12 May

LS05 Walking in nature is good for your health with Joyce Crawford

Health: Joyce Crawford has a social walking group, on which they talk regular walks in Britain’s most beautiful and serene places. In this episode she tells us how invigorating a walk in nature can be, and it helps people to socialise and get well. Not all of us can run or do vigorous exercise but most of us can walk, increase your number of steps each day and start to feel alive

Transcription:

Interviewer: Joyce, welcome to LifeShot.

Interviewee: Thanks, Clint.

Interviewer: How are you today?

Interviewee: I’m good, thank you.

Interviewer: Very good. We’ve got Joyce Crawford, who runs ‘Joyce Weekly Walks’, a social walking club. You’ve done the London marathon, you’ve done the Centurions1911, which is an interesting one, it’s a walk for amateur athletes who have walked 100 miles within 24 hours in a judged race. So that’s quite an achievement. Joyce, it’s good to have you on the show. And today, we want to talk about walking, how people get something out of it, what they get out of it, how important is it to be outdoors and to be active and to move? So we’ll talk about that today. I was just reading up about walking and how it can put you into an elevated state of a different mindset. Or in an altered state of consciousness. And I mentioned a person called Sri Chinmoy, who started a marathon in 1977 and the races are still going on today and people experience hallucinations. So I wanted to ask if you’ve ever experienced something like that or something similar in your walks?

[00:01:24] Interviewee: Sleep deprivation does do some mind-altering things. It really does. No, I don’t think I’ve ever had hallucinations. You do become locked into a zone that’s not quite the real world. That’s for sure. And your mind plays tricks on you as well. You won’t give up way before your body will actually give up. So you need to be the master of your mind, I believe, in those situations. And I am pretty good at that. I am pretty good at talking myself out of some negativity, when I am doing a race or a competition. But hallucinations, no. Delirious, you could become delirious if you don’t watch the amount of hydration you are taking on. That’s a side effect of that, very, very quickly. And you can’t run out of energy either, otherwise that does some mind-altering things to you as well.

Interviewer: You said you tell your mind to get rid of negative thoughts. That’s an interesting thing you said, because it’s almost like you’re telling yourself something. Almost two things going on there. One thing is telling the other. How do you see that?

[00:02:47] Interviewee: What you think and say to yourself affects how you feel about something. So you need to be in charge of what you are thinking, because then you generate the feeling. Does that make sense? If your body is feeling worn out and tired, if I continually allude to “I’m tired, I’ve had enough”, then that’s exactly how I continue to feel. If I get on top of that and tell myself “I can do it, I can beat it”, it’s all in the mind, that really does alter things and it puts a different perspective on it. And you find that you can just re-energize yourself that way, that’s for sure. You can do impossible things. I would never have done that 24-hour, 100-mile race if I didn’t train my mind to do that. Endurance is… I don’t think everyone can do it. Especially in a race or a situation where it’s very repetitive, very boring. And you are doing the same thing over and over again. That’s a real struggle with the mind. You have to master that.

Interviewer: Was that race around a track?

[00:03:55] Interviewee: It wasn’t around a track, it was on a two-mile-loop, because it had to be measured, and it had to have judged officials at various points. There were always four officials out on the route to check that you weren’t running it and that you were race-walking it. That’s 50 times around there. So immediately, you start to think “Do I count up to 50 laps? Do I count down to zero?”, that’s what goes through your head.

Interviewer: How did you feel at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning? Was it 24 hours, so you…?

[00:04:30] Interviewee: Yeah, it started at midday on a Saturday and it went through until midday on a Sunday. And I finished with just about 17 minutes to go. I really enjoyed seeing the sunset. I enjoyed seeing the moon rise. And I enjoyed seeing the sunrise.

Interviewer: It was a clear night?

[00:04:48] Interviewee: It was a beautiful night. It was a cold night. But I loved the dawn. And the dawn comes before the sunrise. And it can come very, very early. It can be 3:30 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning and the sky changes colour. And that just motivates you. So there weren’t many dark hours, really.

Interviewer: Was it during the Summer time or Spring?

[00:05:11] Interviewee: It was August, mid-August. And I had a great team of supporters that came and there wasn’t any time when I didn’t see someone out on the course. They would have a camp, because I could only be fed in a certain area of the two-mile-loop.

Interviewer: You could stop?

[00:05:30] Interviewee: I could stop. And some people can build in enough time to have a proper rest. But I didn’t have that ability to go that fast and build in any extra time for myself. So within those 24 hours, you have to do all of your housekeeping things and all of your food. And you are allowed to be handed food, but you are not allowed to have anyone walk beside you. Because that’s considered pacing.

Interviewer: That is interesting, where you said that there was always someone there, egging you on, encouraging you.

Interviewee: Yes, always.

