It was a chilly morning when 14 ladies gathered in the carpark at Sandsend in mid-January. Some had come alone, others with a friend. All were ready to have a good, long stomp to blow away the January blues and to walk off any lingering Christmas calories. After adding layers, checking backpacks and having final cups of tea from the nearby cafe, we set off.
We walked the two miles along the beach towards Whitby, leaping over streams - some broader than others - as the tide rushed out. Walking along beach sand is remarkably tiring and soon layers were being stripped off and cheeks were pink from the cold and exertion.
Too early for fish and chips, we ignored the waft of vinegar and made our way through the old fishing town to the famous 199 steps that lead up to the ruins of Whitby Abbey. If we weren't warm before, we certainly were by the top of the stairs. We bid farewell to two of our group who were off to do their own shorter walk, while we headed for the clifftop path.
Layers of ice made the path through a campsite slippery but soon we were on the muddy path, taking in the stunning coastal views. This route is part of the Cleveland Way, a long distance walking path that starts in Helmsley and ends in Filey, with exceptional North Yorkshire scenery for all of it. It's easy to break the walk up into stages and do them anytime you have a free day or weekend.
We chatted and learnt more about each other as we slipped about in the mud. On several occasions we narrowly missed having a muddy landing and in one, case, did!
We stopped for a picnic lunch in a field with an impressive view. The day had brightened up and the sun eventually popped out as we continued on our way. I have personally done this stretch several times, the first time kickstarted my love of walking. It also forms part of the Coast to Coast route, either being the first or last day of the multi-day hike depending on which way you are going. My cousin Lynda - who did the Coast to Coast with me - had flown from Sweden to join me for this Glamoraks weekend, so we had a moment of nostalgia as we found the C2C sign.
With the sun starting to dip in the sky, we made our way down the steep hill into Robin Hoods Bay, a fishing village made up of tiny houses stacked higgledy piggledy on top of one another. Half our party headed to the pub in search of a restorative ale or port, the other half found the last open tea shop and tucked into slices of cake, scones and pots of tea.
Suitably revived, we headed off towards Boggle Hole, just 20 minutes away. The sun was setting, creating a beautiful scene with the snow on the moors ahead of us. We got to the hostel just as it got dark. If you've not been to Boggle Hole hostel before, you are missing a trick. It is festooned in bunting and nautical paraphernalia, with plenty of hidden objects for children to find. And it's situated right on the beach. You can hear the waves crashing as you lie in bed.
After finding our shared rooms, we reconvened in the cosy dining room with a roaring log fire. Glasses of wine, a hearty chicken curry followed by apple pudding and we all felt ready for bed. We had, after all, done 11.5 miles of fairly tiring walking across sand and slipping on mud!
Another reason for the early bed time was Sunday's weather forecast of strong winds and snow arriving mid afternoon, which meant we needed an early start. While we all had the right kit to keep warm, none of us fancied trying to drive back home over the North Yorkshire Moors in a blizzard.
We got the chef up bright and early to cook us a hearty breakfast, while taking in the magnificent sunrise. We bid farewell to four of the ladies who wanted a shorter day and a nosey around the quaint shops of Robin Hood's Bay, before getting the bus back to Sandsend. The rest of us retraced our steps along the path the way we'd come as the tide was still too high to do the beach walk. We were treated to even more spectacular views of the sunrise and we all agreed that it was moments like this that made us face the sub-zero temperatures and get outdoors.
After making our way back up the steep hill in Robin Hood's Bay, we opted for the Cinder Track, a route that runs roughly parallel to the coastal path only it's slightly more solid with less slippy mud. However, what it lacked in mud, it made up for in slippy ice. We still managed to make better time and soon rejoined the coastal path again. Thanks to the very low overnight temperatures, all the mud had frozen solid, making it much easier to walk back.
We managed to get to Whitby in time for lunch. General agreement was to ditch the packed lunch we'd been given in favour of fish and chips from the famous Magpie. What a treat to tuck into warm chips and gravy on an icy cold day (with the added bonus of trying to fend off dive bombing seagulls).
We could see the weather setting in so we headed back up the beach to Sandsend for our final two miles. As we reached the carpark, the snow arrived, flying in sideways on the wind. A quick cup of tea at the Wits End Cafe, and we dashed to our cars. We drove in convoy up and over the moors in a blizzard, with deep snow on the road sides. Had the driving conditions not been quite so scary, it would have been beautiful, like a scene out of a Christmas card.
We all made it home with rosy cheeks and tired legs. A total of 23 miles walks, washed down with cake, fish and chips, wine, curry, good chat and the chance to forget about day to day life. The perfect Glamoraks weekend really!
If you would like to meet other women for fabulous weekends like this, join the Glamoraks community.
If you'd like to do this walk, park at the Sandsend carpark (free of charge over winter), postcode YO21 3TD. Walk along the beach to Whitby (or the signposted path if the tide is in). Head over the bridge in Whitby and follow signs for the Abbey ruins. Climb the 199 steps, walk through the car park and turn left onto the coastal path. Follow this through a caravan site and then simply follow it all the way to Robin Hood's Bay. When you enter Robin Hood's Bay, turn left onto the main road heading down towards the sea. Just after Smugglers pub, turn right and follow the coastal path signs again until you reach Boggle Hole. You simply retrace your steps the next day. Or, take the sign post for the Cinder Track just outside Robin Hood's Bay (where the Coastal Path starts again). Turn right off the track when you reach a road that leads to Northcliffe holiday park. Walk through the park and you'll reconnect with the coastal path. Turn left and follow it back to Whitby and then on to Sandsend. roughly 11.5 miles each way.
See the smiles on those faces? They didn't get there by accident. They got there because a bunch of women who didn't know each other, got together for a good long walk in the countryside.
