Yesterday a man on Twitter disagreed with one of my blog posts. Called '25 walks women should put on their bucket list', the post was a round up of a survey I did with Glamoraks members about which walks they'd like to do. Plus tips on how to make them happen.
The gentleman felt that they should be walks for people - rather than women - to put on their bucket list. He felt he had done several of the walks and he couldn't understand why women had been singled out. He felt if walks had been selected for people based on the colour of their skin, there would be outrage, so surely walks being selected based on their gender should be viewed just as poorly.
I did point out that it was aimed at the readers of a women's walking group, hence the female bias in the blog post. And nowhere did I say that men couldn't do the walks. To which, he said: 'In the age of equality, why single out women?'
And that is an interesting question. You could argue that sadly, there still isn't equality. But leaving that aside, is it sexist to have a women-only walking group? If there was a male only walking group, would women get upset?
I suppose the answer to that would be based on why the group was male-only or what the reasons were for that decision.
So I want to outline why Glamoraks is a women-only walking group:
I want the Glamoraks group to be a place where women can meet like-minded women to go walking with. I want them to feel comfortable saying to a complete stranger on the internet, 'Let's meet at this walking trail'. Sure there is a chance that a woman can be a complete psycho, but largely, women will feel more comfortable meeting an unknown woman for the first time in a remote place than they would a man.
Rightly or wrongly, women are warned repeatedly to take care of themselves. Just this week, the York police issued a statement urging women not to walk alone at night following three sexual assaults in as many days. They later went on to adjust their statement, saying that 'everyone should take care walking alone at night'. But women are taught from a young age to be careful and not put themselves in potentially dangerous situations - like meeting a strange man in a quiet bit of woodland on their own. Hence the need for a women-only website so that they can share where they'll be walking without worry.
This is a generalisation - so apologies - but feedback I've had from some women as to why they don't enjoy mixed sex walking groups is because many of the walks are led by men who tend to turn it into a competition to see who can get their first or navigate best. It all becomes a bit of a route march. And if you are a woman who enjoys that, go for it. But many women prefer to go walking for the relaxation it brings, rather than to prove a point about who can get there first.
Confidence and guilt
The reason I set up Glamoraks up was because I can see how many women spend their 30s, 40s and 50s juggling the demands of kids, careers and ageing parents. I'm not saying men don't have these demands, but women seem to feel more guilty about taking time off for themselves. They spend much of their life enabling other people to do things, while putting themselves last. This has a knock on effect on their confidence. They don't feel as fit, brave or adventurous as they used to be. Sometimes they don't feel it's right for them to leave the family for a week so that they can take on a long distance walk. The group was set up to inspire them to regain their confidence, to set aside their guilt and to rediscover that person they used to be. I'm not saying that men don't need to do that, but I think this is typically more of a feminine issue.
Peeing, periods and personal stuff
There are things that women have to deal with that men just don't. Like periods and how to manage those on a big walk. Or the need to squat behind a tree to pee. Or which bras are most comfortable and supportive when walking. Or how walking might help with the menopause. Even just which kit is lighter or designed with women in mind. Men are most welcome to join in these discussions, but I imagine, most wouldn't want to. I think it's ok for women to have a safe space to discuss any of these topics without feeling as though it's awkward. What's more, the conversations women have with each other while walking are different, more honest and more personal when there are only women around. And I think it's ok to create that female-only environment so that those conversations can happen.
I walk with my husband and many Glamoraks walk with their husbands, partners, fathers, brothers and friends. And I have done group walks with men and women, including climbing Kilimanjaro where there wasn't too much left to the imagination or privacy. It is a wonderful - and completely different - experience to walking with just women. Glamoraks is not trying to eliminate men from the walking agenda or be sexist. It is simply trying to create a female-focused group to address all of the areas listed above.
To the man on Twitter, sorry if I couldn't respond adequately to your questions but it took more than 140 characters.
I welcome any thoughts on this issue. And if you are a woman and would like to chat to and find other like-minded walkers, feel free to join the Facebook group here.
Autumn. It always arrives so suddenly. One minute you're in flip flops. The next, boots and coats make an appearance. The days get shorter, the temperatures drop and all around there is a sense of change. There's something about falling leaves that reminds me of how fast time goes by. Every year it seems to come around more rapidly. Which is all the more reason to get out there and enjoy it while you can. Carpe diem! But if the passage of time isn't enough to motivate you, perhaps this will.
Here are ten reasons why you should put your boots on and go walking this Autumn:
1. Amazing colours
As the leaves turn from green to gold or reds and browns, the scenery becomes a photographer's dream. At times, the views are so splendid that they can render you speechless. But it's more than just a dazzling display. There's something deeply comforting about autumn colours. They ground us and remind us of all things homely and warm.
2. Crunchy sounds and textures
Is there anything more satisfying than crunching through piles of fallen leaves? To be fair, this can be a short lived experience, before the rains arrive and turn everything to mulch. But for those weeks when freshly dropped leaves and seeds litter the pathway, it just feels and sounds adventurous.
3. Perfect temperatures
Autumn is often blessed with bright blue skies, sunny days and a nip in the air. It's not overly hot or cold, just fresh enough to add a touch of colour to your cheeks. You'll feel warm enough walking, without getting hot but will still welcome your thermos of hot chocolate when you stop for a break.
4. A picked lunch
Ok, so perhaps not an entire lunch. But you can certainly supplement your packed lunch by picking blackberries, apples, pears and elderberries. Keep an eye out for sloes, but don't eat them (they're horrid). Take them home and make sloe gin.