Interviewer: I am interested in that. How does that invigorate a person to have a sense of others around?

[00:06:06] Interviewee: Well, on a two-mile-loop, you are always 25 minutes away before you see the next person. And because those people changed all the time, that motivated me to say “Who is going to be around on the next loop?”. And I couldn’t stop and say “Hi” to them. But I could wave them on and they were intrigued by the whole idea of people doing that for 24 hours. And so, people would come for an hour, they had seen me twice. They had seen a whole load of other people as well. But to me, that is quite something, isn’t it?

Interviewer: You live in Mildenhall, which is considered countryside, to an extent. And we’ve got the Mildenhall Forest, Thetford Forest. Obviously, you’ve walked in the Brandon Forest and such. What is the place where you’ve walked where you feel most inspired?

[00:07:08] Interviewee: I did an interview last week for a local magazine in Suffolk, about the Suffolk Walking Festival, which I contribute to quite a bit. And the guy that has that up works for Suffolk County Council and he works for Green Access Department. So we want to get people out into the countryside. And one of his questions was where I like to walk. And I love [00:07:36], which is about 10 miles away. Because it has the pine forest there. It has the river Ouse, I love walking by water. I think a lot of people do. I think they find that really peaceful and tranquil. And it has a railway line. And I love a train going through a walk. I love a towpath that runs alongside a canal. There is also a lot of wildlife by a river. More perhaps than in a forest.

Interviewer: Do you walk just by yourself? 

[00:08:13] Interviewee: No, I don’t. No, I’m not very brave when it comes to that. I do very little walking by myself outside of a town or a city. So I can go to Cambridge and walk for miles and miles, because I feel safe there. But I don’t go alone into the forest at all, no.

Interviewer: Do you suggest that others do walks by themselves or is it just a personal thing, if you feel safe or not?

[00:08:43] Interviewee: A lot of people take a dog with them or walk with their dog. And that brings a sense of security. These days, we all carry phones with us. But I do like to go for a walk without a phone. I just don’t want the distraction. I do just want to disconnect. So for me, I would cycle solo. But you just have to weigh those risks up for yourself, don’t you?

Interviewer: How difficult is it to get people go on a walk with you? Is it not difficult, or is it difficult?

[00:09:15] Interviewee: It’s not difficult at all. I think because I can tempt people with a walk that is the right distance for them with a coffee stop. With somewhere which they wish to explore, that they haven’t thought of.

Interviewer: Do you have a mixture of people coming or do they come to your club walks?

[00:09:42] Interviewee: Oh, that’s interesting. Just last week, I did a walk, I’d grade it as a 10 out of 10 walk. It was perfection, I thought. And I had 19 people come along with varying abilities. But I e-mailed out to the group or used some social media and I told them exactly what’s expected. They always want to know the length of the walk, they always want to know if there is a coffee stop or where we stop for lunch and the gradient, etcetera. So I think I give them plenty of information before they come on a walk, so they know whether they can do it. And some people choose to challenge themselves. So I had a lady who had never walked 9 miles before and she wanted to walk 9 miles. And she got round and she has written to me and said “I’m so pleased with myself, that I was able to do something I had never done before”. And this Friday, I happen to be doing a 10-mile walk. Will she come, will she not, I don’t know.

Interviewer: I am thinking about the mental benefits of doing walks out in nature. In your walking club, are there people who are – maybe they don’t say it to you – are dealing with some mental things and this helps them? Do you think that walking out in nature does help with mental problems or situations?

[00:11:12] Interviewee: Oh, it definitely does. It’s a difficult thing to quantify and measure, because it is different for everybody. But I always smile and say “There are no mirrors in the country”. You are never checking your reflection. So if you go into town, you’ve got shop fronts and glass and mirrors. There is always that tendency to just check if your hair looks okay. But in the countryside, there are no mirrors and so there are no distractions like that. I find that most people walk with their phones on silent. I very rarely hear a phone go off at all. And I know that some people have lost as well, and they are grieving. And they are at different points in their lives. And it helps being with people that not necessarily will become your best friend, but they are the right person on that day. And often the walk is the right walk for that day as well for them.

Interviewer: I read a book by a Franciscan monk, Richard Rohr. And he talks about going on walks with the people who I suppose are in his church or whatever it is. But they walk behind each other and in silence. Have you ever heard of anything like that?

[00:12:34] Interviewee: No. Personally, that is not my favorite way of walking. The processional walking. I love a really wide field edge where you can walk through abreast. That’s my kind of walking, where everyone’s interacting and chipping in and joking and smiling and pointing things out.

Interviewer: You prefer the social side of walking.

