Today is International Day of Happiness. And as the Glamoraks mission is to make women happier one step at a time, I thought I'd find out whether it was just me that felt happy when they went walking.
Nope. Not just me. Watch the video to see the smiling faces of our members from around the world plus their reasons that walking makes them happy.
But I also did a snap survey to find out a bit more, to dig slightly deeper. And here's what I found:
So there you have it. Walking definitely makes people happier. That happiness can last a few hours or a few days. It helps with a myriad of emotions and mental health issues. As long as there is open space, fresh air and peace, people don't really mind where they walk. Urban environments and park being the one that didn't get any votes. And it seems most people don't mind who they walk with - just as long as they can get out there!
I asked for a statement to describe why walking makes them happy. I couldn't include them all but this is what they said:
If you would like to feel these benefits too, join Glamoraks today. It's free. It will absolutely make you happier. It may just change your life.
I've just returned from a lovely 7.5 mile walk starting at Cod Beck Reservoir, tracking through Osmotherley and along a stretch of the Cleveland Way in the North Yorkshire Moors. I haven't been on many walks recently. My personal life has been somewhat fraught/busy/overwhelming for the last few months, so walking had to take a back seat.
But today I had a free day. No kids. No commitments. And yes there were household jobs to do - when aren't there? - but I decided to prioritise time for me.
Luckily, a Glamoraks member had planned a walk for today. That's how Glamoraks works. Someone decides that they want to do a walk and they choose a route. They share it in the group and/or the Facebook page and other people can decide to join them. You can search for members or walks near you too (and we have members all over the world.)
For many people, coming on one of these walks is daunting. They don't know anyone and as with any new situation, meeting new people and trying new things can feel scary. But as the ladies on the walk today can testify, there is absolutely no reason for nerves.
We are women with completely different stories and backgrounds. Yet we all love the same thing - getting outside in the fresh air and having a good long stomp. Now had this walk not been set up today, I would have gone on my own (although it would have been easier to cry off and binge watch Game of Thrones), but for many others, they would prefer not to be alone out on a remote path.
Many don't feel brave enough to be the walk organiser, but once they've been on one, realise that actually it's not that scary either. No-one expects you to be a qualified walker. It's ok if we get lost. Or it's muddy. Or we want to change course. Or stop for tea. We're just grateful that someone has encouraged us to get out there.
Besides the normal chat about parenting, food, jobs, holidays, we had quite a bit of chat today about doing things that push you out of your comfort zone, saying yes more.
My take on this is that the fears you may have because you've never done something will always be there - it's your body's natural instinct to keep you safe. But as soon as you do it, you realise that the worries you had were often far worse than reality.
And it's not just walking that this applies to. Anything that you may be facing - getting a divorce, moving house, starting a new job or leaving a job, tackling an illness, have kids leave home, dealing with a family crisis, or taking on the bucket list thing you've always wanted to do but don't feel brave enough - you can do it.
Please believe me: YOU. CAN. DO. IT.
No matter what it is, how huge or scary, just tackle it one step at time. And you will find yourself doing it. And you're ok. And in many cases, so much better than you were before. So in the words of that famous shoe brand: Just do it.
How do I know that you'll be ok?
Because on every Glamoraks walk, I hear different women's stories and it always amazes me at just how resilient women are. No matter what they've been through, it turns out ok. Hearing these stories from people outside your normal friendship group opens up your mind and deepens your compassion for what others face. It also inspires you to try some of the things they've done or get ideas on what to do next.
Sometimes the world and our own personal lives can feel a bit overwhelming or negative. But just one walk with a group of women, I guarantee, will put a smile of your face, a glow in your cheeks and a sparkle in your eyes - see the evidence below. And hopefully, it will also give you that little confidence boost to know that you can do it, whatever 'it' is.
(Incidentally, we passed the sign in the picture above on our walk today ....)
The sun was getting low in the sky, early afternoon on a mild November day. Beams of sunlight turned everything they touched to gold. To my right, the Atlantic ocean lazily lolled, barely breaking against craggy rocks far below. To my left, a green field dotted with sheep was a picture of tranquility. Ahead of me, two woman in my walking group were striding onwards, while behind me the rest of the group chatted quietly.
I walked alone, taking the chance to simply be, breathing in the sea air and enjoying the crunch of my boots on the path.
And that's when it happened. So subtle, so instant it would have been easy to miss. But I felt it.
