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.
The first ever Glamoraks Walking Weekend was held on 24 - 26 November. And it was fab! Fourteen ladies made their way to Malham Youth Hostel. Most people didn't know each other so there was a certain amount of trepidation, but an evening in the cosy Lister Arms pubs with several glasses of warming red wine, and any anxieties were laid to rest. The hooting of the resident owl sent us off to sleep ready to tackle a day of walking.
Once the rest of the group arrived on Saturday morning, we set off. Using the footpath that runs directly alongside the hostel we made our way up to the base of Malham Cove. It's a stunning setting and gave us a taste of the scenery to come. Crossing a stone bridge over a stream we made our way up the steep steps the carve around the edge of the cove. From the top, the views over the Yorkshire Dales were incredible.
After a warming cup of tea, we gingerly made our way across the limestone pavement - famed for having a Harry Potter scene set on it. The slippery stones made it slow going. On the far side we decided to split into two groups - those who wanted a more gentle walk of 4.5 miles to Gordale Scar, Janet's Foss and back to the hostel; and those who wanted a longer walk up to Malham Tarn and Malham Raikes before picking up the path to the Scar and Foss.
While the sun was glorious during our walk up the Ing Scar, at the Tarn it was bitterly cold, so we found a wall to shelter behind to enjoy our picnic lunch. Suitably revived, we headed for Malham Raikes and got stuck in icy bogs en route. After squelching through those for a while, we were pleased to hit a drier path and finally reached Gordale Scar. Just as we were heading for home, the heavens opened and our faces were whipped with sleep and rain. A final stretch in woodland passed Janet's Foss and we made it back to the hostel before the sunset.
Thanks to Janet for the ingenious idea to create hot port, we feasted on cake and hot toddies and soon thawed out. A team dinner of chilli, rice, salad and garlic bread, washed down with wine, and soon we were solving all the problems of the world. It wasn't a late night for anyone!
We had an early wake up call as the fire alarm went off at 4.30am for absolutely no reason whatsoever. After catching a few more hours sleep and a hearty breakfast, the group once again split into two. The smaller group had to get back in time to catch trains to London and elsewhere, so they headed off to Kirkby Malham where they timed their arrival just as the Sunday service ended. They received a warm welcome from the Parishioners.
The larger group decided to tackle Pikedaw Hill. This is a reasonably feisty climb that started in stunning winter sunshine but ended in murky fog at the top, where a layer of snow still lay on the ground. But before the fog set in, we were rewarded with more spectacular views. We crossed the top and headed by to Ing Scar where we picnicked for lunch, before making our way home, a total of about 7.5 miles.
All too soon it was over. But we left with pink cheeks and smiles on our faces. The best thing about walking with other women - even if you don't know them - is that you very quickly get past the superficial layer of conversation and dive straight into the good stuff.
Thank you so much to all the lovely ladies who joined me and for giving me a snapshot into your lives. Let's do it again!
WARNING: Graphic content related to pee, poop and periods. Probably best not to be read over lunch.
The thing about going for a long walk is that at some point you are going to need the loo. For blokes, this is less of an issue, certainly when it comes to peeing. But women face a few more challenges in the toilet department. As someone who drinks a lot of water, who has given birth to two children and whose pelvic floor isn't what it used to be, I pee a lot. Sometimes just heading outdoors into the cold will bring on the need for a pee, even if I've already been before setting off.
But it's not just peeing. Sometimes - particularly after eating and then walking a few miles - your body might let you know that an evacuation of a different kind is required. And then there's what to do if you have your period.
So let's just get over any embarrassment and discuss it:
Let's start by saying that if at all possible, go before you set out. But your body may have ideas of its own and if you're doing a multi-day walk or wild camp, it's not really an option to just not go!
Your basic bush pee
There are all sorts of devices on the market now to help women pee anywhere (more on those in a moment) but in all honesty, you can't beat the basic bush pee. Find a bush or long grass, pull your pants down, squat, pee, dry and go. Let's break that down (for some of you, this may be blindingly obvious, but I have met many women who have NEVER had an outdoor pee. So I'm going to run through some basics):
The hiding spot: You will want to find a spot that is hidden from anyone coming in any direction. This is important. When you're in a rush, it's easy to look one way, forgetting that someone might come along the path in the opposite direction. It's best to stray slightly off the path to avoid spectators - but don't get lost! Avoid going right next to water or on the actual path. Start looking for a spot well before you're desperate, particularly if there is a lot of foot traffic on the path. If necessary, get a friend to be on kaka-kaka duty. This is a technical term invented by my son who was about 9 at the time. He suggested that I go pee behind a bush and he would make a bird call that goes 'kaka-kaka' should someone approach..... We've used it ever since because it makes me laugh every time.
