Outdoor Learning Survey Report – Summer 2022

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Outdoor Learning – The Pivot

This article in the Spring issue of Institute for Outdoor Learning Horizons magazine looks at the positives to come out of change.  As an outdoor professional the pandemic has brought challenges to many and here this has presented opportunities for some but also much change for others.



AIM’s support to the Outdoor Sector

Path Hill Outdoors – Member Profile

Path Hill Outdoors is a non-profit company offering innovative educational and therapeutic programmes based in an outdoor environment. We are known for our intervention programmes for younger people who find the school environment difficult and have been marginalised from mainstream education. We deliver curriculum enhancement days and residential programmes for schools that are designed to match ongoing work in the classroom and organise activities for young people in the holidays.

Path Hill Outdoors registered with Companies House in 2011 so we are approaching our tenth birthday. We have been an AIM member since 2013. Being part of AIM gives us peace of mind. They understand the outdoor industry, our specific needs and being a mutual, fit into our values as a social enterprise.

What I love about Path Hill is the diversity. We work with a wonderful mix of young people, all on different journeys with differing aspirations, skills and needs. Without the requirement to comply to a set curriculum, we can act on the interests of students, respond to seasonal changes, the weather and prioritise a family environment that is both safe and challenging. Coupled with a dedicated staff, a mix of outdoor instructors, artists, play workers and from various trades, I can genuinely say every day is exciting and different.

2020 has been challenging. Path Hill has lost over one third of its revenue. All our summer camps and expeditions have had to be cancelled and we closed for six weeks over Easter. Our work with more vulnerable young people has continued (apart from the six-week blip) and we have been able to focus more on that aspect of our work over the summer and given our students exceptional experiences. We have built tree houses, had overnights on rafts on the River Thames and involved students in all aspects of building a new outdoor kitchen.

During the summer break we put on a fortnight of adventure days for NHS staff and their families. Funded by a local charity, it was our opportunity to say a big thank you to those in the NHS who were on the frontline during the spring. Every day we had four families getting involved in activities such as bushcraft, rafting and woodland play. Each family had an instructor allowing everyone to remain in their ‘bubble’, meals were prepared by members of staff and all equipment was wiped down after each activity. The feedback from the nurses, ancillary workers and general public has been tremendous and the scheme generated a great deal of press interest. We intend to organise something similar for the Christmas break.

Path Hill Outdoors BBC Clip

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to create a lot of uncertainty. We have recently learnt that social groups are limited to six which means that our regular adult groups and pre-school parent and children group will need to be altered to comply with the latest government rules. Our one to one and small group programmes with vulnerable children continues to grow and will be our main revenue stream for this year and probably for 2021 as well. A quieter year has helped us to re-think some of the work we do and how we do it. Without the frantic summer rush of residential camps and expeditions we have been able to focus on quality, re-assess potential demands and needs and invest time into staff training and getting the site ready for the future.

We have recently completed the construction of our new outdoor kitchen with wood ovens.  This will greatly expand what we can offer our students and we will develop programmes in outdoor catering, woodland management and metalwork.  We are also planning to put on exciting new courses for adults and families once everything is in place.

Thank you to Mark Hillyer, Director at Path Hill Outdoors for providing this interview