Proud to Support the Big Playground Adventure

I have had a strong connection with the outdoors my whole life.  Being outside, feeling the raw elements of the British weather on my skin, has always had a positive impact on me both physically and mentally.  I have my best thoughts when I am out in the open air and just going outside for a walk, run or sail can dramatically change my mood and my energy.

I was lucky to have been brought up in a family where being outdoors was part of what we did.  After school my Mum gave us two choices, be inside and do your homework or go outside and run around.  We spent family holidays messing around on the water or walking in the hills so perhaps it is not surprising I turned out this way.  I first hand understand how vital outdoor activities are to the physical and mental well-being of any person, especially when they are young.

 

With my sister Rachael enjoying the outdoors

When I think of childhood it is a lot about running round outside, playing games and getting dirty but for many children in the UK now this could not be further from the truth.  In a growing number of areas around the country children are living in overcrowded accommodation with no access to gardens or green space where they can safely play.  Home life is limited to being indoors and so their only chance of safe outdoor play time is at school where often facilities and space are limited.

I know all this because I have a sister, Rachael, who is a dedicated and passionate teacher at a primary school whose pupils largely come from homes like this and Fairlight Primary and Nursery School want to change the lives of their pupils for the better.

The Big Playground Adventure Appeal is seeking to raise £67,000 to build an amazing outdoor learning area, complete with adventure trail equipment, outdoor classroom facilities and sheltered areas where children can play and learn throughout the school day.  The schools vision is that ‘every individual child achieves’ and the new outdoor area will support that vision by:

  • improving outdoor provision for disadvantaged children
  • improving the physical fitness and mental well being of all children in their school
  • improving learning outcomes in particular for disadvantaged children through outdoor learning opportunities

As Charles Hill my co-skipper in the 3 Peaks Yacht Race and I both greatly understand the link between achievement and outdoor activities we both felt a great affinity towards the Fairlight project and have decided to use our unique race attempt to fund raise for this project.

If you are inspired by our own efforts in chasing down a so-far never attempted endurance challenge then please help the staff and parents of Fairlight School give their pupils a chance to feel just some of what so many of us take for granted – and donate to the appeal through our Just Giving page.

If just putting money into a generic pot is not your thing then Fairlight could also offer the opportunity to buy selected equipment directly or even fund selected areas and would be happy to recognise any donations.  If this sounds more your bag then please get in touch with me or the school directly.

Before I sign off let’s just put one thing straight – in case of any misconceptions.  Yes, Fairlight School is in Brighton and this is not necessarily an area we may associate with deprivation.  But surely we are all aware that every city has many faces, many different districts with a vast disparity of wealth across a relatively small area, if you still need more convincing you can find out more information about the project here.

If like me you want to help give the children of Fairlight a chance to benefit from time spent in a safe outdoor environment then please donate to the appeal.

The BIG Outdoor Learning Adventure

 

Fairlight Primary and Nursery is an inner city school with 420 pupils ranging from 3 to 11 years. We are looking for funding to develop our outdoor environment to help us realise our school vision EVERY INDIVIDUAL CHILD ACHIEVES.

Our Aim

  • to develop an inspiring outdoor learning environment which will support every individual child and enable them to achieve their full potential in all areas of learning

It’s goals:

  • to improve outdoor provision for disadvantaged children
  • to improve the physical fitness and mental well being of all children in our school
  • to improve learning outcomes in particular for disadvantaged children through outdoor learning opportunities

Why should you help us?

Fairlight is a school which has an extremely diverse population. This is a fact which we celebrate but also comes with many challenges. A significant proportion of children who attend our school come from disadvantaged backgrounds, they do not have the money or resources to attend out of school clubs and activities, they  are often living in very poor and overcrowded accommodation, with no or little outdoor space and indoor living areas that have been changed into bedrooms. Living in these environments can lead to both physical and mental health issues, however stimulating outdoor provision is well documented to have therapeutic benefits to children, there have been numerous studies into the benefits of outdoor learning and it’s potential to improve all aspects of children’s well-being: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive. In our area of the city there are a limited number of safe outdoor spaces that groups serving children affected by economic issues would be able to afford, therefore development of our playground would enable us to open up these opportunities further and to improve its use not only for our pupils but also the wider community. 23% of the children in Fairlight have English as an additional language and 26 different languages are spoken at the school at the current time. This is 80% more than other schools in Brighton and 78% more than schools nationally (Arbor 2016). Many of these children have come to us directly from abroad either due to immigration because of poor circumstances in their home country or as refugees. These children often have little or no English language however the language of play is universal. So by ensuring our playground is a safe, stimulating and welcoming environment we will not only be supporting their physical and mental wellbeing, but also their language development too.

What our children say

Recently our Governors completed a large project to readdress our school vision and what it actually means to different to our stakeholders. The children overwhelmingly spoke about the outdoor environment, how important it was to them and how much they wanted to be able to learn more through being outside. We have a strong School Council who have already done a huge amount of work with our pupils, seeking their opinions on the environment and how it can be improved. They have visited other schools to look at possibilities and also discussed ways that they can raise funds to support the project.

