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October Featured Member: Charlotte

Hey Charlotte! Tell us a little about yourself...

Hi! I'm Charlotte. I'm a 35-year-old web developer, originally from Devon. I came to Bristol as a student in 2005 and ended up back here again for work in 2017.

I spend most of my free weekends outdoors, whether that's a local walk or run in Leigh Woods, a bike ride around the Downs, or a weekend trip to my favourite place in the whole world - the Lake District.

Why did you start Bristol Girl Hikers?

When I first moved to Bristol I had a totally different career. I was working as a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the University and spent most of my working life indoors at home. My physical and mental health was suffering and I found it hard to make new friends. Connecting with nature in the outdoors was hugely important to me and hiking with my boyfriend was a godsend.

He began working more and more at weekends though, and I realised I needed to find other people to go walking with. I sent out a message on another meetup group to see if anyone wanted to join me and received such a huge response that I started a Facebook group - and Bristol Girl Hikers was born. 2 years later and we are now approaching 2000 members! Crazy!

Did you have any walking / hiking experience prior to joining the group?

I've always loved nature and the outdoors. Growing up on the Devon coast meant that we spent a lot of time on the coast path, the beach, in the woods and walking dogs around the local beauty spots.

In 2016 I went on holiday to Scotland and climbed Meall Fuar-mhonaidh at the side of Loch Ness amongst other things. I was blown away by the beauty of Scotland where the higher you hike, the better the view. Not long after our Scotland trip, we hiked up Snowdon. The day after that, we drove to Scafell Pike in the Lake District to climb that too. Clearly, we caught some kind of bug that summer that we have (thankfully) not recovered from!

Since then we've been going to the Lake District 3-4 times a year to check off as many Wainwright fells as we can (we're on about 25 at the moment). We've also explored quite a lot of South Wales and some of the South West Coast Path. And, yes, we went back to Scotland to hike up Ben Nevis and complete our national three peaks!

How has the group benefited you?

I think that the group has genuinely changed my life for the better. I've made new friends and enjoy meeting new people at every walk. As someone who is naturally quite shy, I've grown in confidence and absolutely love organising walks for people and seeing how everyone benefits from a good walk and a chinwag along the way. It's a super supportive environment and feels very empowering when there's a whole group of women all supporting one another on a hike up a mountain or through the woods. We've had laughs, tears, blisters, sore legs, scraped knees, nervousness and triumph and it's a wonderful thing to be a part of.

Do you have a favourite walk you've joined with BSGH so far?

It's hard to pick a favourite as I've been on so many. Can I do top 3?

The hike along the Jurassic Coast on a beautiful sunny day was one of my favourites as it involved ice cream and a paddle, then a pint at the end. It also included a mad dash for the bus after I got the times wrong! Another would be the amazing eight waterfall walk we did in summer of 2019 in the Brecon Beacons. It was a long, hot day but included a couple of swims, lunch at the pub and lots and lots of waterfalls. We were all really tired and happy when we got back to the car park!

If I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be our weekend in the Lake District. We stayed at a fab bunkhouse in Grasmere, swam and paddled in the lake and hiked up to Easedale Tarn and the summit of Helm Crag.

What advice can you offer someone looking to join their first BSGH walk?

I know it's really hard to take that first step and join a walk for the first time. We all worry about our lack of fitness, our social abilities and all sorts of other things. I too am one of those people who doesn't go to stuff because I'm nervous about what people will think of me, whether I have anything interesting to say, if I'll slow down the group and so on.

But just do it. You'll be glad you did.

In terms of fitness, we have lots of different walks to suit different levels of fitness. A good starter is Leigh Woods as it's close to home and fairly simple. The Mendip walks are usually nice and short too and we take our time up the hills where needed. You won't be left behind. And if you are worried about what you are going to say to a group of strange women, you needn't be, as everyone is very friendly and the great thing about walking and talking is that you don't have to do the talking part all the time. There's no pressure. You can just quietly listen to others and enjoy their company. Or you can talk away as much as you want and vent all your week's frustrations. We always end up having good chats about random stuff and it is always very natural and never feels forced. So go for it!

Follow Charlotte's recent adventures on Instagram @charlotte_hikes.

You can also read about some of her hikes on her blog.

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