Life's an adventure...

Adventure is on your doorstep in Derbyshire.

What are the specific barriers that women face in taking part in adventurous activities? Do these change as women go through different stages of life?

These were the questions posed to our Director, Hayley Lever, as she took her place on an expert panel at the recent International Adventure Conference at Sheffield Hallam University.

A lively debate

Hayley, a keen adventurer with a passion for encouraging others, joined a professional climber, round the world cyclist, mountain guides, academics and journalists to discuss the subject of women in adventure. It was a lively debate, which could have gone on all night, and engaged an international audience.

"Understanding that different women have different needs, and that these change over the life course, is crucial to getting women and girls involved", said Hayley. "There is no 'one' solution".

Some women are motivated by the adrenaline rush, some by a love of nature and wild places. Some enjoy the peace and solitude of the mountains, while others see adventures as a very social thing- time to spend with friends and family sharing experiences.

Understanding motivations

Sport England's recent insight work 'Active in the Outdoors' tries to make sense of this, understanding motivations of different people.

This great work, along with the This Girl Can insight, can help providers of outdoor activities, and those trying to get more women into sport, to 'go where women are'.

Understanding the fears, inhibitions, demands on time, lack of knowledge and confidence, and 'going where women are' physically, emotionally and socially is crucial.

A huge opportunity

Hayley believes that there is a huge opportunity to get women and girls involved in outdoor activities, if the industry can respond to what they need; encouragement, supportive leaders, great information that makes it easy to find out what you can do.

She said: "We need to cater for young girls, teenagers, and adults, with activities, groups and help to adventure independently."

Even as someone who has always had an adventurous spirit, Hayley talked about how, as she's got older (and more cautious!), and as a mum of three girls, her perspective has changed.

At 19, Hayley sailed across the Tasman Sea with two others, and cycled round New Zealand - with no fear. But as a mum, she has become more cautious, always conscious of her responsibilities.

She is convinced of the benefits of adventure and outdoor experiences for her daughters, and encourages them to take risks, and challenge themselves- which sometimes in turn, challenges her as well!

Camping under the stars

"I love wild camping, but always want to go with others, for a sense of security," added Hayley. "My daughter is always asking for us to go by ourselves though - and I haven't wanted to admit that I was scared to!

"During the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival this year, I met a woman who camps all over the world by herself, in amazing wild places - the author of the book 'Wild Sleeps'. I shared my fears with her, and she gave me some great advice to overcome them".

"This summer, I enjoyed the most amazing night out with my eight-year-old daughter, camping under the stars. When I started to think of the 'what ifs', I just looked at Anya, how much she was enjoying it, and how she had no fears.

"I took my lead from her. It's amazing how your children can help you to overcome your own barriers sometimes!"

Adventure sport and activity is growing

Derbyshire Sport and Active Derbyshire are working with partners to get more people taking part in regular physical activity and sport.

Adventure sport, and outdoor activity is a growing part of this - whether it's promoting Walks for Health groups, JOG Derbyshire groups enjoying local parks and trails or Breeze rides, which get more women on bikes. Adventure Sport activities are on offer at our many outdoor centres and clubs – there really is something for everyone.

Hayley said: "Girl Guides, school trips and Youth Clubs help girls to try climbing, stream scrambling, abseiling and canoeing - but if they love it, it's not so obvious how to carry on, unless you have 'outdoorsy' parents - and they're often not 'cool' once you reach your teens.

"If the opportunities are there, how do girls find out about it, and how do we help parents to let them go?!

She added: "Adventure, big or small, can be on the doorstep, or out in the wild places of Derbyshire - the challenge for us is to help more women and girls find the thing they love."

Want to learn more?

Derbyshire Sport will be organising a seminar with Sport England, and other partners, early next year, which will consider the Outdoor Insight work in detail.

If you are interested in hearing more, register your details here, and we will make sure you receive details.