“An experience of a lifetime”

Scholars at Eden Project Dome

The HotHouse Women’s Leadership Retreat at the Eden Project in Cornwall offers an uplifting and illuminating experience. FNF Scholar and Alumni Champion Carole Young recently spent time there and came away transformed. In this inspiring blog, Carole, an Independent Tissue Viability Nurse Consultant & Educator and Professional Nurse Advocate, shares her reflections…

“My FNF journey has been an eventful one, with a massive change of direction and new beginnings. What started out as a way to prove myself as a strategic leader in a large NHS trust has matured into a path of self-discovery, building resilience and finding the confidence to shine my own light on what I do best, as well as inspiring others in nursing and specialist fields. I’ve left a job of 20 years to embark on a consultancy and education role and ultimately find myself!

A recent experience in my FNF journey has been joining the life-changing HotHouse Women’s Leadership Retreat. I came across this while looking for something that would grow my reflective, compassionate leadership style. I was drawn to their ethos of supporting self-leadership through reflection and building on ‘values, vision and purpose.’ Other FNF scholars were interested in this programme too, and the fabulous Pam Horton at the Eden Project offered to put together a bespoke programme for 10 of us.

“When you get sent an essential kit list that includes walking boots and a torch, you know this is going to be a bit different”

Scholars on a forest walk

HotHouse programmes consider leadership learning in a very different way to any other courses I have encountered. There are no classrooms, lectures, or PowerPoints. When you get sent an essential kit list that includes walking boots and a torch, you know this is going to be a bit different. This programme is in person at the Eden Project estate in Cornwall, with facilitated sessions out in nature: in woods, on the beach, in the phenomenal rainforest dome, high on a hill and down by a valley stream. We were exceedingly lucky with the weather and treated with sunshine every day of our stay. 

The programme supports self-discovery and deep personal reflection to enable you to find your own leadership style, to understand yourself, your history, your present, and to guide your future. You come to Eden with an open mind. There is no timetable or specific course information, you immediately must trust the facilitators, in our case Pam and Rich, to take you on an inspirational and unique journey. 

Views of Cornwall

The three-day programme included accommodation across two comfortable farmhouses within the Eden estate plus all meals (vegetarian and grown on the estate) and soft drinks. It included late evening sessions, including an out-of-hours exploration of the rainforest dome as the sun set. The experience was incredibly immersive and involved facilitated group sessions alongside individual reflection activities. There was a focus on self-awareness and deeply listening to others telling their story. We spent time looking back at our own past, our ancestry and how this element of our lives shaped us. We looked at where we are now – personally, at work and outside of work. We considered where we are in terms of the ‘seasons of our life’ and we spent time considering what we needed from ourselves and others to enable us to shine our light going forward. We gained tools to use as leaders both in life and work.

“I came away with a deep sense of calm and wellbeing”

Scholars at Eden Project

There was psychological safety within the group which allowed us to share openly and honestly our thoughts and stories; we made connections and relationships that will last for life.

I came away with a deep sense of calm and wellbeing. Embracing nature and ‘me time’ is now part of my daily routine. I’ve even pushed my physical and mental comfort zone and been hiking in a real rainforest since Eden. I have confidence in what my next steps will be in my unique leadership adventure. I feel assured that I have made the right decisions and that I can give so much more to inspire the next generation of nurses, and compassionately support those in established roles to grow further.”

Find out more about FNF scholarships

Find out more about the HotHouse Women’s Leadership Retreat