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
Many women are lonely. They may only have young children for company all week. They could work from home on their own and barely see another human being. They could be surrounded by a huge social or work network and yet still feel lonely. Their long term relationship might have ended or their partner just isn't as interested in doing stuff together anymore. Their kids may have left home, leaving that hole in their world.
On top of that, modern life with posts on social media, texts instead of calls and superficial rushed conversations means that even those people with a big group of friends can feel lonely and unheard.
But there is a cure. Walking with other women.
Walking is known to boost your mood, so feelings of loneliness will feel lessened after a good stomp in the fresh air. But, if you add other women to the walk, you get the chance to have deeper, longer conversations that you typically just don't have time for in normal rushed life. When you walk with women you don't really know, you can simply be yourself. You can leave your 'mum', 'co-worker', 'wife', 'school gate friend' persona behind. Your true self comes to the fore and you can talk about stuff far more freely without risk of judgement. And that gives us the sense of being heard and being less alone.
Glamoraks was set up to get more women walking and connecting and in so doing, making them happier one step at a time.
This February, we are inviting women to take part in Friendship February (#FebFriendship). Join the Facebook group, choose a date and place that you want to go walking and invite others to join you.
Here are just a few of the benefits:
The picture at the top of this post was taken this week when a group of Glamoraks got together simply by using the Facebook group. At the start of the day, I was completely lacking in mojo and had a bad case of the blues. By the end of the walk, I felt completely rejuvenated and full of energy. And that feeling lasted all of the next day too. I got through more work in that day than I had in the preceding three days - all because I'd gone for a walk and met some lovely ladies.
Don't feel lonely. Don't wait for someone to invite you to something. Join the group, set up a walk and hopefully you will find some fabulous new walking friends. Use the hashtag #FebFriendship on your post.
While you're here, please help us reach our goal of doubling our number of members in a single month. Invite your friends to join you in the group. The bigger the group, the more likely women are to find someone to walk with.
It was a chilly morning when 14 ladies gathered in the carpark at Sandsend in mid-January. Some had come alone, others with a friend. All were ready to have a good, long stomp to blow away the January blues and to walk off any lingering Christmas calories. After adding layers, checking backpacks and having final cups of tea from the nearby cafe, we set off.
We walked the two miles along the beach towards Whitby, leaping over streams - some broader than others - as the tide rushed out. Walking along beach sand is remarkably tiring and soon layers were being stripped off and cheeks were pink from the cold and exertion.
Too early for fish and chips, we ignored the waft of vinegar and made our way through the old fishing town to the famous 199 steps that lead up to the ruins of Whitby Abbey. If we weren't warm before, we certainly were by the top of the stairs. We bid farewell to two of our group who were off to do their own shorter walk, while we headed for the clifftop path.
Layers of ice made the path through a campsite slippery but soon we were on the muddy path, taking in the stunning coastal views. This route is part of the Cleveland Way, a long distance walking path that starts in Helmsley and ends in Filey, with exceptional North Yorkshire scenery for all of it. It's easy to break the walk up into stages and do them anytime you have a free day or weekend.
We chatted and learnt more about each other as we slipped about in the mud. On several occasions we narrowly missed having a muddy landing and in one, case, did!
We stopped for a picnic lunch in a field with an impressive view. The day had brightened up and the sun eventually popped out as we continued on our way. I have personally done this stretch several times, the first time kickstarted my love of walking. It also forms part of the Coast to Coast route, either being the first or last day of the multi-day hike depending on which way you are going. My cousin Lynda - who did the Coast to Coast with me - had flown from Sweden to join me for this Glamoraks weekend, so we had a moment of nostalgia as we found the C2C sign.
With the sun starting to dip in the sky, we made our way down the steep hill into Robin Hoods Bay, a fishing village made up of tiny houses stacked higgledy piggledy on top of one another. Half our party headed to the pub in search of a restorative ale or port, the other half found the last open tea shop and tucked into slices of cake, scones and pots of tea.
Suitably revived, we headed off towards Boggle Hole, just 20 minutes away. The sun was setting, creating a beautiful scene with the snow on the moors ahead of us. We got to the hostel just as it got dark. If you've not been to Boggle Hole hostel before, you are missing a trick. It is festooned in bunting and nautical paraphernalia, with plenty of hidden objects for children to find. And it's situated right on the beach. You can hear the waves crashing as you lie in bed.