What we need

We are looking for funding towards developing different areas of our playground over the next 18 months:

£20 000 will enable us to put in new multi-use sports goals and adventure trail equipment which will help improve the physical fitness of our pupils and enable them to take part in different sporting activities both during and outside of school times.

£25 000 will build an new mezzanine floor, creating space for another class to be able to work in the outdoor environment, in particular looking at science projects and large scale design and technology.

£17 000 will build a new enclosed sheltered area which can be used as a separate outdoor learning area both during the school day and then as an area for an additional club or group outside of school hours

£5000 will help us to develop our outdoor area for our youngest children (3 to 5 years) providing much needed play shelters which can be used in many ways to support their learning and development.

 

 

The monster awakens – going for broke in 2017

If there is one thing I know about myself it’s that I thrive on challenge; I constantly need to be questioning and testing the limits of my own abilities both physically and mentally. I love to learn, to better myself and then ultimately to put it all to the test.

The last couple of years have been more focused on mental challenges than the physical.  Last year after seven years of study I finally gained my undergraduate degree with the Open University and since 2013 I have enjoyed a job working with the innovative Community Safety team at the RNLI thinking up new ways to save lives around our coasts.  But in the middle of last year I realised the challenge had gone from my life; I was starting to feel at a physical and intellectual standstill and so it was time for a change.

So here we are in 2017 and I have got challenge in spades.

Firstly at the end of last year I was asked to skipper the 3rd generation Class 40 ‘PHOR-TY’ and I jumped at the chance to get back into competing at international level, offshore racing.  The purchase of the yacht went through in early December and then saw me hightailing it from France to the Caribbean over Christmas and New Year so we could attend our first race of the year, the Caribbean 600 last month.

six17-2355

Despite having to learn on the job and only just getting to know the boat the team were lucky enough to be joined by the super talented Sam Goodchild for this race and after four days of battling it out in unusually light winds managed to win our first race by a 40 minute lead against stiff competition.

At the end of this month I will head back out to the Caribbean with a delivery crew to deliver PHORTY back across the Atlantic for a full programme of double handed offshore and ocean racing in Europe – all finishing with my second attempt at the Transat-Jacques Vabre from France to Brazil, one of Ocean Racing’s most prestigious events.  I am really looking forward to the amazing competition the Class 40 fleet will offer and to immense amount of learning and adaption that will be required to race this boat at the level of which it is capable.

You find out more about team PHORTY here.

I suppose you might think a full programme of Ocean racing would give my brain, my heart and my body the fix they are looking for but there is another project which has really got under my skin and has also come to fruition this year.

final interviewSince doing the amazing 3 Peaks Yacht Race for the first time in 2013 I have upheld this event to be one of the toughest endurance challenges I’ve ever come across – and it’s exciting and fun.  Last year I was lucky enough to, for a second time, win Line honours in the event with the incredible bunch of female athletes that made up team Aparito.  In both of these events I was struck by how similar I felt in mentality to the runners and subsequently listening to an interview with Lowri Morgan on the Tough Girl podcast I felt it could have been me talking about sailing.

In 2014 I had a crack at running an ultra-marathon, finishing but in a disappointing time due to injury and this led to the creeping, sneaking feeling that I fancied running in the 3 Peaks Yacht Race.

At some point between 2014 and 2016 I decided that just running wasn’t going to be tough enough and started to wonder if it would be possible to do both.  The race has always required a crew of five with two runners for each mountain, this gives the runners time to rest and recover while the sailors race between legs.  I started to think about the practicalities of taking on this course with a crew of two  – it would be possible but would absolutely push the limits of human endurance – and so the idea took form. I just needed a co-skipper and a water tight proposal to put in front of the committee.

From June 2016 this crazy idea grew in stature, I found my co-skipper in the hard core fell runner Charles Hill who ran for our entry in 2013 and is also an accomplished sailor.  At the beginning of this year we submitted a proposal for a double handed entry to the Three peaks yacht race committee and I am delighted/terrified to say they accepted our entry.

A chilly and windy Snowdon recce in February

Now every spare minute I can find is being spent training for the big one, trying to run as much as possible, to practice on hills, to recce the courses and of course not to injure myself in the process. Just thinking about the race gives me butterflies; I know it can be done but I also know this is going to be the hardest event I have attempted to date.

As an added bonus Charles and I have decided to use the event to raise money for a project being set up by my sister to create a much needed outdoor space for children to play, relax and just be safely outside in an area deprived of any such facilities.  You can find out more and donate to The Big Playground Adventure appeal here.

I must admit to wondering at what point this monster inside me that craves pushing to the limits will be satisfied.  I have always been a big dreamer and inevitably when a dream becomes big enough I will put it out into the world and then chase it down until it becomes a reality.  It is this thing that makes me feel most alive.

One thing is for sure, the Three Peaks Yacht Race double handed has never been attempted before, and is my biggest challenge to date; this is definitely enough to feed the monster and more.