I had set it down. The weight I hadn't realised I was carrying.
I didn't do it intentionally. It made no noise as it left me. There was no photograph to capture the moment. It simply slipped off me. My backpack was still firmly attached to my body, yet it felt somehow lighter, as though large boulders had been removed from it. More than that, my head felt clearer, the dark cobwebs that had been clogging up the edges of my thoughts suddenly swept out.
A smile began to unconsciously form on my face. The furrows on my brow relaxed. I breathed deeply and sighed out loudly. Light, free, happy. The mental burden of worry, guilt, sadness, anger and stress had gently worked its way loose and fallen off me noiselessly, dissipating into nothingness.
I had set the weight down on a path on Northern Ireland's coast. I have set the same weight down on remote paths and deserted beaches around the world. It's what walking does. Every step works a tightly knotted concern loose. Our deeply buried worries and fears gradually free themselves from their trapped places, losing their poisonous power as they do so.
Every walk has a drop off moment. Sometimes it's mere minutes into a walk. On others, it is many miles before the moment happens. But it will happen. And when it does, you can move forward lighter, freer and happier.
It's time to set your weight down.
Join Glamoraks, a community of women who love to walk. We'll help you do it.
1 August is Yorkshire Day. To celebrate the splendour of God's own county, here is a round up of some of the walks I'd recommend you do in Yorkshire. We are absolutely spoilt for choice with so many exceptional places to walk that this list is by no means conclusive. It doesn't include some of the more famous routes like the Cleveland Way, Dales Way, Wolds Way, the Pennine Way, Lady Anne's Way, the Ribble Way or the Herriot Way. Frankly, there are so many splendid walks to choose from, your biggest challenge is going to be finding the time to do them all.
So whether you're looking for a city walk, an urban stroll, a multi-day hike, a coastal caper or a good long stomp in the wilds of the moors or dales or Northern Peak, you are sorted.
1. Beningbrough to York
Close to York yet completely rural in feel, this is either a short 3-miler along the river, doing a circuit around Beningbrough Hall. Or make it longer and walk 8 miles from Beningbrough all the way along the river Ouse into York City Centre. Details here.
2. York Minster to Sheriff Hutton
This is the first part of the centenary way, a multi-day walk running from York to Filey. But it's a great way to explore the surrounding York countryside starting right in the heart of town. Follow the river Foss out and either stop in Strensall or continue on to Sheriff Hutton. Details here.
3. Stamford Bridge circular
Stamford Bridge is a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire. With a pretty centre and plenty of history, this is a flat, circular walk that takes in the river Derwent. Details here.
4. Kirkham Priory to Howsham Mill
Another walk along the Derwent, this is a pretty circular walk that takes in the ruins of Kirkham Priory and the delightful Howsham Mill. Details here.
1. Whitby heading South
From Saltburn to Bridlington, the Yorkshire coast is a gem for walkers. One of the most popular stretches if you fancy making a weekend of it is to head from Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay and back again. It's roughly 6 or 7 miles each way, depending on where you start. But you can also start further north from Sandsend and end at Boggle Hole, just after Robin Hood's Bay, spend the night and head home the next day. Or try starting at Whitby, walk to Ravenscar, return and stay at Boggle Hole or Robin Hood's Bay and return the next day. Details of these walks can be found here and here.
2. Scarborough to Filey
Walk the final stage of the Cleveland Way as you leave the bustle of Scarborough behind, hugging the coast until you reach Filey Brigg. It's roughly 10 miles of gorgeous walking. Details here.
3. Bridlington to Bempton
If you're a bird watcher, this is the walk for you. It takes in the incredible Flamborough Head, many beaches and RSPB bird watching platforms to get up to close to the myriad of sea birds that nest along this stretch of coast. Details here.
4. A wild camp on a coastal path
This is just a short walk of no more than a couple of miles, depending where you choose to stop, but if you fancy a bit of an adventure, try heading out from Robin Hood's Bay and sleeping under the stars along the coastal path. Just be sure to leave no trace and don't sleep too close to the cliff edge. Details here.
NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS
A gorgeous valley and open moorland that can be done in a circuit of different lengths depending on your stamina. They take in the old mine buildings that dot the path. Details here.
2. The Hole of Horcum
This is a stunning 7 mile walk in one of the North Yorkshire Moors most famous viewing spots. The Hole of Horcum is a giant punchbowl that includes walking along the moorland tops and in the valley, with a lovely pub midway. Details here.