After finding our shared rooms, we reconvened in the cosy dining room with a roaring log fire. Glasses of wine, a hearty chicken curry followed by apple pudding and we all felt ready for bed. We had, after all, done 11.5 miles of fairly tiring walking across sand and slipping on mud!
Another reason for the early bed time was Sunday's weather forecast of strong winds and snow arriving mid afternoon, which meant we needed an early start. While we all had the right kit to keep warm, none of us fancied trying to drive back home over the North Yorkshire Moors in a blizzard.
We got the chef up bright and early to cook us a hearty breakfast, while taking in the magnificent sunrise. We bid farewell to four of the ladies who wanted a shorter day and a nosey around the quaint shops of Robin Hood's Bay, before getting the bus back to Sandsend. The rest of us retraced our steps along the path the way we'd come as the tide was still too high to do the beach walk. We were treated to even more spectacular views of the sunrise and we all agreed that it was moments like this that made us face the sub-zero temperatures and get outdoors.
After making our way back up the steep hill in Robin Hood's Bay, we opted for the Cinder Track, a route that runs roughly parallel to the coastal path only it's slightly more solid with less slippy mud. However, what it lacked in mud, it made up for in slippy ice. We still managed to make better time and soon rejoined the coastal path again. Thanks to the very low overnight temperatures, all the mud had frozen solid, making it much easier to walk back.
We managed to get to Whitby in time for lunch. General agreement was to ditch the packed lunch we'd been given in favour of fish and chips from the famous Magpie. What a treat to tuck into warm chips and gravy on an icy cold day (with the added bonus of trying to fend off dive bombing seagulls).
We could see the weather setting in so we headed back up the beach to Sandsend for our final two miles. As we reached the carpark, the snow arrived, flying in sideways on the wind. A quick cup of tea at the Wits End Cafe, and we dashed to our cars. We drove in convoy up and over the moors in a blizzard, with deep snow on the road sides. Had the driving conditions not been quite so scary, it would have been beautiful, like a scene out of a Christmas card.
We all made it home with rosy cheeks and tired legs. A total of 23 miles walks, washed down with cake, fish and chips, wine, curry, good chat and the chance to forget about day to day life. The perfect Glamoraks weekend really!
If you would like to meet other women for fabulous weekends like this, join the Glamoraks community.
If you'd like to do this walk, park at the Sandsend carpark (free of charge over winter), postcode YO21 3TD. Walk along the beach to Whitby (or the signposted path if the tide is in). Head over the bridge in Whitby and follow signs for the Abbey ruins. Climb the 199 steps, walk through the car park and turn left onto the coastal path. Follow this through a caravan site and then simply follow it all the way to Robin Hood's Bay. When you enter Robin Hood's Bay, turn left onto the main road heading down towards the sea. Just after Smugglers pub, turn right and follow the coastal path signs again until you reach Boggle Hole. You simply retrace your steps the next day. Or, take the sign post for the Cinder Track just outside Robin Hood's Bay (where the Coastal Path starts again). Turn right off the track when you reach a road that leads to Northcliffe holiday park. Walk through the park and you'll reconnect with the coastal path. Turn left and follow it back to Whitby and then on to Sandsend. roughly 11.5 miles each way.
See the smiles on those faces? They didn't get there by accident. They got there because a bunch of women who didn't know each other, got together for a good long walk in the countryside.
And this Monday - 15 January - is officially called Blue Monday. It's the day when most people feel pretty glum. The weather is rubbish. The endless darkness is depressing. You feel fat, poor, a bit lost in your relationship or job and you can't even cheer yourself up with a glass of wine or box of chocolates because that would mean you are giving up on your healthy eating resolutions after just two weeks.
Well Glamoraks has the perfect solution to banish the blues. It's called Merry Monday. But frankly, you can take any day next week.
Here's what you do. Head over to the Facebook group and post the following (or a variation thereof):
On 15 January (or a date of your choice if you're busy), I am going to be walking <insert location> at <insert time>. Would anyone like to come? #MerryMonday.
If you see someone post that and you think: heck, that's near me. Yes please. Then respond. Arrange a meet up. Get walking. Get talking. Get fresh air. Forget about everything else that may not be perfect. Just enjoy the miles and the company. And you could be anywhere in the world. Just name your location and you never know, there may be a Glamorak near you. If there's not, invite a friend near you, get them to join Glamoraks and go together. Be sure to share your pictures from your walk in the group afterwards.