Pants down and squat: Simple really. Just mind where you squat. You don't want to squat over long scratchy grass or a patch of nettles for example. I have done this. It isn't pleasant. Also be aware that if you are in a very muddy area, your pulled down trousers can get filthy. You will require some quad strength to squat and hold. Build squats into your fitness routine. Even if peeing outdoors strikes terror in your soul, trust me, you can do this. It's remarkably liberating actually and often you get a great view while peeing!
Pee and dry: When you pee, take note of the wind direction and hill slope to reduce blow back onto your boots. If you leave your pack on, be sure to check for any dangling straps that may get in the way too.
If you can try and check your pee colour to ensure you're drinking enough on a long hike. If it's dark yellow, you need more water. If it's completely see through, you're drinking too much. It's important to stay hydrated while walking.
Now if you have no risk of getting caught, plenty of time and quads of steel, you can remain in your squat while you 'drip dry'. However, for speed and dryness, you can use a tissue. BUT you need to bag it up or burn it. Take a little sanitary bag or one of these Fab Little Bags to store your used tissues in. Alternatively, consider using an ultra thin panty liner to keep your knickers dry. Do not leave your used paper lying behind.
The advanced or technical pee
If you prefer to stand up and pee so that you're not exposing your backside and bits to the world, you could try a portable urinal device. They can be more of a faff than they're worth, but are useful if camping and you don't want to get out of your tent at night or if you just can't find privacy to hoik your pants down. Some of them you can even use while lying down in your tent, although this takes some practice and a lot of confidence! Remember, you will need to dispose of your urine somewhere away from camping spots, rivers or picnic areas.
Shewee - this device has a cup that you fit to your bits, with a tube that attaches to direct the pee away from you, either onto the ground or into a bottle. Practice using this in the shower first. Easy enough once you've got the hang of it. Comes in its own case making it easy to store. It weighs 100g but if you're using it in a tent, you will need a pee bottle to pee into. Do not confuse your pee bottle with your drink bottle....
Peebol - this is good for in-tent peeing. It's a plastic bag filled with the same gel you find in babies nappies. A cardboard rim holds the bag open while you pee into. Again, it takes some confidence letting go into a bag that you hope will fill. But the gel works well. It holds up to a litre and can be resealed and reused until full. Be warned, it might just be two pees at most! You will have to find somewhere to dispose of it - not suitable for a hike unless you fancy lugging a gel-filled bag of pee with you for miles. They come in 3, 8 or 12 packs.
TravelJane - I have not personally tried this product but it looks like a cross between the shewee and peebol. Same issues as the Peebol - having to dispose of the gel after use, but good for camping.
Uriwell- Now this one I have a good deal of experience with. It is a solid plastic cup with a concertina plastic tube. You extend the tube, place the cup strategically over your bits and pee. You can use this lying down, standing up or squatting. As it concertinas it doesn't take up much space when collapsed, so good for a backpack. BUT and this is a big BUT, you can only concertina it twice. Thereafter, the plastic becomes too fragile and it will leak. Let's just say I learned this the hard way (as did the person sharing my tent).
Dealing with a number two
It's not just bears that shit in the woods.....sometimes, if you are on a multi-day hike, wild camp or just get caught short, you need to poop. Ideally you should try to poo before you leave, but we can't always control our bodies and there's no point getting embarrassed about it. So here's what you do.
If you are unlucky enough to get your period while on a hiking trip, you have a few options:
Tampons and sanitary pads
You cannot bury tampons or towels, so if you use them, be sure to bag them and take them away with you to be disposed of once you find a bin. These FabLittleBags as mentioned above are brilliant for that as they can be opened with one hand (leaving your other hand free to remove the tampon/pad) and seal up tight. You can use these to store the applicators or wipes too. And they're biodegradable.