[00:13:01] Interviewee: I do. I prefer pointing things out to people, that they wouldn’t be tuned in. So I can hear a buzzard, the noise of a buzzard and immediately, my head’s upwards and finding that buzzard and pointing it out. And last week, it was pointing out a red kite. Well, they are becoming more familiar, but people were quite interested in seeing a red kite and a little bit of bird song. I am not very good at that, I admire people that know birds just from their song. But it’s good to keep your eyes open for things like that. Like hares at the moment, they are prevalent.

Interviewer: At this time of the year?

Interviewee: Very much so. I am always looking for hare.

Interviewer: In the Spring time?

Interviewee: Yes. And deer.

Interviewer: Must be a beautiful time to walk.

[00:13:52] Interviewee: Oh, if I could walk solidly for the next three weeks, every day, I would not be happier. I lap up the Spring, the greenery. It’s a different green at the moment, isn’t it? The fields are really virgin, we have fields around here, oil seeds, that are just turning yellow.

Interviewer: All the colours.

Interviewee: Yeah, the patchwork is just lovely, really nice.

Interviewer: We’ll talk about your diet. I’ve been listening to a lot of different things about nutrition and sports and performance. So you’ve been on this Centurion 1911, so the 24-hour race, walking 100 miles. Now, you don’t eat meat per se, you eat fish sometimes. Did that diet hamper your endurance or do you think that eating a mostly vegetarian diet is okay for your performance?

[00:14:51] Interviewee: That’s a really interesting question. I was iron deficient for many years. And I worried that because I wasn’t eating meat, that that was the cause of it. But I was told that wasn’t the cause of it. I just couldn’t absorb some nutrients and some vitamins.

Interviewer: Because of your body or because of the food?

[00:15:10] Interviewee: No, just because of my body. So I had to take some vitamins for that. But I haven’t been iron deficient for a while now. And that’s something you need to get checked out, if you are doing a lot of sport, you do need to make sure that your B12 and your ferritin levels are good. I’m not scared of food groups. I’m not someone that cuts carbs out, at all. My body actually works really well with carbs. And sometimes very heavy carbs. So bread works really well for me. I can digest it well. I can digest it well when I am walking. I had to try lots of different variations. I find that my stomach is quite hardy. So for me, on the Centurion, I had to make sure that I got enough salt in, because I need quite a lot of salt. And I needed the sweet stuff and the savoury. So within 24 hours, you have to have all of those elements in your food. Because otherwise, it’s very bland, very boring. And you quickly shut down and don’t want to eat. But you need to eat, because you need to get to the end.

Interviewer: Was the salt for your cramping?

[00:16:34] Interviewee: Yeah, it was for the cramping. So I would make bread rolls with cheese in them. But then I would put jam in them as well. So I would have the carbs, the fat, the protein and the sweet.

Interviewer: Oh, yeah, I like a little cheese and jam.

[00:16:47] Interviewee: And you probably heard people say that normally they wouldn’t think of drinking Coca Cola. But when you are racing that long, Coca Cola is just amazing. It has to be flat, you can’t have the bubbles in it. But it gets you round. It really does. The caffeine, the sugar, it just tastes like liquid gold, it really does! 

Interviewer: So your choice on not eating red meat and other meats except fish, is that a bio-conscious decision? Or is it more “I just don’t like the taste”?

[00:17:24] Interviewee: It was a decision I made when I was about 19. And I started comparing how America prepared their chickens, fed their chickens, grew their chickens and how we did it here. And I remember going to America and someone said to me “If you just pull back a chicken’s skin, you’ll smell fish food, because that’s one of their elements of feeding them”. And I did, I tried their chicken, our chicken, their beef and our beef. And many years ago, there wasn’t this organic movement with meat or free-range. And certainly at 19, I couldn’t afford that. So I cut those food groups out. And the only vegetarian food you got out and about was an omelette or a jacket potato. And now, it has grown into quite a movement, hasn’t it?

Interviewer: So at first, you found that it was difficult to find food to eat.

[00:18:23] Interviewee: Yes, it really was. So you just cook at home and adept. But these days, vegetarianism, veganism is quite a movement, really. And a movement for morals, for ethics, for the environment. All sorts. But mine was, it was my choice. I didn’t mind other people eating meat. I prepared meat for other people. But I didn’t like the way they pumped the animals full of hormones and antibiotics.

Interviewer: So that was the main decision?

Interviewee: Yeah, it was, I think.

Interviewer: Are you proponent of that kind of diet for people more widely nowadays? Not necessarily exactly yours, but less meat?

Interviewee: That’s interesting. I don’t give it an awful lot of thought. I think less red meat, definitely.

Interviewer: And that’s for people who eat red meat every day? They should eat less red meat? If you eat it once a week?

[00:19:35] Interviewee: I don’t have a problem with people eating burgers or steak. Things like that. I think we have to be careful about how much bacon and how many nitrates we are putting into our body.