3. Upper Riccal Dale
This a short 5 mile walk just north of Helmsley, that takes in the gentle agricultural side of the moors, but with some great views from the top of the ridge. Details here.
4. Helmsley to Rievaulx
This is a glorious 7-mile walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx and back again. It is actually stage 1 of the Cleveland way and is bookended with Helmsley castle and the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. Plenty of lovely tea shops to choose from too. Details here.
5. Wild camping in the North Yorkshire Moors
While not strictly allowed, if you are sensible, leave no trace and don't start fires, a wild camp on the moors is a lovely way to experience the peace and splendour they afford. Here are two wild camps (locations not revealed) to give a flavour of it. How far you want to walk to reach your camp spot is up to you.
Wild camp 1
Wild camp 2
THE YORKSHIRE BITS OF THE COAST TO COAST
The coast to coast is a 192-mile path running from St Bees in Cumbria through to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire. The Yorkshire section starts once you cross the Pennines after leaving Kirkby Stephen and takes in some magnificent stretches of the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorks Moors and the Yorkshire Coast. You don't have to do the whole thing - just pick one or two of these stretches for a day or two of gorgeous walking. Note: the bit from Richmond to Danby Wiske and Danby Wiske to Ingleby Arncliff are probably the least exciting. I've included them in case you'd like to do the full Yorkshire stretch but I wouldn't pick them for a day walk.
Kirkby Stephen to Keld
Keld to Reeth
Reeth to Richmond
Richmond to Danby Wiske
Danby Wiske to Ingley Arncliff
Ingleby Arncliff to Blakey Ridge
Blakey Ridge to Grosmont
Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay
Malham is a jaw-droppingly beautiful bit of the Yorkshire Dales with a number of walks you can do regardless of your fitness. A gentle stroll to see Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss; something a bit more taxing as you climb to the top of Malham Cove to see the stone pavement of clints and grikes; or even further up to Malham Tarn. Details here.
2. The Yorkshire Three Peaks
Many people take on the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks of Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough as a 12 hour challenge. But you don't have to charge your way around. You can pick them off one at a time or two them over two days. This is the scenery that will take your breath away. Details here.
YORKSHIRE BIT OF THE PEAK DISTRICT
A new boundary walk that takes runs the whole way around the Peak District opened in 2017. The northerly bit of the Peak is in Yorkshire and includes more spectacular moorland walking. This section runs from Greenfield to Marsden. And there's a very welcome pub at the end. Details here.
As I said, there are so many walks to be done in Yorkshire. I know that this is just a tiny sample - but they are ones which I have personally walked and written up. I'd love to hear about yours, so please do share any Yorkshire walks you've written about in the comments below.
If you are a woman who loves to walk, please join Glamoraks, an online community that helps women find other women to go walking and adventuring with together. You can also join the Facebook group here. Both are free.
Start point: YO30 1DB
Distance: 3 miles circular or 8 miles linear (ending in York)
Terrain: Paths, some overgrown in summer, very muddy in winter
Last week I had the privilege of taking a Sunday Telegraph journalist and photographer for a walk around Beningbrough Hall. It always amazes me how many people in York aren't aware of what a gem we have right on our doorstep.
Beningbrough Hall is a National Trust property. Surrounding the hall is a stunning 3-mile loop walk and as it's outside the grounds of the Hall itself, you don't need to pay to walk it. You can park in Newton-on-Ouse and follow the footpath signs as you head toward the river. Or you can park at the opposite entrance at a small carpark that asks for a donation to the Air Ambulance. Option three is to park outside Home Farm, a lovely farm shop and cafe, as long as you return as a customer after your walk (an excellent idea by the way as it have fabulous cakes.)
Simply follow the path along the river, getting glimpses of the Hall as you go. Roughly half-way along the loop you will find a secret beach and wild swimming spot. On hot sunny days, it is an idyllic setting. You can even catch a ferry on the weekends over to Nun Monkton, where after a short stroll, you will find a pub - The Alice Hawthorn.
You continue the loop, depending where you started from and then follow the track around the back of the estate, through woods for a section before ending up back where you started. You can't really get lost and you can vary the loop direction. There is also a pub - The Dawnay Arms - in Newton-on-Ouse if you started out there and want to have a drink in a beer garden that goes down to the river.
