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      September 2010 > ‘Netwalking’


The GroupSometimes the boundaries between business and leisure – work and play – can become a little blurred, and, although it’s sometimes a good idea to keep them separate, mixing the two is not always such a bad thing. Here at Inntravel, many of us are in the fortunate position of working in a field (almost literally!) that fires our enthusiasm: there are trails practically leading from our doorstep inviting an exploration of the beautiful countryside beyond.

So, as a marketing manager who hates the idea of networking (the thought of all those sharp suits and brief, pushy encounters is enough to make me squirm), I was particularly intrigued to hear about the unique concept of ‘netwalking’. Like all the best ideas, it’s refreshingly simple, and the clue is very much in the name. Take a handful of local, like-minded business people, a welcoming country pub, a swathe of deeply attractive countryside and an enjoyable walking route, and – hey presto! – you have the makings of a hugely enjoyable, and undeniably useful, day out. All that needs to be added is a sprinkling of enthusiastic conversation, and – of course – a leader to pull it all together.

Mark ReidAnd this is where Mark Reid comes in. Mark is an unlikely looking inventor, but he claims to be the first person to provide such events. He first came to our attention through his well-known and widely admired series of guidebooks, The Inn Way; and netwalking – as it turns out – is just one of many other strings to his bow. He is very enthusiastic about the benefits it provides:

“The open hills engender a sense of space and freedom that has a unique power to soothe, calm, inspire and refresh. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that The Great Outdoors can have positive effects on our psychological well-being. Hill-walking has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve self esteem and boost self confidence. It is a multi-sensory and stimulating experience that clears your mind and allows escape from the stresses of everyday life. It provokes thought, reflection and contemplation; it allows uninterrupted ‘talk time’ with others in a relaxed and sociable manner. Research shows that human beings have an innate affinity with nature and a need to be connected with it.”

So it was in this spirit of ‘connection’ that I arrived early last Wednesday morning at the beautifully positioned Inn at Hawnby on the North York Moors. We netwalkers (there were 8 of us) were greeted with freshly brewed coffee and hot bacon sarnies as we gave a brief introduction to ourselves and our respective businesses. This was followed by Mark’s outline of the day ahead, during which he left us in no doubt about his passion for the fells, and his deep affection for the quintessential English rural landscapes which act as his ‘workplace’. He is particularly attached to the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and The Lake District, and at pains to point out the timelessness of their charm. They were here, he reminds us, long before humans came on the scene; and they will remain until long after we’ve gone.

The Inn at HawnbyThe notion of ‘ecotherapy’ is an important concept to Mark, and the almost religious zeal with which shares his enthusiasm for these landscapes is wonderfully infectious. Making frequent stops en route is very much his style, whether to draw our attention to various topographical features or to point out areas of historical interest. He also gave us an understanding of the local flora and wildlife: I’m now familiar with the three distinct types of moorland heather (all gloriously purple at this time of year); and have been given a briefing on flocks of low-flying local grouse, as well as the truckloads of tweed-clad hunters who pay a small fortune for the dubious privilege of shooting them.

As for the walk itself, it was hugely enjoyable. The weather was more evocative of the Med than of Yorkshire on that balmy first day of September; the views were far-reaching and sublime; and the company was first-rate. The only drawback I found was that, due to lapsing into fascinating conversations with my fellow walkers, I had precious little solitude or silence in which to fully enjoy the scenery. This was – I was forced to admit – the whole point of it all, but it did make the time flash by rather too quickly, and we were back at the pub in no time. But herein lies the final, charming aspect of the ‘netwalk’ – the opportunity to continue conversations with new-found friends over a pint of real ale, a bowl of soup and a thick doorstop sandwich filled with Yorkshire ham.

So, was it work or was it pleasure? Well, business cards were certainly exchanged, but there was not a sharp suit or a powerpoint presentation in sight. So I guess it was a bit of both, which – as far as I’m concerned – worked a treat!

Pub lunch

Posted: 09/09/2010 09:30:05 by | with 2 comments
Filed under: opinions, UK, walking

Jools Stone
What a great alternative you've found here to sharp suits (we all know only Don Draper can pull those off anyway) and woolly powerpoints! I once went on one of these dreaded team building weekends in Chamonix. A gorgeous place of course, but the physical humiliation and fear involved with some of the gung-ho activities had little impact on my workplace confidence. Seems you've 'netwalked' your way into a far more civilised alternative.
10/09/2010 03:52:25

Sue Dunn
This sounds great to me. I'm sick to death of travel agents/companies who promise something they just can't deliver (and they can't). We need some real alternatives for relaxing breaks.
09/09/2010 23:17:06

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