Interviewer: So it sounds like you don’t want the hormones, you want to eat natural food, whole foods. Foods that are good for your body. Foods that don’t hurt the body. So if people are making those choices, then they are making better choices?

Interviewee: Yes, there is nothing better than seeds and nuts and fruits. They’re great. They feed the mind.

Interviewer: So what sorts of people go on walks with you, do you have younger people coming? Young parents, or is it more the older generation?

Interviewee: No, it’s [00:20:22] people. So I’m 51, it would be people that have taken early retirement. They are maybe in their 50’s. And older. I would say, I would say we are in perhaps the 10-year span between 50 and 60, most of us.

Interviewer: Although, there are times also when you have some young people with you? I’ve walked with you New Year’s Day.

[00:20:50] Interviewee: Yeah, so my husband and I, we’ve done a New Year’s Day walk for the last ten years, easily.

Interviewer: It’s very popular.

[00:20:58] Interviewee: It is popular. It’s just a day of getting together. And you can’t say ‘Hello’ to everyone. There are too many people. Last year we had over 80 people on the walk. And we had a simple three mile walk down to the local pub. The local pub made some sandwiches for us. There were lots of dogs on the walk, lots of strollers. It was a walk for everyone. And for people that didn’t want to do more than three miles, then there was the option of driving back from the pub and they got a three mile walk in with some friends.

Interviewer: So it’s three miles there and three miles back?

[00:21:39] Interviewee: Yes, it was 6 miles. But when you are with people, the time goes quickly. You’re not adding up, until your body starts aching and your feet feel slapped on the bottoms. You can walk for a quite a while without thinking about it.

Interviewer: Do you have big walks like that during the year as well, that people attend? Like maybe Easter?

[00:22:03] Interviewee: We have done Easter walks. We don’t have anything planned for this Easter. I have a walk happening in May, which is along a river. And there is also a railway running along the riverside as well. So people can opt to have five miles or eight miles or three miles. And we have a breakfast stop and there is a pub at the end. And it’s a nice walk.

Interviewer: It sounds like you are too easy on your walkers.

Interviewee: I am too easy.

Interviewer: “You can stop at three!”. [laughs] “Come on, guys, all the way until eight miles!”

[00:22:40] Interviewee: I know! Not many do. They do feel bad about opting out. But if you have a young family and they all want to bring their little kids, you don’t want to carry them for eight miles. But three miles is good. And they get to ride on the train back. It’s good.

Interviewer: I might come to that one.

Interviewee: You might, you know the area well.

Interviewer: Do I?

Interviewee: Bishop’s Stortford.

Interviewer: Oh, okay.

Interviewee: That’s where we start.

Interviewer: It’s a lovely area. 

Interviewee: Yeah, it’s lovely. Plays right down in the river leap, which goes to the Thames in London.

Interviewer: I shall see you there. What advice do you give people on where to focus their attention when they are walking? Is it more a social walk or do you think they should focus on something in particular?

[00:23:30] Interviewee: That is interesting. You can put the most interesting walk on, if somebody has found someone to talk to, they will literally walk with their heads down, chatting. It amuses me all the time, because people just want different things when they are walking. People just want the exercise or the social side is really big. And so often, people just walk with their heads down. And I try to elevate them, very often I’ll stop the group and we’ll do a panoramic, because it’s just beautiful. I’ve brought them up, we’ve ascended, so we can get a real good view over a valley.

Interviewer: And then people’s attention breaks on that point on whatever they were doing.

Interviewee: Yeah. They affirm that it’s a lovely view.

Interviewer: “Oh yes, lovely. Look at that!”

Interviewee: Yeah. And “Aren’t we lucky?”, and then they resume their conversations. But that gives me joy as well.

Interviewer: To see people enjoying that time, gives you joy as well?

[00:24:27] Interviewee: Of course. Yeah, it does. It’s like they found kindred spirits. And I was walking with a lady the other day. And she lost her husband about three and a half years previous. And she wasn’t having a good day. And I was really happy to be a listening ear. Just to affirm that of course, there is no length of time that she has to finish her grieving at all. And the activity that she was doing and the route we were doing, it just brought memories back of how that would have been something they’d have loved to do together. So you have to adapt to those situations and just feel a privilege, that you were able to walk with them that day.

Interviewer: So it was an impromptu counselling session?

[00:25:18] Interviewee: It was just a really, really nice time with her. It really was. And at the end of the walk, she came on the next walk with me, three days later. She came on my walk. And she is also coming on a holiday we are doing in Spain, in October. So we are going to walk in Spain in October.

Interviewer: That must be quite different.

[00:25:43] Interviewee: Yes, it’s my fourth time of going. I don’t organize the walks. They are four days of walking, organized by a Dutch group. Which is strange, because the Dutch walk on the flat. But Marbella is not flat, it’s very angulating, very hilly. And it is warm there.