If you're long distance hiking and want to cut down on weight, then a menstrual cup might work best for you. They are lightweight, environmentally friendly and comfortable to wear (once you've practiced using it). But you will need to bury the contents of the cup and will need to be able to clean it out, not always easy when you're hiking. If you don't have warm water and soap to clean it, you can just wipe it with toilet paper (which you'll then have to burn or carry out).
I find it best to carry a toilet bag with me containing:
- tissues or toilet paper and tampons plus a spare panty liner
- a bag for putting used paper/items in
- hand sanitiser
Have this bag easy to grab so that should a suitable bush appear, you can grab and go!
For longer hikes, I'd add a trowel and lighter to burn the paper.
That's it. If you have any toilet tips please share them. OR head over to the free Glamoraks Facebook group to get other tips and advice for women who love to walk.
If you are a keen walker, particularly if you like long distance walking, you will know just how important it is to look after your feet. It seems crazy that a little thing like a blister can end your adventure, but they can and do. So how can you take care of your feet?
I asked Sophie Gooley, a podiatrist at The Boxgrove Clinic, to share her advice on how to keep feet in perfect shape for long walks. If you take nothing else away from this post, know this: Blisters are enemy number one. Blisters are caused by friction. Reduce friction and you reduce your chance of blisters. Sophie shares how to with her tips below:
1. Cinderella - get boots that fit
Looking after your feet begins with the correct footwear. A poor fitting shoe usually means there is more movement in the shoe, which means more shearing forces (friction) on your toes and feet and that results in blistering. Bottom line is - does the shoe fit?! Here's how to check:
When trying on shoes or boots, make sure you are wearing the socks you're likely to walk in. If you have specialist insoles, make sure you take the existing boot insoles out and use yours instead. Lastly, remember that you will need to walk your boots in. Go for short walks to in your new boots before attempting a mega hike.
2. Lace Up
If a lace needs to be pulled more in one area of the shoe, particularly around the midfoot, then it might mean you have an ill-fitting shoe. Lace your laces in the hole furthest to the back of the trainer or walking shoes and tie them tightly. This gives you more support around the ankle and again less movement within the shoe. But you may also want to try these lace tying variations depending on your particular feet issue.
3. Socks matter
No matter how good your boots are, if you wear the wrong socks, you can still get blisters. You want to keep your feet dry so look for moisture wicking socks rather than cotton socks. Vary them by season to ensure your feet stay warm but don't overheat and sweat. Some people swear by wearing two pairs of socks - a thin liner pair underneath a thicker pair. Experiment and see if this works for you. Regardless, it is worth spending money on good quality socks.
4. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it
Once you’ve found a shoe that works & is supportive and comfortable, stick with it. If possible buy two pairs as your feet will thank you for forward planning. A shoe brand often makes the same shoe in different guises, so if you cannot get the exact shoe again, ask the retailer which is the closest to the original.
5. Be wary of Tape
Many people use tape to prevent friction but this is actually adding an extra layer of material which has the potential to cause shear and create additional tissue stress and therefore a blister. Also the adhesive in the tape over time can increase the risk of tissue breakdown. However, taping can be useful if the foot needs support or if you develop something Iike a tendon problem. Bottom line is that tape can be useful but not as a preventative measure.
6. What to do it you get a blister
Even with all the best preparation, blisters are a common side effect of long distance walking. You'll start to notice a blister forming when you feel a 'hot spot', an area on your foot that feels literally warm and possibly a bit painful. It's best to stop and protect the area immediately, rather than waiting for the blister to develop fully.
If you notice a hot spot or a blister has come up, put some semi compressed felt behind or around the blister, not on it. Adding another layer is only going to increase the friction at the contact point. Adding something behind it or around it should help alleviate the pressure.
If a blister has formed, keep the area clean. If it is still painful with felt behind or around the blister, then prick the blister with a sterile needle, gently squeeze the fluid out, keep the blister skin in tact to prevent an open wound and cover with a blister plaster. You may still protect with the felt to take the pressure off the area.
7. Toenails & general foot care
Foot care extends to toenails, which should be trimmed straight across the nail and not rounded at the corners. Your big toe, in particular, is more prone to an in-growing toenail if you cut your nails too short. Once clipped, your toenails, should be smoothed down with a file to remove rough edges. Toenails which are too long can cause pressure on the bed of the nail which can result in extreme discomfort, bruising & loss of the nail.
