If you're curious about the appreciation walks and interested in the backstory to this, then read on and enjoy, as we discovered some interesting benefits we didn't recognize until after the walk.
Funded as part of a larger project with GMEF, last year I chatted with Jasmine if there was anything she would be interested in pursuing with grant funding. She went into detail about; meditation, appreciating nature, connecting with people and how she had an idea to expand on combining all these into what she later would call 'Appreciation walks'. So you're perhaps wondering what's the difference between a guided walk and an appreciation walk? At the start of the walk Jasmine explained to everyone who attended that we would be walking in silence until we reached the campsite, a 30 minute walk, in detail, Jasmine explained how focusing on your five senses, the sound of your boots in the mud, your breathing, the taste of the air, the smell of the woods, you begin to notice things you had never previously noticed. That you also notice your mind wandering with thoughts, which is fine, to not fight it, accept it, then go back to your five senses, to quote Jasmine; "If you think that meditation is about making your mind go quiet it isn’t. The magic happens when your mind is busy…..we will explain what to do."
Once people reached the campsite, myself and Adele had chairs and little tents setup with brews waiting for people. As we sat in a group together, there wasn't the awkwardness of being with strangers, trying to think of pleasantries to say to each other, as the group had just had a shared experience they could all talk about together; did you notice that bird? Did you see the Roe deer? After the group had enjoyed their brews, myself and Adele left the group with Jasmine as she talked them through a 10 minute guided meditation. Adele told me prior, she wouldn't be able to do the meditation as she'd just end up giggling. As myself and Adele stood away in the forest, a Roe Deer ran past us chased by two dogs with no owner in site, unfortunately this typical, selfish behavior of dog owners had led to Roe Deer being killed in the past, having witnessed a dog kill a Roe Deer myself. Oddly as I was seething with anger, just away from me at the camp it was a very different vibe. When I finally returned to the group, they had completed their meditation, from an outsiders view it was interesting to notice the groups atmosphere. The group spoke in a much more relaxed, slower tempo, one person at a time as everyone else listened, there was no pressure to speak on anyone, this had happened entirely on it's own from the group meditation. As we finished up the session, those who attended kindly helped myself and Adele pack away the tents and chairs (we hadn't asked, they just wanted to help which was really nice). For those who wanted a little extra walk, the group visited the Gravel Pits to see the work being done by GMEU in restoring the Gravel Pits. The first session had been really well received and achieved things I hadn't even considered or expected but that's what I like about Bolton NEWT, members running with their ideas and we as a group being there to support them. If you'd like to join the next session, we'll be visiting Seven Acres in February, the future event will be posted on Facebook with all details available, no need to book. Here's some quotes from those who attended; "What a lovely way to spend a relaxing Sunday morning. Lovely to meet up with everyone and thank you to all who helped to arrange it. I'm looking forward to the next one xxx" - Lynn "It was fabulous. Thank you to Jasmine who lead the walk and to Chris and Adele who set up the 'camp'. Nice to meet everyone. X" - Sue