An internationally-renowned bushcraft expert is returning to her London roots to help deliver the first master’s degree course of its kind in the heart of the city.
Protégé of self-sufficiency guru, Ray Mears, University of Cumbria’s Dr Lisa Fenton will be galvanising MA students in inspirational new Outdoor and Experiential Learning studies in what she says is the global birthplace of bushcraft.
Usually, Lake District based at the Ambleside campus, Dr Fenton has taken her skills worldwide, lecturing and addressing international gatherings, as well as living among the inhabitants of some of earth’s most remote regions.
A Kew trained doctor of ethnobiology, the study of people’s relationship with the natural word from past to present, TV drama producers used her acclaimed survival skills when making the American sci-fi series SEE, starring Jason Momoa.
She says it is a totally logical step to take the great outdoors to the Metropolis and is excited to be teaching in an environment that captured her imagination growing up in north London.
Starting in October at the university’s London campus, the new MA Outdoor and Experiential Learning is the only course of its genre to be offered in a major city with such a large population.
Dr Fenton explained: “As well as easy access for students, it is absolutely where we can shatter the idea that outdoor learning is only for the untended landscapes people call ‘wild’.
“My part of the course looks at the history and principles of bushcraft, going well beyond the usual perceptions of lighting fires and foraging for wild food. Issues around survivalism, post-colonialism, radical education, feminism and social media will be explored.
“London was the centre for imperial exploration, which in turn led to the early development of bushcraft.
“If we look at the replica of Drake’s Golden Hind in Southwark, or the Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe, close to where its famous namesake ship was fitted out for the long transatlantic voyage, we’ll see machinery that brought bushcraft into existence.
“We can trace from cracks in pavements to patches of waste ground, the plants which for centuries were used in medicines and remedies. They are the starting point for fruitful living and fundamental to existence.
“Legacies of surviving and thriving in the natural environment are everywhere in this city.
“Ironically, the Imperial School of Colonial Craft, bushcraft’s first ever seat of learning, was established in my home town of Enfield in 1908. All of this makes London the perfect place to explore the decolonisation project that is so important to our modern-day practice.”
Outdoor and Experiential Learning has seen nationally commended research by the university’s academics and Dr Fenton said it was a privilege and honour to be opening up such an innovative new field in the Capital.
The course is designed to attract teachers, youth and social workers, as well as specialist outdoor providers and those interested in therapeutic opportunities that external spaces can offer. It aims to strengthen experiences for young people.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “Outdoor learning is a catalyst to health and wellbeing.
“It is wonderful to see work honed in the Lake District being rolled out in London, where we hope it will ultimately inspire and benefit many people. We are very grateful for University of Cumbria’s vision in achieving this exciting first.”
Also, an open event is being staged on September 1, from 5 to 7pm at the London campus.