There are countless self-improvement blogs, videos and pod-casts available on-line. Many attempts to map out the route to happiness wealth and health. Get a pay rise, make a million or get a six pack.
As an enthusiastic walker and proud Dad; I have spent many days walking with my children. I partake in many activities with my children including martial arts, music, science experiments and video production. Other than martial arts, walking offers a raft of benefits for all concerned.
It takes skill and perseverance to interest kids in hiking. When you have cracked it; it becomes a hugely important way to bond with your family and gain validation as a role model Dad.
I have found my formula to this most rewarding of pursuits. I have chosen to write about it to spread the word and empower Dads.
Who is the walking Dad?
I work as an office based engineer in the manufacturing sector and have done for 20 years.
Although not passionate about sport I have trained several martial arts for around 20 years and hold a 2nd Dan black belt in Free-style Karate, I also enjoy ‘ninja warrior’ type training. Obviously walking up mountains as much as I can too.
My role in martial arts has expanded over the years, for over a decade I have been an instructor, I commentate, referee and judge for various fight events from MMA to Boxing.
I have a passion for music. I love Dj’ing/mixing and play in a work band as a drummer
My wife is my rock, she has given me two amazing children and offered me support in many pursuits over the years. She is an active part of ‘The Walking Dad’ and comes on all our family walks.
My kids are two boys age 7 and 10; they bring an unparalleled sparkle and joy to the world every day. (And they keep agreeing to walk up mountains with us, which helps)
I have several historic walking buddies that have shown me the world of hikes, scrambles, and mountains; ‘Dolph’, ‘Cone man’ and ‘Moggy’ have been on the most including a pilgrimage to the Himalayas. Love you guys.
As a child of a single parent walking was something I did every day, To school and back, to my grandparents, cousins, or friends’ houses. It’s not exactly a Wainwright’s book…
I live in Yorkshire so rolling hills are never too far away, however living in the large town of Huddersfield and my mother not having a car I never had the opportunity or inkling to venture out on them.
The regular schools that I attended were poorly funded and the trips were generally to a farm or at best a zoo. Outdoor pursuits were not overly encouraged. There was a residential trip to a historic adventure type place at my junior school (age eleven-twelve) but for whatever reason unlike all my peers I was discouraged from attending by my family.
There were local scout groups but anything that had cost or needed private transport was not an option.
When I turned sixteen/seventeen and had left school I got into an engineering college. Near the end of term there was a residential week on an Outward-bound centre next to Lake Ullswater in the Lake District. This opened my eyes to outdoor pursuits. I thrived in this wondrous environment. It helped that I was surrounded by like minded young lads free from our parents and in a huge dorm building. I saw the lake district for the first time, and was immersed into climbing, abseiling, building a raft, wild camping with only a tarp, caving, assault courses and much more. This lit a fire inside me for adventure.
My later teens were filled with the regular activities where weekends were strictly reserved for partying Friday and Saturday and Sunday for recovery.
In my early twenties and after completing my apprenticeship I moved departments at work and became good friend with a colleague Andrew Chamberlain (Dolph). When not working or acting the goat, myself and Dolph (a former scout leader) discussed walking and Ben Nevis. We planned a trip to Scotland to attempt Ben Nevis, and in the interim Dolph showed me several walks; the first was up to Pavey Ark and Stickle Tarn in the Lake District. The views were incredible but the weather was a mix of sunshine and showers. If you are unfamiliar with the walk there is a tremendous wall of stone in the background of the tarn called Pavey Ark. Dolph pointed out a fault running diagonally up the walk; a notorious scramble called Jacks rake. I did not believe him however in the then rain he disappeared up the narrow channel and I opted to walk around to the top an alternate way.
Later in May that year conquered Ben Nevis however, it was a not without its difficulties. Although the weather was fine at road level; from three-quarters of the way up the mountain was a layer of snow. With snow on the top knee deep and poor visibility from fog/cloud cover, and driving hail that hurt… the conditions were challenging.
After conquering Ben Nevis the only logical next step is to take Mount Everest to task. Getting ahead of ourselves in all aspects from skill to the finances we carried on unperturbed and disregarded any European or American mountains. Dolph spent time researching several treks in the area. We eventually found a company called Mongoose travel; a man and wife team that take small parties from Kathmandu to the foot of Mount Everest known as the main Everest base camp.
At the age of 24 and the youngest person on the trip we set off to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. From here we took a small twin prop plane into the mountains and landed at 2500 meters above sea level at the infamous Lukla airport. The runway is on the side of a mountain, where it facing up-hill (when coming in to land). The airport due to its short runway, high altitude, poor visibility, and mountains on three sides still sees failed landings resulting in the death of all on board.
The Everest trip was booked two years in advance which meant at least once a month a group of us would take a long hike or scale a mountain. We walked in the Lakes, Yorkshire dales, Peak District, Wales and Scotland. Since then walking has been a staple in my life.
As well as hiking and scrambling we have diversified to exploring caves, sailing and canoeing in the Dales and Lakes.
In seeing the massive benefits of mountain walking and strolling the country side; I naturally progressed to leading many walks where I have taken other friends out, most with no prior walking experience.
My life changed when I had children, I felt a massive sense of purpose along with sometimes-overwhelming responsibility. I believe in making the best out of every situation. As soon as my eldest could hold his head up un-aided he was given pride of place in a second-hand baby carrier back-pack. It had a comfy seat and rain hood. He was wrapped up warm and out walking with us on short walks before he could walk. Once my two had out grown the pack it was passed on again to a friend who did the same with his baby daughter.
I started my boys on proper walks when they were around four and five. We have not looked back since. Walking with them comes with countless benefits, too many not to share… hence, The Walking Dad