Berczy Interviews: Wonderful Wild Women
At Berczy, our aim is to bring people together to share happy moments that will become lasting memories. We came across an amazing community called Wonderful Wild Women and loved everything they stand for.
Lucy speaks to the founder, Sarah Gerrish, to find out more about how and why she founded the community, and what they get up to (outside of lockdown). We couldn't think of a better community to showcase this year for International Women’s Day!
We’d love to know why you started Wonderful Wild Women, and what it’s all about?
I started the community in 2016 when I was going through a bit of a tough time. I was juggling studying in Leeds, family life, living and working in Cumbria, and trying to maintain a work-play balance. The idea of bringing people together by creating a community was an attempt to create something positive in what felt like a very negative situation.
Fast forward a few years, we celebrate and shine a light on women making adventure part of their everyday lives across our social media. Our community covers a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, running, wild swimming and mountain biking. Our HQ is based here in the Lake District, so we organise lots of local meet-ups. The aim is to provide an opportunity for people to show up and access the outdoors in a friendly and supportive environment.
We love the community aspect, how many people are now involved and how can people join?
Our meet-ups draw very varied sign-ups depending on the activity. Our monthly social walks and runs regularly get between five and 25 people. We also help organise and facilitate a variety of different activities, such as yoga in the park, which often has as many as 50 people attending, whereas a climbing course is limited to between 6-12 people. I personally think it's really important to provide that varying scale of group size, as this often takes the pressure off.
All our group meets are put up on our Facebook page, so if you fancy getting involved, that’s the best place to find out about our activities! If you don’t have Facebook, they are also shared on Instagram, on our website and through our mailing list. Generally, the Facebook page is the most up to date reference point, you can find us here.
What’s the level of fitness and what activities do you do?
Under normal circumstances, we have monthly social walks and a social run on the 25th of each month. Around these, we also fit in other activities as and when the opportunities arise. The walks and runs are free and we have a kit available in an effort to break down any barriers around people’s personal financial situations.
The level of fitness required for our activities does vary, but mostly it’s about being able to get involved and push yourself out of your comfort zone a little. We aim to provide as much information on the walking or running route ahead of the day, so that those wanting to join can make a judgement. We always highlight the trails that are generally more difficult or strenuous, but most activities are open to all.
Have you noticed a particular uptake during lockdown? Have you found that people are more or less keen to join up and do exercise together (socially-distanced of course)?
After a couple of years focusing on building strong community roots here in the Lake District, the past year has seen us switch to virtual, online connections again. Our physical meets have been very limited this year, but each lockdown we’ve tried to be a beacon. Almost keeping the torch shining, saying we are still here, and we’ll get back out there when the time is right.
In the short term, we’ve organised virtual activities during lockdown to try to encourage engagement with the outdoors when motivation might be lacking. This has been really great for the wider following to participate in and there will definitely be some aspects that we take forward once lockdown is over.
We definitely can't wait to get back out there in groups again!
Do you have a sustainability angle to your community?
As a community we do try to advocate for the protection of our outdoor spaces. It's important for us to promote good practice and etiquette in our natural environment. Moving forward, it's something that we are keen to engage with more and help to educate those spending time in our national parks when the number of visitors inevitably increases over the coming months and years.
Have you got any advice for anyone that’s struggling with being cooped up inside, or feeling lonely?
I think there are a number of coping strategies that I lean on in a difficult situation:
Whether it’s a gentle walk, run, bike ride to the shop, taking your shoes off and standing on the grass. It doesn’t have to be something crazy or strenuous, even just shutting my eyes and lying on the grass brings me a real sense of calm and connection, as I listen to the sounds around me.
Be in or around water
Take a relaxing bath, sit by a stream or dip a toe in the sea if that’s an option for you. There’s a lot of research out there that shows the benefits of being near water on our mental wellbeing.
Talk to someone. It's said a lot at the moment, but don’t suffer in silence. There are so many people going through similar feelings, and there is so much relief to come from saying “Hey, actually I’m not ok”.
Make a plan
It feels pretty impossible to do at the moment but I love to make a good plan for the future, think about future trips and adventures. Research and plan routes. It makes me feel like there is a bit of purpose going forward and gives a bit of direction towards the days when we can move around a bit more rather than focusing on how endless the routine feels at the moment.