Interviewer: Is it arid? Or is it quite green?

[00:26:04] Interviewee: No, it is lush enough. It is dominated by a beautiful mountain. And we go into that, although it is looking a little bit more dried up. But it’s fun and you can choose the distance of 30 kilometres, which is 18 miles, every day for four days. That’s a challenge. Or you can drop to 20 kilometres. And there are 2200 people descending on Spain for this walking festival. It’s really vibrant, it’s really good.

Interviewer: I can imagine that.

[00:26:37] Interviewee: Very good. And it’s warm. Most temperatures are around 25, which brings a different challenge of its own as well. We have all day to do it. And the Dutch are very sociable. They bring their own bands with them.

Interviewer: Really? Music is playing while you are walking?

[00:26:53] Interviewee: No, at the end of the four days. It’s really good. I am quite evangelical about it. So the last two years, I have taken about a dozen people with me. And this year looks similar or even more.

Interviewer: I’d like to go, but having a young family could be tricky. Kids walk on that?

[00:27:14] Interviewee: They don’t. On the weekends, they have a little 10k for them, I think. So they do a little 6 miler. I have never seen that happen, because we’ve started walking earlier in the day, just to try and get some cooler temperatures.

Interviewer: Wow, so you start early, when it’s cool and by midday you are like “Phew!”.

[00:27:33] Interviewee: We start about 8:30 and we try to finish around 2:30. So we probably have about 6 hours of walking a day. But we go [00:27:43], so you can stop for a coffee anytime, ice creams. But I quite like getting back so I can swim and read and just get ready for the next day.

Interviewer: So in your walking club, has there been anybody that you have seen a drastic increase in their health from walking? Or have you not had that privilege of being with someone that long?

[00:28:10] Interviewee: I can say I definitely have. I was involved in the Stafford walking festival last year, 2018. And I led seven walks for them. And from a couple of those walks, I’ve been walking with the same people for a year nearly. And some of them are really challenging themselves on steps per day or miles per year, hugely so. So yes, people have really got a tiffy over the last year of walking with me. Which is great. I had some other people joining me that have just taken an early retirement. And their mileage is increasing. They are walking with other groups, such as the Ramblers. And there is a long-distance walking association locally here. They are walking with them. So sometimes, they can be walking twice or three times a week. And certainly, I am walking five times this week with people.

Interviewer: How long do you think you will be walking for until your old age? Do you plan on stopping?

[00:29:23] Interviewee: No! People say to me “Don’t your hips hurt? Your knees?”. Because the side line is race-walking for me as well. Which is a technical sport. But no, my hips don’t hurt me and my knees hurt me. And all the time, I think I am exercising my heart, I’m keeping diabetes away. I’m keeping the risk of stroke low. I am just doing something that hopefully keeps all of that in check. There are lots of benefits to that. So I don’t think I will give up until I can’t.

Interviewer: [laughs] I bet you don’t feel 50.

Interviewee: Oh, what does that feel like, Clint?

Interviewer: I don’t know.

Interviewee: You don’t know yet, do you?

Interviewer: Yeah, exactly. But do you feel young?

[00:30:18] Interviewee: I think I feel younger now than I did years ago, when I didn’t do that much exercise. All my exercise was a bit more hard on my body, badminton and squash. That was a little bit more harder.

Interviewer: So how long have you been walking? Because I have known you for many years.

[00:30:35] Interviewee: Well, I have been walking long or mid-distance for close to 20 years, easily. And then in my younger age, in my teens, I did lots of aerobic sports. And then there was a period when I was iron deficient where I really didn’t do very much at all. Until I got on top of that.

Interviewer: It’s interesting, because I think that cardiovascular sports, they make you breath really heavy. I run once a week. And I think the reason why I limit it to once a week is because I don’t want to put too much strain on my body. So I rather use strength training and mobility. So I’ll keep my muscles strong and flexible and mobile. I think that’s important. But walking sounds like it’s a good exercise, because it doesn’t put too much strain on your joints. Whereas a heavy cardiovascular – like you mentioned, squash and running and badminton – do you think it puts more of a strain on the body?

[00:31:33] Interviewee: Yes, I think it tears the muscles quicker. And the recovery can be a bit longer. So apart from walking, I still go to the gym and so some 30-minute circuit classes. But I will choose whether I want to do – as you say – a conditioning class or a strength class or one that concentrates on keeping my heart rate up high. Or I do a Pilates class.

Interviewer: So variety is good to have?

