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.
Five years ago a man called Alastair Humphreys gave the speech day address at my children's school. He was on a mission to get people to have microadventures - a mini adventure that you can fit into every day life. It should challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone but still be achievable.
That speech inspired me and soon afterwards I started walking, having my first microadventure when I set off walking 14 miles on my own and staying in a hostel. Since then I've gone on to have plenty of adventures, but I had yet to wild camp. So when I saw that Alastair was running his Summer Solstice Microadventure challenge, I knew it was time to push my comfort zone a little bit further.
My plan had been to go wild camping on the summer solstice (21 June) but despite having arranged childcare and having my bag fully packed, the Met Office put out a yellow warning for thunder, lightning, gales and very heavy rain showers with the potential for localised flooding. That didn't sound particularly sensible to be camping in, particularly on the top of a hill. I had to put my plans on hold and wait for better weather.
Last night that weather arrived. Once again I packed and this time headed off, leaving my husband and children at home, all three thinking I was daft in the head. My microadventure would see me do three things I'd never done before:
1. Carry all the kit I needed on my back for an overnight stay
2. Wild camp
3. Camp on my own
My comfort zone was going to be well and truly pushed. But too many women - particularly mothers and those whose 20s and early 30s are well behind them - spend their lives observing life through their kids or doing things for others instead of experiencing life first hand. I'm on a mission to change that and I can't tell others to do it if I don't do it myself.
But first things first.....
Where to wild camp?
My biggest challenge with wild camping was trying to find somewhere to go. In England, legally you are not allowed to camp anywhere you like. You're supposed to get the land owner's permission. But that can be very tricky to do and it spoils the spontaneity of it. The advice is to find somewhere tucked away, out of view, don't make fires and don't leave anything behind. Arrive late, leave early and no-one will be any the wiser.
I spent a good amount of time trying to find a suitable spot by looking at maps. I wanted somewhere remote, but not so remote that if anything happened I'd be in tricky spot. I didn't want to run the chance of bumping into people. I wanted views and it had to be not too far from my home in York.
After doing some research, I found the very spot in a secret location on the North Yorkshire Moors. It was 50 minutes drive away, was a short walk from a pub/civilisation, but was remote enough to not be found. And it had stunning views.
What to take wild camping?
Here's what I took. You could get away with less:
I set off from York at 6.20pm on a Sunday evening and drove north, towards the moors before arriving 50 minutes later in the exceptionally quaint hamlet, closest to my chosen destination. I knew it had an Inn, but I hadn't realised it also had a tiny tearoom and shop, which amazingly was open at 7.15pm on a Sunday evening. I popped in for my crisps and chocolate bar and asked for directions. She pointed out the general direction to me and said I could park my car behind the village hall. That was handy to know as there is nowhere else suitable to leave your car overnight. I tucked mine out of sight behind the hall and set off up the hill.
I began my short brutal walk - only about 15 minutes but straight up - before I was on the top of the hill with magnificent views on all sides.
I followed the path along the ridge line, looking for somewhere to make camp. I reach the cairn on the hill summit and noticed several dips off to the left hand side just before the cairn. They would be out of sight of anyone on the path and out of sight of anyone below. They were also slightly less exposed to the wind than on the very top. Because the thing about hills is that they're high up and therefore windy!
I chose a little dip that had a tiny tree for a bit more shelter and attempted to pitch my tent. This proved a challenge as the ground had a layer of soft spongy moss to lie on, but a layer of solid rock just beneath it, making it impossible to get the pegs to grip. But I finally managed it and rewarded myself with my glass of red wine and an exceptional sunset.
It truly was magnificent. The bright daylight had transformed into an array of purples, pinks, corals and golds. Every five minutes it would change, each more stunning than the last. It hit me that the sun setting really is an artistic masterpiece that is available for free every day to every person - you just have to step away from your screens and head outdoors. I watched the wind blow through the grass, saw birds swooping for a late supper of bugs and heard their night time calls, while sheep far below were baaing to their lambs. It was truly magical.
Unlike an inside space, the great outdoors is always moving, whether it's clouds scudding past or long grass waving, there is a sense of perpetual movement. As the night sky darkened, it seemed as though the stars themselves were racing across the sky, but it was just a trick played by the clouds rushing along. I tried to read my book, taking nips of cherry liqueur as it grew colder, but my attention kept getting distracted by the view.