But if you're after a slightly longer walk, you can walk directly from the centre of York to Beningbrough or vice versa. A group of Glamoraks recently did exactly this. We started at Beningbrough (you will need to be dropped off as it's a one-way walk unless you fancy doing 16 miles there and back).
Start at the little carpark outside the entrance (not the Newton on Ouse side) as indicated in the image below:
Follow the footpath that runs alongside the woods, heading towards the river. When you reach a gate, go through it and instead of following the path ahead (the loop walk mentioned above), turn to your left. There will be an indistinct footpath that leads to a raised path alongside the river. Now you simply follow that, keeping the river on your right all the way. You will go past a row of houses at the village of Beningbrough and a few more as you near Overton. Poppleton will start to be seen on the opposite bank. As you go underneath the railway bridge, you will have a bit of an overgrown path to navigate before crossing a small footbridge. Just after the bridge, your path will intercept the cycle path (route 65). Turn right onto the cycle path and follow it.
It will curve away from the river along a row of pretty houses. Just after the houses, turn right still sticking to the cycle path. If you go straight you will hit the A19 (you don't want to do that). Keep following the path underneath the A1237 and keep going. You will pass the York Ings (flood plains) and eventually will start to get into the built up city centre. The path ends at Museum Gardens, where you will be spoilt for choice with places to get a cold drink. The Star Inn the City has a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the river, for a cold pint of something reviving after a hot summer's walk. There are no places to stop for a drink or food on the way so do take water and snacks with you. I also recommend long trousers in summer as the path can be overgrown with nettles in places.
Alternatively, walk the other way going York to Beningbrough - just as simple. The only place you could go wrong is to miss the path that goes off to the left of the cycle route. You'll spot it as there is a bench on the side of the path at that point When you get to Beningbrough, enjoy a fine lunch or afternoon tea at Home Farm.
This is one my regular walks and it's a great one. Just be careful of the Giant's Hogweed that grows in some parts along the route. You don't want to touch it. It causes dark painful blisters that form within 48 hours, and result in scars that can last anywhere from a few months to six years. Touching giant hogweed can also cause long-term sunlight sensitivity, and blindness if sap gets into a person's eye. It looks like this:
Here's the piece that the Sunday Telegraph did on the walk:
June - what a fabulous month. If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, that means it is summer which is already a great reason to get out walking. But here are seven other slightly quirky reasons to get your boots on this month:
1. It's National Fish & Chips Day on 1 June
There is truly nothing better than going for a long coastal walk and ending it with some delicious fish and chips. If ever you needed an incentive to get outdoors and feel fully justified in having this less than healthy treat, this is it. Walking burns calories. Tuck in with impunity. One of my favourites are the chips from Magpie Cafe in Whitby (as pictured above) after walking a stretch of the North Yorkshire coast. Where is your favourite walk with fish and chip stop?
2. Go on a butterfly safari
The 2nd of June is Butterfly Education and Awareness Day. Which in my book is just a good excuse to head out for a walk and see how many different butterflies you can spot. This Guardian article gives some good ideas of which butterflies you can see where. But frankly, just head out and see what you can see. It's also a great way to get younger kids outdoors - tell them they're going on a butterfly safari and they won't realise they're walking.
3. Help protect the environment
5 June is World Environment Day. As walkers, we thrive on the beauty of the countryside, but all too often people leave their litter lying around. Why not head out on a walk and pick some litter up as you go? Plogging (jogging and picking up litter) is all the rage, so why not extend it to your next walk and do your bit for the environment. You'll get the fresh air and exercise with a side order of feel good for doing something great for the countryside.
Another way you can help ensure we can all enjoy the great outdoors is by cutting back on plastic. Instead of taking a single use plastic water bottle with you on your walk, replace it with a reusable bottle. #BanPlasticPollution.
4. Enjoy a pint at a pub after a good long hike
Ah - an ice cold pint of beer in a sunny beer garden after a long, hot walk is sheer bliss. And 15 June is the perfect day to do it because it's Beer Day Britain. Whoop! And it's a Friday. Here's the idea. Plan a day off walk. Grab a group of friends (or find some Glamoraks in our online community of women who walk) and head out for a walk and a pint. You will feel like you've had a mini holiday just by doing this one simple thing.