Looking after the skin on your feet is also essential. Some people believe that having thick, callused skin on your feet prevents blisters but this isn't true and blisters on callused feet can be difficult to treat. A callus file and a moisturising cream (Flexitol) can soften problem areas for good foot care. It is also vital to prevent cracks in the skin of your feet, especially on your heels, as they are prone to split open which is both incredibly painful and open to potential infection if not treated.
8. Rest feet when walking
When you stop for a break or the night take your boots & socks off and give your feet a chance to rest and breathe. Open them to fresh air and direct sunlight and wear flip flops or sandals will allow them to recuperate better.
9. Foot Care Kits For Hiking
Carrying a small foot care kit in a Ziploc bag is not going to take up much room and will give you much relief from the problems associated with walking. Things like blister patches, sterile pin to drain blisters, cotton wool and felt can make the difference between carrying on or not.
Share your best footcare tips on the comments below or over on the Glamoraks Facebook group.
I looked at the weather report. Summer temperatures were forecast, with clear skies, no rain and only a bit of wind, despite it being mid-October. Sure, Hurricane Ophelia was on its way, but it wasn't due to arrive for at least 48 hours. How often do you get no rain and warm temperatures in October in Yorkshire? Never. So there was only one thing for it: a wild camp.
Having done it once before, on my own, I decided that this time I'd take a friend but would use a bivvy bag instead of a tent. After all, it was going to be dry.
My lovely friend Sarah said yes, and then wanted to say no, but I dragged her along assuring her that we wouldn't get murdered or fall off a cliff. I didn't tell her that I was slightly apprehensive in case the hurricane did arrive early and we'd get blown into the sea. And having never bivvied before, this was a new experience for me too.....
Parking at the Robin Hood's Bay car park, we followed the Cleveland Way signs north towards Whitby. The sun was already beginning to set behind thinning cloud, casting a pinky-grey softness across the gorgeous coastline. There were plenty of places you could simply unroll a sleeping bag, but we wanted to head slightly off the path. Of course, you can't head far off the path or you will end up in the sea. Some of the cliffs are very unstable so it's important to find a patch of ground that isn't likely to crumble beneath you.
We managed to find a spot roughly a mile or so from Robin Hood's Bay. An outcrop of land jutted away from the path out towards the sea and off to each side of it, were handy little ridges the perfect size for lying on (although it didn't allow for much rolling over in your sleep). Had we rolled off, we would have simply rolled down a gentle bank to a slightly boggy trough, not to our deaths. Always a good thing. But by lying just below the lip of earth, we were protected from the breeze and gave Sarah comfort that we were more hidden from view of potential murderers.
With no tent to pitch, we could immediately get to the important task of having a glass of wine, eating a hearty dinner of roasted nuts and talking shite. We'd brought a game along with us but couldn't quite muster up the energy to play.
By 8pm it was pitch black and our wine was gone. We decided it was time to snuggle into our bivvies. Despite it being an exceptionally warm night for the time of year, it was still getting chilly. Storing our boots in a dry bag to keep any dew off them, we got into our beds fully clothed.
If you haven't bivvied before, it is in essence a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. Depending on the size bivvy you get, you can fit your sleeping mat into your bivvy along with your sleeping bag. For a pillow, just use a rolled up coat or spare jumper. A hat is a good idea to keep your head warm or a buff that you can pull down over your eyes and top of nose so just your nostrils and mouth are free. Sleeping with socks on will keep your feet warm. Other tips: sleep with a head torch on or near you should you need to get up in the night. Also keep your mobile phone wrapped up somewhere warm to save the battery as it gets drained in the cold.
Without a tent, you lie staring straight up at the stars. We were very lucky to have clear skies for most of it, without the typical accompanying plummeting temperatures. As we lay looking up at the Plough constellation, a shooting star whizzed overhead, so bright and close you could see the orange tail of burning dust glowing brightly. Magical!