Just after 11pm I decided to retire. It was a battle between my closing eyelids and my desire to wait until it got truly dark. But my eyelids won and I slunk into my tent and fell asleep instantly.
I'm not sure what time it was, but possibly 1am I woke to the sound of wind howling around the tent. Having pitched next to a tree for shelter, the wind sounded even louder as it funnelled its way through the branches. I lay listening to it a while, wondering if my tent would take off, with its poorly secured pegs. I must have drifted off again as I had a really odd dream about an adventurer (a real life one who I know) who was shaking me awake. In my dream I sat up and said, 'Oh, I thought I was dreaming but here you are.' We had a good long chat. It seemed so real that when I eventually did wake up in the morning, I was surprised that he was no longer there. About 4am the rain started to come down but the sound was soporific and I went back to sleep until 6am.
I woke to a very wet morning. A brief respite in the rain meant I could make a cup of coffee, have my sandwich and pack up before it started again. I just managed to get everything put away when the heavens opened. I bid a hasty farewell to my campsite, making sure I'd left nothing behind. The only trace that I had been there was a slightly flattened bit of grass.
I headed back the way I'd come the day before. Any plans for a longer walk home were binned as the water poured down the back of my neck. I'd failed to pack waterproofs!
It was a brilliantly refreshing start to the day. Instead of chivvying kids into uniforms or sitting in traffic, I got rain pelting my face, sheep to yell good morning to and views of rolling green hills.
So would I recommend it?
Hell yes. It seems much more scary in the planning than it actually is to do it. I loved going on my own as there is something beautiful about solitude. But I can imagine that going with a friend would have a completely different feel and would be a lot of fun.
If you want to feel alive and come home grinning from ear to ear, go wild camping. It doesn't matter how old your are or that you're a woman (it's not just for blokes!). Go have a microadventure. You'll be so glad you did.
Watch the video below for a taste of what it was like. And if you'd like to meet other likeminded ladies who love to walk and adventures, join the Glamoraks community.
Distance: 5 miles (more if you get lost)
Difficulty: Moderate (some hills to climb and map reading required)
Type: Farmland, forest
Start point postcode: YO62 5HH - Cowhouse Bank Carpark, North Yorkshire, UK
After days of being trapped indoors due to a combination of work and utterly foul weather, I decided to head off on an easy 5 mile walk on the edge of the North York Moors. I have a little book called Short Walks in the North York Moors, by Collins. Now this book has given me plenty of really good walk suggestions and the instructions are typically easy to follow and as each walk includes a map, there is no need to take an additional big map with you.
The walk I chose was one called Upper Riccal Dale, that starts from a Forestry Commission carpark called Cowhouse Bank. To find it, head out of Helmsley, through a tiny hamlet called Carlton and shortly thereafter you find the exceptionally quiet carpark. There is bench with lovely views over Bransdale from the carpark.
I parked up, the only car there and got that lovely sense that I was the only person in the world. You start out by crossing the road you've just driven in on and heading off down a forest track. Through gaps in the trees you get glimpses of the views over the dale below, dotted with sheep. The path was exceptionally boggy underfoot on account of the three days of torrential rain we'd just had but I didn't care. It was peaceful and quiet. If it's been raining, wear gaiters!
The path went back on itself down the side of the hill until reaching a farm track. It was here that my first navigation issue arose. According to the book, 'Go right on the farm road. Cross the bridge and climb through two fields away from the stream towards Howl Wood Farm.' But at the entrance to that farm road were two big signs saying PRIVATE - NO ENTRY. That's never a welcoming sign. I couldn't see any right of way signs or footpath signs but everything else seemed to indicate that this was the way I should go. So I went in.
Although there was a stream (very pretty) and a bridge, there were no fields to climb through. Just a track that made it's way up to the farm buildings. I figured it must be right, so I kept walking. The book said, 'Go left through the farmyard and left through a gate beyond the farm tip to follow a faint track ahead.'
I really, really don't like walking through farms. Firstly, it feels as though I am trespassing on someone's property - and the big PRIVATE - NO ENTRY signs certainly reinforced that. Secondly, there are always old, empty barns creaking in the wind, with rusty hooks and other dangerous looking pieces of equipment lying around. I always expect a scary bloke to come out carrying a bloodied meat cleaver while spitting out chewing tobacco, telling me to either 'Get orf my land' or 'To come in for a visit....' (I have an over active imagination.)
