Fells, Friendship, and Nature Connection
On a circular walk from Murton along High Cup Gill to High Cup Nick, everything aligned in a way that is hard to fully capture in words. The peacefulness of the water flowing beside us, the November sun lighting up the sides of the U-shaped valley, the beck-side brew that always tastes better than any cup of tea made indoors. And a memorable encounter with a fellow walker, quick to share his love of the area, pointing out the spot where he takes a seat every time, in all weathers and seasons.
“We’re just wondering whether to go up Murton Pike on the way back,” I said.
“You should. The fell would want you to,” he replied.
We said goodbye and I quickly scrawled the exchange into my phone’s notes so as not to mis-remember his words. As we turned off the path, I gave him a wave so he was sure we were going up.
They were only a few words but full of meaning, as I felt he had acknowledged the fell as capable of feeling, of being communicative. When I’m outside, there’s a lot I often silently communicate to my surroundings, and the notion that nature may be doing the same was beautiful to me. I felt it symbolised a friendship between him and the fell, built up over the years, and with us as first-time visitors. It removed a separation between walker and landscape, between person and nature, and embodied a shared experience, that our enjoyment would be the fell’s enjoyment and vice versa.
This exchange particularly resonated with me as my PhD explored how adventure experiences can be transformational for an individual’s sense of self and their attitudes and behaviours towards nature. Nature connectedness was my bridge between these two areas, as a close relationship with nature enables benefits for the wellbeing of both humans and nature.
Research shows that it is not about the amount of time spent in nature objectively, but that moments of active engagement are what develop greater nature connection and wellbeing benefits. Slowing down, noticing, engaging the senses, and exploring the meaning behind experiences is key to going beyond just physically being in contact with nature, to developing an emotional connection and closer relationship. Recognising not just what these experiences provide to us, but how this can inspire us to take positive action for nature.
Whilst some narratives centre around guilt and responsibility regarding sustainable or pro-environmental behaviours, this sense of love, connection, and compassion provides a more hopeful and ‘natural’ motivation that can be transformative.
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” — John Muir.
Going into ourselves and finding belonging, inspiration, comfort, but also going into nature and realising this re-connection, not just whilst on footpaths but walking it back into our lives.