March 2016 (updated April 2021)
Something I read in December 2015 really hit a chord with me – “That thing that you do, after your day job, in your free time, too early in the morning, too late at night. That thing you read about, write about, think about, in fact fantasize about. That thing you do when you’re all alone and there’s no one to impress, nothing to prove, no money to be made, simply a passion to pursue. That’s it. That’s your thing. That’s your heart, your guide. That’s the thing you must, must do.” (Jes Allen)
The timing of that train of thought came with the start of a new year approaching. A time when many make resolutions to change certain aspects of their life in the coming year and beyond. Normally I don’t bother, believing that if you want to change something then just do it, why wait for a new year? But this year was to be different. I found myself doing a lot of soul searching, reviewing what things in my life were going well and what not so well, determining where I wanted this coming year to take me.
I remember so vividly the day Gillian’s Walks first became a twinkle in my eye! I had packed the buggy up in the car and went for a walk along Prestwick promenade. The sun was shining, it was a crisp cold winter morning, a brisk icy wind was blowing on my face, I was beside the sea, I was with my son in his buggy, and we just walked. I would normally have felt guilty about taking some time to do this, (I had always felt a sense of unease at telling people I was a full time mum) but on that day I felt completely at ease, keeping myself to myself and just walking along, enjoying the fresh air and Thomas’ chattering.
It suddenly occurred to me: being outdoors was my passion. I loved nothing more than getting out and spending time walking, discovering new paths, new places, new views. I thought back to my childhood and our weekly hikes in the Scottish mountains, our skiing holidays. I wondered how many walks I could manage this year… I pulled the number 100 out of thin air and that’s when the 100 Walk Challenge was born: I would aim to walk 100 different walks in 2016.
And I did. I started to post about my adventures on my personal Facebook page. My photos would always get a lot of compliments and people seemed genuinely interested in where I’d get to next. Fairly quickly I decided that I wanted to document the walks. I was doing the majority of them with my 2 year old in tow whilst my eldest was in nursery, and I wanted to be able to look back on these adventures when the kids were older, show them all the places we had been. What started off as a collection of MS Word docs soon became a WordPress blog, and the Facebook posts became a Facebook page. What to call them though? Gillian’s Walks was the answer. It took a bit of encouragement from my husband to formalise things with the creation of a logo and the rest, as they say, is history.
That was 5 years ago and my Facebook page now has over 7000 followers. My blog has changed over the years and has transformed into a resource for anyone looking to try a new walking route. It has almost 200 routes on it and is viewed on average 70,000 times every month which is pretty mind-blowing! I still remember the day when tracking my routes on Viewranger first became an idea – “Wouldn’t it be great if I could trace where I walk and then share the map with others and they could literally follow my exact route on their mobile phone and never be worried about getting lost?” I thought. Turns out there was an app for that!
Many doors have opened for me as a result of Gillian’s Walks, not least my voluntary role on the Ayrshire Coastal Path Management board and my job in active travel. I have had the opportunity to lead walks at various local walking festivals and for corporate team building days. Best of all I have made friends for life and seen A LOT of beautiful places.
Here’s to the next 5 years (and beyond)….