Add to that, there is invariably at least one (in this case four) farm yard dogs that aren't known for their friendliness. They started barking furiously, while a gaggle of geese hissed at me as I passed them. Then the cows (luckily behind a wall) started to add to the cacophony, lowing their discontent at my presence. Luckily there was a single footpath arrow on one of the gates, so I headed at pace for that and made it through the other side breathing hard. I am very rarely scared walking on my own but on remote farms, my heart does race a little.
After that excitement, the next set of instructions was simply, 'Cross the stream by the footbridge'. I was still following the 'faint track' as described by the book but eventually I reached the end of the wall line and my path was blocked. I had obviously missed a path down to the stream where the footbridge was, but there really hadn't been a path anywhere! I retraced my steps, found no path but eventually followed sheep tracks down to where I could hear the stream flowing. Reaching the stream, there was no footbridge. So I bashed my way along the stream edge until at last I found the footbridge. Somehow I had obviously missed the path down. My advice if you're doing this walk, is when the 'faint track' starts to bend slightly north, head down the hill to your west.
Crossing the bridge, I headed up through two fields until I found a rough bit of grazing land and the Forest Chapel that the book mentioned. Like something out of Hansel and Gretel, the chapel was very sweet tucked into the forest (picture top right above). But here again, the instructions were light to say the least. 'Cut across an area of rough grazing and walk towards the road, aiming to the left of the forest chapel. Cross the metalled road and go onto a forest road.' I stood in an overgrown field with no signs of a road. Beginning to despair of my navigation skills, I saw the first - and only - person I encountered all day. A cyclist, or rather a cyclist's head, whizzed past. That must be the road!
I found a gate that led to a very overgrown track to meet the road. Should you be doing this walk, don't worry about the fact that you can't see the road or a gate or a sign of any kind. Just keep walking towards the fence line and it shall reveal itself to you.
After that, it was a simple case of following the forest track back up a steep bank to get more lovely views over Bransdale. Even though I thought I was home and dry at this point, I made one final mistake. The book said, 'At the open field, turn left away from the road on a path between forest and the field's upper boundary.'
I found the open field and turned left, but the word I missed was UPPER boundary. I turned left to soon and ended up back on the road. By which point, I thought 'Sod it' and walked back up the road to find my car where I'd left it.
The moral of the story: When going on a walk, take your time to read the instructions VERY carefully and look VERY closely at the map. Tiny signs like contour gradients, side paths and streams all give clues if the instructions aren't very detailed. I couldn't even blame my getting lost on chatting too much - which is normally the reason I go wrong.
Despite getting lost, what made this walk lovely was the remoteness of it and the fact that I didn't see another soul (other than the cyclist). If you want to escape the world for a bit, get expansive views and see plenty of wildlife, this is a great walk. Besides all the farm animals, I saw plenty of birds, hares, bunnies and a gorgeous roe deer. And now that I've found out that you can walk through the farm despite the no entry signs, you can do so with the confidence I lacked.
Below is a little video of my experience.....
If you are a woman who likes walking - either on your own or with others - please join Glamoraks community where you can share your walking experiences, get inspiration or find people to walk with. Also sign up for the Glamoraks newsletter to get details of any events we have planned.
Women join Glamoraks because they want to find someone to go walking with. It gives them a chance to meet new people, have companionship and feel safer or more confident when heading out for a walk. But even with the wonderful global community of Glamoraks, there may be times when you don't have anyone to go with you, particularly if you're planning a last minute walk. Or you may just feel the need for some solitude.
Don't let a lack of walking buddy stop you from putting those boots on.
While walking with others helps you connect at a far deeper level than our instant society normally allows and the joy of an experience shared is joy doubled, walking alone can be just as good for the soul. Here's why:
Without human company, you get time to simply be. Your thoughts are free to fly in and out of your mind with gay abandon. There's no need for conversation, although talking out loud to yourself can be liberating. As is singing loudly without a care about being off key. You have the time to absorb the beauty of the world and marvel in it. And being witness to the magnificence of nature feels like a secret gift that is yours entirely. Your time is yours, the pace your own. You choose when to stop, when to move on. Added to all of it is a slight frisson of fortitude. You are alone and that in itself is a brave thing in an overcrowded world. Your inner spirit of adventure will raise its head and you will want to yell, 'I am woman, I am fearless. Hear me roar!'
