Walking

What’s growing in the UK countryside?

5 Nov , 2012  

I have been noticing a growth on the hills and in the countryside, especially in Scotland. Many would say this is an attractive growth, and a trend to be welcomed. In fact, I am part of this growth – and I feel a huge sense of pride that I am partly credited with this phenomenon. The trend is for fast-increasing numbers of female walkers!

Whenever I’m out walking in Scotland I take note of the number of women I see. Over the years the trend has been upwards, and these days it is not uncommon to see solo women walkers. (Take note that only a century or so ago, the idea of women walking in the hills on their own would have been tantamount to being labelled a “crazy woman” and ostracised from society.)

And why wouldn’t there be more women walking in the 21st century? Women and men are equal in their ability to take up all kinds of outdoor pursuits, from trail running and mountain biking to paragliding and snowboarding. Gender does not make a difference.

Perhaps the only gender difference is in the perceived dangers for a woman walking solo in remote areas, compared to a man. But that is a controversial debate and many women these days have the view that what is safe for a guy is safe for a woman. There are inherent dangers in walking solo whether you are a man or a woman, and it could be that more women feel a greater fear of these dangers than men. However, I am straying from my point.

The fact is that there are many more women walking in the hills. I’m not the only one to have noticed. I speak to a wide range of outdoors people, including retailers, and they all report the same upward trend. The reasons include:

  • A greater sense of freedom for women
  • Women who are choosing not to have families and therefore have more time to pursue outdoors hobbies
  • Guided walking groups and walking holidays
  • High quality female-specific outdoors clothing.

Indeed, on Ben Ledi this weekend, while walking with my partner (male) and three teenage girls (plus a female whippet) I got chatting to a walking guide. I asked whether he’d witnessed more women on the hills walking and his answer was interesting. “Yes, I see many more women out walking and in today’s group with me the split is equal, male to female. Many times, however, there are more women in the group than men,” he said.

And then he added: “I reckon it’s a modern-day thing. As women grow older they are keen to stay fitter and so they take up things like walking and cycling. They take the approach that they want to be fit into their later years. However, for men, it seems to be the opposite. Many men seem to get older younger. They seem happier to sit around and grow bellies. I have seen this happening and I think it’s sad.

“So while the women become fitter and more active, the men become fatter and sit around watching the TV. I know, I am generalising and there are many fit men walking hills but the trend seems to be for women to stay fitter and men, in general, to be content to sit around.”

Now, I’m not saying I agree with this walking guide. I do know lots of men who are keen to stay fit, but I have seen many, many more women taking up exercise, including hill walking, in a bid to become fitter. What do you think? Are men in the UK becoming lazier while women become fitter and healthier? Have you seen more women walking, solo on in groups?

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A journalist, web copywriter blogger and social media chatterbox, Fiona combines her love of the outdoors – especially Scotland – with a diverse freelance work life. If she's not at her desk writing about the outdoors, she'll be outside cycling, running, kayaking, snowboarding and walking Munros. She shares her outdoors passion with partner, the G-Force. Sometimes her teenage daughter Little Miss Outdoors tags along, too.