[00:32:00] Interviewee: Oh, definitely. You have to keep tricking your body. If you do something all the time, then it always knows what to expect. That muscle memory is there. So my body knows how to put one foot in front of the other. But I need to keep tricking it into other exercises. Because walking, it’s good for bone density, because after 50, we can’t seem to repair that bone density. But we can certainly try and halt it. There is still other body conditioning that you need to do, definitely. The flexibility, the all-round strength.

Interviewer: Are those things good for the brain as well? I heard something about doing something with the hand that is not the dominant hand, to try and help the brain to reinvigorated.

Interviewee: Right. You trick it again, you mean?

Interviewer: You just mentioned that and it sprung to mind. When you said ‘trick the body’. And I am thinking, it’s good for the body. But I think it’s good for the mind, too.

[00:33:07] Interviewee: I think you are right. You reminded me of something I read in the paper once that said: When you are on holiday, how come the days always seem longer? And it’s because you are doing different things. And it is this trickery that the days are longer, because the brain is suddenly engaging in different activities. And the same day-to-day, when it is doing the same thing, the days just seem shorter. But on holiday, the routine is mixed up, you are doing different things and that is reinvigorating. That’s good. That’s why retirement sounds good, doesn’t it? Doing different things every day and not keeping it in a routine. But certainly, when you are exercising, the oxygen circulating is mentally a really, very good thing.

Interviewer: For your body and your mind, the brain.

Interviewee: Absolutely.

Interviewer: We’ll go onto something slightly different. Just more personal to you. This is all personal to you, but we also try to encourage people to get out there and walk and be with nature. But I want to talk about other aspects about Joyce. Which is, you seem a very organized person. And my wife, Esther, said to me one day: “How do you keep a house clean? Don’t move anything more than one if you can avoid it”. So tell us about the way you do these types of things.

[00:34:35] Interviewee: I know Esther is remembering if you are washing up and wiping the dishes, you don’t put the dish down and then pick it up again and move it into the cupboard. You put it straight into the cupboard. That’s what she means by ‘Don’t move it twice’. So I look for shortcuts like that. They are called life hacks. They give you a bit more time, because you’re just executing something faster. And then you can spend more time on other things.

Interviewer: Do any more come to mind? If you have little bits of advice or certain life hacks?

[00:35:12] Interviewee: Oh, I could have written you a list of life hacks. I’ve got some life hacks on all sorts of things. But nothing comes to mind at the moment. But am I organized? I think my personality is just wired that way. But then also, I have to try and be spontaneous at the same time. So my brain is always going to “What are we doing Friday? What are we doing Saturday? What are we doing Sunday?” And sometimes, that doesn’t leave enough time for being spontaneous. So there is a balance there, it’s nice to be organized but it’s really nice to do something on the spur of the moment as well.

Interviewer: So that’s putting yourself back and saying “Just be in this moment”?

Interviewee: Yeah. And see what happens.

Interviewer: Instead of worrying about what’s happening in the future.

[00:36:10] Interviewee: Yes. Don’t try and keep orchestrating things that you are in control of. Let someone else bring up something. Otherwise you will never… If someone does say “Would you like to come over to barbecue?”, you already have to say “Oh, we already promised here” or “We already have people coming around”. You just have to keep it a little fluid.

Interviewer: Freer. So what are you passionate about at the moment and why?

Interviewee: What am I passionate about? Interesting question.

Interviewer: Something that has recently come up that you have been thinking about?

[00:36:52] Interviewee: I am always planning new walks. I’ve always got an ordnance survey map somewhere open or photocopied and ready to do a new route. I am involved in a young adult’s group at our church, which I am passionate about. Seeing them connect with God and growing in their faith. I am passionate about that. I am passionate about family members. Cooking. Reading. I set myself a goal to read about 20 books this year.

Interviewer: 20 books in a year?

[00:37:31] Interviewee: Yeah, all of the books that you started and never finished. I won’t buy another book until I finished the 20 that are on that book list. And I’ve got through four at the moment. And I am reading the bible in a year again, which takes some commitment.

Interviewer: Every day you are going to read something?

Interviewee: Yeah, I do. And some texts around it, some commentary around it.

Interviewer: So I am going to talk about the young people that you have. They come to your house every Friday. You obviously talk about a range of different topics. What do you think they are struggling with the most at the moment?

[00:38:11] Interviewee: Ah, that’s interesting. So the young adult’s group that we facilitate, they are aged between 19 and 24. It’s a group that years ago, perhaps many of them would have been married and settled. But these days, they can’t afford to leave home. Lots of them go to uni and are starting on a career path. So everything shifted a little bit.

Interviewer: So they are younger for longer?

