London could be viewed as a giant extended classroom freely available to use for activities, wandering and discovery. The scene of our latest walking and learning activity was a literal treasure trove under the pavements of Chancery Lane, the London Silver Vaults. This fascinating underground site now hosts 30 specialist silver
retailers and started life as a series of strong rooms in 1876 allowing Londoners to safely store their documents and valuables. Every possible silver item can be found from goblets to a gun, cocktail shakers to miniature furniture, jewelry to opera glasses.
Here we undertook a reflective planning activity. Walking around the vaults alone we set out to find objects that represent items or qualities we need to enable us to meet our aims for the year ahead and manage upcoming changes. From this we were able to work together and make a map showing our way forward and discuss how we can manage change.
There were a number of benefits to using this activity to inform planning:
- The vaults offered a thought provoking, diverse range of artefacts that could be explored and discovered. These artefacts, inevitably shiny, have remained with us as long lasting, vibrant images and served as a useful basis for discussion.
- The act of walking offered space and movement to reflect, think deeply and gain clarity. This prepared us for the ensuing discussion and planning.
- This time to walk enabled us to explore concerns and challenges around change in a safe environment and managed way. This also fed into the discussion and planning.
- Unlike sites such as museums or the streets, the London Silver Vaults is a sales environment. How we interacted with the space was restricted in some ways such as not being allowed to take photos. However, as the vaults comprise of a number of shops we had access not only to incredible objects but also to shop owners. We entered their intimate strong room shop space and shared their histories and experiences. We added their perspectives to our reflections. Meeting people who work outside of HE, underground in a retail sector allowed us to look at our change and planning with new eyes.
- As ever, time to think, to walk and to interact with interesting people and objects builds up resilience. This is an essential ingredient for managing change.
More of examples of how we have used walking and learning include Walking and Learning: Reflections on Leadership and Change, Walking Reading Group and British Museum: Walking and Learning.