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A year in the life of Karen Cameron-Almgill - How Yorkie Talkies Outdoors can change lives

Karen's – case study (interviewed on 22nd September 2022)

Karen has been walking with Yorkie Talkies Outdoors for just over a year and, in that time, has seen huge positive changes in her physical and mental health. She has tackled challenges, pushed herself out of her comfort zone, increased her fitness and made good friends. We’re super proud of all she has achieved, and she has graciously agreed to us to share her story.

“I used to walk a lot and loved being out and about, but family commitments and a challenging career in social work eventually got in the way.

When I lost my wife Tracey in 2020, I took myself off camping and walking and enjoyed the feeling of being in the great outdoors again. Chatting with my boss about my hiking, she recommended Yorkie Talkies, as one of the leaders worked with her husband. So, in September 2021, I went on my first evening walk.

Physically, I’m much fitter than before I became a member. I now do 40-mile bike rides and completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I would never have believed I would ever be fit enough to do that. Emma is confident I’ll enjoy the National Peaks next year, and I do like a challenge.

I started on the evening walks, progressed to longer day hikes, and now I happily do all the big, extreme stuff Yorkie Talkies offers. I absolutely loved the ghyll scrambling this summer. I love being in the water, and once I overcame my initial fear of jumping in and realised, I wasn’t going to hurt myself, it was one of the best things I’ve done.

When I started, I did the nice steady little hikes and the shorter hill walks; then I remember turning around and saying, ‘I like these big mountains now.’ Of course, I’m tired when I get to the top, I’m knackered, but the sense of achievement of getting to the top of a big hill is amazing. I’m loving scrambling up the rocks too. We’re all just like big kids!

Yorkie Talkies has massively helped with my confidence too. I’ve found myself going on walks where I didn’t know anyone, walking up to them and just starting to talk. I would never have done that before. Believe it or not, I’m naturally shy and quiet. Walking has pushed me out of my comfort zone in many things. I used to avoid going to the shops alone; now I do it all the time. I even went on holiday to Turkey by myself recently.

Everyone talks to you on Yorkie Talkies walks. There are no cliques. We’re all like-minded people, but it’s not just that; there’s something different and unique I can’t explain. The nice thing is that you can join in the conversation if you want to or walk on your own. There’s no pressure to talk to anybody.

Walking with the group and meeting new people has also helped with the grieving process. It got me away from the house and out of my own little bubble. It’s helped with my mental health and the way my thoughts were. It keeps me busy and occupied and thinking about other things.

I’m suspicious that Emma uses her mindfulness moments to make us cry. But joking aside, when she does them while we’re sitting at the top of a mountain like Yewbarrow in the Lake District and looking at the beautiful view, it makes you think about where you are and why you’re there and makes you appreciate the moment, which we don’t often do. I’ve become more aware of what’s out there and the joy of being out and about. I was recently driving over to the lakes and seeing the morning frost and cold air rising in clouds was just amazing.

My favourite place to walk is probably the Yorkshire Dales. I love driving over the A59 and seeing the hills appear. And I’m not sure why I’ve not explored the Lakes before. I guess I’d always previously have headed to Northumberland. But when you’re in the Lakes and see those mountains, you can’t beat it.

One of my most memorable walks was Helvellyn via the Edges. The scramble down and the wind made me petrified, but it was a challenge, and I survived it. I’ll no doubt be doing the Helvellyn sunrise walk next year. The Wales weekend and all the scrambling we did was fantastic too.

If I look back at myself a year ago, I’m a lot happier now. My headspace is a lot better, and that’s the walking. I notice a difference in my mood if I haven’t been on a walk at the weekend. I need to be out. Coming back from a walk, absolutely knackered, falling out of the car because I’ve seized up, it’s a good feeling. My headspace is a lot better.

I’m shy, so I wondered, unless I go to the pub, get drunk and start chatting, how do I make friends as an adult? Joining a walking group was the answer, and a few of us are now going paddle boarding together next weekend.

What would I say to someone thinking of joining Yorkie Talkies? People have noticed a difference in me in the last year. I’m a lot more outgoing; I’m a lot healthier, both physically and mentally. So, I’d just say, ‘Give it a go as you’ll have such a laugh. Do it, try it!’

I know that Emma didn’t think I’d come back after that first walk as I was so quiet. But now I’m going and speaking to the new people, as I know how nerve-wracking it can be.

One of my biggest challenges was my first weekend away to the Peak District. I was initially worried about sharing a room and was self-conscious about eating a meal in front of others. So, it was super daunting and a massive push out of my comfort zone, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done, as I’ve now been on both the Lake District and Wales weekends. The best thing anyone has ever recommended to me was joining Yorkie Talkies. The team is such a lovely bunch of people, and I can’t fault them. They are all different, but they are supportive, encouraging and motivational. And the people on the walks are great too. They're from all different walks of life, all with varying reasons for joining the group. I’ve not met one who hasn’t been welcoming and friendly. The banter is always good."

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2 commentaires

Walter W
Walter W
15 oct. 2022

I Love your total honesty Karen and so good of you to share this with everyone.


Julie Musk
Julie Musk
07 oct. 2022

That's really inspiring. Thanks Karen. Hope to see you on one of the walks.

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