April Grayson - trainee Lowland Leader
What do you do for work?
I’ve recently retired after working as a midwife in the NHS for 23 years. I’m now helping my partner set up an ecological campsite in Dorset near Bridport. During my working life I wanted to help people have a great pregnancy and birth and have a good start to family life. With the new venture I hope to help people have a great holiday with their loved ones and family.
Why are you considering a lifestyle change?
Working full-time shifts with nights and on-calls was becoming harder to sustain. For my own wellbeing I wanted to change to a way of life where I could work outdoors, and have more control over my eating and sleeping routines!
Have you always been active in the outdoors?
My dad was always a keen walker, and we spent many happy family holidays out on Dartmoor, or Snowdonia. Later, with my own children we walked in the Peak District and the North York Moors. One of the best trips I’ve done recently was walking the Overland Track in Tasmania with my daughter who lives in Melbourne. My partner and I love to get out for an early morning cycle ride, and winter is for skiing!
How/why did you get involved in the Lowland Leader scheme?
I want to be able to take walking groups out in the beautiful Dorset countryside. We don’t have any mountains in Dorset, but we do have the fantastic Jurassic Coast with a bus service all the way along its length. Also, there are many hillforts which provide an interesting objective for a walk, with really lovely 360 degree views. One of my favourites is Pilsdon Pen, 277 metres high, with well defined ramparts, and medieval rabbit warrens in the middle.
What did you enjoy most about the training course?
During the training course I’ve really enjoyed meeting lots of outdoorsy people from cavers to Mountain Leaders. The couple who ran our Outdoor First Aid course were brilliant. Even though I’ve been working as a nurse and a midwife most of my adult life, I learned a lot on their course. I would never have thought of using a bicycle inner tube as a sling!
What do you plan to do with the qualification?
Once I’ve completed the Lowland Leader course I want to lead walks from the campsite. I’m very interested in the links between mental and physical health and I like to incorporate mindfulness techniques into walks. For example, during a walk, stop for a few minutes and focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch or feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and then one thing you feel within. This is a lovely grounding exercise, which can combat stress or anxiety.
Where’s your favourite place to go walking?
During the winter I usually go skiing in Bansko, Bulgaria, which is a good value resort. In the summer the snow melts and the Pirin Range of mountains provides a phenomenal walking experience. Trails are marked, and mountain huts mean a multiday trek can be arranged without needing to carry lots of gear. There are many gentle routes suitable for slower walkers, which take in lakes or viewpoints without needing to be superfit.
What would you say to someone who’d like to start walking regularly?
I would say, go with a friend, who might be four-legged! Dress for the weather. Start low, go uphill at the start, come downhill at the end and if you can finish near a teashop or pub, so much the better.
Remember, it's not a competition.