A few days away?

Well not following the theme, but on Monday I followed the dream.  For 18 Months now I have been a member of a virtual family of walkers online, I signed up to walk 1000 miles in 2017, and signed up again this year.  What a brilliant group it has proved to be, this week a group of about 60 of us were meeting in North Wales to support one of the members who wanted to climb Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and the place where Edmund Hilary trained to climb Everest.  I already felt that I would not be able to do the climb this year, as I am suffering badly from hayfever, as every year lately and the impact on my sinuses leaves me feeling very dizzy and not as steady as I felt I would need to be to do the climb.  I am really phobic about causing any kind of fuss or drawing attention to myself and did not want to spoil the experience for others, so I had decided to do a flat walk while the others were up there reaching their goal, but I must say I had the most amazing day walking the lake, and I was not alone.  

This was my very first chance to meet so many of the others in the family who I have been friends with all this time, we live all over the country, and the world, and the opportunity for us to meet and spend time with our virtual family was just so precious.  

Peggy, our little sister, a few years younger than some of us, came from Oklahoma, USA, with her lovely husband Bobby who was so brave and did the climb despite suffering from Parkinsons, Stevie and her husband Claude, came from Montreal in Canada, and our virtual Mother Hen, Susan and her husband Dennis, came from Wigan as well as many many others, and just as in the virtual realm, it was a wonderful experience to meet up with some of the best people I have ever met.  

The age range was as broad as the dynamics of the group in so many ways, some of us are in our 60s and 70s, and some are in their 20s and 30s, Poppy the dog was a real star and did the full climb and came back still panting for more bless her.  Our superstars from our online group were all there, Jay Mistry is our resident Mountain Goat, and his herd that walk with him whenever they can came too Helen Smith, is Miss Soggy Bottom, who has walked so many mountains with Jay and usually ends up sat in the nearest puddle at some point on her climbs and has been given the nickname, but is a heroine to all of us stuffy old things, David Guenot, is another serious mountaineer and proved to be a most important member of the group, willing to help take care of those who were struggling on their first ever climb, and the lady who started all of this back last year, Helen Emma Powderham, who has been on the most phenominal journey in the last 18 months, from having a damaged knee and beginning her journey on crutches, Helen has worked so hard, and her knee is now strong enough for her to return to her career caring for children in Nursery, and she has walked intensely day after day to chase her dream of climbing Snowdon after she learned about it last year on a holiday in North Wales, she asked for support online to make it to do this and for some company for the journey, she got that support and it became the biggest of what we call a Badger Meet Up, we all have small metal badges from Country Walking Magazine, that shows we are on the 1000 mile challenge and if two members meet up it is the Badge which starts the conversation.  Someone coined the phrase of these meetings being a Badger Meet and they are fantastic, and to be honest I feel so fortunate to have taken part in this one, meeting so many of the fabulous members of the online group and putting faces to the names was amazing. 

I had the pleasure of doing a flat walk around the lake with Helen Jayne Taylor who has suffered illness for over a year following the discovery of a broken bone in her neck which needed surgery at Christmas, and is now on a slow journey to recovery, but she turned up and took care of organising registration and monitoring and joins the ranks of our heroes.  It was a wonderful chance to meet friends found through the group like Shelagh from Dundee, Heather Peel, and many others from the Chicken Squad, that help Susan Miller collect people's mileage each month to add to her Spreadsheet that tracks our journey through the year.  

So from me, not able to do the climb, to the guys who did it a few times in the two days we were there, and those who spent their time trying to get there from all over the world like Viking Pete who made it in time to greet the main pack as they came down, and kept us all smiling as we waited in the scorching heat for our friends to come back safely.  (Pete made it himself a day late, but kept us all smiling to meet another of our stars.) We all had such a wonderful two days enjoying the amazing little town pf Llanberis, and the attractions it brings to the table in the shadow of Snowdon. 


I would never have believed that at 65 I would be having such fun going to meet over 60 total strangers on such an event, and enjoying a beautiful part of our countryside, finding no strangers but family all in love with walking for health, well-being, weight loss and positivity.  Getting ready to do it myself by next year, and it looks like it could be an annual Event.  Yay !


