Wander More This Winter

As part of our Wander More This Winter health and wellbeing focus, we will be bringing you a range of guest blogs from people who have benefitted from the great outdoors and the Lake District to improve their mental and physical health.

First up is Jay Mistry from Huddersfield, who hosts an annual  Christmas Day walk in the Lake District to help combat loneliness.

He said: “On Christmas Day I did a Santa hike for the third year running and I was astonished to get an absolute epic turnout of 64 people going up Latrigg. It’s amazing that it’s helping so many people and I am proud that I have a part to play in that. I’ve not always been as keen on the outdoors. Here’s my story:"

I wasn’t happy and decided to try hiking to get healthy

If we rewind to 2014, I was 22 stone in weight and kind of stuck in life that wasn’t me. I decided to go and find a local hiking club, but on the first big hike we did that summer, I realised how unfit and overweight I was. I decided there and then that enough was enough and that 2015 would be my year. I joined a hiking group that did a trip to Grasmere, and as I was already a few stone lighter I felt the benefit and really enjoyed the weekend in Lake District. This inspired me to continue losing weight and come back.

I discovered the Lake District was the ideal place to improve my fitness

A month or so later, I was back in the Lake District with few friends and did another few epics hikes over the weekend, including a challenging hike out on Blencathra and a return to Scafell Pike - a place I had visited in my late teens. Again I could feel the improvement in my health and fitness, and this encouraged me further.

Hooked on Wainwrights

Then a few more trips got me hooked on the Wainwrights; I found a few Lake District hiking groups on Facebook that gave me ideas and encouragement and spent more and more time in the Lakes. I did some big mountain days and also found great low level walks too.

Even in the dark days the great outdoors can help

Then the ‘Dark Years’ hit. In 2018 my mental health failed and I was struggling, but I carried on spending time in the fells as it really helped me. I pushed on and completed my first round of Wainwrights, Kirk Fell being the last. In 2019, I started rebuilding but had a bad year with my mental health and other illnesses.

That same year, I found myself on my own at Christmas and decided to organise a Christmas Day hike up Scafell Pike. It was amazing that seven people came to join me, and had an amazing day climbing as Santa. I hoped this would be the start of something good.

Lockdowns made me realise how much I love the Lake District

2020 got even darker for me - lockdowns and not being able to be out in the fells almost pushed me over the edge with my mental health. As soon as I could, I returned to the Lake District and embraced it even more.

Starting 2022 with anxiety but a plan

Going into 2022 my anxiety and mental health was all over the place. So, I made a 3 year promise to myself that I would restore my mental health and my body, as I knew small steps was what it would take. I made new friendships, spent more time in fells and mountains, and found my inner peace and happiness.

2023 is looking bright

As we go into the new year, my mental health is in a good place. I'm just about to complete my second round of Wainwrights, and will start a third.

I’d like to lose three stone, and I will organise another Christmas Day hike up Latrigg as I know how much it helps people.

My top advice to get started:

  • Little steps on a big journey: whether you want to lose weight or improve your mental health, the first step is as simple as just getting outdoors.
  • The Lake District has something for everyone: there are beautiful low and high walks and short and long hikes, so choose whatever you're comfortable with.
  • Try doing it systematically: I find doing Wainwrights is good way to start your fell hiking journey, as you have low fells and high fells, and you can learn about all of the Lake District fells as you go.
  • If in doubt, do your research: there are loads of local hiking groups to join, or you can use the Lake District National Park website to get some route ideas.
  • Be Adventure Smart: make sure you have good footwear and are prepared for any weather conditions.

I share my journey on my Instagram and Facebook pages.