[00:38:40] Interviewee: Yes, I think they are. We address our group, we address life schools with them, really. We hit some hard subjects like self-harming, eating disorders, pornography, things that we don’t expose. We don’t want to know their trials. But we want to put in some ways to help them out with things like that. And ways to get some help. But they struggle with the distraction of social media. And the fact that everything seems to be bite size and soundbites all the time. And we find it really difficult to stay on topic for 10 minutes, 20 minutes without changing or checking something or looking elsewhere. They struggle with self-image. They struggle with comparisons. They struggle with not looking perfect all the time. They struggle with low self-esteem. And we are there to just put them back online, really. I always say “Nobody died of a big head”. I just keep complimenting them. Genuinely, authentically, tell them what they are good at. Give them hope.

Interviewer: Just hearing what you are saying about social media and always being connected to that virtual world, being disconnected from that for a while, just going out into nature. They do like going on camps, don’t they? If they were given the opportunity, I am sure they would say “Yes, let’s go!”.

[00:40:34] Interviewee: Yeah, maybe. They like leaders. In our group, we don’t have any particular one person that leads. Whereas in previous groups, I’ve seen people that lead and they lead well. They seem to gather people to them and they seem to just take people along with their ideas. And at the moment, we don’t quite have anyone that does that. But if you put an idea out there, they will go along with it. But they won’t generate that idea themselves. Just even if we are going out to eat somewhere. I find that all quite interesting. So I planned something for Good Friday for our group. We are going to a concert type service in Barry. And we put the idea that we are going to eat out beforehand. And of course, they are all up for that. So would they benefit being disconnected? We have one person in the group, he is definitely disconnected and doesn’t feel like they are missing out at all.

Interviewer: So they don’t have a big social media aspect in their life?

[00:41:40] Interviewee: No, they don’t have a platform at all.

Interviewer: They choose not to?

Interviewee: They chose not to for a while. And I asked them, “Are you missing out?”, and they say “No”. How freeing, I really admire them.

Interviewer: There are some beneficially aspects to social media. But then there are the negative parts of it as well. You become dependent on it.

Interviewee: There are some really beneficial aspects to it, of course. But these days, considering we are so connected, we are actually quite disconnected as well.

Interviewer: At the same time, which is really odd.

Interviewee: Yeah, “Let’s pick our phone up”. What? “To write a letter”. What?

Interviewer: Yeah, those things are of the past. The world we see at the moment, with Brexit going on and there seems to be a bit of division. And hate seems to be a little bit on the increase. You could see it like that. Or you could see life in a more positive way. I think sometimes we see a little bit of both. But how do you see the future playing out for us in the world? Is there hope for our young people and for humanity? And what should happen? What should change?

[00:42:53] Interviewee: There is always hope. There is hope because I am a Christian and I have a faith in Jesus, so that’s my hope. You’re right, there is an uprising in hate in our country. I think views are steered by our press and our news. And that disappoints me, really. I wish there was more of an independent voice. But there seems to be… I am not sure if there is more of a tolerance about some things or an intolerance. But a sway between the two things as whether we should teach tolerance or intolerance. I’m not really sure. But people are very vocal, aren’t they? That’s a tough one, that’s a really tough one. The answer to ‘Is there hope?’, yes, I believe there is. I think things will look different. But then everything has to keep moving. It can’t just stay still. Travel will be different. We can’t stay still. If you ask me what the world will look like in 10 years’ time, I have no idea. I want it to be secure and safe for all my nieces that are growing up. I want them to have opportunity, definitely. I don’t want there to be parts of the world that aren’t safe to travel to. I don’t want a world that focuses on greed and colour and ethnicity and religion, tribes. I don’t want that at all. I want us to be respectful of each other.

Interviewer: Just to round off then, I see you have some maps here. And I am just going to ask about some advice for people who do want to go on walks, I actually thought about this myself, I live in [00:45:10], there quite a lot of farms around. You would think “Well, where would I walk?”, because I don’t want to walk on the road with all these cars coming past. Are there things where you can say “People have walked here and this is a route where you can walk”. Are there maps like that?

[00:45:23] Interviewee: Yeah, there are maps that have defined paths and in the UK at the moment, we have some categories of a footpath which can only be walked on. It cannot be cycled on. And a broader way which will let you cycle and a horse can go down there. But a motorbike can’t go down there. That comes into another category of a byway. And I’m an advocate of that we need to realign the footpath and the broader way together, so that everybody on a bike, on a horse and on foot can enjoy those paths together. I think it’s a very old-fashioned idea and I can see why they did that. Because if you ask people 30-40 years ago, they would have never assumed that we weren’t getting enough activity during the week, that we had to hop on a bicycle on a weekend and cycle into the country. But that’s the reality, people enjoy cycling and strictly, they shouldn’t cycle on a footpath. But I would like to see that law changed, so that was accessible. But my rule is, I know my footpaths and my rightful way, but unless a farmer has got ‘Private: No entry’, then usually, the farmer will let you walk around a field. And they will leave a field edge. And you can see whether that has been walked on or not. So a track. Unless it has ‘Private: No entry’ on, usually you will find that a farmer is happy for you to give that a go. And if they are not, you will soon know. You’ll find most people have walked the inside of a field edge if it’s running by a road.

