Head for the hills

Freshwalks crew at Howden, Peak District, 2023

We’re lucky to have the Peak District, Macclesfield Forest, The Lake District, the Trough of Bowland and a rugged coast.

We’ve even got our own back yard called Yorkshire.

I’m a bit of a zealot on this stuff, so indulge me please.

Walking up hills and fells has been a gamechanger. I went on a walk with 20 or so contacts and friends in 2014, trying to do what we called ‘netwalking’. It became Freshwalks, and it’s been transformational. The feeling of clarity and lucidity that you get from reaching a summit, or on the way down. The time and space to get your thoughts in order.

Founder Michael Di Paola now runs the whole Freshwalks enterprise, offering corporate walks, ticketed day trips, overseas tours and a new level of leadership and team bonding with experienced business coaches.

Katya Willems runs specific walks for women as well as slightly gentler Wednesday walks that cater for people of different fitness levels and abilities.

She says: “There’s always a great atmosphere on these walks. We are welcoming and it’s easy to spark up a conversation even if you’re new to Freshwalks. There’s something about walking in nature that makes connecting with others more relaxed and instinctive.”

But there are obvious business benefits as well. On the corporate walks, experienced guides lead teams from a company, or maybe a group of clients or suppliers, to just get out and feel the elements for day, stretch them, find a place where people can really get to know each other.

Martin Murphy, who has transitioned from professional soldier to business coach, has been dismissive of the trend of “wellbeing washing.” This phenomenon involves companies talking the talk of wellbeing, but not necessarily walking the walk.

He’s convinced that you can combine the benefits of exercise and nature to improve mental and physical health and that walking and networking in a natural environment can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and mental clarity.

“Taking a break from the office and spending time outdoors can boost creativity and problem-solving skills. It also allows employees to return to work with a renewed sense of focus and energy,” he says.

“Walking and talking in nature is a great way to build relationships and promote a positive team culture. It allows team members to get to know each other on a personal level, leading to better communication and teamwork in the workplace.”

So, get some practice in over the weekend. Strap the boots on and maybe you’ll get the bug for it and want to come on an organised walk one day soon.