Walking in the Rain

sometimes its the simple things...

It’s a cold wet Friday in the depths of a British Winter – perhaps not the most appealing of days for a Wellness Walk’s Big Day Out trip to somewhere as spectacular as the Great Langdale Valley in the English Lake District, but, as  we’re going to find out, its going to be a very special day….

Best Laid plans...

Opening the curtains it’s clear the weather is vile – much like the forecast had said, but still, I’d hoped for better. Days like this can often be hard to motivate yourself or others on.

But, thanks to our fabulous funding partners the minibus is already hired, and part of helping our participants improve their mental health is being reliable – doing what we say, when we say. I grab a coffee and head off.

Part of why it matters that Wellness Walks are led by qualified professionals is that we have a plan. In fact we pretty much always have several dynamically assessed plans. Plan A is simply not going to happen in these conditions, and plans B& C are doubtful. As I’m driving past flooded fields with cloud-base about level with the minibus roof I’m already formulating plans D & E. I figure I’ll get to Millom and see who has turned up (8 people are booked on to this day out) – I’ll praise their efforts & we’ll probably go for a coffee or a walk by the nature reserve.

At Duddon Bridge the water is high – but most of it hasn’t flowed out of the high hills yet, so I arrive exactly on time.

And wow – 7 out of 8 people are waiting – some are grinning some look a little uncertain, but all agree to get in the minibus & at the worst we’ll have a drive and a coffee – this is great!

The drive to Great Langdale is spectacular, little waterfalls and streams across the roads, dark clouds glowering above – but there’s also a palpable buzz in the minibus – most of the group have never seen this sort of drama in the mountains before, are amazed to be out in the wild weather.

Getting out of the van in Langdale I’m able to lend a couple of the group waterproof jackets & trousers (big shout out to Trespass for all their support). Despite the weather 5 out of the seven participants are keen to “give it a go”…we leave two in the café (with a big well done – getting on the van is a win) and we set off on the low fell path…

This is where the magic happens...

I’m out in the rain a lot – but then I’m a qualified mountain professional and it’s quite literally my job.


Most people simply don’t go if it’s raining – worse, they don’t even try.

And walking in the rain is magically beneficial – at a physical, emotional and psychological level. Our brain will make adrenaline and cortisol – literally waking our senses up, helping us focus, helping us look out rather than in. Research has shown (Luthar, 2006; Masten, 2001) that the overcoming of minor unpleasant events is a fundamental part of the process of developing resilience – that is, the ability to adapt, cope and recover from setbacks or stressors without being overwhelmed or defeated. And, despite what we may think that’s not something we’re born with, its an experientially developed behaviour, one that’s reinforced and encoded the more we practice it. People who spend time engaged with nature show lower levels of stress hormones (Park et al., 2010) – which means that they have got greater spare capacity to deal with challenging events.

So what did our participants learn from walking in the rain?

Yes it can be unpleasant at times – but actually it can also be fun. We didn’t see a single other soul – which enhanced our sense of achievement, made the day feel even more special, told us we were above average not below. It made us feel good about ourselves.

In the little gaps in the driven rain, we worked as a team, pointed out the best bits of track, the sudden glimpsed views of mountain looming large, the fleeting rainbows and tumbling falls. There was laughter, support and some genuine moments of majesty to be appreciated – even on the worst of days there are special moments if we’re looking for them, there are people willing to help if we’re listening – heck we might even be able to help others along their way.

And actually – we didn’t get that wet and we didn’t get hurt. OK sure we had a few damp spots – but they were dry by the time we finished our well earned coffee and cake in the cafe – proof it were needed that some things are just minor little annoyances and if we don’t overthink them they’ll most likely disappear.

What did the participants say?

“I can’t remember ever having come out on a day like this and laughing so much” M, 50’s female.

“It looked like it was going to be horrid, but actually it was really beautiful at times” C, 50’s female.

“Thank you – I really didn’t think I could do it, but I’m so glad I did” J, 70’s male.

“I can’t believe you all look so happy, next time I’m coming too!” J, 40’s female (stayed in the cafe)

closing thoughts

Sometimes what matters most is the trying. Because that’s how you find out you can, and that’s one of the very first steps towards feeling better.