The outdoors has always been a big part of my life. Some of my earliest memories involve rampaging around on mountains and beaches, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes rather reluctantly, mostly ending up wet and windswept but content. Those experiences helped to shape me – into someone who loves exploring, relishes a physical challenge, finds peace in the wilderness. So now I’ve become a mother, and have a small person who I need to raise to be happy and resilient, I feel the bearing of responsibility to help him see what I see in the outdoors, as a place to enjoy yourself, challenge yourself and come to know yourself. He doesn’t have to be an outdoor athlete if he doesn’t want, but I’d love him to love the wilderness like I do, and find it in nourishment for the soul.
We’ve not done badly for outdoor adventures in his first year. He’s an accomplished hiking partner of mine – first tucked up in the sling, fast asleep; then he discovered the excitement of facing outward and waving his arms at passing trees, sheep and clouds. He’s now been promoted to the rucksack with its superior views and I like having a little buddy to chat to over my shoulder. We’re so lucky in the Tweed Valley to have so many amazing hills to wander up on sunny (or not so sunny) days: Cademuir, Lee Pen, the Three Brethren, Minch Moor… I hope these are names he will grow to know and love as we do.
We took him on his first bikepacking trip when he was about four months old – a gentle late summer night spin to the nearby Manor Valley to camp in a field by a stream amongst the sheep. Close enough to home to escape in the middle of the night if he decided not to sleep in the tent, but we shouldn’t have worried, he was quite happy tucked up between us on his own Thermarest. He seems to quite enjoy riding in the bike trailer: his own little capsule to sit in and watch the world go by whilst someone else does all the work.
Our camping adventures got a bit braver over the summer. We went to the Dolomites to show him what bigger mountains (and bigger thunderstorms) look like; what a privilege to be able to show him these amazing places for the first time. I went to the Outer Hebrides with a friend: two babies, two mummies, not much sleep but lots of cake and swimming in the sea. We came home exhausted but exhilarated, mummies and babies alike.
Most recently we took him to the Norwegian Lofoten islands, where we were drawn to get our fix of splitboarding (he couldn’t join us in that this year) but also to show him the ridiculous majesty of big mountains in winter, and the drama of frozen skies and moody fjords. And so I hope we’ve started him off on the right track to knowing what the outdoors is all about.
And what has motherhood taught me about the outdoors so far? I guess mainly that it doesn’t have to be some adrenaline-fueled escapade in order to count as a good day out. That adventures take many forms, and there’s plenty of happiness to be had in going exploring and finding a good view to share with enthusiastic company.