Here at Nikwax, our passion is for everything outdoors and we know just how important getting outside can be for peoples’ fitness and general wellbeing. We are really excited to now have our first Youth Ambassador – 14 year-old Elvie Baker – daughter of naturalist and wildlife presenter Nick Baker. We took some time out with Elvie to find out about an epic outdoor challenge she is currently undertaking, and how life in the outdoors helps her.
You are currently walking to every single Tor in Dartmoor – what is behind this epic walking adventure and why did you set yourself this challenge?
So I was about to start my Duke of Edinburgh bronze award and for that I needed to do a physical and volunteering element. I was in the car with my mum talking about what I could do; with Covid restrictions & lockdowns, it was going to be difficult to find something to fulfill the ‘volunteering’ slot and then the idea of combining the two challenges popped up! I’ve never really been one for ‘exercise’ but I liked walking on Dartmoor, so from that the idea of walking to 160 tors and raising money in the process was born.
I’m dyslexic and my local primary school needed equipment because, when I was a pupil there I struggled, due to lack of resources and aids to help kids like me with their reading and writing. So, I thought, why not raise the money for the Special Education Needs department at the school.
From those Tors you have completed so far, how have you found the experience and which has been your favourite?
I found this experience challenging but rewarding, I have built up my physical and mental health during what could have been a really hard time and I have seen parts of the countryside right outside my doorstep that I didn’t even know existed. My favourite of all the tors I have been to so far (138) is Heartens Chest.
It’s a tor that is hidden in plain sight and once you get to the top you overlook the wooded valley around you and you can see the famous Haytor rocks in the distance and the views go on for miles. It’s spectacular!
Sometimes it can be hard to motivate oneself to get active outdoors, especially if the weather is bad. How do you motivate yourself?
I do have a tendency to be a bit lazy and it hasn’t always been easy to make myself get up and go, but a few choice words and my dad’s size tens have done the trick on a few occasions! Haha. The thought of those people who have donated and supported me helped me through the more difficult days and I knew I would always feel better once I got out.
Have you encountered any struggles on your walks so far and if so, how have you managed to overcome them?Initially, the first few walks were a bit miserable because, guess what? You are never too far away from a bog on Dartmoor and it rains, A LOT! That for me meant that I had soggy feet almost every walk we went on due to old worn out boots & my waterproof coat (once belonging to my Dad) was older than me!
I feel so lucky, with the help of my Dad, we approached Páramo & Keen to ask for sponsorship & when they found out what I was doing they were happy to help me out with new equipment. I got fab new boots from Keen that are so comfortable and keep my feet DRY! Páramo provided me with a great jacket that keeps out the wind and the rain (and the sleet & the snow!). Then on top of that Nikwax came along and I have everything I need to keep my kit in tip top condition so that I stay dry. I can’t say how appreciative and amazed I am by their generosity.
You are enrolled on the Duke of Edinburgh Award – what has the experience been like so far for you?
It’s been great considering it’s all been done under the cloud of Covid. I’ve now completed two of the four ‘modules’ so far. There has been some delays due to lockdown but otherwise I’m still on track. We just completed our first team expedition training day and I’m really looking forward to the actual expedition.
You speak of your struggles with dyslexia – do you think participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Award helps you with to deal with this and how so?
I wouldn’t say it’s helped me directly with my dyslexia but, it has certainly helped with my confidence.
What does being outdoors mean for you and what activities do you enjoy the most?
I find being outdoors means a better state of mind. I can get quite grumpy when I stay inside, even though I like lying on my bed playing games on my tablet, I know I can get a bit moody. When I get back from a walk, I feel refreshed and in a much better mood. It’s also improved my relationship with my Dad and I actually don’t mind spending time with him when we are out on our walks (most of the time anyway!). We recently camped out for the night in the middle of the moor so we could get more tors in a shorter time, I enjoyed that, though it was freezing at night!
They say getting involved with nature can be beneficial for mental health as well as physical wellbeing – how do you think your experiences outdoors have helped you, especially during this last year?
I really struggled in the first lockdown in 2020, I found it really hard being away from my friends and the routine of school. Being stuck in your room in front of a computer screen, on your own all day, is a pretty miserable thing to do. I was going out on short walks with my mum most days, but that was about it. I guess I was a bit depressed at that time. So when the lockdown happened again in January I was really dreading it, however I had already started my challenge and we made an arrangement with the school that I could miss some online lessons in order for me to go out walking with my Dad and bag as many tors as we could. It made such a massive difference to how I felt and even though some days the weather was so bad you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, I would come home positive, happy and with a sense of achievement.
What advice would you give other young people who may have struggled over the last year during the pandemic?Limit your time in front of a screen, spend time with friends and family, staying social is really important. If you’re feeling a bit down, get outside, even if you live in a town or city, there are always green spaces around and things to see.
What items or kit do you always rely on when stepping out on one of your Tor walks?
Good boots are so important, as I found out! Waterproofs are essential, especially on Dartmoor, where we have experienced all seasons in one day. Thermal layers have also made the walks more enjoyable. Waterproof socks have made my feet happy on several occasions too.
Your dad is well-known for his work with wildlife and the environment, and educating so many people through his TV and radio appearances. How has he inspired you?
To be honest, most of the time he just annoys me (he is my Dad after all) but if I had to say something, he has given me an appreciation of the natural world and I find myself sharing what I have learnt from him, with others around me.
What comes next once you have completed your Tor challenge?
I’m not really sure, I will definitely be continuing with my Duke of Edinburgh, so there will be more expeditions to come. I have been thinking about lots of different options that involve more fundraising walks, from the Two Moors Way to something a bit more challenging like bagging some Munro’s.