LtL’s inspiring outdoor women

This International Women’s Day, we’ve been celebrating the many incredible women achieving fantastic things in the great outdoors.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global movement celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. It’s a time to recognise the extraordinary courage, passion and resilience shown by extraordinary women.

And that’s why we are proud to put a spotlight on just some of the inspirational #OutdoorWomen who together epitomise the outdoor vision LtL stands for.

Mya-Rose Craig
Young activist & conservationist

Photo credit: www.friendsoftheearth.uk

At just 16, Mya-Rose Craig is considered the youngest person to have seen more than 5,000 of the world’s 10,738 species of bird after touring the world with her twitching parents (The Times). She is one of the UK’s most prolific wildlife figures and a true inspiration for young people engaging with nature and conservation.

We asked her what ignited her interest in conservation:

“I am really fortunate because my parents and much older sister Ayesha were passionate about bird watching and so I was taken out into nature from a young age. When I was able to decide for myself at about age four, having a cool 16 year old sister as a nature and conservation role model was really important.

“I started being aware of conservation issues and projects abroad from when I visited the Ecuadorian Amazon age eight. This made me realise that it was important that we all publicise and help conservation around the world in order to save huge numbers of critically endangered species. I believe that whether we are successful in protecting species is virtually always linked to local people and their human rights and so to save one, the other needs to be engaged and, if necessary, supported. That is why in many cases eco-tourism is part of the package.

“This may sometimes be at odds with those who only focus on climate breakdown. Even if we in the west could raise the money to replace eco-tourism, communities need the self-esteem of supporting themselves, not handouts. Also without eco-tourism, indigenous communities will have to rely on deforestation which will also have a detrimental impact on climate breakdown. I do not believe that local tourism can quickly enough to make an impact.

“I think that it is essential for saving our planet and everything on it for all young women to become species champions as we have a lot to contribute. From my experience of having an older sister passionate about conservation, I understand the importance of teenage role models on younger girls, another reason for girls to start having their voice heard in this male dominated sector.

“Also, we need Visible Minority Ethnic girls to start campaigning, as this voice is silent at the moment. Without a cacophony of voices from girls of all backgrounds we will continue to exclude people from these backgrounds and so fail in our aims as you cannot succeed in becoming sustainable without engaging all.”

You can read Mya-Rose’s personal blog here.

Easkey Britton
Surfer, scientist, academic & social activist

Photo credit: Victoria May Harrison

Easkey is a surfer and environmentalist with a PhD in Environment and Society. She was the first Irish woman to be nominated for the Global WSL Big Wave Awards and is passionate about helping people better understand each other and their environment through their connection to the sea.

When she isn’t on the waves, Easkey develops and facilitates social change projects, is a motivational speaker and is a published writer.

We talked to her about what the sea truly means to her:

“I’ve been in love with water for as long as I can remember. The sea is the single greatest influencer in my life and for me surfing is this playful medium that allows me to indulge in that passion and which has also allowed me to build a career and earn a PhD in Environment and Society, specialising in human well-being and coastal resilience, both at Ulster University.

“My academic side is born of a real curiosity that comes from having grown up being immersed in the outdoors and nature. Every day you are meeting new surprises and learning new things, and so a hunger for knowledge developed that has both fuelled my academic leanings and deepened my understanding of what I was experiencing.

“I find that surfing and the sea is the balancing force in my life, reminds me to prioritise what matters most, and importance of time spent outdoors, immersed and being active in our environment, in nature. It recharges me and literally heals me. It is the antidote to a ‘burnout’ culture and a society that is always ‘on’.

“Being outdoors, especially in the sea, is where I feel I most belong, where I feel I can be most myself, fully accepted just as I am in that moment. Immersed in the water, it literally lifts me up, supporting my body, dissolving tensions and stresses. I draw strength from knowing I have that powerful connection with this natural force that is so much greater than me.

“The ‘environment’ or ‘nature’ or the ‘ocean’ is not something out there, it is all around us. It is us. We are nature. We are ocean.”

You can discover more about Easkey here.

Hazel Findlay
Big wall free climber & mental challenges coach

Hazel is a professional big wall free climber who has been climbing since she was just eight years old when she was introduced to it by her father. She’s made countless first female ascents of some of the toughest climbs in the world and has been dubbed the “best female mountaineer in Britain” – and she’s only 30!

But perhaps most exciting of all is Hazel’s interest in the mental challenges of climbing; she is a motivational speaker and coach on the topic.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the psychological challenge of climbing. In fact, I’ve found that to be the most remarkable thing about climbing.

“The main psychological challenges we face when climbing arise because climbing is an inherently uncomfortable thing to do. We natural avoid heights and falling, so it can be hard to go to those places that scare you. We also encounter all the other challenges associated with performing, such as fear and failure of performance anxiety.”

