BMC Black Dog Outdoor Guided Walks 2020

Posted by James Mchaffie on 17/12/2019

The BMC helped to support Black Dog Outdoors to run several guided walks in 2019 which people could go on, for free, with qualified Mountain Leaders and mental health first-aiders for support. And these will be running in 2020 also. Let's find out from Steph Miller what they're all about and how you can attend.

The BMC Black Dog Outdoor Guided Walks were run in the Peak, Lakes, North Wales, Ben Nevis and Cairngorm throughout much of this year, and they were incredibly popular. With such visible and tangible benefits, we've decided to run them again next year in 2020 in partnership with Black Dog Outdoors, Mountain Training and Trail Magazines 'Mountains of the Mind' campaign. But who are they for and how can you sign up?

We asked Steph Miller, who went on some of the Black Dog Outdoor days in 2019, her thoughts on the walks and why you should sign up now!

Walking the Black Dog

"It’s a simple thing isn’t it – putting one foot in front of the other. We seldom think about each footstep. If we slowed down our mind and thought about each step, what would we think? More importantly, what would we feel? I taught myself a few years ago to be more step-focussed rather than on the end destination.

I’m a very keen mountain climber who likes to test herself in many environments including the Himalaya. I’m also somebody who suffers from anxiety and I’m no stranger to the darkness of the “black dog” either. For those of you not familiar, black dog was first referred to by Roman poet Horace in his writing “in vain, the black dog follows you and hangs on with hungry fangs”. It was Winston Churchill who most famously coined the phrase, referring to his depression as the black dog. In a letter to his wife, Churchill notes on his friend’s work with a German doctor to resolve her depression:

I think this man might be useful to me – if my black dog returns. He seems quite far away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture.

So why did I become so mindful of each step? Well, my mind enjoys entertaining imaginary, mind-jacking little gremlins who will persist in telling me that it’s all too much and to turn around. You could call it a black dog by my side, but I learned to walk with it. I listen. It’s ok to tell me it’s hard – sometimes it is but you know what, by appreciating the smaller steps, I always make it.

Now, you may not be sold – why put yourself through it? Why not just stay at home with a warm cup of tea and if you feel like shutting the curtains then shut them? What if I told you that since I started climbing mountains, they started filling my soul as if filling a cup? That spending time away from the over-stimulation of life’s burdens in some of the most humbling environments known to man, creates a source of incredible therapy which cannot be experienced in any other way… and I should know, I’m a therapist! I’m a therapist and a trainee Mountain Leader combined, this is my work, this is my therapy. So, can you imagine my delight when Black Dog Outdoors invited me to work alongside them? If the answer is no then just imagine being given the world’s most delicious cake but it’s calorie-free… I was that happy!

I have since worked alongside Andrew Higson (director of Black Dog Outdoors) and the team, and if the expectation was the cake then the team is the cherry on top – what an amazing group to be a part of. I now get to work with groups of people who all decided to open the curtains and join us for a day of natural wonder amongst one of the most supportive groups I have had the pleasure to work with. We share laughter, tears, stories and make friendships. We cater for all. So, you’re not the fastest – who cares! So, you’re not the strongest – well I’m no 'Schwarzenegger' either. So, if you’re not feeling yourself today – we are still here; if you need to talk, we are listening, if you need space then walk with us in space and silence.

If you decide to open the curtains and join us, I can’t promise it will always be easy, but I can promise that it will be worth it!

The walks are very relaxed and are just to provide a safe experience for people to venture out into the Peak, North Wales, Yorkshire, the Lakes and South Wales. Climbing Alongside Mental Health (CAMH) will also be teaming up on some of the BMC and Black Dog Outdoor events with five climbing days pencilled in over the summer of 2020.

Table of walks for 2020

Month

Date

Location

January

Saturday 18th

Peak District (Stanage)

February

Saturday 15th

South Wales (Sugar Loaf)

March

Saturday 14th

Lake District (TBC)

April

Saturday 18th

North Wales (TBC)

May

Saturday 16th, Sunday 17th

Lake District / Kirby Stephen

July

Saturday 18th

North Wales (TBC)

October

Saturday 17th

York Dales (TBC)

November

Saturday 14th

South Wales (TBC)

December

Saturday 12th

Peak District (TBC)


If you or anyone you know would like to go on, or help on one of these walks please contact james@thebmc.co.uk


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