On the morning of the 17th September, I was lucky enough to join the truly inspiring Abbie Barnes as she prepared to complete the ascent of the highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Whernside.
The challenge of taking on Whernside, as it turns out, was just a small part of her overall mission to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End via all 15 UK National Parks while simultaneously conquering each of their highest peaks, on foot.
My time with Abbie started at the foot of Whernside, with her team for the day made up of four members of her small community, and some of the kindest people you could care to meet. It was amazing to see how Abbie and her cause was succeeding in inspiring others to follow and join in with her journey. Even as I chatted with her, I was struck by her ability to inspire and motivate everyone around her.
Abbie Barnes is a filmmaker and has been one since the age of 13 when she produced a short film about the devastating effects of palm oil production. That won her a place in a national competition that led her to the European Parliament where she spoke in front of MEPs about the importance of ingredient labels on products.
Since then, she has gone on to create ‘Spend More Time In The WILD’ which I believe can only be best described in her words:
“The goal of WILD is to inspire and empower individuals to enjoy more quality time outside for the benefit of improving mental and physical health and wellbeing, whilst building meaningful connections with the natural world and each other.
“Over the last three years, the project has grown into a worldwide community of passionate and courageous individuals working together to enjoy the beauty of our wild spaces and protect them for generations to come.”
The challenge of biking from John O’Groats to Lands End began on August 30th a 2000-mile journey that ultimately took 55 days to complete and which she admits, changed my life. Friends and supporters followed her journey on Instagram, joining her in person for the hike up each of the 15 peaks in the 15 National Parks.
Of her epic journey she said: “There are no words to summarise the intense array of feelings floating through me right now; what words in the human language can summarise 55 days of adventure.
“I am not the same human that I was when I started this trip. I feel stronger, braver, more connected, loved, hopeful, and full of belief that together we can change the world”.
As we began the walk up Whernside she also talked about the film she’s making, a 3–5-part series following her journey with all its highs and lows and the stories of people she’s met along the way. It aims to raise awareness about how our green spaces need protecting, how community saves live and mental health matters. We will be sure to share the films on our Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority social media channels so you can enjoy them for yourself.
As Abbie finally arrived home and began to reflect on her incredible journey she said:
“It has been a 2000-mile cycle for me, and even further for Anna by van. Along the way we have hiked to the summit of each of the UK’s 15 National Parks, and shot a 3 part documentary series to highlight the raw beauty that these places have to offer.
“But we didn’t set out to just share the simplicity of travel. We wanted to capture the true threats to our wildlife and natural landscapes, and to hear from the people on the front line about how we can all work to protect them. We have explored how mental health and wellbeing are entangled with the health of our wild spaces, and how getting out in nature, especially within community, has the power of heal”.
If you’re inspired by Abbie’s story and her journey and want to support her, you can, here. Alternatively find out more about ‘Spend More Time In The Wild’ here. And you can relive her journey on her Instagram, here.