RED Ride Out & Autumn Equinox Retreat 2022
By Kate O’Callaghan
There is something about connecting in nature. As people of the outdoors we often find ourselves surrounded by people doing extraordinary things, from ultra-runners, cold water swimmers, climbers, and mountain bikers to those paving the way for people searching for a place in the outdoors.
The women’s red ride out was exactly that and I was lucky enough to be invited along.
Hosted by the beautiful White House Glamping at Ross on Wye, a few introductions and ice breakers around the circle, fueled with amazing home cooked food by the RED team, and a few drinks around the fire whilst getting to know each other. A group of individuals some of whom had crossed paths before, but mostly all meeting for the first time.
The rest of the weekend was spent hearing incredible & inspiring experiences from people leading change in the outdoors, including those campaigning for technical clothing to fit all sizes and those creating a community & providing access to the outdoors for black and people of colour, increasing much needed representation. There were people taking on hardcore challenges and people starting new businesses. Everyone there had a story to tell, an achievement to shout about or a goal to make some form of change; but most importantly we all had one thing in common – to open up and make the outdoor environment accessible to all.
The group bonded over morning runs, yoga, plenty of time on the river paddle boarding and more amazing food. There were folk who were experienced paddlers, folk who were trying it out for the first time and everyone in between, all with a love of the outdoors and all it brings.
Photo Credit : Alice Callow
It was here that the WWW/RED Autumn Equinox concept was born. An event that would connect people from all walks of life, supporting the Wonderful Wild Women goal of creating a safe and supportive space for people to try new things in the outdoors.
This isn’t a new concept for us of course, but an event supported by RED gave us an opportunity to offer something different to what we have done previously; an event that usually wouldn’t be possible for us and would prove to be hugely popular.
The day was all about connection – connecting with people, with nature, with our surroundings and with ourselves.
After a week of solid rain and miserable weather, we arrived at the Water Park, Coniston to a beautifully calm lake, blue skies, and perfect conditions, setting the scene for an amazing day!
As our guests arrived there was an immediate buzz about the place, a mix of excitement and nerves, all the chatter of introductions and where everyone had come from and what their experience was, people relaxing as they realised the majority were also new to the group, the water, even some to the outdoors. People pushing their comfort zones by just showing up and starting to see it was worth it from the get-go.
We started the day with a gentle hike led by Vicki, walking from the Water Park and up Brockbarrow. Ahead of the hike, Jess our wonderful artist set the scene; a task to consider our surroundings as we were walking and talking, taking in the sounds, the smells, the views, the colours and making a conscious effort to absorb everything around us.
A continuous level of chatter as we walked the short and steep ascent to the summit, people building relationships, talking about the task and taking their time to enjoy the hike. Once we reached the summit, the sense of achievement for most was starting to form, with smiles, laughter, and admiration of the views. Another quick session with Jess to sit in stillness to connect with our surroundings, linking back to the task she set earlier in the day.
We headed back to Waterpark and had the most incredible lunch by the lake, the delicious food catered for by Francesca Klottrup, an amazing local chef! It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say some people were swayed to attend by the lunch offering!! More time for people to connect, relax and take in the scenes.
After lunch we headed to a quiet space nearby and were guided through a creative session with Jess. Putting pencil to paper and creating a map of our earlier journey each including all the things we noted as we’d walked, from the views, the terrain, the sounds and smells to the people and route we took, adding more colour and detail as we went; a unique way of connecting with our surroundings and remembering all of the little things that we had taken in along our hike which would have maybe gone slightly unnoticed before.
We split the group in two ready for our SUP adventures, Vicky and Katie guiding the way for us all. Starting with a beginner’s session which was essentially introducing people to paddle boarding, an energetic warm up (AKA pumping all the boards up), safety tips and showing everyone the ropes, the guys entered the water tentatively, all a little wobbly and unsure but with gentle encouragement and support from Vicki and Katie, people grew with confidence the longer they spent on the water, eventually getting everyone stood up and paddling about the safe and secluded bay confidently, another tick in the box of that growing sense of achievement.
For those who had paddled before, we took a journey across the water and paddled down the river to the famous Octopus Lagoon (Swallows and Amazons for those who don’t know), a chilled pace with some board tricks and headstands setting the bar, we floated around Octopus Lagoon telling stories of the paddling we had done before and our planned paddle board adventures that were ahead. On our return we were rewarded by an incredible sunset.
We regathered as a group for a warm brew, some amazing brownies and the last of the sunset to draw a close on an amazing day.
A small insight into our Autumn Equinox Retreat I know, it’s hard to put into words and capture the achievements and connections that were made on the day. The retreat was a huge success, a wonderful atmosphere throughout the day and just good old-fashioned fun.
As a team we do these events because of our passion and love of the outdoors. An opportunity to share the value and benefits of adventures or just time outside. Creating space and removing barriers for people who may not have the means or the confidence to try these things alone.
There is a deeper reason we do this, and this is it:
I have been intending to write this for some time, sorry I have only just got round to it!
I attended the RED Paddleboarding day and had the most wonderful time. As an unfit, overweight woman in my 40s I don’t have much confidence with outdoor activities, whilst at the same time being really keen to try things. I grew up in suburbia and have only recently discovered the great outdoors. The day was so welcoming and inclusive – and helped me to feel that these days and activities could be for me. I was so delighted that I managed to stand up and properly paddle board (due to excellent coaching from Vicki – who really understood my limitations and gave me a different technique to stand up). The friend who came with me is on universal credit and would never have been able to afford such an opportunity at full cost. The day felt like a much-needed retreat for both of us. The impact that you personally, and WWW are having is incredible. Please be proud.”
Big shout out to the WWW team, Katie, Jess, Francesca and of course the team over at RED Paddle Co. Without the support of RED, we wouldn’t have been able to offer this event free of charge!