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
Autumn. It always arrives so suddenly. One minute you're in flip flops. The next, boots and coats make an appearance. The days get shorter, the temperatures drop and all around there is a sense of change. There's something about falling leaves that reminds me of how fast time goes by. Every year it seems to come around more rapidly. Which is all the more reason to get out there and enjoy it while you can. Carpe diem! But if the passage of time isn't enough to motivate you, perhaps this will.
Here are ten reasons why you should put your boots on and go walking this Autumn:
1. Amazing colours
As the leaves turn from green to gold or reds and browns, the scenery becomes a photographer's dream. At times, the views are so splendid that they can render you speechless. But it's more than just a dazzling display. There's something deeply comforting about autumn colours. They ground us and remind us of all things homely and warm.
2. Crunchy sounds and textures
Is there anything more satisfying than crunching through piles of fallen leaves? To be fair, this can be a short lived experience, before the rains arrive and turn everything to mulch. But for those weeks when freshly dropped leaves and seeds litter the pathway, it just feels and sounds adventurous.
3. Perfect temperatures
Autumn is often blessed with bright blue skies, sunny days and a nip in the air. It's not overly hot or cold, just fresh enough to add a touch of colour to your cheeks. You'll feel warm enough walking, without getting hot but will still welcome your thermos of hot chocolate when you stop for a break.
4. A picked lunch
Ok, so perhaps not an entire lunch. But you can certainly supplement your packed lunch by picking blackberries, apples, pears and elderberries. Keep an eye out for sloes, but don't eat them (they're horrid). Take them home and make sloe gin.
5. A scavenger hunt for kids
Getting kids to walk can prove a challenge, but Autumn makes it a LOT more fun as there are so many things for them to find, collect and play with. Acorns and their jaunty hats. Conkers for whacking each other. Helicopter seeds from sycamores. Different leave types to make a leaf collage. It's also a great time to build dens with plenty of dry branches littering the ground.
Squirrels spend Autumn dashing about like crazy things as they stock their winter larder, which makes for entertaining viewing. You'll be lucky to spot a hedgehog, vole or mouse while walking but if you sit quietly in a wood, you might. It's a great time to see deer and gathering flocks of birds ready to make their way south for winter, while pheasants add a splash of colour to the landscape. Be aware that it's deer stalking season in Scotland as well as shooting season for many game birds throughout the UK, so do be careful where you walk. Getting shot may ruin your walk.
7. Fewer midges and bugs
Summer walking can be a battle against the bugs, particularly midges if you're in the Lakes or Scotland. But as Autumn rolls around, the midges disappear leaving you free to walk without being covered in bug-spray.
8. Earlier bed time for wild camping
With the sun setting earlier, you can go wild camping and set up your tent earlier than in the summer. Which means you can get to sleep at a reasonable hour, and wake up early to catch the sunrise. Just make sure you take a warm sleeping bag!
9. Quieter paths
If you can get out midweek, while everyone is back to work after the summer and the kids are back at school, you'll find the paths far quieter, giving you that brilliant feeling of solitude. If you're doing a long distance path, you might find it easier to get accommodation at this time of year too.
10. The perfect time for a pub visit
After a long walk, there is nothing better than getting to a pub just as the chill is starting to set in, grabbing a pint or a warming glass of red wine and sitting in front of the first fires of the season. Bliss.
What do you love about Autumn walking? If you're a woman who love walking or hiking, please join the group on Facebook here. Or simply like the Glamoraks page.
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!
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 let myself get comfortable. 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
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
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.
If you are a woman who loves walking and taking pictures, then listen up!
To celebrate World Photo Day on 19 August, Glamoraks is running a photo competition throughout the month of August. This is just for a bit of fun to find out why you walk and where you walk. Seeing beautiful pictures of places to walk or happy people out walking helps to motivate others to get out there and do it more often.
Here's how to enter:
So get walking and snapping!
Distance: 10.5 miles (depending on where you start in Scarborough)
Terrain: Mostly flat walking on good paths but with several steep hills. Stretches of woodland plus cliff edges most of the way
Starting point: Scarborough train station or anywhere along the Scarborough seafront. Parking available at Scarborough train station (pay at meter)
This is the last leg of the Cleveland Way, a 108-mile national trail that crosses the North Yorkshire Moors and a long stretch of the North Yorkshire coast. I've walked most legs of the Cleveland Way as day walks or two- day stretches, but I'd yet to do the final leg that runs from Scarborough to Filey.
You can either catch a train to Scarborough station or drive there and park next to the station (making it easy to get home on your return). But you can start from any point along the Scarborough seafront. You can even have a dabble on the penny slot machines before you kick off if you like! If you start in North Bay, before the hill with Scarborough castle on it, you will be walking for about an hour before you really start the walk route.
