WildWays’ first season – tours in the Peak District
It’s the end of WildWay’s first season!
And what a successful first season it’s been. It started in the rain with a soggy geology tour around Castleton, Peak District with members of the public taking part in GeoWeek and it ended in the rain with a walk provided for members of the Mountain Training Association (MTA).
Finding my passion
I’d created WildWays to provide walking and geology tours in the Peak District. Earlier in 2019 I’d recently qualified as a Hill and Moorland Leader at the end of March and by April, I was taking groups out into the hills. They were lovely groups and I was well within my comfort zone. It made me realise how much I loved spreading my passion for the outdoors and geology to other people.
Duke of Edinburgh Award
I’d been offered to assist with some students with their Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Bronze Award, so a short qualification later, I was a DofE Assessor. My first expedition took me south to The Chilterns. It was a ‘throw in the deep end’ experience’ but enjoyable nonetheless. DofE is something that I would like to get involved with, but I’m torn.
There are increasing numbers of DofE groups out in the countryside, whilst many respect the countryside code, they are in no doubt adding to the growing numbers of people in our national parks and AONBs. Of the 14 Bronze students I assessed, only 1 actually wanted to be there and to carry on to achieve her Silver Award. I felt the rest were there as just another tick box exercise; that they were compelled to participate because 1) their friends were doing it, 2) their teachers/ parents told they should do it because it looks good on their CV. Is it just becoming like having a university degree? Everyone has them, and therefore, you have to do something extra to stand out from the crowd? And talking of crowding, I haven’t even mentioned the crowded country lanes and paths with all the assessors and students, not just from our team but others too, cloggy up lay-bys and village parking. That said, there’s a lot to be said for the good that the DofE does, which is why I’m torn. I want to give these students a sense of responsibility for the environment and encourage their self confidence in their abilities, but is this growing movement sustainable?
After a fairly quiet summer trying to find the best solution for facebook marketing and ads (which I have still yet to find), it came to Autumn and the wild deer ruts on Big Moor. I thought these walks would have been more popular than they were. Yes, you can see some of the deer from the footpaths, but it wasn’t until we were going off the beaten track, where we felt we had a truly wild experience. Making it an early start for the deer walk (meeting at 7:30am in the car park), made it perfect timing to be getting back to the pub in time for lunch too.
High school culture trip
One of my largest groups I took out was from a Danish high school; 13 students and 2 teachers. They were staying in Manchester on a cultural trip. Needless to say, they weren’t really geared up for walking in the Peak District, and they would be arriving by train. In this instance, I had to carefully plan a bespoke walk for them; one that would give the students a sense of achievement (and hopefully seeing some iconic landscapes) but also, not so treacherous if the weather was too foul. As it turned out, it was wet and windy; the cloughs around Edale were the fullest I’d seen them for along time. The students however had a great time negotiating the streams, helping each other across. It was a lovely team building experience to see develop. However, once at the top, with low cloud and strong winds, the only sensible thing for me to do was to get everyone down as quickly as possible and into the cafe’s and pubs of Edale whilst they waited for their train back to Manchester.
What’s the plan for 2020? WildWays will continue with walking and geology tours in the Peak District. I’ll be introducing some navigation walks, starting with navigation for numpties and building up to walking across open moorland and including an experience of night navigation. The British Geological Survey are promoting GeoWeek again, so I shall be leading a geology and landscapes walk around Castleton for them as well as another 2 further geology walks for the MTA. After that, I’ll see where my clients take me. I’ll be offering the Autumn deer walks again and I love the idea of a Christmas themed walk with mulled wine and mince pies so watch this space!