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I’ve Never Really Noticed Things Before, Because I Haven’t Looked – Living Adventurously #2

Kay Willis is the director at Beyond Boundaries, an organisation that provides opportunities for people with learning disabilities in the beautiful setting of Commondale, North Yorkshire. My ride to the farm took me (after a terrible night’s sleep in a gale in a wood) up and over impressive, empty moorland and the first massive hills of my trip. It was a stunning location and extremely peaceful. The farm exuded an atmosphere of warm, welcoming kindness. I was invited in for a cup of tea amidst the busy bustle of getting ready for the day; choosing activities to get stuck into and preparing to feed all the farm animals.

Kay described the work of Beyond Boundaries, which she runs along with her husband Anthony. “Our service users range in age from 14 to over 65. We also provide a service for people of school age who are perhaps finding school very difficult and need a day or two of practical work.
We offer a wide range of activities and like to be outside as much as possible, either looking after our animals or perhaps activities in the private woods on the farm. One popular activity is cycling and we have a range of inclusive bikes so that everyone can have a go. Some service users enjoy working with tools and we have a well equipped workshop for those activities.
We have donkeys, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, pygmy goats and llamas which our service users help to look after, there are also cows on the farm.”

Kay and Anthony were made redundant after 20 years of teaching. This difficult event has eventually led to a new life for Kay, of uncertainty and fun. She no longer wants to take time off, loves coming to work, and is enjoying this new chapter of her life now that her own kids are leaving home.

Morning at Beyond Boundaries was fun, informative and thought-provoking. I am sorry to say that I do not know very much about the world of profound mental and physical disabilities. Kay gave me some fascinating perspectives on adventure, challenge and achievement for the disabled people she works with. I loved how much Kay had learned from working with such a variety of characters, and the lively cheerful banter of the farm. It was a happy, kind and inspiring spot, nestled into a beautiful Yorkshire hamlet.

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Show Notes

Transcript

Below is the transcription of our conversation. It’s done by AI so is perhaps a wee bit ropey here and there. If these transcripts prove sufficiently useful then I will make the effort to clean then up and make them better. Do let me know if you think it’s worth my time to do that. (Or, better still, do it for me…!). If you’d like to listen as you read along you can do that here:

https://otter.ai/s/r6ZEdxD-SWm8WhbxuJf6sw

Alastair Humphreys
Well, hello, hello. Introduce yourself.

Kay
Okay. I’m Kay. I run a small business called Beyond Boundaries, where we look after people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities.

Alastair Humphreys
But you haven’t always done that. So can you tell me about your life? In the olden days? What was your life?

Kay
I was a teacher in mainstream education, and I taught business and economics for 21-22 years, something like that. And until my daughters were grown up, when I felt I needed a change.

Alastair Humphreys
And and what was that change?

Kay
Well, when I first left, I took a redundancy payment and spent a year doing not very much really trying to work out what I wanted to do, I met up with a lovely lady called Lucy, who ran a business very similar to the one that we run now, at the same place that we run it, who needs somebody to help her out and we get

Alastair Humphreys
to go back. So you went from being a teacher in a normal school, being a mom as well, for 20 years pretty normal routine kind of life with it’s the excitement’s and dramas of being a teacher. Today, and I only just met you this morning. And I arrived Monday, early Monday morning into what I think I described as a very happy chaos. It’s a there’s people all over the place doing stuff. And this is running around. There’s a lot of energy here, but but it feels to me, like a totally different world to life as a teacher in normal school.

Kay
Absolutely. I think you’ve probably summed it up better than anybody else yet. Chaos, but happy chaos. And I never thought I’d have a job where I actually don’t like taking time off. I want to get up in the morning and I want to come to work. And I am as my kids are leaving home. I feel like I’ve got a new family, somebody else to sort of look after and careful. So yeah, it’s a massive change. Very happy change.

Alastair Humphreys
So when you about being a teacher, did you ever anticipate that you would stop that? And then go do this fairly? unconventional work? Or did you do was your life mapped out towards through teachers pension? trip to the sunshine?

Kay
Yeah, pretty much as decided that 55% retention early, do a bit of part time work, maybe to top it up? And then by 60? Yeah, holidays do very little. That’s completely gone out the window. Now. I’m coming up very rapidly to 55. And I have no intention whatsoever of retiring in the foreseeable

Alastair Humphreys
future. Can you compare the life of certainty you had them to this life of uncertainty now?

Kay
This is so much more interesting phone. And I don’t have to do the bits and pieces that I didn’t enjoy with teaching. didn’t mind the teaching. I didn’t like all of the paperwork that goes with it. So the and also done it for so long, I got to a position where I was a little bit bored. I’m never bored now. I like the uncertainty out like the unpredictability. I like being able to decide that maybe next week, we’ll go out on a trip or do something different. So yeah, it’s much more fun. Much more exciting.

Alastair Humphreys
And I’m one of the pension prospects.

Kay
I’ve still got my teachers pension. Oh, good. So I still will retire at some point. I just don’t want to yet. Yeah.