Interviewer: Do you use maps digitally as well?

[00:47:07] Interviewee: No, I don’t do it digitally. At home I do, I research online. Because there I have a bigger screen and I can move around a bit quicker. But no, I love it. This is all the information I need, on this map. So for example, we walked yesterday. And there is a trick point at the top of a small hill that we were walking in Suffolk. And immediately, I look at my [00:47:32] map. And I can see it’s 103, that’s the height of it. That’s where we are.

Interviewer: What is a trick point, for those who don’t know?

[00:47:41] Interviewee: It’s a measurement of how high you are above sea level. And it’s a concrete pyramid.

Interviewer: Does it have any writing on it?

Interviewee: It was in the middle of a field, so I didn’t walk over to it. So I don’t know that it does, actually. 

Interviewer: But the map shows you where you are.

Interviewee: Yeah, it does.

Interviewer: And that it is 103 meters above sea level, that point?

[00:48:03] Interviewee: Yeah, it shows you the contours and I find that really exciting and interesting. I like to see how much descent we have done.

Interviewer: From where you started to…

Interviewee: Yeah, the highest point and the lowest point.

Interviewer: Would it surprise some people that in this flat area that we are in, that there are some elevations?

Interviewee: Yes! It would, I think.

Interviewer: But how much do you think it differs? 100 meters? 200 meters?

Interviewee: 100 meters. Up and down, several times on a walk.

Interviewer: Up and down the rolling hills.

Interviewee: Yeah, they were rolling. It was a good walk, with ruins of an old castle around here.

Interviewer: Whereabouts were you walking yesterday?

Interviewee: Yesterday, we took in five villages. We started in called Barrow and we went to Denham, which is well known for its deer estates.

Interviewer: Actually, it is hillier there than it is around here, isn’t it?

[00:48:58] Interviewee: It really is, yeah. So Denham is known for its deer estates and we walked through a path with deer on either side. And sheep and lambs up to Gazeley, which is a beautiful village with a fine church. And then we went over to Moulton, which is a beautiful village with a fine church and a medieval packhorse bridge.

Interviewer: Do you guys walk into the churches sometimes?

[00:49:24] Interviewee: Yes, we do, if they are open. We did yesterday. And then we went on to the final, which is Dalham. And it has a fine church with a beautiful avenue of chestnut trees that are just budding with the sticky buds. And so I have already booked this walk to do again, as a repeat in two weeks’ time. Because the chestnuts will just be magnificent.

Interviewer: Do you have to let anybody in the area know that you are coming? Or do you just pitch up and walk?

[00:49:49] Interviewee: No, I don’t need to let anyone know. Unless I was doing it as an official walk for the Suffolk county council, like I did last year. And then, it’s wonderful how well-stocked the churches. They will put tea and coffee there for you.

Interviewer: If they knew you were coming?

[00:50:02] Interviewee: Yeah. If there is a toilet outside, they will open it up for you. People want to showcase churches and where they live. And yeah, it’s good. People are very, very good. I have a walk this year on the Elveden estates.

Interviewer: Yes, I know where that is. By the [00:50:23] forest side?

[00:50:26] Interviewee: Yes, just before, it’s on the Suffolk, Norfolk border. And I’ve engaged with Elveden estates and they have given me access to parts that aren’t open to the public. So we have a 7-mile-walk going around there. Breakfast before, which is locally sourced. And I get very excited about that.

Interviewer: And we mentioned that you have a club: Joyce’s walking club. Do you have a way for people to contact you? Is there a website?

[00:50:53] Interviewee: I do have a Facebook group called Joyce’s weekly walks, that people can join and then I would add you to an e-mail group. That’s what I tend to do, just e-mail around. Or people know when they are on a walk they can ask me about the next one.

Interviewer: And lastly, just a bit of advice for somebody who might want to start their own walking club in their area. How do they go about it?

[00:51:19] Interviewee: That’s interesting. Because I suppose my dealings with church gives me access to a couple 100 people, straight away. I have a big friends base as well. That’s difficult. I would say, there are lots of clubs out there, there must be one around there somewhere, close-by, a group.

Interviewer: So if you are in an area, there is probably a walking group?

Interviewee: Yeah, I would think so. And then you can always have a spin-off of that. Or get involved in a local walking festival if there is one near you.

Interviewer: Who would have thought? Walking festivals.

Interviewee: Yeah, they are great.

Interviewer: Joyce, it has been great having you on the LifeShot.

Interviewee: My pleasure.

Interviewer: Enjoy the walking.

Interviewee: Thank you.

Leave A Reply