Just as we were getting ready to nod off, we noticed a light flashing on the rocks on the nearby cliff. Sarah immediately went into 'we're going to be murdered mode!" It was a bit odd and slightly scary, but I assumed it was probably just cockle pickers or someone down on the beach below. The thing to remember about wild camping is that most people are tucked up in their beds. They don't know you're there and won't be able to see you in the dark anyway. So there really isn't anything to worry about.
After watching the stars for hours, I finally nodded off only to be woken about an hour later to a loud screeching. My guess is a bird of prey had caught something. More star watching ensued as I tried to drift off again. I must have fallen asleep at last as I woke just as the very first glimmer of morning light was starting to leak some colour into the blackness. I watched as the lighthouse in the far distance flashed every five seconds and listened to the waves crash on the rocks far below, while seabirds began their morning chorus. What a wonderful way to wake up.
Sadly, we had to get back to York and real life, so after a quick cup of coffee, we packed up and were ready to go before the sun had even fully risen. Waving good morning to the curious sheep along our path, we made our way back to the car. We were tired, looking a bit scruffy but we'd had a brilliant microadventure. From door to door, we were gone 17 hours, yet we'd made wonderful memories.
Anyone can squeeze a bit of adventure into their life. And you should. Because when you look back on your life, you won't remember those evenings sitting on the sofa watching reality shows on TV. You will remember lying on a cliff watching the stars with a friend.
If you are women - particularly if you are a women who has forgotten how to have adventures because you never have time for yourself - join the free Glamoraks group on Facebook. We will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and into your potential. You just have to love walking and the outdoors and want to rediscover yourself again.
Here's a little video to inspire you.
Want to try wild camping with a bivvy? Here's what you need to pack
I would never consider myself a brave person. I'm scared of heights and cows and caterpillars. I don't do scary rollercoasters, go in confined spaces or jump off high things.
But I have decided that I want to take on a challenge that scares me. Many people will think I am insane for considering it. Others might shrug and think it's not that scary. I'm not doing this to compare my adventure ability with anyone else. I'm doing it to prove to myself that I can. (And to give me the content for a book, which I want to write.)
I have set myself a goal to not only do this adventure, but have written the book and become a speaker about how to challenge yourself by the end of of next year. And unless you set big, scary audacious goals and tell people about them, life will just stay the same. I'm tired of waiting for a magic wand. I'm making my own magic.
To walk the Cape Wrath Trail. On my own. April/May 2018.
The Cape Wrath Trail is considered the UK's toughest long distance walk. It's not the longest. In fact it's only 200 - 250 miles. The reason the mileage is approximate is because there is not an actual trail. There is no lovely way marked footpath. You have to find your own way from Fort William to Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point in the UK.
The way goes through some of Scotland's wildest terrain, boggiest ground and most remote areas. It is tough walking where every mile feels double that.
Not only will I have to navigate my way using a map and compass, I will have to carry everything I need on my back. My accommodation will be a tent, wild camping anywhere I can find a not boggy piece of ground. Or staying in very, very remote bothies (little stone huts that provide four walls, a roof and a fireplace, with little more.) I will have to carry my own food - there are not many places to restock en route. Access to water will be less of an issue, but will require purifying. Staying dry will be a major challenge. In fact, I can expect to have wet feet for the 20 (to 30) days it will take me (depending on how lost I get).
If I go too early, there will be too much snow/cold. If I go too late, there will be too many midges. If I go from August onwards, I'll come across deer stalkers doing a deer cull. And when I get to Cape Wrath I will need to ring the MOD to find out if they are practicing live drills or dropping real bombs. They typically do this in April.
Upon reaching Cape Wrath, when you are supposedly done, there is a long slog over bogs to reach a tiny ferry, which may or may not be running depending on the weather and the sobriety of the skipper. Once across the Kyle of Durness, I will need to get back home. There is a very limited bus service.
I have walked 192 miles during the coast to coast. But I have never carried my kit on my back (except for one 1 mile walk to a wild camp). I have wild camped on my own once, close to home in sight of humanity.
This walk will require massive physical, mental and emotional endurance. Getting lost, running out of food and crossing rivers are the three big challenges (the rivers can be particularly dangerous if in spate). I expect to cry a lot.
But I want to know that I can find my way in the wilderness. And I want to embrace the solitude and amazing views. I think everyone needs to test their endurance at some point in their life. I've done other challenges, but nothing on my own. And frankly, why start small? If you're going to go solo, go REALLY solo to one of the last remaining wild spaces in the UK. In the words of Rafiki from Lion King, 'It is time.'
