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Remarkable opportunities through walking together

A few years ago a Mountain Leader who I’d met on a group walking holiday told me about the publication of “Dark Peak Walks” by Paul Besley. I had recently introduced myself to the area and bought the guidebook immediately! The first walk I chose to do was number 5 - Grindleford to Higger Tor (Page 48). It was 2018, the winter of the beast from the east, so you can imagine the scenes! I loved having the book in my hand as I walked, reading the excerpts of history that helped me to connect with my surroundings.

Walk with Paul Besley and friends

Since then, Paul’s book has inspired many of my walks in the dark peak and became a handbook to me during my Hill and Moorland Leader training. Even better, I have met him in person. The first time was when he was raising money for Mountain Rescue at Sheffield train station. I fussed over his dog Scout and we had a great chat, I felt like I’d known him for years! I’ve attended a couple of his group walks since then too, where I’ve had the opportunity to meet his wonderful wife Alison and some of his friends who always greet me warmly.


On the last walk I attended in November 2022 I was very happy to see Jon Barton turn up. He is the Managing Director of Vertebrate Publishing in Sheffield. I recognised him from Twitter straight away and remembered that he had run the Derwent Watershed on a hot day that summer. Paul kindly encouraged me to talk to Jon about my Wild About Kinder podcast, and that led onto talking about Kinder Scout, running, and books of course! I really liked his sense of humour - which many of his twitter followers will be well accustomed to. It was a fantastic day out with everyone, topped with fish and chips at the end.


Off I went on my merry way, then a week later a message from Jon landed in my twitter inbox, “Sarah. I have an idea for a Kinder area walking guide with a twist and would like to co write it with someone plus would need photos. Jon”


“What the?!?!....Does he mean me??”

As I’m sure you can imagine, I couldn’t believe my luck. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to find out more. We had a chat on the phone about it and I tried to contain myself, but inside I was bursting! Jon had decided that he wanted me to write the walking guide and to provide the photography too. This really was an exciting and challenging opportunity for me. What I found remarkable was that it had come about through connecting while walking. This is what I believe in, it shapes my life and my work.


Once it started to become real with signing a contract and discussing a deadline, that’s when my fear and anxiety started to kick in. I’ve never written a walking guide before - how on earth am I going to do this?! I questioned my ability to do it and felt crippled with fear to make a start, even though the work relates to everything that I enjoy doing.


If I’ve learned anything in my life so far, it’s to confide in people I trust when I feel out of my depth. This doesn’t come easily to me, but it’s a much better method than bottling it all up. I told a few friends about the opportunity and I felt soothed by their positive responses and encouragement. **Thank you John Beatty, Ali Foxon, Jon Hyde, Clare Kelly** The part of my brain that was telling me I couldn’t do it needed some nurturing, and I have them to thank for that. Before signing the contract I told Jon and his colleague at Vertebrate Publishing about how I was feeling too, and they were very reassuring, offering to guide and help me through it.


The funny thing is that deep down I knew that I wasn’t going to turn the opportunity away, but I did struggle with committing to it. Those fears are wrapped up in all sorts of past stories, but this is a chance to create a new one. Instead of bottling up the fears inside my body or trying to distract myself from them, I decided to attend to them with openness and curiosity. This helped me to shift my focus from the overwhelming task of completing the work, to breaking it all down into manageable steps. The fear hasn’t disappeared, I'm learning to work with it rather than against it. I feel that I can be gentler with myself now, reminding myself that this is a new experience, so fear is a natural response.


Now that I’ve found the courage to share what I’m not so secretly working on, I’d love it if you’d like to follow along on Twitter and Instagram. You’ll see photos of Kinder Scout and the surrounding area, updates about my progress, anecdotes from my walks, and my perspective on writing a walking guide for the first time. The great thing is that the writing is helping me to explore Kinder Scout through the eyes of someone completely new to it, just like it was for me a few years ago. I remember how it felt when I first walked here, all of the questions and curiosities that I had! Of course I still have many now. My awareness is already heightened by this experience and I'm noticing and learning more, rather than walking straight by things. What a gift!


I’d like to say a special thank you to Paul Besley for encouraging me to talk to Jon as I felt a bit nervous speaking to him at first. And a special thank you to Jon for offering me such a unique opportunity. Six years ago, with Paul Besley’s book in my hand, I was wondering what it would be like to write a walking guide, and here I am finding out.


You can have a look at the adventure books by Vertebrate Publishing here, including Day Walks in the South Pennines and 1001 Walking Tips by Paul Besley. Follow Vertebrate on Twitter and Instagram for the latest offers and updates.

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