Fear and the Outdoors

Having completed my first solo wild camped trail, I have rather ambitiously begun this Camps section, in which you can follow (or not) my attempts to conquer my fears and become experienced at wild camping.

Out of many facts about me, the fact that I am an assault survivor was not an issue I ever thought I would need to discuss on this blog. Unfortunately I was outed by an organised group of trolls who were constantly haranguing me on my sites about various issues. Those people should be aware that I have screenshots of their comments and that I deeply resent feeling pressured into confiding about this issue in this way and in this place, rather than coming to it in my own time and on my personal site rather than my blog.

River Coquet

The River Coquet near Barrowburn, Northumberland

And so…..although I have fought not to let aggression towards me as a child determine my present life, the fact that I am back up north has meant that those old fears began to affect all aspects of my life, including my walking. Since my twenties, I have successfully used cognitive therapy techniques to help me to overcome my fears and remain positive. To this end I set myself various small and large targets to master (it doesn’t matter what they are if they matter to you) and then I make a mental list of how I will achieve those targets and I continually appraise my own progress in achieving each aim towards my ultimate goal.

I used to write all this down but I have been using these techniques for so long that they are totally automatic and internal now. I have rarely explained them like this, as I’ve never considered it to be all that interesting to anyone other than myself. The techniques may not work for everyone, but they are my ‘work in progress’ which continues in the background whatever else is happening in my life.


View from Shillhope Law, Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland

To illustrate using a relevant example of this process (which has up to now been private), I often set targets which challenge or conquer my fears, so I set myself a target to become experienced at wild camping. To achieve that target I set five goals:

  • To set myself some hard and fast target/s which would give me a reason to wild camp, and some deadlines to work towards, although my first goal fell through.
  • To gradually assemble a kit in which I have confidence.
  • To devise a game plan in which I progress gradually from bed and breakfasts to wild camping on my long distance trails.
  • To seek advice and support if needed. Some people have been very helpful (hopefully they will know who they are).
  • Recognise people who are trying to undermine me, under the guise of helping me, because my own development matters.

I can only hope that some good will come of my making this post, and that these methods may be helpful to some of my readers.


Sunrise in Upper Coquetdale

View on my first solo wild-camping trip in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland

Anyway, to return to fear in the outdoors, my personal experience has led me to believe that we should not put pressure on people who are afraid of outdoor situations. Fear is natural and inevitable at certain times and in certain situations. The truth is that many outdoors people have had experiences which have made them afraid, and it is much more helpful to people with less experience if we can be honest with ourselves and eachother about this. After all, fear performs a necessary function, keeping our senses alert and sharpening our survival instincts.

Sunrise from Shillhope Law

Sunrise from Shillhope Law, Northumberland in winter

As the enclosures became virtually non existent at my recent campsites, and circumstances forced me to walk in darkness several times on long distance trails, my fears began to disintegrate, and it became an easier transition into wild camping. The old spectres have hopefully now been replaced by beautiful images of the first rays of the sun hitting the tops of the hills in Upper Coquetdale on a beautiful, if chilly, January morning.