Within each of us resides a maverick spirit. This series delves deeper into those people who’s maverickness paves a way forward in business, creativity and sustainability – awakening our own inner maverick.
Wonderful Wild Women is a community that aims to inspire all women to get into the outdoors and be passionate about adventures. Sarah Gerrish set out on a personal journey for adventure and through that founded the WWW community, bringing together maverick women who enjoy and support each other to be active in nature.
Words by Sarah Gerrish | Photography provided by Wonderful Wild Women
Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your daily life and the role nature and the outdoors plays in it?
I am 33 years old, I live and work in the Cartmel Penisula on the edge of the Lake District, with my husband and 9-year-old daughter, and I am currently training to be an architect. As a teen, living in Kendal I never really appreciated where I lived. It wasn’t until meeting my husband and returning back to the Lake District 6 years ago, I realised the opportunities we have on our doorstep. Now I try to get into nature every day, it's become a huge part of who I am and the lifestyle I lead. It's been a very gradual process over the past ten years though!
After my daughter was born, I started running and subsequently competing in triathlons, outdoor swimming for a couple of months a year was about as ‘wild’ as it got, but I was on the road to an active lifestyle. Weekends for me were spent with my daughter while my husband went out mountain biking all over the Lakes, and I just thought, “I want a bit of that!". The main issue was, I had no one to do it with.
You’re all pretty independent women, how did Wonderful Wild Women come about as a collective?
The community was something that started as my own personal project after being in a bit of a dark place. But I soon realised that I was not alone and as the following grew it didn’t seem right that the community was controlled by one person, one perspective and one point of view. I had known of Kate and Bex through my husband. They are both confident mountain bikers and I had admired them from afar for a while and it just felt natural to get them on board.
Kate and I have a lot in common and I felt compelled to reach out to her after hearing that she had been diagnosed with cancer - I myself had cancer as a teen. We did a fundraiser for Lymphoma and Kate helped me to organise it, also she wrote a blog post on her story of living with cancer. I had followed Bex on social media whilst she was living in Canada. I saw a shift in her life – she went from revolving her life around her bike to being stuck in a Canadian winter, unable to ride, and discovering a love for snowboarding and hiking. She wasn't afraid to do and learn something different, which is what WWW is about.
A community, in my opinion, needs that diversity of character and interest to thrive. We have our own qualities to bring to the community, but we all support and encourage each other. Kate and Bex challenge me on my mountain bike (something which really doesn’t come easily) and they are both keen to get into the water this year and start swimming - I might even take them out on a fell run too.
You encourage women of all walks of life to reconnect with nature and adventure, what advice do you have for those who are, say in a city, or not sure where to begin?
Small manageable steps are a good way to start, like, walking home from work and taking the long route through a park. You could join a local club, there will always be a friendly person willing to give you their time, or maybe reach out to a friend and do something once a week together. Social media is also great for finding like-minded people. My friends have gone on holiday with swimming and biking groups they have found online, like the Outdoor Swimming Society. You'll be amazed at how quickly more and more people will want to join you.
Also, don't be afraid to be a beginner - everyone is a beginner at some point!
Women are taking a more deserved equal share of adventuring recognition; how do you see the landscape shifting with an ever-growing and inspiring female presence in the outdoors?
I feel there is still a long way for us to go and we need to keep the positive movement going. I do hope soon it will just be "normal" and unquestioned. But for me, it’s not only seeing professional female adventurers and athletes, but it is still really important to foster the outdoor lifestyle as achievable for all women in their day-to-day.
One of the ways you connect women is through your WWW events, how important have these been in growing your community, and getting more women into nature?
Personally, the events have been fundamental in promoting and growing the community. I have made connections with women, and men, that I wouldn’t have otherwise and we have built strong relationships as a result. This is also true for many of those in the community who have started to meet outside of WWW gatherings too - which is just brilliant!
The WWW embarked on a 36-hour challenge, running, riding and swimming your way through the Lake District, this sounds like a great adventure, how did it go?
Well, after weeks of sun, the weekend itself was rain downpours, cold and mist! But Kate, Bex and I had a great team supporting us on the runs, rides and swim, we all had a good time and enjoyed spending time with good friends.
Kate probably had the worst of the weather, when she set off on the first ride with her good friend Katie, but when they arrived at Threlkeld they seemed in good spirits! I then set off on my first run with my friend Georgia. High winds and rain meant heads down and just keep moving up Skiddaw. It was a huge relief to descend to Bassenthwaite and find it was flat and calm. I set off on my swim across the lake with Lauren and Faye, it was a special experience and helped to know that on the other side a fire was roaring and hot tomato soup awaited.
I went straight from the swim into a night-shift run, in a sleepy haze with my friend Jenny, from Bassenthwaite to Whinlatter and then into Buttermere where we were joined by Lauren, Rich and Farina for the final leg. We met Bex in Keswick for her to finish the challenge on her bike. The gorgeous weather didn't last, and a wall of rain hit, but Bex had her fantastic team with her and she arrived into Grasmere with a big smile. It was high-fives all around and a quick celebratory prosecco before we went for a well-deserved rest.
Each one of us took this challenge in our own way, but we were all successful and did what we set out to, and we were in agreement that the utterly shocking weather just made for more of an adventure and a better story to tell.