Why is this a good thing?
If you aren't on Facebook, feel free to share it on Twitter and see if you can find someone that way. Use the hashtags #MerryMonday and #Glamoraks
If you know anyone who loves walking, please invite them to join the group. It is open to women around the world. Together we can make the world a happier place one step at a time.
This time a year ago, Glamoraks didn't exist. The name was simply a nickname I gave to my glamorous friends who I dragged out walking with me. But an opportunity to appear in a national magazine prompted me into creating something I'd been mulling over for a while - a group to inspire more women to get out walking.
I created the Glamoraks.com website and set up a free Facebook group, with no real idea of what I wanted it to be other than what I had written on the website:
"I want to get more women walking. We're all so busy - careers, being mothers, looking after elderly parents, relationships, life. Walking is the escape that lets you put down the mascara wand and step away from the busy-ness of life. It simplifies everything. It gives you time to think, reflect, talk and connect. It's just you, what you can fit in your pack, the track in front of you and whoever is walking with you. It is low cost, really good exercise, a brilliant way to destress and the best endorphin hit you can get. It makes you happy.
Well since then, the Facebook group has grown to more than 775 members from places as far afield as the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Morocco and South Africa - not to mention a huge contingent from across the UK. It's been featured in Top Sante, Healthy, Good Housekeeping magazines with regular mentions on BBC Radio York. The name as been trademarked. I've written 50 blog posts, shared the voices of others through guests posts and set up a Youtube channel (feel free to subscribe!)
The first Glamoraks walking weekend was held in Malham in November, with 14 women coming together to share a common love of getting outdoors. The second weekend will be held in January 2018 along the Yorkshire Coast - it sold out in less than 24 hours (one spot has become available due to a cancellation so grab it if you want it!)
Personally, this year I've:
I did this alongside running my main business and being a wife and mother with all the never-ending jobs that involves! I have at times been immensely frustrated with not having the time to dedicate myself to Glamoraks more fully and therefore not being able to grow it as quickly as I would like to. But when I look back on the year, I am so proud of how far it has come. What makes me happier still is when I receive messages like this:
'Went for a lovely walk in Hyde Park on Saturday....feel so inspired to just get out there and walk now with Glamoraks on my FB wall. Suddenly not even thinking about the weather.'
'My daughter sent me your article. What a fantastic idea! I adore walking and the outdoors. I have been on my own for almost 15 years and would love the company of others like myself. I'm a young, independent, glamorous woman. Unfortunately my friends don't share my enjoyment of walking or have the time away from their husbands. Would love to hear more about Glamoraks.'
'What a fantastic job you are doing inspiring women to walk - thank you!'
So where is Glamoraks headed in 2018?
Firstly, I hope to have more Glamoraks walking weekends away, run by me as well as qualified mountain leaders. The dates for those will hopefully come out in January. Make sure you subscribe to the newsletter to receive details first.
I would love to grow the community all over the world. So please do share the group with any friends you have you enjoy a good walk, hike or adventure.
But most importantly, I want the Glamoraks community to be able to find others to walk with. I don't want you to have to wait for a walk in your area or on a date that suits. I really want you to to feel confident to go walking whenever you like, either on your own or simply by reaching out to other Glamoraks near you. Perhaps you want to take on a big multi-day walk or charity challenge, but don't have anyone to do it with. Or you want to connect to a regular group of women in your area to go for an impromptu walk or fitness walk or dog walk. Which is why I am looking to create either an app that connects women with others who have similar walking levels and interests, or a membership website that has similar functionality. There is nothing stopping you from doing this right now in the free Facebook group, but it can be hard to track threads as they disappear down in the group. I want to make it easy for everyone to find someone to go walking with.
All of this takes a lot of funding and time, neither of which I have much of. But I am working my hardest to make it happen. So watch this space.
On top of that, I want to take on a big challenge of my own in 2018. I had planned to walk the Cape Wrath Trail Solo, but after speaking to various experts and having spent several nights doing navigation in bogs, I realised it was probably a step too far beyond my capabilities. But I will be doing something, starting with good number of walks in Northumberland over the New Year period.
What about you?