5. Have a picnic
If you prefer your lunch with a view, June is the perfect time to do that as it's National Picnic Week from 15 - 24 June. You can make your picnic as fancy as you like, or just grab a couple of sarnies, a cold drink and a favourite chocolate bar - then head off with some friends. Choose your perfect viewing spot just as your feet are starting to ache. Get those boots off and wriggle your toes around while you tuck into your feast. Lie back and enjoy the sun on your face. Life doesn't have to be complicated to be pretty darn perfect. (This picture was taken during a Glamoraks walking weekend - our picnic spot had a view of the Seven Sisters. Stunning.)
6. Remember your dad
It's Father's Day on 17 June, the perfect time for a family walk. But if your dad is no longer around and you don't have family to go walking with, why not head out on a walk on your own - or with a friend if you're not confident (try the Glamoraks community) and enjoy a peaceful walk in a place he would have loved. Take time out to remember him and return home feeling calm, peaceful and ok with things just as they are.
7. Celebrate the Solstice with a wild camp
On 21 June we celebrate the longest day of the year. It's the perfect day to go on an adventure so why not plan a wild camp? After work, head out to a hill or a stretch of coast. Grab a bit of dinner at a pub on the way or take a meal with you. As the sun only sets around 10pm, you have plenty of time to walk and find a spot. As with all wild camping, you should ideally get the land owner's permission but if you can't, be sure to set up camp late and leave early. Not brave enough to go on your own? Head over to Glamoraks and ask in the community. With enough notice, you will hopefully find a fellow adventurer. If the forecast is to be rain free, don't even bother with a tent. Just take a bivvy bag and a sleeping bag and sleep under the stars. You will feel as though you've conquered Everest afterwards and you may just become addicted to the wild camping life.
If you are a woman who loves to walk or go on adventures, join Glamoraks, an online community that helps you find other women near you. For your life to get a whole lot happier, all it takes is one small step into new adventures. Join us!
Glamoraks is a global online community that connects women so that they have someone to go walking with either in their local area, or to a place they're travelling to. Glamoraks members are all different - with different ability levels, interests and goals. It's useful to learn about other members to get inspired by their stories and to realise that these aren't just names in an online community, but real people.
Meet Louise Shorten, a Glamoraks member who lives in a small village south of Ripon in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire. She shares her experience of being part of Glamoraks and what it's given her.
I'm married (20th anniversary this year!) to Chris and we have two children - Jack, 16 and Millie, 12. We also have a little dog called Harry, and somehow (!) two ponies, Fleur and Bobby. I work at home for my father's business located in the USA and I manage the company's marketing. We lived in the USA for a year and returned back to the UK in 2014, then moved home to North Yorkshire (where I am from originally) last summer.
I am up for any type of walking and adventure but I most enjoy multi-day hike and long trails. Chris (somewhat reluctantly) and I completed the coast to coast walk last year after walking it over the three holidays - I'd love to do it in one go! Other walks/ambitions on my to-do list are: High Cup Nick, the Camino Way, complete the Wainwrights and to camp out/sleep in a bothy! I also have a love of maps and relish the challenge of navigating. I have completed my NNAS Silver award but I would like to complete the gold in the future and now I am in the perfect environment to do this!
I'd joined Glamoraks in the hope of meeting new friends to walk with who live near me as when I moved I didn't know anyone other than my extensive family who mostly live in Yorkshire. It's also difficult as an adult to make new friends quickly and to develop a deeper relationship than the occasional "hello" and chit chat - so Glamoraks hits both objectives in one.
I've been on two weekends away with Glamoraks (Malham and the Coastal Caper) and I've joined and organised a few walks. I have met lots of fellow Glamoraks and have made some new lovely friends! We're all different but it's great to chat about our loves and to share a love of walking and the outdoors.
When you go somewhere new with new people you've never met, you never know what it's going to be like so I did have a sense of nervous anticipation but I just thought that most of us will be in the same boat - what had I got to lose and worse case if I didn't like it, I could choose not to go again! I did enjoy it very much though and felt very happy with the sense of possibilities for getting out and about that could come from it in the future. The opportunity to meet new friends isn't going to come to me so I have to make it happen in whatever way I can. Being out of your comfort zone can be stressful but you will never regret it and will always grow stronger from it.