My husband has kindly agreed to me doing this and some how I'll sort out childcare cover. I will take a satellite emergency tracker so that should I get into real trouble I can call the rescue team and so that my path can be plotted at all times.
I have booked myself into a Mountain Navigation Skills course for November and will have my silver certificate by the time I go, with possible additional training should I feel I need it. Plus I will be doing practice walks in boggy ground carrying a heavy pack. I do not want to have to call the emergency services unless absolutely necessary so I won't be going into this ill prepared.
I know that for many women, the thought of being alone in a bothy with strange men who happen to also be there may seem dangerous. But it is highly unlikely that people walking that trail are the type to go raping and murdering. I doubt they'd have the energy!
I have applied for an adventure grant (fingers crossed) to cover the costs and have got in touch with a mad man who has run it in 8 days, getting tips and advice from him. I have the maps and guide book.
I AM GOING TO DO THIS EVEN IF IT SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF ME.
There. I said it. No turning back now.
So why should a mother in her forties choose this over having a comfortable bed and a nice holiday with her children in the sun? I do question my own sanity. But I also know that inside me is a secret adventurer. Not a very brave adventurer, but an adventurer all the same.
Every single time I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I come back feeling a little more confident, a little more capable and a little more comfortable in my own skin. As they say, it's only when you get lost that you truly find yourself.
What's your challenge for 2018?
Please join me in the Glamoraks group on Facebook to share any adventures you may have planned. They don't have to be a multi-day hike through the wilds of Scotland. Just tackling whatever is out of your own comfort zone is enough. Seriously. If you have never put on a pair of hiking boots and even walked a mile, make that your challenge. This is not a competitor sport. It's not about who has gone the furthest or done the toughest thing, it's about pushing your own personal levels of comfort so that you can discover just how remarkable you are. And trust me, you are remarkable. You just need to realise it.
Lynda Gouveia, a South African now living in Sweden, chose to explore the Amalfi Coast on foot with her husband and three teenagers in the height of summer. She shares four of the day walks they undertook. Perhaps they'll whet your appetite to explore this gorgeous region.
Distance: Each walk was between 10 – 14km’s - over four days
Difficulty: Moderately difficult – loads of stair climbing and steep descents
Type of terrain: Mountainside villages, forests, roads, paved paths and stairs
Starting point: All of these walks start from Amalfi, either by taking the local bus to a nearby village high on the hilltop, or the route starts in Amalfi
Approaching the area of Amalfi on the Italian coast just south of Naples, the mountain pass twists and turns far up the side of the mountain before starting to make its descent. The roads are barely wide enough for two cars and a sheer drop awaits on the other side of the barrier. As we descended into the town of Amalfi, nestled next to Atrani, I really began to wonder how we were possibly going to walk here. You certainly couldn't walk on the main mountain roads - you would take your life in your hands! Needless to say, I had nothing to worry about - this area is geared for walkers!
We booked through Country Walks who provided excellent detailed maps and directions, as well as a contour map which was rather complicated. The local tourist office also has maps, and there are a number of books available online on walking in Amalfi. The routes are generally well signposted and some are colour coded red and white (CAI Club Alpino Italiano).
Having read the maps and instructions we'd received, we opted for four walks with both moderate and easy options. There are loads to choose from though. Travelling with my husband and three teenagers, I wasn't sure what they'd be able to manage. The reviews had warned about stairs and knee problems and my husband's creaky knees were about to get the workout of a lifetime. They were not joking!
Also as a result of our differing ability levels, we opted to stay in Amalfi in a lovely 4-star hotel and use that as our base. This was a really good call as we didn't have the stress of moving bags and when my teenage girls opted for a day on the beach instead of walking, it was not an issue.
We found all the walks were about 3km’s longer than the distance guides gave, but I suppose that depends on your exact starting point and any wrong turns! If you’re planning on walking in Amalfi in summer (we were there for the last week in July), be prepared for heat and carry lots of water. We were lucky the week we were there as the temperatures hovered at around 26C, with a few thunderstorms forecast. The week after we left, the temperatures were all forecast to be in the mid 30’s! My apprehension about the kids not managing was unfounded. They coped really well and enjoyed it as much as we did. All in all, a fabulous family holiday.
