Rebecca Ridgway

REBECCA RIDGWAY

I came to Ardmore as a baby in a wicker fish basket in 1967.  Three miles along a hilly footpath, my parents and I lived in a small croft house with no electricity.  Our paraffin Tilly lamp hissed and the peat fire smoldered, producing a comforting, earthy scent.

It was here at our kitchen table, that my mother clacked away at the keys of her Imperial typewriter, sending letters and brochures far and wide.

I spent childhood days wading along the shore, with a tin can nailed to a hazel rod, in search of sea urchins.

I would run over the hills gathering sheep and showing my ever-patient visiting granny how good my rowing skills were, as we spun in circles across the sea loch, in the small, grey patched rubber dinghy.

There were no mobile phones or radios and I was often alone.   I learned what to do if things went wrong and how to look ahead for possible difficulties.

With Mum and Dad on the croft
At school in the Blue House

   

My mother and father were busy running the adventure school during the summer.

Young staff and guests came to the John Ridgway Adventure School from all over the world and I was bundled along as part of the team. 

School was too far away; I was taught in the Blue House through the wood and was the only pupil. As well as, reading, writing and arithmetic, I was taught to unravel hand-knitted jerseys to reuse the wool, grow vegetables, cut peats, make bread and beer.

Young staff and guests came to the John Ridgway Adventure School from all over the world and I was bundled along as part of the team.

Every other winter my parents went on expeditions returning with exotic gifts and faded flags for my bedroom door.

When I was seven, we sailed from northwest Scotland to Africa aboard ‘English Rose v’, a 32-foot sloop with no engine; we survived but prepared to abandon ship twice on our three-month winter voyage.

Away to school

When, aged 10, my parents decided to take part in a sailing race around the world other arrangements needed to be made. My Gran lived in Brighton, so I went to boarding school there.  I ran in the corridors and on the lacrosse pitch.  Life took a new order. I longed for the holidays; to be with my parents, feel the breeze on my face and the open spaces of Ardmore.  

When at home my father made me join the morning runs, which were part of everyday life at the Adventure School.

At 16 I moved to Gordonstoun School.  I loved it there with pupils from across the world and the broadest education. “Plus est en Vous”, there is more in you, struck a chord when cross country running, the only activity in which I excelled. 

Peru

After school, a three-month family expedition to the mountains and jungles of Peru opened my eyes to a different life.  

Much of the country had been taken over by the Maoist Sendero Luminoso, or ‘Shining Path’.  Their goal was to overthrow the government and it had become a guerrilla war.

There was real fear, little food and I saw how local people repaired and re-repaired their few belongings.   Our plan was to meet Elvin Berg, a close friend of my fathers. He lived at Osambre, a remote coffee plantation in the ‘eyebrow’ of the jungle. We had already walked for a month at high altitude to get strong.

Nearing Osambre we were to learn that Elvin had been murdered some months before by the Sendero.

While walking out over two high mountain passes to the nearest dirt road, we met his six-year-old refugee daughter with her maternal grandmother.

The grandmother asked us to take this frightened and malnourished child with us. She would become part of our family and live with us at Ardmore.  A year later, she arrived.

The years that followed

In the year it took for my parents to arrange Elizabeth’s adoption I did a secretarial course in South Kensington and learnt to drive.  It wasn’t the life I wanted.  

Elizabeth Berg Huaman Ridgway gave me the perfect opportunity to return to Ardmore. I would help her to settle in and teach her English. Over the next ten years, I instructed, cleaned and cooked at the adventure school during summer months.

During winters we went back to the Peruvian Andes a couple of times to find Elizabeth’s relatives.  

Winter adventures would take me around the globe.

I cycled in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, (being hopeless on a bicycle, I’m not sure how I managed this).

I worked on a sheep station in New Zealand; sailed to Greenland with my family and ran the New York and London Marathons.  

Cape Horn

In the early ‘90’s Dad and I trained for two winters before taking a team to kayak around the infamously wild sea area of Cape Horn in Patagonia.

I became the first woman to do this and Dad, at 50 became the oldest man! A couple of years later we spent 18 months sailing across the Atlantic, Pacific and icy Southern Oceans to Antarctica.

As well as working with my parents, I spent a season cleaning the principle lodge of a local estate and prepared staff for youth development charity Raleigh International’s expeditions.

I left my paid office job with Raleigh in London to join their expedition in Oman and stayed on afterwards to circumnavigate the remote Musandam Peninsula by sea kayak.

In June 2000 my daughter, Molly was born and her brother Hughie arrived two years later.

Mum and Dad continued to run a few select courses from Ardmore at the time but the former summer school at Skerricha had been mothballed.

After Molly was born her father, Will, and I renovated the buildings across the sea loch at Skerricha and began to run courses from there under a different name.


The present

Molly and Hughie are named after a brother and sister who lived here as crofters when I was a child. They have grown up here on the waters edge too.

Hughie loves rugby and sports, Molly paints portraits and is a photographer, now studying Fine Art at university.  They have grown strong and true on this rocky peninsula; they have their own wings and will follow their own course.

We live here at Ardmore with my partner, Mark in what used to be the bunkhouse for the John Ridgway Adventure School. It is from here that Mark and I run Ridgway Adventure. We continue to welcome young staff and guests from all over the world in the same way that my parents did in the early years.

Interested in a course at Ridgway Adventure?

Get in touch with us at Ardmore by phone or email to find out more.

Contact Rebecca