I think Glamoraks offers a safe as possible environment in which to connect and meet other women who love walking. It offers a platform for inspiration and motivation to get out and be adventurous. Like many women as they get older, I feel a greater sense of vulnerability and have an eroding level of confidence but Glamoraks provides an opportunity to regain some of our former selves and some of the joie-de-vivre of our youths!
My advice to other women is: life can be short so just do it - NOW!!! Life might pass you by and before you know it your situation may change and the opportunity could be lost.
I've definitely been inspired by other Glamoraks. We've all have our fair share of baggage but it's great to know that you're not alone. It's a chance to discover new places, to be uplifted, motivated to get out and feel great! I'm looking forward to my next Glamoraks walk wherever that may be...
If you want to get out walking more often, make new friends and explore new places, join Glamoraks. You get a two week free trial to test it out first so what is there to lose? CLICK HERE TO JOIN
Anyone new to hiking may not realise the importance of a good pair of socks. In fact they may blame their blisters or sore feet on their footwear, when in fact the culprit is inadequate socks.
So what makes hiking socks different to regular socks besides the big price tag?
I spoke to Jim Evans, a product manager at Bridgedale, a company that specialises in hiking socks. Watch the video or read the quick summary below:
Why do you need hiking socks? Why not just use regular socks?
Hiking socks have far more padding on them using something called Terry Loop, the same kind of stuff your bath towels are made of. This padding goes up the back of the ankle, on the heel cup and around the toes. It will vary depending on the type of footwear you are wearing - ankle height boots or more of a trainer style.
So what does that do?
The padding on hiking socks helps prevent foot fatigue. It acts as a cushion so your feet get less tired or sore, particularly on long hikes or wearing heavier boots.
Does the sock you use vary on the type of walk you want to do?
The sock you choose depends more on the type of footwear you will be wearing. For example, if you are wearing a thick leather boot for winter walking, you might want more protection around the toe of the sock for warmth and padding. Similarly, if you have ankle boots, you'll choose a sock with more padding higher up the ankle. Trainer style walking shoes don't need padding in the same places. Jim's top tip: whichever socks you try on when you purchase your boots should be the same type of socks you wear all the time.
Let's talk blisters. What causes them and how do hiking socks help?
Blisters are caused by two things:
1. Friction - any place that your foot rubs against your sock or sock and boot, a friction point will occur. You will feel it start to get hot and if you take your boots off, it will look slightly red. That is how a blister starts to form. It's best to put a plaster on the area immediately before the blister forms. Also re-adjust your sock or laces and check your boots for debris or loose threads in your socks or boots that may be causing the hot spot.
2. Moisture - when skin gets wet, it gets soft. Add friction to the mix, and a blister is likely to occur. Moisture doesn't just come from standing in puddles in boots that aren't waterproof. Your feet sweat as you walk, which creates moisture. Hiking socks are designed to wick the moisture away. Bridgedale, for example, use a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. They're designed to draw the moisture from the foot, hold it within the sock so that it can then be evaporated away.
Do you need different socks for summer?
Ideally you should always wear the same type of socks that you used when you purchased your boots, but there are lighter-weight socks that have less fabric using a mesh design for greater breathability, yet still have good protective padding. See our give-away below. If your feet get hot in summer, you might want to try a cooler pair of walking shoes - and then choose lighter weight socks to go with them.
Do you need a liner sock / two pairs of socks?
The two socks only work if the inner sock is particularly slippery. The inner and out sock need to be able to slide over each other. You can't team two thick pairs of walking socks together for instance as they wouldn't slide. You could use a specific liner sock underneath your hiking sock. They don't have any terry loop, so they're much thinner. They are typically used more for extra padding or warmth, rather than as a blister avoidance technique, but some people use two pairs and swear it prevents blisters. Liners can be changed easily midway through a walk, to reduce moisture, while keeping the same pair of hiking socks on throughout the day. Jim suggests beginner walkers don't start with two pairs of socks. Just get a good single pair until you know what works for you.
How to choose the right size sock
Socks come in a size range e.g. 4 - 7, and there is normally enough give in them to accommodate your feet if you are on the cusp of a size e.g. on the line between medium or large. If you have to choose, go for a slightly bigger sock than a smaller one. You obviously don't want to go too big as that will cause excess fabric in the boot that could rub. But having a sock that is too small means that the heel cup will try to pull downwards as you walk, leaving your sock halfway down your foot. Which is super annoying!
How should you care for your socks?
