“Hello I’m Julia, your Ramblers Leader. Welcome!” After six years of leading for Ramblers Walking Holidays all over the world, when I say these words at the beginning of a holiday I still get a buzz: excitement, curiosity, joy, anticipation, and just a little apprehension. And I guess that’s how many of our customers feel too. My job is to do all I can to ensure the holiday matches up to those expectations, or better still, exceeds them.
How? Much of it is in the planning: I research all the walks carefully, make sure I’ve got plenty of interesting local knowledge to share, check out latest walking conditions and what’s going on. If the group is interested I’ll include a talk on flora or geology, or maybe some walking techniques.
But just as important, our groups are full of people with fascinating knowledge themselves, skills and stories of their own to share. And sharing happens, inevitably, when a group of walkers with a common interest get together. I’ve made some great friends on my tours, and I’ve seen many lovely friendships made.
That’s not surprising given the great walking locations we travel to. From Mont Blanc to Canyonlands, and from the Jurassic coast to the Lake District, there’s always a surprise around the corner. On an easy grade walk I enjoy lingering by a river, watching wildlife, checking out the local history. I enjoy the local fiesta that we get lucky to see, the market packed full of local food treats for my picnic. On the tougher walks, the spectacular heights, glaciers and waterfalls, the sense of achievement, the changing scenery on a long journey. I look for the surprise every day, whatever the pace, whatever the weather.
One of my favourite locations, the English Lake District, is where my love of hill walking was born. There’s so much variety: in the Lakes I’ve led easy walking, tough hill walking and Nordic walking. I’ve led in rain and snow and even glorious sunshine! Staying at Ramblers own Hassness House is a bonus, we are so well looked after and the food’s amazing. I like it because it’s small enough to have a personal touch and the feel of a country house. It’s very peaceful in it’s enviable position overlooking Buttermere. Herdwick sheep, red squirrels and local birdlife strut their stuff just outside the windows to endless delight.
My background helps: I’ve worked in training and development for many years and have qualified as an International Mountain Leader. I’ve travelled extensively, so I’m used to finding my way around new places. I have a passion for big mountains and remote, wild places. I know now, after months of lockdown, just how much I enjoy (and miss) getting out there with a group: leading, sharing, informing, helping. Bring on the travel and bring on the walking!