewer and fewer of us are doing. Being outside in the natural environment provides many health and well-being benefits, for example, they
- stimulate all the senses and makes you feel more energetic and vitalised
- encourage movement
- boost your immune system
- enhance creativity
- help you overcome seasonal affective disorder
- provide an important dose of Vitamin D
- allow you a peaceful space to think, contemplate and work things through, and
- the sunlight helps mitigate aches and pains.
Well-being in the workplace
“Increasingly we work with businesses to support teams to get them out of their offices. They join us at our woodland site in South Cambridgeshire for a day we carefully structure around creativity.” Ruth continues, “Deadlines, longer working hours and stress can mean there is little time and space within a business for people to get to know one another. Addressing this challenge is a key goal of our new initiative, A Day in the Woods.”
A full immersion in nature
Although seemingly a carefree day, A Day in the Woods delivers quality team time without the formal structure and pressure imposed by the more usual corporate days out. Ruth says “Creative activities that take place in our ancient private woodland make up our away days.” She continues, “These are deal for 12 – 24 people. And every session is unique because we design it around each organisation’s goals, strategy, and visioning. We also build in time for essential socialising and celebrating.
“We make time for what we call ‘serious play’ and offer space for everyone to reflect and connect with their colleagues. This builds and reinforces bonds between colleagues. But we are about more than just delivering team-building, these days create the space needed for innovation. People can generate new ideas to take back to the workplace.”
‘We often start our days by deliberately inviting everyone to slow down. They can then take the time to listen to, and notice the woods around them. One activity that people particularly appreciate is to cut willow to bake on the fire. They then use it as charcoal for drawing and planning activities later that same day. The magic of seeing the stalks transformed in this way seems to really capture people’s imagination.’
Sarah Reakes, Managing Director, KISS, reinforces this: “Holding our annual team away day in August 2019 at the woods was a great decision. It took us out of our comfort zone but in a calm and enabling way. We learned about each other and connected on a deeper level.” Sarah adds, “Alongside this full immersion in nature there was delicious food, warm fires, and fresh coffee.”
Find our more
For any business looking to find an extraordinary space for their staff away day, somewhere free from distractions and a source of inspirations, then A Day in the Woods, may just be the answer.
To find out more about A Day in the Woods, visit here
You can explore the work of the charity with communities across the county here