Strictly speaking, you should wash hiking socks - like Bridgedales - on a wool cycle, washed inside out and shouldn't go into the tumble dryer. But in reality, most people (including Jim) wash their hiking socks as part of a normal wash and do tumble dry them - just be sure to use a low setting. BUT MEGA BONUS TIP: Do not use fabric softener when washing your socks. Here's why:
Fabric softener's active ingredient is silicone, which causes the fibres to feel soft. But silicone is also hydrophobic, it hates water, effectively making your socks water resistant. It's what is used on the outside of waterproof jackets. So if you wash your hiking socks with fabric conditioner, you are in effect applying a layer of silicone to your socks, which removes all the natural moisture wicking properties they have. Who knew?!
Do you need to buy a woman's fit sock?
Often hiking socks are advertised as 'women's fit' but they are simply a smaller size version of a unisex sock. Bridgedale has created some specifically women-friendly features like adjusting the toe box size and heel cup, so that they fit better. That said, just because it's a women's fit sock, doesn't mean it will fit your feet if you have broad feet (similarly, men with narrow feet should look at women's socks). Don't limit yourself just because it has a designated sex on it. Try them on and see what works for you.
What should you pay for a pair of hiking socks?
As a rough guide, you should spend between 10 and 15% of whatever you spent on your footwear. So if you spent £100 on your hiking boots, you should spend between £10 and £15 per pair of hiking socks. If you're on a tight budget, you might want to consider buying slightly cheaper boots and spend more on socks. But it depends on your hiking aspirations. If you are going for shorter walks, having expensive boots might not be a priority. If you want to walk all day or do multi-day hikes, it's better to spend more on good footwear and socks.
How long should a good pair of socks last?
They can last years - in fact they often last longer than the boots, yet cost just 10 to 15% of the price. So they are a worthwhile investment, particularly if you've spent money on a big walking holiday or charity challenge, only to have it scuppered on day one by a blister thanks to poor socks.
Top sock tips:
Distance: 9-10 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (it's all flat but if you aren't used to walking 10 miles, may find it tiring!)
Type of terrain: dirt paths, grassy paths, pavement, some mud
Starting point: Stamford Bridge public car park, Viking Road, YO41 1AG
Before I get onto the walk, I want to give you a short history lesson. Stick with me. It really is interesting.
If I said the words: Stamford Bridge to the average English person, they would automatically assume I was referring to the Chelsea Football Club Stadium. But another Stamford Bridge played a far greater role in the future of Britain (and it involves slightly fewer overpaid prima donnas - but only just).
Stamford Bridge is a village five miles to the East of York, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. But this small village was the site of a battle that genuinely changed the entire future of England. Yes really. I'm not a historian but here's my understanding of what happened back in September 1066.
King Harold Godwinson had taken over the throne after Edward the Confessor died but there was a bit of a family argument about whether that was the right choice. His brother Tostig felt he should have got the job. Harold was having none of it, took away Tostig's title of Earl of Northumbria and had him exiled. That annoyed Tostig so he teemed up with the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada, who felt he too had a right to wear the English crown. When Harold (the English, not Harald the Norwegian) heard about this, he marched his army up from the South. 185 miles in just 4 days. Now anyone who has done a multi-day hike knows that is pretty impressive. I did the Coast to Coast which is 192 miles, in two weeks! And my feet hurt doing that!
Anyway, Harold and his foot-sore troops arrived at the place that is now Stamford Bridge. King Harold himself went over to Tostig and Harald and said that he was willing to give Tostig his title back. When he was asked what he'd give to the Norwegian king, Harold suggested "Seven feet of English ground, as he is taller than other men." That didn't go down too well. And so the fighting kicked off. By all accounts a single Norse giant impeded the path of the oncoming English soldiers, waving a scary looking Dane axe around. But then some plucky English chap got in a barrel and drifted under a bridge and poked a spear up into the Norseman (one can only guess where) which ended his axe wielding career and indeed life. The Englishmen went on to win the battle.
Just when Harold thought he could haul out the compeed plasters, and have a nice pork pie and a pint, he heard that some upstart French chap called William was heading over from Normandy. So poor Harold and his jolly tired soldiers had to walk all the way back down to Hastings in East Sussex and face another battle, averaging about 27 miles a day. They probably didn't have fancy walking shoes either. Frankly, despite picking up some reinforcements en route, they had had quite enough walking and fighting - understandably. And they lost that battle. William got the middle name The and last name Conqueror, and he went on to change the future of British history, with the year 1066 forever etched in school children's collective psyches.