Alastair Humphreys
So which is actually I think, actually a nice things. One of the things I’m interested in is people moving to a life of more uncertainty. But I think having a sensible safety net is a good balance between doing something daft and practical, isn’t it?

Kay
Yes. I mean, we do have that safety net. And in that, because we both got teachers pension and in that way, we’re very fortunate that we’ve been able to, I suppose take a bit of a risk on something, but knowing that we had something to fall back on if need be, yeah.

Alastair Humphreys
Okay. What does living adventurously mean to you or that phrase mean to you?

Kay
It was means getting out and about doing different things, meeting different people, and meeting interesting people. Not that I didn’t meet interesting people as a teacher, but I meet people who are very different now come from all different kinds of backgrounds to me, who coordinates volunteers, who just passed by and popping for a chat. So I think it’s about getting out there and doing things that are different. And I think that adventures linked to being outside as well. We’re outside a lot now. And what does

Alastair Humphreys
living adventurously me, what would that phrase mean to some of the guys that

that you help here,

Kay
it can be something very simple, we’ve just got bought some bikes, and three, some of them are trace, of course, some of them, the ones that you sell pedal with your hands. And just being able to cycle in circle could be an adventure for some of them, because they’ve got a very lack of good balance, and they’ve never ridden a bike before. And that can be adventure to them. What can the dog is up to the woods can be adventure, building a shelter in the woods can be an adventure, it cannot be very simple things, but things that they’ve never done before.

Alastair Humphreys
And why is adventure important to the people you’re helping here.

Kay
If they didn’t come and do out outdoor things like that, some of them would be inside quite a lot. And which would be very unhealthy. This is getting them out and about in the come the comeback on a lunchtime or in an evening. And they often have a real pulse about them. And it’s something that they’ve done. And it’s it’s all linked to phone and being part of a team. And one of the nicest things they ever say is that they feel as if they’re part of a family. And I think that’s all linked to the kind of great times and the adventures we have together.

Alastair Humphreys
There’s a young lady here and Claire. Yeah.

And she was telling me about the time she went up to the woods to create the street. Can you tell me about that?

Kay
Yeah, Claire is absolutely great. And she’ll I forgot anything. But she can be very, very unsteady on our feet. And what was we had a straight we had a stream, I should say, and we’re trying to build bridges across it. But part of it is not to necessarily go on a nice, safe, secure Bridget’s. It’s about getting in the water and stepping over the stones. And the first time she did it with help from some of the other guys, the sense of achievement was just amazing. So some things that we might feel is very, very simple. to her. It was just she talked about it endlessly.

Alastair Humphreys
And and I find that such an important thing is people, the kind of world I live in it’s normal and veterinary stuff. And this seems to be quite a thing of measuring your adventures people worrying that or what this thing I’m doing now is not that amazing? Because so and so climb Mount Everest, and one thing I’m really interested in is people trying to do adventure of their own levels. Yeah, yeah. And I guess that’s something you experience here is each of them have different needs and skills Don’t be so adventurous, different from all

Kay
Yes, it absolutely. One of our service users. He sometimes stairs over here. And I think if his parents are already aware for a rest of the stairs here for kind of respite care, and staying on a farm to him as a massive adventure as well, he got he likes to hear the animals early in the morning. And he gets up and he goes around and looks at them. And that’s an adventure to him. You know, walking the goats can be an adventure to some, some of them, everything is different. They all see different things in the activities that we do.

Alastair Humphreys
And a lot of the guys here got quite severe. Physical mental difficulties. Yeah. And and they’re not going to be going on to get normal jobs and normal. Conventional lives. Yeah. So what is what’s the importance of trying to stretch them and help themselves grow and become more ambitious with the things they’re trying to do? what’s what’s the purpose of that in there?

Kay
Gail, just like everybody, they need a purpose in life, they need to feel that they’re achieving something. And so, you know, just by going off and collecting the eggs and counting them and putting them on the cart for everybody. So collecting the money in counting it up at the end of the day, that’s given them a real purpose. And it’s something that they find really interesting, really exciting. It helps to build their confidence, because it can sometimes be daunting to go out. And big crowds, if you have certain difficulties. Some of our guys, quite a few of them have autism, and find crowds difficult. And helping them to not to enjoy being in a crowd, but being able to accept being in a crowd, sometimes without panicking. I feel that’s a massive achievement for them as well.

Alastair Humphreys
And you mentioned purpose a few times in that answer, what’s what’s your purpose,

Kay
my purpose is to get to give them really the best experience that they can have. If at the end of every day, I can send them home, and they’ve all had either had an achievement or had a good time, or just enjoy being here. They’re not that that’s what

Alastair Humphreys
I want to achieve. This is one of these, those lovely places that you turn up to occasionally. And you just feel welcome straight away. And it’s just full of lovely, bubbly, loud, kind, cheerful laughing people. And I think that’s a lovely thing that you’re all so kind and giving. So I’m not nearly as nice person, you. So what’s in it for you. Out of all of this.