When asked about why she thought more children should try outdoor climbing, she said:

“There are so many benefits – both for young girls and young boys. The joys of exercise, connection to nature and using the challenge of climbing for personal development.”

You can find out more about Hazel here.

Sue Humphries
Founding headteacher of Coombes Primary School

Sue Humphries was the founding headteacher of Coombes Primary School; a unique and inspirational school that broke boundaries and totally changed the face of education.

Since the 1970s, Sue used Coombes as a tool to transform the lives of thousands of children by creating an influential teaching methodology that led children’s learning through their direct experiences in the natural world. It was a living, breathing adventure in outdoor learning. Her innovative approach to learning nearly forty years ago was seen as the world leader in outdoor education; every year, they used to get over 1000 visitors fascinated by their engaging approach to education.

Sue was a pioneer in what became known as the Coombes Approach to integrating experiential and outdoor education in schools: a PhD was even written on the approach.

When we asked her why she felt outdoor education mattered, Sue said:

“The point is, outdoor learning is totally natural. The response is not, in any way, geared to your abilities. We live in the outside world as much as we do the inside world; they feed off each other. The richer your experiences of the outside world, the richer your inner life becomes.

“You can understand so much more about the natural world by getting up close and personal with it. Take a daffodil: you can pick it apart, split the stalk, look at the way water is brought up to the head, that the flower is part of a seed production… those explanations are intimate. You have your own daffodil; it becomes part of your story. Once you have interested the children in these things – once they have truly felt it and experienced it – they can access it without you, and for free.

“It is a cultural right for children to spend time in nature – it is not a privilege. Mixing together outside and learning in this different way, where movement is so important, truly creates a quality learning experience.

“What is the most important thing of all? Your relationship to each other and your relationship with the outdoors: the natural things. To understand how a fly can walk across an upright surface; it’s that kind of knowledge, a reverence for all life. Going outdoors takes a lot more energy… but it’s absolutely, totally worth it.

“We need to be guided by what we see and feel. That’s why the great outdoors is the greatest classroom of all.”

Rue Mapp
Founder & CEO of Outdoor Afro

Photo credit: Wbur

Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro – America’s leading, cutting edge network celebrating African American connections and leadership in nature. Her work focuses on helping people take better care of themselves, their community and the planet by engaging with natural spaces through recreational activities: camping, hiking, biking, boating, gardening and skiing to name a few!

What started as a blog addressing the ongoing need for greater diversity in the outdoors is now a national non-profit organisation with leadership networks around the US. Their outdoor training facilitators work in 30 of the US states with thousands of people. Together, they are changing the face of conservation.

But the impact of Outdoor Afro goes far beyond their outdoor programmes. They also work with national, local and regional leaders on all manner of environmental matters; from defending the protection of local sacred lands to advocating for increased transportation funding so that more people can have access to nature, they are on a mission to drive real, palpable change.

Find out more about Outdoor Afro here.

Menna Fitzpatrick MBE & Jennifer Kehoe MBE
Para-alpine ski racers

Photo credit: BBC

Menna and Jen are Paralympic gold medallists representing Great Britain with the British Ski and Snowboard team. In March 2018 they became GB’s most decorated winter Paralympians after winning two silvers, one bronze and a gold at the PyeongChang 2019 Winter Olympics – all before Menna’s 20th birthday.

Yet Menna has only 5% vision – she was born with congenital retinal folds and has no vision in her left eye and limited vision in her right. But that didn’t stop Menna getting on the slopes at just five years old with her Father on a family ski holiday.

Jennifer is Menna’s guide and is also a serving Officer in the Royal Engineers. She was first spotted as a potential sighted guide while racing for the Army ski team.

In 2018 the pair won the Women of the Year Outstanding Achievement Award and were awarded MBEs. It’s no surprise we chose them as LtL #OutdoorWomen.

Find out more about Menna & Jen on their official website.

Anna McNuff
Adventurist & trail runner

Photo credit: ThePursuitZone

Anna is a tour de force of outdoor adventure. She travels the world on long, human powered journeys, with some of her most epic achievements including running the 3000km Te Araroa trail in New Zealand and cycling across the largest mountain range in the world; the Andes.

With a background in psychology and a former elite athlete, Anna is driven by the powerful and delicate relationship between mind and body and has a “thirst for exploring the limit of human potential and to better understand the feelings of fear, self-doubt, vulnerability and courage.”

Conde Nast Traveller named her one of the 50 most influential travellers of all time and the Guardian dubbed her one of the top female adventurers. She is also an ambassador for UK Girl Guiding and the co-founder of Adventure Queens.

Did we mention she’s a best-selling author? Pretty impressive, right?

Take a look at Anna’s catalogue of work here.

Who would you add to your list of inspiring outdoor women?
Tweet us @LtL_News and let us know!

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