So that is how a little village in Yorkshire came to play such a big part in English history. You're welcome.
Today you can enjoy a lovely 10-mile circular walk from Stamford Bridge without fear of being attacked by a viking. The walk starts in the free village car park just over the stone road bridge. There are many different routes you can take but I will describe the walk we did.
Leave the car park and turn right into a housing estate. Turn right again and follow the road through the estate to a T-junction. Turn right again and in about 100m you come to the old railway station on your right hand side. Turn right onto a resurfaced track-bed, passing between the platforms and the old station. This is the old railway line that goes over a viaduct. It is now route 66 of the National Cycle Network.
You walk along the top of the viaduct and then simply follow the cycle path. Besides a few short, noisy stretches that run alongside the busy A166, you soon find yourself walking through woodland and farmland, past a number of idyllic farm houses. This is a smooth and easy path, suitable for buggies (but not all of the walk is.)
When you reach a junction that says turn right to follow the cycle path or go straight, you can do either. If you go straight, you will cut about a mile off your walk. If you want that extra mile, follow the cycle path behind a farm house, through fields off rape until you get to another junction. Where the cycle path veers off to the right, you take the left hand path running alongside Hagg Wood.
When you reach a farm house with a clear farm track that looks like the obvious path to take, don't take it. Instead follow the public footpath sign towards a small copse of trees, skirting the edge of the farm house, before getting back onto a farm road.
You will come to another junction with a track that joins the road you're on from the left. Keep walking straight along your track (that other path is the short cut you could have taken earlier). At the corner of Millfield Wood, turn left and walk through a beautiful sun-dappled forest for a short time, before taking a right hand footpath towards Kexby.
Once you reach the busy A1079 in Kexby, turn left, follow the road until just before the bridge goes over the river. Look for a slightly hidden footpath sign to your left and drop down to the riverbank. Now simply follow the river across many fields all the way back to Stamford Bridge. When you get to the village, there are a couple of pubs, delis and coffee shops to revive yourself.
An alternate route is to cross over the bridge in Kexby until you reach a footpath on the left but on the opposite side of the river. Follow that, then the road to Low Catton, which has a very good pub for lunch (by all accounts). From there you follow a footpath along the river back to Stamford Bridge again.
This is a great circular walk that has free parking, a good array of refreshment stops at the beginning or end (or in Low Catton if you do that walk) and a fabulous hit of history.
If you want to find other women to go walking with, join the Glamoraks community.
Glamoraks was set up to help women find other women to go walking, hiking or adventuring with.
Picture this: you have a free weekend or day and want to head outdoors for a good long walk. You could go on your own, but you'd rather have some company. However, no-one you know is free. Do you scrap the idea or go alone? That's where the Glamoraks community kicks in to help you find a new walking buddy. So how does it work?
Here's a real life example from Jo Shaw, a Glamoraks member from Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK. Jo describes herself as a beginner walker on her community profile, saying:
"I’m very new to walking and would love to meet up with others for walks in and around Yorkshire. I would love to make some new friends, get fitter and have fun!"
Here's how she used Glamoraks to meet someone new to go walking with:
After signing up to the new Glamoraks network I put a post up asking if anyone would mind if I tagged along on a walk in the Leeds area and Claire Woodland replied to say she would be up for going walking with me. Together, we decided on a date, location and time and then posted our walk as event on the app to see if anyone else wanted to join us.
Where did you walk?
We went walking in Yorkshire Sculpture Park and managed a leisurely walk of just under 6 miles.
What was the experience like?
It was a really great experience! I was nervous about meeting up with someone new and I can get quite anxious in new situations but as soon I met Claire I felt at ease. We had lots in common, never ran out of anything to say. Our pace of walking was the same too so it was really lovely to not feel rushed or worried that we were holding anyone up. After the walk we had a well deserved ice cream in the sunshine and chatted about walks we would like to do in the future. As my first ever walk with someone I didn’t know, I thought the experience was great and has given me the confidence to go on more walks with new people.
Have you got plans for future hikes?
Yes, I'm now arranging another hike for June and am happy to have others in the area join me.
Would you like to meet other like-minded women to get out walking with? Join Glamoraks. We have 1,200 members across the UK and now in a number of countries around the world.