So if you are in need of some time to yourself and an escape from the masses, here on some tips on walking solo:
Share your solo walking experiences with me below. And feel free to join the Glamoraks community so that on the days you do want walking company, you can find someone to walk with. Also be sure to sign up to the newsletter to be kept abreast of walking ideas, events and initiatives.
It's Mental Health Awareness Week. So I wanted to take some time out to write about how walking has helped me with my own mental health. And I'd love for you to share your stories about how walking has helped you.
About ten years ago I went to see a therapist. I can't even remember why I went to see her. Obviously I really hadn't been feeling happy to warrant me going. Anyway, during our first session together she asked me if I suffered from depression. I laughed and said of course I didn't. After all I was running my own business and looking after two young kids and was on the go all the time. In my head, depression meant sitting in a semi comatose state, crying a lot and barely leaving the house. That wasn't me.
But she made me take a little test to check for depression and I was astounded that I was indeed suffering from mild to moderate depression. I was just a high functioning depressive. In other words, I kept busy all the time so that I didn't have to feel what was really going on underneath. I was constantly critical of myself. And I packed a lot in as a I worried about 'wasting time'. No matter what I achieved, I never got a sense of true happiness or satisfaction.
So I embarked on some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which helped a bit and made me more aware of how I was feeling. I did some other crazy things to try to regain control and a sense of purpose - like sailing across the Atlantic with 18 strangers on a boat. And while that experience certainly gave me some highs, I simply returned to normal life and felt the same (only now I knew that I could achieve incredible things if I wanted to).
The years went on and I would feel better for a bit, but it was always there. It's like I was sleep walking into unhappiness. It took a major personal crisis to get back to a therapist and a coach. Talking helped. Yoga helped.
But it was only when I started walking, that I felt a shift in me. That first proper walk I did entirely on my own, left me feeling alive like nothing else had (except for a few moments on that yacht in the Atlantic). The more I walked, the more I realised that no matter how down or tense or angry I was feeling, a couple of hours walking shifted the mood.
I have been on numerous walks where I have literally stomped out the door in a rage. Like this time. And while the rage is great for getting a lick of pace on, as time passes, my pace slackens, my heart rate slows and my mind settles. I breathe. I notice the little things like bugs, plants and quirky signs. I see the expansive views and the space around me. I feel that sense of happiness that has no purpose, other than just being.
Now there are all sorts of scientific studies that show the benefits that walking has on peoples' mental health. I won't go into those because I'm not a scientist. I simply know that forests and nature and sea air and hills all have a way of restoring my sanity and calming my soul.
Am I fixed? Do I still have depression? Do I still suffer from low self-esteem? Do I still cram my days full of things to avoid feeling or to find something to make me feel alive? Well I don't think I'm entirely fixed. I still cram a lot into my life and I am still my own worst critic. But in general I have more days that I feel happy than not. And on those bad days, I now have a tool that acts as a salve as and when I need it.
I just slip my boots on, put a pack on my back and walk. Whether that's entirely on my own or with company, it's the act of slowing down, breathing, feeling the pull of nature, having that tingle of adventure and simply becoming at one with my surroundings that works.
Walking is the best form of therapy there is. It's free and entirely natural.
I've written this because I want people to realise that mental health issues come in a variety of ways. Even if someone looks 100% fine to the outside world, inside they may not be. But if you have a niggling sense that perhaps all is not well, I suggest you take that person on a walk. And if that person is you, take yourself on a walk. You may just find yourself again.
If you are a woman who likes walking and enjoys the benefits it brings, feel free to join the community here.
I'd love to hear how walking has helped your mental health, so feel free to share it in the comments below.
I first wrote this blog post in May 2014 on a now defunct blog. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, I could find it. So here it is - the walk that started my love of walking:
Dont get me wrong, I like other people. But occasionally I do like to head out on a little adventure all by myself. It makes it slightly more scary, slightly more liberating and it gives me plenty of time to think. Or sing aloud with no-one listening.
As I have no children this week (I know, how did I wangle that one?) I decided to buy some hiking boots and a small backpack and attempt a bit of the Cleveland Way. If you did the Cleveland Way in its entirety, you'd have to walk 110 miles. I didn't have the time to do that and did I mention I had new boots?
So my grand plan was to catch a train from York to Scarborough (somehow going on a train always makes any trip seem that much more of an adventure), then walk from Scarborough to Boggle Hole Youth Hostel just before Robin Hoods Bay. And then after a night in the hostel, walk to Whitby, where I'd catch a bus and go home.