Leaving the sandy beaches and promenade behind you, you will climb up a hill where you can admire the views as you catch your breath. Be sure to look behind you to see the bulk of Scarborough Castle looking impressive on the opposite hill. For a stretch of the path, you'll walk alongside a golf course to your right. The sea will remain on your left and in sight for most of the walk. Having waved goodbye to the golfers, you will follow a headland, then go down some steps to a ravine until eventually you have to turn right along a track that takes you past some holiday houses.
This bit of the walk isn't particularly lovely. You skirt the holiday homes before connecting with a suburban road. Turn left and follow the road until you see a National Trust sign for Cayton Bay. You follow the steep steps down through woodland then turn right onto a path that leads out of the woods and along a cliff overlooking Cayton Bay, a great spot for surfing.
After climbing a hill you reach the road that takes you down to Cayton Bay itself. Here you can pop down to the Beach Shop for snacks if you didn't pack a lunch, or simply use one of the two handily placed benches for a lunch break. Lovely views and a good chance to rest after quite a few unexpected hills.
From here you simply follow the cliff top path. Some of the edges are pretty sheer and if you're not a fan of heights (I'm not) simply walk as far from the edge as you can. I really don't like heights but I managed it fine. The views are magnificent the whole way, with thousands of nesting birds swooping and calling. The only thing that detracts from the view are the numerous caravan parks that run along your right hand side. It makes the walk feel less remote and the people traffic also increases near each of the sites.
That said, once you've left the last of the caravan sites behind you, the views continue with the white cliffs of Flamborough Head appearing in the distance. There is something about looking at the outline of the English coast that makes me feel inordinately fond of this little island country. It stands so resolute against the sea, despite the waves taking constant bites out of its cliffs.
The rooftops of Filey will come into view and eventually you'll reach the sign marking the end of the Cleveland Way. But if you still have energy left, it's worth walking to the end of Filey Brigg, a headland jutting out into the sea. Carr Naze, the landward end of the peninsula had flint tools discovered on it dating back 3 to 4000 years. The Romans also used the headland as a signal station to warn against invaders. You can see why as the headlands to the north and south of it as clearly visible.
Once you've had your fill of sea air, head back inland and follow the signs for the town centre until you reach the bus station. Catch the 120 or x20 buses back to Scarborough - they run every 15 to 20 minutes - and will drop you outside the Scarborough train station, ready to catch a train back home or a short walk to your car.
A lovely seaside walk with stunning views. Definitely one to add to your list. See the video below for a sense of what it's like.
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. Hawnby Hill in 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, past Helmsley before arriving 50 minutes later in the exceptionally quaint hamlet of Hawnby. 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 which hill Hawnby was (there are two - Easterside and Hawnby). She pointed out the hill 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 guess you could ask The Inn at Hawnby if you could park there for the night and it would save you a 500 yard steep climb up a hill lugging a backpack. But I didn't. Once you reach the Inn, directly in front of you (just to the left of the phone box) is a public footpath sign that points you up between some houses. Follow that and you get to a stile/kissing gate. Go through that and head straight up to the top left corner of the field. Don't take the appealing looking waymarked route lower down on the left. Head to the top corner to find a gate with a map of the hill. Then follow the path straight up.
And I mean, straight up! It was exhausting. But it was a short brutal walk - only about 15 minutes - before I was on the top of the hill with magnificent views on all sides. To my right was Easterside Hill, another tabular shaped hill, while straight ahead you look towards the moors.
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 don't forget to join the free Facebook group for likeminded ladies who love to walk and sign up for the Glamoraks newsletter to find out about events you can take part in.
I put my boots on. My backpack has water, a little picnic lunch, a map. I start to walk. If I'm lucky, there is no-one there except me. The crunching of my boots, the sound of birdsong, the steady crash of waves or the gentle baa-ing of lambs are my soundtrack. My muscles start to warm up and my shoulders relax. I feel the sun on my face or the wind in my hair or the gentle tickle of drizzle or the sharp bite of cold. The weather works its deft fingers into the tight knots of my soul and frees them. I breathe deep. I am alone but I am not lonely.
Walking solo is one of the finest gifts you can give yourself, whether you're a man or a woman. But many women shy away from it. Some think they will get lost. Others worry that something might happen to them. And others are simply so used to company that the concept of being entirely alone makes them uncomfortable.
That's not to say that walking with others is bad. On the contrary, 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. But as the Byron quote says, 'I love not Man the less, but Nature more.' And it's true. As wonderful as it is to walk with someone, there is a healing power to solitude that is unrivalled.
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!'
And when you're on your own, you can literally roar. Stand on a hilltop and bellow into the wind. Let your pent up tension be carried off on the thermals. Rediscover that person you are underneath the layers of labels given to us by human life. Simply be.
There are no words that quite capture the rare combination of freedom, tranquility, excitement, sadness and joy that comes from complete solitude in nature. But words aren't really needed. You simply need to feel it. Once you do, you will hold it inside you like a balm for your soul.
Tips on walking solo
Share your solo walking experiences with me below. And feel free to join the Glamoraks group over on Facebook 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 free Glamoraks group over on Facebook.
I'd love to hear how walking has helped your mental health, so feel free to share it in the comments below.