Meet Alasdair Brock, a volunteer Leader with British Exploring Society.
Alasdair joined us as an Adventure Leader on our 2022 Canadian Yukon expedition.
In his day-to-day life, Alasdair recently retired from a career managing and restoring National Nature Reserve lowland raised peat bogs in Cumbria (and in the Baltic Countries) for Natural England. He also worked on river restoration and catchment management projects for Eden Rivers Trust.
Beyond that he’s also previously worked as an outdoor pursuits instructor for Outward Bound, and as a lecturer in Environmental Land Management, and is currently a Mountain Rescue England volunteer. Alasdair is what the British Exploring Society HQ Staff jokingly refer to as “A Unicorn”, in that his background means he potentially has the experience and skillset to fit a variety of Leadership roles.
How did you become a Leader with British Exploring Society?
“I originally applied nearly 30 years ago to be a leader with my wife Claire on an expedition to Svalbard. For various reasons we decided not to go in the end. This time I got a message from an ex-work colleague and current British Exploring Society Leader about four weeks before the Canadian Yukon expedition. Because of a last-minute dropout, they were looking for anyone daft enough to give up five weeks of their time to spend contending with mosquitos and bears. I chatted with Claire, who decided she would be glad to get rid of me, and so I applied!
I decided to join because I recognised I had relevant skills, including group management, outdoor leadership, as well as medical and environmental knowledge that might be of use and interest to young folk.
Most of all I had the time, and thought my irreverent and youthful (61-year-old) personality might strike a chord with the Young Explorers.”
How was it being a Leader on expedition?
“The biggest value I’ve found from being an expedition Leader with British Exploring Society is the joy of being able to share knowledge, coach and mentor the Young Explorers in group work, leadership, expedition management and ecological, geological and geomorphological knowledge (green things, moving things, rocky things, etc.).
My best memory was hearing the final group presentation by Salmo Fire, a 5-week group that I finished the expedition with after leading a 3-week group. They had been given the task of describing their final mission into the wild and chose to do it as a ‘Wind Song’. Their joint description of their journey as prose and poetry was hair-raising. It was a powerful and evocative description of a harsh but beautiful land.
The most challenging thing I had to contend with on expedition was balancing the different needs, expectations, and ability of all the Young Explorers in my Fire. However, with the help of my tag-team Social Leader, Base Camp Leaders, and of course the Young Explorers themselves, we were all successfully able to support each other to complete progressively harder and challenging missions. Everyone’s attitude and approach developed over time and both of the Fires I led were a joy to work with. I think if I had joined the process sooner in the training phase I could have better prepared for this before we were on expedition – it’s a lesson I’ll take onboard for the next one.”
Any advice for prospective Leaders looking to join an expedition?
“My advice? Be prepared to be flexible. The Young Explorers are diverse and come from all walks of life, and you will need to be adaptable and ready to support everyone in your Fire. While that may initially seem daunting, remember that you ain’t alone. You will have the back up of Social, Adventure, Knowledge and Medical Leaders as well as the Base Camp and British Exploring Society HQ Team. Your skills and abilities as a Leader, regardless of the title you have, are as important as everyone else’s. So be prepared to pull your weight, make decisions, and be part of a team. Muck in with the group and other Leaders. Don’t act your age.
Here’s how I’d summarise my experience – A bunch of youth and adults head off into the middle of nowhere as a disparate band of individuals without fully knowing what to expect. After three or five weeks, we return bonded together full of tales and memories. The young people bound together by their shared experience, full of confidence, knowledge and united as a team who have overcome the obstacles before them. Meanwhile the Leaders traipse behind them knackered, now surplus to requirement, and immensely proud of everything their Young Explorers have achieved.”
British Exploring Society’s vibrant community of volunteer Leaders come from all kinds of backgrounds and professions. With the support of the office, they work together as a team to deliver a challenging and fulfilling experience and personal development opportunity for Young Explorers on expedition.
While some roles require specific qualifications, we welcome people from all walks of life who can lead, inspire, teach and coach, and who recognise the role exploration and adventure can play in self-development.
There are all kinds of ways you can get involved in 2023. Click below to find out more.