We catch up with Amanda after her first walking weekend with Large Outdoors.

Now, I am no shrinking violet and am usually quite happy walking into a room full of strangers. However I must admit to some nerves as I pulled up outside a cottage in Pickering about to embark on my first Large Outdoors weekend walking trip.

There’s something about spending not just a day, but a whole weekend with strangers that fires the imagination.

Cottage stay in Pickering with three days of guided day walks in the North York Moors and Howardian hills

So much so, that by the time you’re about to walk through the door, you’re convinced the other guests will be mad axe murderers, loud overconfident bores or at the very least experienced hikers who’s walking pace is so speedy you might as well be wading through treacle wearing over-sized clown’s footwear.

Queue the lovely Large Outdoors host….in my case, Gareth….to immediately silence those inner fears.

As soon as I entered the cottage, Gareth was pressing a cup of tea into my hand, reassuring me I would have no problem keeping up with the pace, and introducing me to the other guests, who, funnily enough, were nothing like the characters I had created in my head.

Cottage stay in Pickering with three days of guided day walks in the North York Moors and Howardian hills
Over dinner (a tasty selection of curries prepared by Gareth) and a glass or two of wine, the conversation flowed, mixed in with a fair amount of banter and ribbing between a few of the regulars in the group.

In fact by the time the cheeseboard had come out and we were clearing up after the meal, it was as though we’d all been housemates for years and the chatter continued late into the evening until the embers of the log fire signalled it was time to turn in.

Over breakfast, Gareth presented the group with suggestions for the day’s walking based on the weather and the varied abilities of the guests, which meant we all had a say in what we would like to do.

Cottage stay in Pickering with three days of guided day walks in the North York Moors and Howardian hills

It also allayed any fears that anybody would be left trailing as Gareth provided a clear description of the route we were about to face and pointed out that while there were indeed some tough uphill sections, they were do-able and nobody would feel under pressure.

And so to the walking. We followed a trail out of Rosedale Abbey, initially climbing steeply uphill which saw the mountain goat members of the group scamper up while us mere mortals chose a more sedate pace with regular view stops along the way.

Cottage stay in Pickering with three days of guided day walks in the North York Moors and Howardian hills

Yes it was tough but do you know there was something about walking in a group, where there was plenty of encouragement and distracting conversation, which meant you actually completed the uphill section with less pain and effort than you thought it would take. A clear case of mind over matter!

Once up on the top of the ridge, the walking was just beautiful as we followed the horseshoe circuit with jaw-dropping views of Rosedale accompanying us the whole time.

As we strode along it was easy to fall into conversation with the various members of the group. I can tell you there was a lot of ‘putting the world to rights’ up there together with a lot of laughter at the ridiculous aspects of life!

Just as our noses turned towards home and we caught sight of the distance we still had to cover, lo and behold a tea room came into view at Dalehead Farm.

Sitting in front of the tea room’s log stove looking out over the views, with the most enormous slab of cake in-hand, I had that ‘all is well with life’ feeling, totally relaxed and enjoying the moment.

Imbued with a new spring in our step (which helped get us up the joke mud slope that looked as though it was part of a TV game show) the trail took us past the remains of the old ironstone mine and kilns before the final return to Rosedale.

Here, the village pub was too good to pass with the group diving in for a celebratory pint before heading back to the cottage and another three-course meal prepared by Large Outdoors.

The next two days followed a similar pattern of walking, talking and simply relaxing.

So my main message for any first-timers on a group walking trip is to dismiss those inner voices that act as spoilers by magnifying the negative ‘what if’s’ as you’ll be missing out on a rewarding, fun time.

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