Day 1: Amalfi and Vallee dei Mulini with the additional part to Torre dello Ziro and returning via Atrani
The walk on day 1 started with exploring the village of Amalfi and then climbing up through the terraces of lemon groves. I’ve never seen such large lemons! This is a steep start with stairs, but mostly paved.
At the top of the hill when you’re in need to refreshments, there is the little town of Pontone, which has a shop and a toilet. From there we did a detour to the Torre dello Ziro, a tower which dates back to the 13th century, and climbed to the top to enjoy the most magnificent views over Amalfi and Atrani, before retracing our steps to the main path.
The descent was long and steep with many stairs but this brought us into the winding tunnels and passages of Atrani and down to a delightful village square. From there the return to Amalfi has two options – a pedestrian walkway through a tunnel into Amalfi, or another climb through a tunnel and narrow passages to a high paved path between the two villages that again held beautiful sweeping views across the coast. This was a fantastic walk that we all loved. It gave a good overview of the area and had a little of everything.
Day 2: Ravello & Scala
This walk starts in Ravello so you need to catch the local bus from the Piazzo Flavio Gioia in Amalfi. Tickets are available to the tobacconist across the road from the square and when we were there in mid summer, the buses left every 30 minutes.
We were cautioned to be early as the busses get very full and you don’t want to be standing as the bus winds its way up the treacherous roads. Note that the bus stops at Scala first, before going on to Ravello. After visiting the famous town of Ravello, the path leads along the contour of the hill to Scala. There are toilets near the main square in Scala but are very well hidden, so you’ll need to ask.
From there, the path follows the road until Minuta and Pontone, both little villages perched on the top of the hill. Thereafter it is a steep, but easy to follow downhill walk on terraced paths between the lemon groves with hundreds of stairs. The route ends in the village of Amalfi. The kids were less keen on this walk – it wasn’t as varied as the day before and none of it was off road.
Day 3: Valle del Ferreire
This walk starts in Scala, so again you need to take the Ravello/Scala bus and then walk on to Minuta. From there, you climb about 450 stairs onto a mountainside path that follows the contours of the mountain. We overshot the intersecting pathway and continued to follow the stairs way beyond where we should have, but were lucky to meet other walkers who redirected us.
This walk is probably the most challenging and a couple of kilometres longer than the others we did, but is not difficult to follow. The high level path follows the contour of the mountain from one side of the mountain and around the valley, past a waterfall and on to the other side of the mountain.
Probably the best aspects of walking in Amalfi, but this walk in particular, is that you can see at all times where you’ve walked from so you have a real sense of achievement – imagine walking semi-circles along the sides of a mountain from one peninsula to another. At points, this walk can be scary for those fearful of heights though. It is narrow and rocky in places, requiring some climbing, and has no railing. There is however vegetation on the narrowest, steepest part of the route which gives you a false sense of security.
Walking poles were a real help in all the walks, but this one in particular. The valley walk ends in the little hilltop town of Pongerola where there is a toilet at the bar/café. The café also serves the best lemon granite I’ve ever tasted! From there, the descent wound through houses and apartments on a steep paved path with, again, lots of stairs until emerging above the sea in Amalfi. A bus from Pongerola to Amalfi is an option too. A stunning walk!
Day 4: Positano and the Path of the Gods
The well known Path of the Gods or Sentiero degli Dei starts in the neighbouring town of Bomerano (you need to take the Agerola/Bomerano bus). The walk starts from the town square a block or two away from the bus stop.
This was definitely the busiest walk – a walk done not only by serious walkers but people in swimming costumes and sandals. This walk was relatively easy, with the exception of the gruelling descent into Positano.
The path winds its way along the side of the mountain towards Nocelle, Montefaruso and then Positano and on a clear day, you can apparently see all the way to Capri. After passing through the delightful little village of Nocelle, you reach Montefaruso high above Positano, where you can decide whether to walk down or catch a bus. There are toilets at the bus stop.
We split up and two of the children and I walked down approximately 1300 steps to reach Positano, a bustlingly busy tourist destination. Apparently standing in the bus on the way down the hill was less than comfortable, so I think the walk was the better choice. We returned to Amalfi by boat which gives you the perfect opportunity to see where you’ve walked from.
