I’m very open about the fact I am not particularly skilled in the technical side of hiking, mountaineering or navigating. I still see myself at the start of what I hope will be a lifelong journey to learning more about the best ways to enjoy our beautiful planet on foot. We all have to start somewhere, right? After a chance conversation saw me signing up to my first Mountain walk (a Sunrise Snowdon walk in 2019), I’ve been on the lookout for ways to continue these adventures in a safe way as I build my knowledge and experience.
Joining Organised Walks
Until a time when I can devote some time to doing a proper Navigational Skills course, I’ve been enjoying taking part in organised walks, led by (for the most part) a qualified Mountain Leader or Lowlands leader.
There are numerous benefits to this:
- enjoying a planned route, knowing it’s been scoped out in advance and been properly planned
- the additional safety of being in the company of someone who is fully trained
- getting to meet like-minded people on the walk and making new friends
There are many companies out there offering short walks, day walks or weekend walking packages and more. I’ve been on a few organised events by Large Outdoors (in fact, I currently have some credit with them after a Ben Nevis walking weekend I had booked was cancelled due to Covid-19), but many local areas will have their own walking groups including the Ramblers or alternatively, have a look on the MeetUp app to find informal hikes organised locally. The following photos were taken on one of Large Outdoors’ Ben Nevis Day Walks. It was brilliant!
UK Walking Festivals
Sadly, over the last year, many regular Walking Festivals have had to be cancelled, but finding and taking part in Walking Festivals offers a real variety of walks for you to choose from in a short period of time, getting the chance to see the very best of that area. Luckily, I managed to book the last place on the big Challenge walk as part of the Malvern Hills Walking Festival: the Malvern Hills End to End and Back. It was 17 glorious miles, spent chatting to some lovely people. I even got myself a Gosshawk t-shirt made especially to mark the occasion!
There are plenty of Walking Festivals held across the UK but they’re not necessarily always advertised widely online. With limited numbers available on walks and with loyal previous walkers, a lot of walks get booked up quite quickly so make sure you’re signed up to relevant mailing lists to make sure you’re quick off the mark if you want to take advantage of all they have to offer.
Local Groups on MeetUp
The app MeetUp is a great way to meet and find other local people interested in walking. Enthusiastic hikers can set up a group, and host their own walking events. It’s worth noting that whilst this is a cheap and easy way to go on organised walks, this doesn’t necessarily mean whoever is organising the walk is a certified walk leader. It is a much more informal event, but the benefit is that you’re more likely to find regular and super local walks to join. Just be aware that the risk in taking part is your own.
There are two MeetUp groups that I’ve had the pleasure of joining for walks so far: Hike & Get Merry and Walking The Hills. Both groups asked for a small financial contribution to secure a place on the walk and both had such a friendly and welcoming vibe to them. Above is a photo from a Full Moon walk Jim and I did to Broadway Tower with Hike & Get Merry, and the photos below were from a lovely day walk from Broadway to Snowshill, including the Cotswold Lavender fields with Walking The Hills.
Ask a more Experienced Friend
I’ve been following more and more hiking fans over on Instagram, and I was absolutely thrilled when I finally asked Bryony @hike_this_way if I could join her on one of her Welsh summit adventures, and she said yes! She is far more experienced, more knowledgeable and skilled than me, and so she not only knew exactly how to keep us safe but was also able to share important tips and tricks with me, as well as going through some compass basics whilst we hiked up Mynydd Mawr.
I look forward to the day when I can return the favour to someone else. If there’s anything I’ve learned about the hiking community so far, it’s that it’s full of people wanting to share and encourage enthusiasm for the outdoors. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, to seek training opportunities and to join others on their walks.
Bite the Bullet
I can’t recommend booking yourself onto any walks like this, just to make sure you get out there and enjoy the wonderful countryside we’re so lucky to have. It might feel nerve-wracking to rock up to an event where you might not know anyone, but from my experience, this is often the best way to do it! It forces you to chat and make new connections and everyone else who is there is looking to meet like minded people too, so you’re guaranteed to encounter a friendly bunch. Enjoy.