In April, we had four weeks without rain. It was the coldest, sunniest and driest April on record. I was stumbling around the land watering new saplings and using a pickaxe to dig the soil. As if to compensate, it hasn’t stopped raining in May – as we all know. The bees have eaten all their newly created honey and the greenhouse is overwhelmed with plants that still can’t go into the garden – as I squelch around the hills, wellies, over-trousers and waterproof socks have continued to be essential.
In late April, before May’s endless rain came, I cycled from Abergavenny to Ludlow. A dawn-cold early start followed by sunny glory weather, it was the first time I’d done a cycle “journey with a purpose” for a long time. Herefordshire suddenly felt wonderfully undulating and blossom-pretty after a winter of mountain biking.
I’d first seen Richard Craven’s project a couple of years ago. Richard is a forester by training and has worked for the same family for three generations on their land. He has had a closeness to the land and a long experience that most of us will never manage to attain. What’s remarkable about him is his open-minded interest in new research and his willingness to restore the balance that nature is now losing.
He is currently involved in restoring biodiversity in newly acquired over-worked and depleted farmland. It’s a slow process. Two years ago this was a ‘sheep-shorn’ wilderness. Now. there has been the planting of thousands of trees along field edges – eventually for cattle to wander among. He’s scooped out a number of small ponds and lakes – some more successfully than others. As he said to me: “There’s no knowing what water will do.”
The real sighting of the day, though, was a group of five curlews that flew overhead and were evidently nesting on the land. These are small steps and the differences are incremental but, like a snowball rolling downhill, the small differences will start to cohere into something much larger. It’s so heartening to see this happening.
I was quizzed on the recent Coast and Country programme I appeared in about what it was that I enjoyed about the outdoors. Having no time to “think on my feet” while being interviewed, it made me reflect on how different what I enjoy about the outdoors is from day to day.
Sometimes it’s about the release of stress and tension, at other times it’s about appreciation and looking. Sometimes it’s about fitness, sometimes about exploration. I never return having seen nothing. It’s a way of touching in with oneself. My advice is always: keep getting out and see what’s there – internally and externally.
I asked some of the team we have at Element the same question about what they love about their chosen practice and what advice they’d give:
Kirsten Steffensen is a yoga teacher who works on our Fell Running & Yoga Weekends and specialises in the active body: I love that I can practise Yoga till I’m 100 years old and it’s different each day. In the vast depth of yoga, there is a whole lifetime of self-study, knowledge and wisdom to dive into.
Advice: Invest in looking after yourself on all levels. Being truly fit is about having a balanced body, good mental focus and the curiosity to explore your boundaries and take notice of what’s going on. Athletes and active people need this as much as anyone. And, I have found that having a set time everyday where I roll out the mat and do what I need to do works really well.
Faye Johnson works on our Fell Running course: The simplicity of time outdoors can simply be the best therapy to life’s stresses.
Advice: Take the pressure off yourself, that’s when you’ll often get the best results and get the most enjoyment.
Clare Muir works on our mountain biking courses in the Beacons: I love being able to actually feel I’m escaping into the forest or mountains away from the busyness of life and be surrounded by beauty AND it keeps me fit.
Advice: When motivation is low, tell yourself you will feel so much better once you’re out – it works every time.
Chloe Lumsden works on our Lake District fell running courses: I’m at my happiest when being self-sufficient in the mountains. It’s where I feel most present and alive. I’ve got a big interest in nature via my job with the National Trust working hard to protect our upland species and habitats through nature conservation projects and my running gets me out into this element too.
Advice: It’s important to set ‘achievable goals’ so that you do ‘achieve’ and this fuels your motivation when you start off running. And – take time to look at the view!
I had a wonderful time ‘up north’ in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District putting the finishing touches to our Yorkshire Dales Beginning Mountain Biking weekend and our Lake District Beginning Fell Running course with various folk on the team. It was the first time I’d been away for a year and it was a joy to be touching back in with friends and landscapes in the north – despite the fact that I finished the trip with a LOT of wet gear and my vitamin D levels not quite topped up. June, July and August listen in please – we’d like some sunshine now.
We are all looking forward to rolling with Element events again soon. Here are our courses and weekends with available spaces( ) to date:
July 10th – Beginning Fell Running Lake District (2)
July 24th – Beginning Fell Running Brecon Beacons (6)
July 31st – Beginning Fell Running Brecon Beacons (9)
Sept 4th & 5th – Fell Running & Yoga Weekend Beacons (4)
Sept 11th & 12th – Beginning Mountain Biking Weekend Brecon Beacons (9)
Sept 18th & 19th – Beginning Mountain Biking Weekend Yorkshire Dales (9)
Oct 2nd & 3rd – Fell Walking & Yoga Weekend Brecon Beacons (8)
These events are now fully booked:
June 27th – Beginning Fell Running Brecon Beacons
July 3rd & 4th – Fell Running & Yoga Weekend Brecon Beacons
July 17th & 18th – Beginning Mountain Biking Weekend Brecon Beacons
Look forward to seeing many of you again soon.