Except on the morning of my trip, the Met Office gave a yellow warning for rain all along the Yorkshire coast, with not insignificant winds just to add to the mix. Given the walk is a clifftop coastal walk, which does get very muddy and you walk quite close to the edge at times, I started to have second thoughts.
After much deliberation while the heavens poured down outside, I decided to drive to Whitby, walk to Boggle Hole and then retrace my steps. That would make a shorter walk and if the weather really got too vile, I could simply turn around and drive home.
The weather was pretty vile. But I wish I'd stuck with my original plan because it was manageable. And there is something utterly liberating about walking in the rain. If you have good shoes on, your feet stay dry. This is important. If you wear natty waterproof trousers as I did, your bottom half stays dry (even though you will look like a telly tubby). If you wear a really not very good supposedly waterproof jacket, you will get wet. But once you're wet, you're wet. And who bloody cares when you get to see this:
I walked for a good hour that morning before I saw a single other person. It was just me and the cows and the sheep and the seabirds and fields of buttercups dancing in the wind. And because no-one was there, I could sing out loud (Sound of Music was my preference) and talk to myself (yes, I know its the first sign of madness but it helps to talk out loud when you're trying to build a plot for a book). It didn't matter that my clothes were filthy, that my hair was in knots, that my face was make up free and rather sweaty. I could just be me. It was lovely.
When you stand on a clifftop, with the wind pelting rain at your face, looking out at the vast curving expanse of sea in front of you, you get a real sense of the earth's size, shape and beauty. While pretty huge, it makes you realise just how tiny it is in relation to the rest of the universe and how tinier still we are. And that puts any problems you might have into perspective, which is why you end up singing like a loon to a field of cows in the rain. Because why not?
If you like me sometimes yearn for head space and clean air to just revel in nature, I can highly recommend doing this walk (or one similar near you). Here's how to do it:
I found this website very useful, with lots of info on the trail depending on where you want to start and how much of it you want to do. It also has plenty of other trails to try out.
I started in Whitby. To find the start, just walk up the steps to the Abbey, walk through the gates as though you are going to the Abbey, but then follow the road to the left and you'll see a sign showing you where to go:
The path is clearly signposted. You will walk through a caravan park (less lovely) but once you're through that, it's just miles of gorgeous coastline to enjoy.
You will pass an old fog horn, which mercifully wasn't blaring out because it was foggy but the thing would deafen you! That is swiftly followed by a lighthouse.
Besides those two landmarks, really the route is just a series of undulating hills. There are one or two places to stop for a snack at caravan park cafes, which thankfully are off the path so you can avoid them entirely should you not need food. Large bits of the walk are flat, but you do get steep inclines and declines, with plenty of little streams to cross some by bridge, others by stepping stones.
You do occasionally have to walk through fields with cows (something I am not a fan of) but mostly you simply walk past the sheep and cows grazing on their side of the fence. In places the path does get very close to the edge of the cliff. I made sure I walked as far from the edge as possible due to the wet conditions and the erosion that is visible the entire length of the coast. It really does feel like the sea is taking big bites out of Britain and one day there will simply be no land left!
Walking into Robin Hoods Bay, you head down a very steep hill. If you've never been to Robin Hoods Bay, it is an old fishing village with houses stacked on top of each other, clinging to a steep hill as though they are afraid they might topple into the sea. I stopped for a cup of tea and scone with jam and cream at the bottom of the hill just what was needed on a very wet day.
I got to Boggle Hole (about a 1/2 mile after Robin Hoods Bay) but I felt I hadn't walked enough (I'd only done about 7 miles) so I kept going to Ravenscar. I passed the Peak Alum ruins, saw deer in fields and climbed up a steep hill through beautiful woods to get to Ravenscar. Sadly, when I got there, the fog had set in so thick that I could see nothing so had to turn around and head back to Boggle Hole.
I have stayed at Boggle Hole Youth Hostel before. This time I had to stay in a shared dorm, not something I have done since I was about 21. But it was fine the showers were hot, the beds not too uncomfy for bunkbeds and frankly all I wanted to do was sleep after eating a meal and having a small bottle of wine. After wolfing down my full English (£4.99 from YHA) this morning, I set off retracing my steps.
This was the view that greeted me this morning:
I was amazed that I had no blisters given I had new boots, but my feet were fine, if a little stiff. Like the rest of me. Who knew walking up and down hills in slippery mud could tire you out so much?