About the Author: Lynda Gouveia
I am South African, but my family and I moved to Stockholm, Sweden 6 months ago and we are really enjoying being close to Europe and all it has to offer. I have three teenagers – identical twin girls and a son who is one year younger, and I’ve been married for 18 years. I am self-employed and work as a business and executive coach and people development consultant. In between, I make time for my passions which are walking, preferably long distance, photography and painting. I grab any opportunity to walk with both hands, and if I can take a few photos along the way, all the better.
As much as I love sleeping in a tent alone on the side of a hill, there is something to be said for a little bit of pampering while walking too. With National Spa Week taking place this month, I thought it would be a good idea to do a round up of walks that have a spa en route. Whether you want to break your walk up and spend a day at the spa or simply book in for a foot treatment or massage after a long day on the trail, here are some destinations to tempt you:
Carbis Bay Hotel - St Ives, Cornwall, England
Situated on the South West Coastal Path, this luxury spa hotel looks incredible! Whether you're tackling a good stretch of the coastal path or just doing a day walk, this is the perfect stopover. For £60, you can book the private hot tub on the beach for two of you. Add champagne and strawberries for an extra £20. What a perfect way to rest weary feet and bodies after a walk along some of Britain's most stunning coastline.
The Malvern Spa - Malvern, Worcestershire, England
This spa hotel features hydrotherapy pools, a crystal steam room, salt grotto, herb sauna, kelo sauna, ice fountain, drench shower and personal foot spas (hoorah for tired feet!) You can spend your days exploring the gorgeous Malvern Hills, tackling any of the walks listed here.
Appleby Manor, Appleby-in-West Morland, Cumbria, England
This hotel and spa, situated in the Eden Valley, is close to the Lady Anne's Way , but is also perfectly placed for the Dales Highway, The Westmorland Way and The Pennine Way. Alternatively use it as a base for day walks in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines. The spa offers an Aqua Thermal journey including different heat experiences, hydrotherapy pool with massage loungers, bench, volcano pads and shoulder cannons, just what you need after lugging a heavy pack.
The Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, England
This is the kind of place you want to head to for a weekend of long lazy breakfasts and short strolls, with a good side dose of spa pampering. But from the hotel you can take in 2 mile, 4.5 mile or 8.25 mile walks over some idyllic Yorkshire Dales scenery or use it as a stopping point if you're doing the Dales Way.
Cameron House, Loch Lomond, Scotland
For anyone doing the West Highland Way in style, this is the place to go. You will walk along the banks of Loch Lomond on the opposite side to the hotel. After an exhausting day scrambling up and down the loch banks you'll make your way to Balmaha on the loch shore to get a ferry over to the hotel. Here luxury awaits. The spa (which is a short distance from the hotel but has a shuttle bus to get you there) is the perfect place to rest your weary legs before continuing on your journey into the highlands.
Killarney Park Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland
The Kerry Way is one of the longest signposted walking trails in Ireland and takes in some of its most stunning scenery. At 135 miles its a challenging walk, that starts and finishes in Killarney, which is why this hotel with its spa is the perfect place to recover after your epic trek. Revel in your achievement in the outdoor hot tub or simply relax in the pool, steam room or bubble pool.
The Snowdon Cafe, Llanberis, Wales
A cafe?! Ok so this is not a spa. It is a tiny tea garden/pub in an old Welsh stone cottage on the lower slopes of Snowden on the Llanberis track. I discovered it after walking up Snowden via the Pyg track and then coming back down Llanberis. Our feet were tired and as it is the first sign of life you come to, we felt a little sit down and something to drink was just what we needed. Unbeknownst to us, the place is famed for its almost ridiculous generosity. First a free glass of home made lemonade. Then some free bara brith, spread thickly with butter. But it was when I took my boots off and massaged my feet, that the owner, came rushing out with a foot spa complete with essential oils. So not a luxury spa, and I can't guarantee the foot spa will always be available, but a lovely treat all the same.
Are there any other spas that you can recommend that add a bit of pampering on a long walk? Tell me in the comments below. If you're the kind of woman who loves to get outdoors hiking, but is just as partial to a bit of pampering, you're a Glamorak. Join the group on Facebook.
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.