What walking challenge would you like to take on in 2018? It doesn't have to be a BIG challenge. You can simply set yourself a target of how many miles you want to walk. All I would say is that you are more capable than you realise. So stretch yourself slightly more than you believe you are currently capable of, and go for it. A year from now, you will be so pleased that you did.
To help you stay focused, I've created a downloadable poster that you can print off, stick on your wall or fridge and let it serve as a reminder to get your boots on and get outdoors!
GET YOUR POSTER HERE.
Here's to an amazing 2018. Let's make the world happier one step at a time.
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
Want to meet other women to go wild camping with?Join Glamoraks.
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.
We recently ran a Glamoraks Photo Competition in which I asked women to share a photo from one of their walks, with an accompanying statement that completed this sentence: I walk because.....
Their images and words were beautiful and inspiring, so I've compiled them into this video. Have a watch and then let me know in the comments what your reason for walking is. Hopefully the video will inspire you to get walking too!
If you'd like to meet other women to go walking with, join the global online community here.
Next weekend I will be heading to a festival. I'll be sleeping in a tiny tent in a field with a bunch of strangers. I won't know a soul there. I'll be doing some activities I've not tried before. I have no idea what to expect. If I'm honest, there's a big part of me that wants to pull out of it. But I am going. Here's why:
Because it's too easy to stay comfortable. As we get older, we get more fearful, more used to creature comforts, less confident in our ability to try new things. And one day when I'm on my deathbed, I don't want to look back on my life and be unable to pick out memorable moments because I had lost my sense of adventure. Let's face it, no-one remembers the daily commute, that epic Netflix binge watching session, that 20 millionth load of laundry they put on. They remember the things that made them feel something profound.
Not all of those profound feelings are good. Some of the toughest moments in life are the things we remember most vividly. But the funny thing about humans is our ability to endure challenges and then reframe them into something positive. Unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you never know what you are capable of. There could be a whole other side to you that you don't even realise you have. It's just waiting to be freed. And that could be a magical discovery that changes the rest of your life.
So I may not enjoy this festival weekend. Or I may have the best time ever. But unless I go and experience it, I will never know.
This September I invite you to join me in #SayYesSept. It's your chance to step outside of your comfort zone and take on a challenge. It doesn't have to be huge or epic, just something that pushes you out of 'being comfortable'. It might not be a big enough challenge for you to even remember in a year's time, but each time you try something that pushes your comfort level, you will find yourself feeling a little bit stronger, a bit more confident, a bit braver. And each step will add up to a bigger, fuller, more exciting life that one day you will look back on and say: I did all of that!
Here's a list of things you could try this month to kickstart the journey to a lifetime of epic memories:
1. Go for a longer walk than you normally do
2. Go for a walk on your own
3. Go for a walk with a stranger. Use the Glamoraks Facebook Group to find someone in your area.
4. Climb a really big hill with incredible views
5. Go on a multi day hike
6. Carry what you need on your back for an overnight hike
7. Wild camp with someone
8. Wild camp on your own
9. Stay in a hostel, sharing a room with strangers
10. Catch public transport to a place you've never been - then explore using a map
11. Go to a group event where you don't know anyone
12. Organise a group walk for others - use the Glamoraks group for this too!
13. Try a new activity that you've not done before
14. Sign up to a charity challenge
15. Set a target to walk 5 miles a day for a month (or ten!)
16. Put a date in the diary two years from now to do that big walk you've always wanted to do - like the PCT, the Camino de Santiago, the Inca Trail, the Coast to Coast, climbing Kilimanjaro or reaching Everest Base Camp. Then tell people that you plan on doing it. Then start planning. Once you commit a date and tell people, it forces you to take action.
For some adventurers, these might seem like very tame goals. But for people who have yet to push their bravery or comfort limits in any way, these will seem difficult. Choose whatever level is right for you. But just make the decision to use this September to say yes more. If an opportunity comes your way, don't hesitate. Say yes and figure out the rest later. If you are a woman who constantly puts other first - kids, parents, partner, work, commitments - it's time to say: Nope, it's my time.
So are you in? If so, be sure to share what you will be doing over on the Facebook group or on social media. Just use the hashtag #SayYesSept and tag me @Glamoraks so that I can keep track. If enough people get involved I'll turn it into a video of experiences, so be sure to share pics or short videos about what you've done.
Let's get out there and start living! You only get one life. Make it count.