After almost reaching the end, and after stopping for a moment on a bench to admire the view and complete solitude, I begrudgingly got up and did the last slog back to Whitby. Slog, because my feet were tired by then and I had to see other people. Didn't they get the memo that the Yorkshire Coast was mine, and mine alone?
And then I rewarded myself with a proper Yorkshire lunch of chips n gravy.
And that was it. By my reckoning, about 23miles in total walked. I now have the walking bug (not to mention the boots and backpack) so will be doing a whole bunch more of it. Coast to coast perhaps?
Since I wrote this back in 2014, I have gone on to walk the Coast to Coast, the West Highland Way, climbed Snowden, walked the circumference of the Isle of Wight and have climbed Kilimanjaro - plus heaps of other walks in between. All because on that rainy weekend, I decided to put my boots on and go have an adventure. Why don't you try it? You may just find yourself in the process.
If you are a woman who loves to walk, join Glamoraks, a global online community of women who love to walk. Find new walks, meet new people and get out there more often.
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I recently did a survey asking women - who like walking - which walks were on their bucket list. I've listed the top twenty five in terms of votes received, plus a few of my own suggestions.
Time to tick a few more off my list! Which do you want to do? Got other suggestions? Tell me in the comments. Let's get women from around the world tackling walks that are dotted around the world.
So what's on your list? And having a list is great, but you really need to take action if you want to ever tick things off that list.
How to turn a bucket list into reality
Now crack on!
P.S. If you are a women who likes walking and want to find other women who you can go walking with, join Glamoraks.
Millions of women put the happiness of others before their own. It's not something we intentionally set out to do. And we're not trying to be martyrs. It just happens. This is particularly true if you are a mother. We sacrifice our weekends, our hobbies, our careers so that we can drive children to and from their activities, cheer them on as they take part in their sports or clubs, and simply be there for them even if they don't want you there.
We become a spectator, rather than a participant, in life.
But it's not just kids that we put first. We tend to put our family, parents, partners, friends, jobs, cleanliness of our homes, and our voluntary work before ourselves.
Somewhere in your 30s, you look up from a pile of nappies and wonder where the old you disappeared too. Or perhaps it's in your 40s that you realise your teenage kids no longer want you around quite as much or your job just doesn't fulfil you anymore. Possibly it's your 50s when your children are leaving home and you're faced with a stark reality of having to redefine your role. Or it could be your 60s when you retire from a job you've done all your life or a health scare wakes you up to all you've been missing. Whatever your age, we all reach that point when we realise that we've put our happiness last and it's time to fix that.
I think this is what people refer to as a mid life crisis. But you don't need to sell your house and backpack around the world or buy a convertible car or have an affair with a toy boy (but hey, feel free if any of those appeal!) All you need to do is put on a pair of boots, open your front door and start walking.
There are numerous studies that prove the benefits of walking:
There are countless studies out there about the benefits of walking. But I want to focus on the last two on that list. Because those are the ones that I think women need most.
When you've spent years putting others first, even though you are immensely capable and probably juggle a million things with the dexterity of a circus performer, you don't feel successful. That's because you're facilitating things, rather than doing them. You're watching rather than experiencing it.
Walking is a very simple, low cost way to gain a sense of achievement and stimulate your sense of adventure. Perhaps walking around the block is a big effort for you. Perhaps walking further than 5 miles is a challenge. Perhaps walking on your own seems scary. Perhaps heading to the hills where you need a map to find your way seems brave. Perhaps walking for several days in a row would be hard core. What about taking on a mountain or an epic multi-month through hike?
Everyone has their own challenge depending on where they are in life. But regardless of the size of the challenge, by doing it, you will be flooded with a sense of confidence and self belief. And that is what will make you feel genuinely happy. Hidden inside all of us is a sense of adventure. When you tap into it, you will realise what you are capable of. It's good to feel a little bit scared or a tad uncomfortable. It makes you feel alive. And feeling alive is what makes you feel happy.
So I challenge all you ladies to take up the #FindYou challenge. Go for a walk. Walk further than you usually do. Walk a different route. Plan a walking weekend. Go out in wet and windy weather. Just head out. Embrace the elements. Let yourself discover things. Slow down. Chat to strangers. Get lost. You may just find yourself - and happiness - in the process.
You in? Tell me in the comments or join the Glamoraks community of women who all put their boots on to get happy.