Arrived at the station to travel home and found the latest Country Walking Magazine to enjoy on my journey, and all thanks to Guy Proctor who started this challenge along with his staff at the magazine, it started with wondering if I could manage to walk 2.74 miles a day, and ended with the best event I have ever attended and the chance to meet friends from the USA, Canada, Scotland, England, Ireland and of Course Wales.  


                      Where to next I ask?

So the journey is started, how has it been?

Hello again, 

I hope you enjoyed the intro last week of how I ended up here on a website called Walking Works. When I went back to read it again, and to correct all the typos I was able to find, so I appologise for the fact that sometimes my fingers are quicker than my brain, I was concerned that it looks so easy to change things and just get out there and do it.  This is not true really and it can be very difficult to start with, and believe me it took a huge leap to get me out through the door.  In the ten years up to making that change, I had lost my full time job and failed dismally despite all efforts to find an alternative employment,  I had scraped through on very low money and after losing my position due to the ending of my funding, I had also lost my colleagues, who had been my friends and society, as we all worked long hours and were extremely dedicated to what we did.  We cared for people in difficult circumstances and that can drain you in many ways.  So on top of feeling like I no longer had a purpose I was emotionally and physically depleted as well.  That of course leads to a rise in the instance of mental health problems and also to physical health problems.  You can not give from an empty cup.  

That is all I am going to say regarding my own situation in the past, except that I had a history of ending up in these situations several times througout my life, every sicknote stated that I was suffering from mental and physical exhaustion, that by its very nature shows that you are not happy and healthy.  It leaves the door not just open but gaping and beckoning anxiety and depression, a lack of self worth and self esteem.  

Doubting yourself can be the most difficult obstacle to overcome, nobody can overturn you own critical voice in your head, and you can find evidence to back up all of the negativity you heap on to your inner image of the person you are or have been. One of the best things I encountered at the very beginning of my journey was taking some courses on FutureLearn.  I had also been into a bookshop and actually bought some very new books, that were not really self help books, but were exploring some things I had a general interest in, I had heard about two people who I found most interesting, one was a Jain Monk who had walked from India through many countries via Pakistan and Russia, then on across Europe to Paris in the name of peace, his name was Satish Kumar and the other was a Buddhist monk from Vietnam, who was exhiled from his country during the war there and now lived in France. He was one of the people who brought the art of being Mindful to the West, his name was Thich Nhat Hanh, I read of their lives and their own, no longer specifically religious philosophies, that held weight in dealing with troubles. 

I became very interested and searched and found out as much as possible, and in the end a Course appeared on FutureLearn that came from an Australian University on Mindfulness, and I signed up.  I practiced every day being mindful, and found huge benefits from it, and it was helping to quiet the Critic within.  I also found courses in lots of other really interesting topics too and signed up to do as many as I could manage.  It was wonderful.  I did not have to see anyone, I did not have to leave the house, but slowly it was having an impact on how I felt about myself.  This may not work for everyone, and it did not make it any easier for me to finally get out there and make the first move which was leading I knew not where.  But it was starting a thought process.  I am a teacher and have stood in a room full of students and played at being someone else for an hour, to engage my students with learning and in many ways I was now doing this for a class of one, myself.  But I still had not been out there.  What I was searching for was the real me, who was I? What was my purpose? what do I want from the future and how do I go about getting it? 

If anyone had asked me what I wanted, I would have said nothing really, but if pushed I would say I wanted peace, not just in the world, or even my street, but peace inside of me, I wanted to resolve the issues I was still deeply troubled by and I want to feel at peace with myself.  

I hope you can appreciate that I am now 65 years of age, and at the beginning of my recovery I was 63, retired and confused and bewildered by life. 

How was I going to find a purpose that I could be at peace with in my heart, and spend the rest of however long I had feeling happy that I was doing something worthwhile. 

It was at this point that I found the chance to learn to Nordic Walk.  

This is not the end and certainly not all of what I discovered, but it was a huge leap in the right and very positive direction, and gave me essential tools to set me on my way.

I will pop back in a few days and update the tale and lead you further towards today, and then we are off on an adventure that  I hope you will enjoy and maybe come and walk with me a while from time to time.  I have felt it was important to give you an insight into the person who is me, and to just show my own journey here and that I too am vulnerable and imperfect, but I care and I want to make a difference.  When teaching I used to say that if something I taught made a difference to one person then I had reached my goal.  Of course I wanted to change many things for everyone, but I am only one woman and it was proving quite tough changing things for myself, but I hope that just by being real, I can help someone else to take that first step.  