5. A scavenger hunt for kids
Getting kids to walk can prove a challenge, but Autumn makes it a LOT more fun as there are so many things for them to find, collect and play with. Acorns and their jaunty hats. Conkers for whacking each other. Helicopter seeds from sycamores. Different leave types to make a leaf collage. It's also a great time to build dens with plenty of dry branches littering the ground.
Squirrels spend Autumn dashing about like crazy things as they stock their winter larder, which makes for entertaining viewing. You'll be lucky to spot a hedgehog, vole or mouse while walking but if you sit quietly in a wood, you might. It's a great time to see deer and gathering flocks of birds ready to make their way south for winter, while pheasants add a splash of colour to the landscape. Be aware that it's deer stalking season in Scotland as well as shooting season for many game birds throughout the UK, so do be careful where you walk. Getting shot may ruin your walk.
7. Fewer midges and bugs
Summer walking can be a battle against the bugs, particularly midges if you're in the Lakes or Scotland. But as Autumn rolls around, the midges disappear leaving you free to walk without being covered in bug-spray.
8. Earlier bed time for wild camping
With the sun setting earlier, you can go wild camping and set up your tent earlier than in the summer. Which means you can get to sleep at a reasonable hour, and wake up early to catch the sunrise. Just make sure you take a warm sleeping bag!
9. Quieter paths
If you can get out midweek, while everyone is back to work after the summer and the kids are back at school, you'll find the paths far quieter, giving you that brilliant feeling of solitude. If you're doing a long distance path, you might find it easier to get accommodation at this time of year too.
10. The perfect time for a pub visit
After a long walk, there is nothing better than getting to a pub just as the chill is starting to set in, grabbing a pint or a warming glass of red wine and sitting in front of the first fires of the season. Bliss.
What do you love about Autumn walking? If you're a woman who love walking or hiking, please join the group on Facebook here. Or simply like the Glamoraks page.
We recently ran a Glamoraks Photo Competition in which I asked women to share a photo from one of their walks, with an accompanying statement that completed this sentence: I walk because.....
Their images and words were beautiful and inspiring, so I've compiled them into this video. Have a watch and then let me know in the comments what your reason for walking is. Hopefully the video will inspire you to get walking too!
Next weekend I will be heading to a festival. I'll be sleeping in a tiny tent in a field with a bunch of strangers. I won't know a soul there. I'll be doing some activities I've not tried before. I have no idea what to expect. If I'm honest, there's a big part of me that wants to pull out of it. But I am going. Here's why:
Because it's too easy to stay comfortable. As we get older, we get more fearful, more used to creature comforts, less confident in our ability to try new things. And one day when I'm on my deathbed, I don't want to look back on my life and be unable to pick out memorable moments because I had let myself get comfortable. Let's face it, no-one remembers the daily commute, that epic Netflix binge watching session, that 20 millionth load of laundry they put on. They remember the things that made them feel something profound.
Not all of those profound feelings are good. Some of the toughest moments in life are the things we remember most vividly. But the funny thing about humans is our ability to endure challenges and then reframe them into something positive. Unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you never know what you are capable of. There could be a whole other side to you that you don't even realise you have. It's just waiting to be freed. And that could be a magical discovery that changes the rest of your life.
So I may not enjoy this festival weekend. Or I may have the best time ever. But unless I go and experience it, I will never know.
This September I invite you to join me in #SayYesSept. It's your chance to step outside of your comfort zone and take on a challenge. It doesn't have to be huge or epic, just something that pushes you out of 'being comfortable'. It might not be a big enough challenge for you to even remember in a year's time, but each time you try something that pushes your comfort level, you will find yourself feeling a little bit stronger, a bit more confident, a bit braver. And each step will add up to a bigger, fuller, more exciting life that one day you will look back on and say: I did all of that!
Here's a list of things you could try this month to kickstart the journey to a lifetime of epic memories:
1. Go for a longer walk than you normally do
2. Go for a walk on your own
3. Go for a walk with a stranger. Use the Glamoraks Facebook Group to find someone in your area.
4. Climb a really big hill with incredible views
5. Go on a multi day hike
6. Carry what you need on your back for an overnight hike
7. Wild camp with someone
8. Wild camp on your own
9. Stay in a hostel, sharing a room with strangers
10. Catch public transport to a place you've never been - then explore using a map
11. Go to a group event where you don't know anyone
12. Organise a group walk for others
13. Try a new activity that you've not done before
14. Sign up to a charity challenge
15. Set a target to walk 5 miles a day for a month
16. Put a date in the diary two years from now to do that big walk you've always wanted to do - like the PCT, the Camino de Santiago, the Inca Trail, the Coast to Coast, climbing Kilimanjaro or reaching Everest Base Camp. Then tell people that you plan on doing it. Then start planning. Once you commit a date and tell people, it forces you to take action.
For some adventurers, these might seem like very tame goals. But for people who have yet to push their bravery or comfort limits in any way, these will seem difficult. Choose whatever level is right for you. But just make the decision to use this September to say yes more. If an opportunity comes your way, don't hesitate. Say yes and figure out the rest later. If you are a woman who constantly puts other first - kids, parents, partner, work, commitments - it's time to say: Nope, it's my time.
So are you in? If so, be sure to share what you will be doing over on the Facebook group or on social media. Just use the hashtag #SayYesSept and tag me @Glamoraks so that I can keep track. If enough people get involved I'll turn it into a video of experiences, so be sure to share pics or short videos about what you've done.
Let's get out there and start living! You only get one life. Make it count.