What a feeling! one woman’s re-energising walking week
andréa Childs discovers that a women-only walking week makes for a wonderfully energising getaway
Waiting at Penrith rail station for the bus to Keswick, then onwards to buttermere, I had plenty of time to play “spot the woman walker”. I was heading for a week-long Women’s activity Week in the lake District with Ramblers Walking Holidays. between the families steering suitcases and children, bear grylls lookalikes and young couples partnering rucksacks and romance, I thought I spotted a few – women in waterproof jackets and sturdy boots, with outdoor complexions and ready smiles. turns out I guessed correctly. two of us shared a taxi from the station – a sign of the camaraderie to come.
I’d been anxious about the holiday. Not the activities – I was looking forward to yoga and Pilates sessions and an introduction to Nordic Walking – but about who else would be there. I’m hopeless at map-reading and had to borrow a sensible coat from a friend for the trip, so I was dreading rambler robots who could navigate a hillside on autopilot. another guest said she had panicked about being the old crone (at 48!) among a sea of twentysomethings with toned triceps and ashtanga abs.
We soon realised there’d been no need to worry. the 14 women on the holiday ranged from 40 to 80, from full-time workers to retirees. Jill was a microbiologist who’d retrained as a Pilates teacher in her fifties. lucy taught at a college. sharon was a nurse. Jane worked in a library. everyone’s level of fitness was different, with some wanting
the holiday to kick-start a more active lifestyle and others adding another adventure to an adrenaline-packed list (including mountain biking in Costa Rica and snowshoeing in the Dolomites). We’d travelled from all over the country, some alone and a few with a friend. What united us was a love of being outdoors, immersed in nature. When you’re heading up a trail, your eyes are entranced by the hills even as your calves are aching. With the scent of gorse and pine leaves, the air really is fresh and seems to blow away stress. No wonder a recent study from stanford university showed walking in nature has a positive effect on mood and mental health.
We were staying at Hassness House on the edge of buttermere lake in Cumbria. the setting was idyllic and the recently refurbished house was more boutique bolthole than traditional walkers’ bunkhouse. We were fuelled by huge breakfasts and threecourse dinners, with packed lunches and flapjacks to eat on our walks, and cakes waiting for us on our return. luckily walking burns around 400 calories an hour – more if you’re tramping up hills at a brisk pace!
over the week, we tackled craggy trails, steep hillsides and gentle paths, led by 58-year-old Clare bonnick. Her intimate knowledge of the landscape meant she could name each peak and
Walking in nature has a positive effect on mood and mental health
valley, and bring their history alive with facts and stories, such as how the white cross on Fleetwith Pike marks where a Victorian servant girl fell to her death.
the Women’s activity break is the only Ramblers Walking Holiday powered purely by oestrogen. We wondered if men would be more competitive, rather than walking in step, as we do. In a female-only group, there’s little selfconsciousness as we practise the “barbara Windsor” (a chest-out Nordic Walking warm-up) or splash around in circles on Derwentwater as we learn to kayak.
as the days go by, we relax in each other’s company. Conversations over dinner range from books to brexit, but it’s during the walks that people begin to share. there are three recent widows in the group, each following a different path to life after loss. one woman is struggling with a tough time at home. there are those connecting with friends now living in other parts of the country. and others, like myself, looking for a fun and active break from responsibilities. old bonds deepened and new friendships started to form.
I loved the wit and humour of spending time with women, and the pleasant ache of muscles that have worked hard. Now I’m determined to find some of that feeling back at home. For more information or to book, visit ramblersholidays.co.uk w &h
It’s all about you!
Spending time in nature with new friends, trying different activities and chatting along the way