Kay
And massive self sense of satisfaction, I just, I just having a job that I enjoy is a massive achievement for me, really. And I think one of the things that I’ve taken from the people I meet is that they’ve taught me to stop being so judgmental, they, they don’t judge anybody at all and how they look, if you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to you. And I think I’ve learned a lot from that, that in mainstream education. And every day life, we do judge people a lot. And these guys just don’t, they just if you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice back.

Alastair Humphreys
So you’ve been you’ve been working here for about four years or so. So we’re the guys who taught you, that would have been really helpful for you to know 20 years ago when you were normal teacher, normal life normal job.

Kay
And I think mainly, that people who have tremendous difficulties, you don’t always see that. And maybe you’re not as understanding with people as you should be. Because what you see on the surface isn’t necessarily what they have to call it with, in, you know, their everyday life.

Alastair Humphreys
And one of the things I’m finding in my own life that I’m really trying to cultivate is more curiosity, I find that when I do stuff out of curiosity, then it just interesting things happen. And one thing I noticed this morning was that the younger I can’t remember who was asking a lot of questions about the rabbits and the ducks. And and there’s there’s a real sense of curiosity here. So have you found that

Kay
yet? It’s about never ending stream questions, some of which I can’t answer. We usually managed to find somebody who can answer them. Walking up to the woods, we can stop every few yards to have a look at something that I would walk by, I wouldn’t noticed it. What’s this? What’s that? Why is it there? Sometimes it’s nothing. Sometimes it’s some we see if you slow worms. I’ve never really noticed them before, because I’ve never looked. Now I’ve seen quite a few since I’ve been here. And every time we see Well, we stopped. We talked about it. We look at it, we photograph it. So it’s just never ending stream of questions. Yeah.

Alastair Humphreys
Why? Why are they more curious than

your eye?

Kay
I think they they lack some inhibitions. And they don’t care. If they’re not worried that people don’t think, maybe think well, you should know that they don’t care. They’ll just ask. They’ve not learned sometimes to hide their curiosity because they don’t appear foolish. They that they. They’re just more spontaneous, perhaps.

Alastair Humphreys
So I’ve, I’ve met you now on this day three of my adventures cycling around Yorkshire. What do you think I could learn from the Beyond Boundaries thing that will help me as I go off on my adventure around Yorkshire

Kay
to not worry about the little things. And to have a good a good time and just to be to be nice to people. I’m sure you are nice to people, but that’s what I took from them. Don’t judge people and be nice.

Alastair Humphreys
That’s very good advice. Thank you. The last question I want to ask you Is it is this if you had one extra hour a day all to yourself every day? What would you do?

Kay
And MOD That’s tough. I probably Alan read the book.

Alastair Humphreys
Okay, well follow up them what what book should I go and read that will help me become more wild and bold and curious was a good book for me to read?

Unknown Speaker
Oh, heck, he put me on the spot here. I’m

Unknown Speaker
trying to think which book?

Alastair Humphreys
So I really put

a pause that then and ask you one more question about about beyond boundaries, which would, which is what do you need here? How could people the wider world or the millions or dozens of people listening to this? What can people do to help the work you’re doing?

Kay
Well, we do get a lot of help we have. We met in new person, a new volunteer today. Basically people who are willing to give up some time to come along and volunteer, be it for one day a week as some people do, or even just a pop in every now and then for a cup of tea and a chat. And just talk to that they love having visitors just talk just talk to them.

Alastair Humphreys
Mostly local visitors and support you need rather than anything by

Kay
I mean, there’s always a business like this money is always important, but it’s the time people give that is much more important. Rarely.

Alastair Humphreys
Yeah, I see. Sorry. I’m so bad at these podcasts. And having been number two, one of the main things I wanted to talk about, which I completely forgot, is that you reminded me of that, because the two things that stopped me doing things in life, usually time or money. And I think for a lot of people, there are two big barriers, but the guys you’re working with here, that’s not that’s not really the issue of their life, or money. So So what are the sort of barriers that they face.

Unknown Speaker
And

Kay
a lot of them will face.

Maybe transport could be an issue for them want to get out and about. Also, maybe that they haven’t got access to some of the facilities and clubs that other people would have. There’s not so much for the guys that come here. But for some people that we meet, one go into schools, facilities, change the facilities and things that that can be a massive barrier, that if there aren’t correct changing facilities for people who are severely disabled, it will stop them getting to where they want to go on to, to doing what they want to do as well. And how do they

Alastair Humphreys
generalisation, but

by and large, cope with society lies to society. look after them properly, help them properly.

Kay
I found that when we when we take them out, I have actually been really, I think pleasantly surprised at how many people are kind to carry with them, to the talk to them, they lack the chat with them. And then look after them. I think of seeing a nice Society of society, then perhaps, you know, you see in the news that awful things go on when you go out there with these guys, you think now there are a lot of people out there who are really nice, we just don’t hear about them.

Alastair Humphreys
There are a lot of people who are nice, and some of them are here today. So I thank you for inviting me or welcome unless you did invite me Thank you for letting me come after invited myself and I really admire what you’re doing. And I think it’s a very happy place.

Kay
Thank you. Thank you very much for coming. And I hope you enjoy the rest of your adventure.

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