Limb Valley – a hidden woodland walk
Be sure you're winter-ready for your next chilly hike. GetOutside Champion Jessie Leong shares her top tips, plus a Limb Valley woodland route that's not to be missed this winter season.
Meet Rebecca Lees - Hiker, runner, writer and sunset lover based in beautiful Wales.
What drives you to spend time outside?
Being outdoors every day keeps everything in balance. I’m up and out with my greyhound, Lionel, early every morning, and breathing in nature and listening to the birds kickstarts my day. Weekends are for long hikes and trail runs, keeping life in perspective. If I have a problem, it’s always solved outdoors!
Where are your favourite places to go?
I’m fortunate to live in south Wales, between the mountains and the coast. I love the Brecon Beacons, particularly the quieter Swansea Valley and the Carmarthen Fans. For less strenuous walks, I head to the Wales Coast Path and I’m a firm believer in exploring what’s on your doorstep; our local hill, the Garth, is the best spot to watch the sunset. I’ve recently ‘discovered’ the Peak District, while you can’t beat Snowdonia for ‘proper’ mountains!
What is your favourite thing to do outdoors?
I’ve loved hiking since my dad and I climbed my first mountain, Fan Gyhirych, when I was eight – I still remember him showing me how to read the orange contour lines on the map! I run up to half marathon distance and have recently started trail running. My teens are at the age where they’re not naturally keen to be outside but we still have lots of short walks together and they still enjoy sitting at a trig point as long as we take a flask of hot chocolate and biscuits!
Who inspires you and how?
The ordinary, everyday people doing extraordinary things. Solo mums and dads, holding it all together and prioritising getting outside because it’s their way of keeping themselves strong. I’m inspired every time I take part in a half marathon or Race for Life by the less fit people who are out of their comfort zone but determined to finish. I’m hugely inspired by the walkers and runners I follow on Instagram, many of whom have overcome huge life challenges. Lastly, anyone brave enough to make change and start losing weight / exercising, even though it’s always easier to stay in and watch TV.
What are your focuses this year to help people get outside more often?
Through my PR agency, Chatterbox Communications, I run monthly ‘netwalking’ events to raise money for City Hospice in Cardiff. Many business people, especially women, find traditional networking daunting, so I get people outdoors in small groups, exploring our local trails. Walking is a great leveller – when everyone’s in muddy, outdoors clothes, it tends to sort out the egos! After doing parkrun for the last year, I volunteered for the first time in January and LOVED it. Again, I was totally inspired by people of all shapes and sizes, pushing buggies, running with children and walking with sticks, and have decided to volunteer at one race for every five I run. Our beloved park is closed at the mo due to extensive storm damage but when it reopens I’m going to be asking everyone I know to come along, and I’ll walk with the slowest. After doing the (flat) Cardiff Half last year, I signed up for the very hilly Merthyr Half this year – sadly it’s been postponed but I’m looking forward to doing it later in the year. I’m using it as a warm-up for a ‘Home from Home’ challenge; running from my parents’ home in the Swansea Valley to my home, near Cardiff, again raising money for City Hospice.
What are your 3 biggest life achievements?
Launching my PR firm with no investment or funding and single-handedly building up a successful business that generates work for a pool of freelances and creatives. I’m a solo parent without family nearby to help with childcare, so at times it’s been challenging – especially working through a big health scare and many hospital tests – but I love what I do and the flexibility it gives me. Finding ways of incorporating my love of outdoors into my work, such as writing three walking trails books and working as a freelance researcher on BBC and ITV walking and countryside programmes. By design, my PR firm specialises in health, wellbeing and tourism PR, allowing me to truly love what I do every day. I hope I give my teens the example that nothing falls into your lap; you have to work hard and go without things (whether financial or simple things like TV!) if you want to make something happen. This could be at work or taking on a fitness challenge; we’re all in charge of our own happiness and end results.
3 words you live by…
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
There is no greater pleasure than sitting at a trig, in the right company, with a flask of tea and a Yorkie bar. That’s all you need right there!Click to see all 100 GetOutside Champions