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A Wild Welcome to Wales, by Mind Over Mountains volunteer Sian

A Wild Welcome to Wales, by Mind Over Mountains volunteer Sian

Our volunteer Sian shares her time from our first event in Wales. From the idyllic backdrop of Pistyll Rhaedr Fall up to Cadair Berwyn, to discovering a new slower pace and healing power of nature.

In the words of Boris himself; You should go outside to exercise - but you shouldn’t go outside to exercise! So… if you are to go out and exercise, then let it be for the experience of the beauty of nature and evolve the benefits from the proven healing power of being out in the hills.

The challenging times faced over lockdown alongside constantly changing restrictions left many confused, worried and stressed about what they can and can’t do. It can be worries like these that unsettle our minds and damage our well-being. Four in 10 psychiatrists reported an increase in people needing urgent and emergency mental healthcare – including new patients – in the wake of the lockdown. The true toll of lockdown on our mental health is still being discovered.

As an enthusiastic explorer of the outdoors and self-confessed fitness fanatic, I have experienced first-hand the benefit of both the great outdoors and exercise. Since finding out about the work that Mind Over Mountains does to contribute to helping those in need of finding a natural balance in their own mind, I have been keen to volunteer and get involved. Having developed a keen eye for marketing, I have put this into action supporting Mind Over Mountains with promotion and developing the charity’s brand awareness. Raising its public image allows us to reach more people, expanding our capacity and ensuring we can provide help for as many that want it.

woman hiker sitting on rock looking at view with trees and sky behind

On Saturday 26th September, I had the privilege of joining my first ‘Reconnecting Ramble’. As the Welsh borders opened once again, I was excited to join the Mind Over Mountains team on their first programme in Wales.

I joined a delightful and like-minded group of 13 others. The plan was to wind up through the mystical scenes of the Pistyll Rhaeadr falls up to Cadair Berwyn, all the while experiencing the idyllic backdrop and sights of the wild Welsh landscape. As enlightening as the scenery was - so was the chance to meet this group of individuals, all chatting sharing their own purposes and reasons for attending the walk.  

two hikers looking at the view in Wales of hills and trees during Mind Over Mountains reconnection walk

The group assembled bright and early, with all team members and participants socially distanced of course, before charity co-founders Alex and Chris led introductions to welcome all and discuss the aims for the day. This was personal to each rambler, the key central message was to encourage us to clear our minds, take in the surroundings and become present in our environment. During this introduction it was encouraging to see how people began to inhale with every controlled breath, visibly relaxing and shrugging aside the worries of the week. 

Then we were off! Our mountain guides Richard and Lizzy led the group to the bottom of the breathtaking Pistyll Rhaeadr falls. A truly enchanting setting. There was something magical about the place - the fresh air and vapour of the falls belying the raw power of the water. The falls shimmered in the light and unveiled an area of majestic beauty that wouldn’t be out of place in a fairy tale. It was immediately apparent why this was one of the Severn Wonders of Wales.

waterfall in Wales with green trees and group of hikers on mental health walk

From here we continued to the top of the falls looking out over pristine and secluded Powys countryside. Despite the slightly nauseating feeling when stood on the edge, the view, alongside the feeling of overcoming the challenge of climbing higher than Britain’s tallest single-drop falls, made the perfect starting point for mindfulness to develop. It was indeed a stark contrast for some of the participants, for whom lockdown was spent within the confining apartment walls of London. This open-aired paradise provided an escape and a chance to really remember how much more there is to see out of the city.

Then we began the ascent, towards the summit of the great Cadair Berwyn, the highest point in the Berwyn Mountains at a height of 832m. This ascent started up a well-paved mountain track to the mountain tarn of Llyn Lluncaws. Before we began to further ascend, the group stopped and perched for a brief lunch, giving members in the group a chance to chat more about their lives. For myself this was really touching; keen hikers such as Alex and myself would not tend to stop for breaks like these on a hillwalking event, yet this really allowed us to just sit and take in the natural life around us for once.

hikers on sunny day in Wales on path alongside fence with blue skies beyond

Chris then took the time to deliver another mindfulness activity asking us to couple up and look into our partner's eyes. The ask was to express the beauty of the other through gaze alone.  I think we all found this somewhat awkward to begin with, but as we allowed ourselves to open our minds and really relax in the other’s company, we began to really understand what focussed connection with another feels like.

hikers on mental health walk Wales - group celebrating summit with one person standing on top of trig point

Continuing the steep ascent along the top of Craig Y Llyn, we had reached the summit of Cadair Berwyn. Interestingly, Cadair Berwyn’s original summit used to be what’s now called Cadair Berwyn North Top, but it was found in the 1980s to be 3m lower than the current summit. Bracing the fierce wind we gathered around for a celebratory photo souvenir and wide views across mid-Wales to Cader Idris, before beginning the hasty descent to shelter.

The route descended over Moel Sych and Trum Felen, the sudden gusts of wind calling for greater levels of focus from the participants. With plenty of support and encouragement from not just the guides but also the other ramblers, everyone made it safely down to the finish. I think it is safe to say that everyone completed the hike having not only found new confidence in themselves and their own abilities, but also earned a greater appreciation for the outdoors and its healing powers.

hiking with purpose in Wales - four hikers on grassy path with hills beyond

Surrounded by the Berwyn Mountains, the scenery was a haven for our participants all looking to find a safe, inspiring space and the precious tranquillity that can only be gained from a special place like this. We can’t wait to come back!

If you have been feeling worried, confused or anxious lately, or simply that you would like an escape from the stresses of everyday life with other like-minded people, then please get in touch regarding attending one of our future Reconnecting Rambles. The team look forward to welcoming you!

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