Have a lovely time in anything you do until we meet again.  

Lovely new things and adventures are on my horizon, so come back soon. 




How this all began

  Two Years ago I took a chance, a big step for me, but I knew I was in a bad place and had to find a way out of it or sit down somewhere quiet and wait to die, what else can you do when you are afraid to live.  

I had been through several years of poor health, problems with family, the loss of my mother, and I was racing into retirement.  Oh and I am an anxious Annie, I worry a lot and I knew if I was going to have any quality of life in my retirement I needed to find something useful to do and enjoy doing. 

I decided to take any opportunities that came along and follow them, and within a few days I was asked to take part in some research for the University of South Wales. It was to find out the impact of taking part in physical activity for people of a certain age.  Just what the doctor ordered. I went along to the first day with my stomach firmly lodged in my throat, and full of trepidation, there were a good number of people there and we were to do some tests that would add up to a general fitness test, they took all kinds of measurements and we had to walk around and around, and to my surprise there were some really nice people there, I got along particularly well with Linda, who had suffered a stroke a number of years ago, she was very friendly and pleasant. 

We did all the tests, had a great laugh amongst ourselves and waited for what next. They were going to decided which groups would be doing the exercise and who would be in the waiting group.  They were going to teach us to Nordic Walk. 

I came home having really enjoyed my day, and so pleased I had jumped out of my comfort zone.  But then I was afraid I would be in the waiting group and again I would be sitting waiting for the world to ring.  But two weeks later I was called to start lessons in a big park in Cardiff, and when I went Linda was also in the same group, and a few other ladies from the first day, it was good and we got along well.  Our Tutor was a former teacher just like me, so we all enjoyed ourselves.  I turned up each week and as I gained in confidence in using the technique I began to relax and slowly I found that I loved it.  By the end of the course I was so keen I applied to become an instructor, so off I went having another adventure staying in a small hotel overnight while I did that course, and Linda and I continued to meet up for a walk each week in the very nice Llandaff Field park.  

So after a hectic few months when I had been enboldened to try other new things to widen my horizons too, I had started doing courses through Futurelearn and really enjoyed them too.  Slowly I was doing just what I wanted I was changing thing quite dramatically.  

All I needed to do now was to get some people to teach how to Nordic Walk.  In the end I helped out by co-teaching a course for Age Cymru, and it helped me by giving me more confidence and after that course I advertised through British Nordic Walking and locally through meetings in the community that I had started to attend.  

But now it was December of 2016, and I found another challenge via the Instructors group for British Nordic Walking, and it was organised through Country Walking Magazine, the Challenge to walk 1000 miles in 2017.  I signed up straight away. 

So every day I made sure to get out and walk, never mind feeling like the nutty old lady, the wierdo, or the woman skiing with no snow, I just closed my mind and kept going.  I struggled with bad weather, and flare ups of Fibromyalgia, but I kept going and for the first time I refused to be beaten, and I did it.  I walked 1000 miles in tiny journeys to start with, walking a very heavy dog around the block several times in the dark, and walking on the canal towpath three times a week and slowly the distances started to build. By November I had walked in several places time and again, but I found that in my musings and my wanderings I was re-learning about myself.  I went to places without even realising it that were so familiar, and then when I saw them from a different angle I realised that I used to ride ponies very near there when I was a young teen.  I talked to people I met and found I had something to say, and people were willing to listen.  In short somewhere on my walks in 2017 I found my self worth, and that is what has brought me here.  

Walking really does work.  I love it, and will continue to enjoy my walks, I am not doing anything drastic, I don't go too far, in fact most of my walks at the moment are about three miles, but last year that built up to doing five miles a day and doing longer walks on the weekends.  This year did not have a good start as I was ill just after Christmas and that was a virus that seemed to keep coming back, but I am finally out of the woods with that and I am also training a new little walking buddy, my toy poodle that came to stay at Christmas and he makes the walking even better, I just have to build up slowly for his little legs, but he is a delight to walk with and enjoys meeting everyone that passes as we go. 

Now the aim is to take others with me, in person if they want to join me, or here on the website if they like to see the photos I take and the little write ups I will do after each walk.  Join me if you want and lets enjoy walking each other home.