In the second installment of our Women In The Outdoors series, we chatted with Liv Bolton AKA @liv_outsideuk, host of The Outdoors Fix Podcast and Co-founder of Finding Your Feet London.
Hi Liv, could you just introduce yourself first?
Hi! I’m Liv Bolton and I’m a hiker, journalist, and host of The Outdoors Fix podcast - all about inspiring people to make outdoor adventures a bigger part of their lives!
How are you coping with the lockdown? Any tips for people?
It’s been quite an adjustment! I’m in lockdown in my flat in London, so I’ve been exploring my local parks and trying to focus on the nature around me, rather than the countryside that I can’t get to! I’ve never paid so much attention to spring blossom before - it’s been stunning in London recently. I’d definitely recommend taking a closer look at the flowers and trees near you, wherever you are. Just stop and stare up at the trees, or REALLY look at a flower. I find it completely takes my mind off things and relaxes me. I take pictures and try to identify the trees/plants via Google when I get home. Hopefully my knowledge of nature will be a little better after all this!
What drove you to start The Outdoor Fix podcast?
The idea was planted when I took a sabbatical from work in 2018 and went on an 800 mile, 10 week hike in New Zealand! I’d been in an incredibly stressful newsroom job and felt I needed some time out to address anxiety/stress and to reassess things. I was so lucky my workplace agreed to the sabbatical. When I was on the hike, I realised how much nature and walking in the outdoors meant to me and how happy it made me feel. Over the weeks, I decided that I wanted to make my life more outdoorsy when I got back to the UK. I figured that other people might want to do the same. So I decided to set up the podcast and speak to people who have already changed their lives to get outdoors more and find out how they did it!
Could you tell us more about your NZ through hike? What sparked your interest in doing it?
New Zealand has a walking route that goes from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. It’s about 3,000km and is called the Te Araroa trail. My friend Ali saw some hikers doing the route on Instagram and saw how beautiful it was. So she asked me if I would want to walk some of it with her! I loved hiking and it looked like an adventure of a lifetime, so I knew I had to say yes! When our sabbaticals were approved, we decided to do the South Island route - 800 miles from Ship Cove to Bluff over 10 weeks.It was the most amazing experience. We carried everything we needed in 17kg backpacks, washed in streams, wild camped or stayed in the country’s backcountry huts (which are like Scottish bothies). The scenery was so stunning - we walked next to the clearest lake in the world, over snowy mountain passes, past waterfalls and through lush, green, rolling hills. It was exhausting walking up to 40km a day and our bodies ached throughout the route, but the simple life of walking, eating, reading, sleeping and having few other worries was bliss!
What tips would you give someone who is looking to start hiking?
I’d buy a pair of walking boots and see if there are any walking groups in your local area that you could join. It’s a great way to get started and to meet other people who like doing what you enjoy too. You’ll be able to increase your knowledge about map reading and local hikes as well. I’ve also found the hiking community really friendly on social media, so you could always reach out to someone who likes hiking on there and ask how they got started. #ukhikers is a good hashtag to follow to find fellow hikers. Or see if a friend wants to go on a regular local walk with you. You can explore new areas together and get practice at route planning and finding what scenery you like walking in!
And what about tips for someone who hikes a lot maybe in the UK, but would like to try something a bit longer, either domestically or abroad?
I would say that if you have an inkling that you’d like to do a long-distance hike, absolutely try and make it happen if you can. Don’t let the idea float away. Imagine how you’ll feel if you actually do it! It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. Also don’t assume that there will be things stopping you do it. For example, I never thought that my workplace would give me a sabbatical, but after 5 minutes chatting with my boss, he said yes! You just have to ask! I would work out where you might like to do the hike, then chat to other people who have done it or read blog posts about it. Then start planning!
Do you have any plans for any more thru-hike, maybe the Appalachian Trail?
I would love to do a few long-distance hikes in the UK actually. I want to explore my country a bit more before travelling abroad again. The Cumbrian Way in the Lake District, the Ridgeway in the Chilterns, the South West Coast Path and many more are on my list!
What do you love about the outdoors?
There’s a long list of things I love about the outdoors: The scenery, the fresh air, the exercise, the conversations with friends, the way it helps de-stress me, the wildlife, how it connects people… I think I feel my happiest when I’m outdoors and it’s been so wonderful to find something that makes me feel like that.
What advice do you have for someone who lacks the confidence to get outdoors and try new things? Have you ever experienced this yourself when trying something new?
I think one piece of advice would be to find someone who has a bit of experience with those activities and see if you can join them on an outing. It might be a friend, a colleague etc. I find it’s easier to try new things when I know someone who already does it and I can learn from them. I’d never done rock climbing outdoors before last year and was nervous about trying it. But some of my friends enjoy it, so I joined them on a trip to Snowdonia and they showed me how it works and talked me through any fears I had.
Could you also talk about your walking club, Finding Your Feet London?
Finding Your Feet London is a monthly walking club that my friend Ali and I set up when we came back from New Zealand. It’s free, open to anyone and we do about a 9 mile walk on a Sunday each month. The group is based in London and we’ve walked most of the Capital Ring route around London. We’ve also done day hikes to the Chilterns and to Box Hill. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday and a lot of fun! We have a Facebook and Instagram page where we post about the hikes (in non-Coronavirus times!)