Celebrating the Outdoor Community.....
Caroline and I moved to Castleton many years ago and, at the time, it was our dream to live in the heart of our favourite national park. We had the same concerns anyone would - would we be welcomed by the other villagers and will we actually like it as much as we think we would. We also questioned how practical it would be to live further away from the transport links, cities, large supermarkets and other conveniences we had been used to.
In the end we figured that the decision could always be reversed if needed and so we made the move. Like most new challenges, it is actually the unknown factor that is the scary bit and we soon realised we really had nothing to worry about. There was a warm welcome from everyone and you soon adapt to any inconveniences of being further off the beaten track.
Of course, the benefits were massive. Our children had the chance to live the feral upbringing we had wanted for them and the outdoors we loved was, quite literally, right on our doorstep. We felt part of a special community and loved the unique features of living in the heart of the park. Moving to Castleton has quite literally been a life changing experience.
Village life in a tourist destination does, of course, have its idiosyncrasies. Going to the post office, for example, is rarely a quick job because you’ll likely have bumped into several people for a chat enroute and once you get there you’ll likely get involved in a conversation with a few more locals or visitors about anything from some aspect of village life to Trump’s latest tweet. Similarly, front doors are rarely used as everyone knows to ‘just go round the back’. Our post lady will happily open up the door and pop letters or parcels on the table if no one answers and, although that was a shock at first, we now consider it completely normal.
Where we lived before was a fairly anonymous and featureless suburb which, while suiting us well for that period in our lives, didn’t offer anything beyond being a suitable base. We knew a few neighbours and a few people on the road where our house was, but lots of people commuted to work and we often saw no one from week to the next. In Castleton most of our neighbours are either retired or work locally. Its relative isolation creates a sense of belonging and there are always plenty of people around. It is a bustling and vibrant village.
I could discuss so much more about our Castleton life but the interesting comparison I wanted to draw was actually how this community life compared to the mountain community to which most readers of this blog belong. I started to dip into this community from a very young age and, like anyone new to something, the feeling of being on the outside felt a little intimidating at first. It isn’t easy being a newb, but what I soon realised is that a very special group of people are drawn to these activities and I hope this will continue to be the case.
I’m not saying the situation is perfect and there are sometimes rather elitist views shown by some which I have absolutely no time for, but generally I feel the outdoor community is pretty fantastic. It can vary from a welcoming hello to time at the end of a footpath discussing a route or objective, but most times the sense of a special shared experience will be acknowledged. I have made friends with strangers in remote mountain bothies and shared abseil points with unknown climbers on long mountain routes. It is all the same ethos of inclusivity.
Infact, I tend to grade this in my mind by a simple ‘distance to friendliness’ formula. If you haven’t strayed far from habitation or a major trail then the welcome you might receive is, correspondingly less. Get further off the main trails and you can expect a more lengthy interaction. There is something unique about seeing fellow hill goers approaching from a distance and knowing you will have a chat when they arrive. That rarely happens in other aspects of modern life and we should nurture and cherish it.
And so my conclusion, I guess, is for all of us that love the outdoor life and our adventures in stunning wilderness environments to appreciate both how lucky we are to have found such treasure and to also appreciate what a special and vibrant community we are part of. Whether you are pushing the boundaries of our sports or taking your first steps in the outdoor world, you are part of something amazing.
I hope every newb also feels this and is drawn to be a part of this vibrant, still slightly rebellious, colourful, progressive, inclusive and warm hearted community. Now please wish me luck - I have to take a parcel to the post office!
Posted by Paul