And this Monday - 15 January - is officially called Blue Monday. It's the day when most people feel pretty glum. The weather is rubbish. The endless darkness is depressing. You feel fat, poor, a bit lost in your relationship or job and you can't even cheer yourself up with a glass of wine or box of chocolates because that would mean you are giving up on your healthy eating resolutions after just two weeks.
Well Glamoraks has the perfect solution to banish the blues. It's called Merry Monday. But frankly, you can take any day next week.
Here's what you do. Head over to the Facebook group and post the following (or a variation thereof):
On 15 January (or a date of your choice if you're busy), I am going to be walking <insert location> at <insert time>. Would anyone like to come? #MerryMonday.
If you see someone post that and you think: heck, that's near me. Yes please. Then respond. Arrange a meet up. Get walking. Get talking. Get fresh air. Forget about everything else that may not be perfect. Just enjoy the miles and the company. And you could be anywhere in the world. Just name your location and you never know, there may be a Glamorak near you. If there's not, invite a friend near you, get them to join Glamoraks and go together. Be sure to share your pictures from your walk in the group afterwards.
Why is this a good thing?
If you aren't on Facebook, feel free to share it on Twitter and see if you can find someone that way. Use the hashtags #MerryMonday and #Glamoraks
If you know anyone who loves walking, please invite them to join the group. It is open to women around the world. Together we can make the world a happier place one step at a time.
This time a year ago, Glamoraks didn't exist. The name was simply a nickname I gave to my glamorous friends who I dragged out walking with me. But an opportunity to appear in a national magazine prompted me into creating something I'd been mulling over for a while - a group to inspire more women to get out walking.
I created the Glamoraks.com website and set up a free Facebook group, with no real idea of what I wanted it to be other than what I had written on the website:
"I want to get more women walking. We're all so busy - careers, being mothers, looking after elderly parents, relationships, life. Walking is the escape that lets you put down the mascara wand and step away from the busy-ness of life. It simplifies everything. It gives you time to think, reflect, talk and connect. It's just you, what you can fit in your pack, the track in front of you and whoever is walking with you. It is low cost, really good exercise, a brilliant way to destress and the best endorphin hit you can get. It makes you happy.
Well since then, the Facebook group has grown to more than 775 members from places as far afield as the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Morocco and South Africa - not to mention a huge contingent from across the UK. It's been featured in Top Sante, Healthy, Good Housekeeping magazines with regular mentions on BBC Radio York. The name as been trademarked. I've written 50 blog posts, shared the voices of others through guests posts and set up a Youtube channel (feel free to subscribe!)
The first Glamoraks walking weekend was held in Malham in November, with 14 women coming together to share a common love of getting outdoors. The second weekend will be held in January 2018 along the Yorkshire Coast - it sold out in less than 24 hours (one spot has become available due to a cancellation so grab it if you want it!)
Personally, this year I've:
I did this alongside running my main business and being a wife and mother with all the never-ending jobs that involves! I have at times been immensely frustrated with not having the time to dedicate myself to Glamoraks more fully and therefore not being able to grow it as quickly as I would like to. But when I look back on the year, I am so proud of how far it has come. What makes me happier still is when I receive messages like this:
'Went for a lovely walk in Hyde Park on Saturday....feel so inspired to just get out there and walk now with Glamoraks on my FB wall. Suddenly not even thinking about the weather.'
'My daughter sent me your article. What a fantastic idea! I adore walking and the outdoors. I have been on my own for almost 15 years and would love the company of others like myself. I'm a young, independent, glamorous woman. Unfortunately my friends don't share my enjoyment of walking or have the time away from their husbands. Would love to hear more about Glamoraks.'
'What a fantastic job you are doing inspiring women to walk - thank you!'
So where is Glamoraks headed in 2018?
Firstly, I hope to have more Glamoraks walking weekends away, run by me as well as qualified mountain leaders. The dates for those will hopefully come out in January. Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter to receive details first.
I would love to grow the community all over the world. So please do share the group with any friends you have you enjoy a good walk, hike or adventure.
But most importantly, I want the Glamoraks community to be able to find others to walk with. I don't want you to have to wait for a walk in your area or on a date that suits. I really want you to to feel confident to go walking whenever you like, either on your own or simply by reaching out to other Glamoraks near you. Perhaps you want to take on a big multi-day walk or charity challenge, but don't have anyone to do it with. Or you want to connect to a regular group of women in your area to go for an impromptu walk or fitness walk or dog walk. Which is why I am looking to create either an app that connects women with others who have similar walking levels and interests, or a membership website that has similar functionality. There is nothing stopping you from doing this right now in the free Facebook group, but it can be hard to track threads as they disappear down in the group. I want to make it easy for everyone to find someone to go walking with.
All of this takes a lot of funding and time, neither of which I have much of. But I am working my hardest to make it happen. So watch this space.
On top of that, I want to take on a big challenge of my own in 2018. I had planned to walk the Cape Wrath Trail Solo, but after speaking to various experts and having spent several nights doing navigation in bogs, I realised it was probably a step too far beyond my capabilities. But I will be doing something, starting with good number of walks in Northumberland over the New Year period.
What about you?
What walking challenge would you like to take on in 2018? It doesn't have to be a BIG challenge. You can simply set yourself a target of how many miles you want to walk. All I would say is that you are more capable than you realise. So stretch yourself slightly more than you believe you are currently capable of, and go for it. A year from now, you will be so pleased that you did.
To help you stay focused, I've created a downloadable poster that you can print off, stick on your wall or fridge and let it serve as a reminder to get your boots on and get outdoors!
GET YOUR POSTER HERE.
Here's to an amazing 2018. Let's make the world happier one step at a time.