Walks & Talks: Connecting Community, Nature, and a Love of Hiking
By KEEN Fan Bryony Carter
Prior to the pandemic I had centered my life in the mountains, taking off to far flung national parks to scale beautiful ridges and rolling landscapes. It is fair to say that hiking for me, is not a hobby. It is a fully fledged addiction — one that has now become a fully embodied part of my DNA and who I am.
So, when the pandemic hit and local walks were all that were available, I begrudgingly started out exploring. How stupid I was, assuming that local meant it could not be filled with beauty, adventures, varying landscapes, and that feeling of escapism that we get with being in nature. I was overwhelmed by the local trails I found that I would never have experienced. Before long I had discovered and hiked hundreds of miles of trail from my doorstep.
This got me thinking…
The stories my hiking boots tell
Post lockdown, as the country came back out to play, our beloved National Parks got flooded with crowds all baying for freedom, and it was nowhere I wanted to be. That is when I decided to set up the ‘Walks & Talks’ project. I was going to discover and walk a long-distance trail in every county of the UK, discover the hidden gems, and cover a range of terrain as I ran, skipped, danced and seamlessly moved through new places. But I didn’t want to do this alone. To me, hiking is as much as about the conversations I have as I walk along as the solitude it brings hiking solo. I wanted my trails and treks to tell the tales of the communities that walk them. So I invited people in the communities to join me — champions of their local area who are helping to raise awareness of underprivileged groups or those who struggle with access to the outdoors.
Trails have ranged from hundreds of miles to a long day hike. And, no matter the distance, they have been steeped in natural heritage, totally showcasing how versatile and beautiful our countryside is. The trails I planned and encountered are varied in distance and terrain, and I needed my boots to be lightweight and move with me so that I could adapt to any situation. If I worried about my sore feet, I wouldn’t be able to focus on listening to the people I have invited to the trails. As we walked along, I felt inspired by the ever-changing terrain around us and the love and pride when they told me about how the trails in their local area were changing the way people interact with the outdoors and connect with nature.
NXIS EVO hiking boots
Hiking through any terrain
Having boots that move with me and adapt is important. Being able to hike fast through different terrain is also high on my list, as my hikes consist of slippery rocks, gritty sand paths, boggy heathland, or even the urban setting (hard straight paths are the killer). I have found KEEN NXIS boots offer exactly what I need for that versatility. The proof is in my recent hikes in the Lake District. It was in the colder months, so the ground could be wet and boggy under foot, slippery or solid and hard, but I still had enough grip while carrying a heavier pack.
Being able to focus effortlessly on where I am going and feeling confident in foot positioning is certainly worth its weight in gold. It meant I could have those vital conversations with others as we walked along, battered by the sharp wind but feeling alive and sharing hiking mishaps.
The sense of purpose hiking gives me, the fact that my hobby is my passion, and the people inspire and drive me to hike more and explore more. I would never have expected that putting one foot in front of the other, would change the course of how I live my life and the people I meet forever.