Tell us a bit about yourself…
Hello, I’m Katie Atkins, the founder of Nordic4 in Bristol. An Instructor for INWA Nordic Walking, with 26 year’s experience teaching in the Primary Sector, I founded Nordic4 six years ago. We teach walkers aged from 9-94!
All our sessions are differentiated, ensuring every individual can fulfil their personal goals. We teach walkers in all weathers, taking in the sights, sounds and scents of the different seasons which adds a layer of mindfulness too so that all walkers (children, teens and adults) can truly feel that Nordic Walking really is ‘exercise for the body and relaxation for the mind’.
Tell us about your favourite Bristol walking route and why you love it so much.
A hard question as we have so many beautiful places to walk in Bristol but I think it has to be Leigh Woods. I love the varied terrain, dappled light and the ever-changing tree canopy through all the seasons. Sometimes it is a challenging hill climb, sometimes a gentler walk on the flatter woodland paths; whatever the group, there are always walking routes to suit. No walk is alike but the constant bird song, streams, sense of history and immersion in the woodland is just so energising be it spring, summer, autumn or winter.
How long have you been walking there and when did you first discover it?
I have been walking there for five years, having discovered it during a heatwave! I was looking for a shady walk. I started off learning the main routes from the Leigh Woods map and then started to link them together with my own pathways too. I now carry a mind map of the woodland in my head so that I can build up circular routes for all our walkers. Sharing these routes with walkers of all ages is wonderful and many walkers now walk regularly in Leigh Woods, enjoying it with their friends and families.
Do you walk alone or with company? Who normally accompanies you on your walks?
I am always with others and I love that! From Challenge Plus Nordic walks to more gentle walks, with every group it is a different woodland walking experience because the terrain is tailored to the group we are teaching. Every walk is joyful, and because the woodland light, leaf colour and woodland floor are so variable, so are our observations of the nature around us. We counted nine shades of green last week in our teen group! I love the exercise as well as the walk and talk. You just feel good walking with others.
How do you feel when you’re out walking? Does it change your state of mind?
There is an old adage that you always feel better after a walk. It is so true! We all just feel buzzy and alive: more positive in outlook. Walking in the woodland led me to find out more about Shinrin Yoku: the art of forest bathing. I now know that the evergreen trees release fragrance (phytoncides) and the scents of leaves, soil and moss all have therapeutic effects on us when walking amongst them. With calm colours of blue and green patterns (fractals) around us and the sunlight through the trees, one’s mood is always lifted.
Have you experienced any health benefits from walking?
Oh yes! I am more toned, fresher-faced and just innately happy from spending every day outside taking in all the wonderful views and sharing them with others. I get excited as each season brings change, and I love seeing the benefits that walkers get from their walking, both emotionally and physically. For some it has brought about a hugely positive life change health wise. For so many, walking was a lifeline during covid and now walking with others on a weekly basis brings us all together in a way we are so grateful for following the pandemic.
Do you have any particular kit you take with you when you’re walking? If so, what do you take and why?
Yes, I always carry a backpack. In there I have a first aid kit (I am an outdoor first aider) , water bottle, emergency contact and medical forms for walkers and sometimes other walkers coats if they get too hot, my wallet (for a post walk coffee and parking), phone (for what3words and emergency calls), spare pole tips, rubber paws (for hard surface walking) and hand therapy balls (for hand exercises).
What tips would you give to anyone thinking about getting into walking?
For walking in general, start local and then increase your circular loop. Look at walk routes for the Downs, Blaise, Ashton Court and Leigh Woods and start to feel happier walking in a different setting, building up your walking time. If you don’t want to walk alone, look up ‘walking for health’ or ‘Ramblers’ as they have guided walks of varied distances. Then just keep building and enjoying the benefits!
For Nordic Walking specifically, there are lots of options in Bristol. Just Google and find a provider that is right for you. At Nordic4 we offer walking tailored to the individual in 1:1 and small group settings.
A last word from Katie…
Nordic4 are pleased to support Bristol Walk Fest 2023 by offering a refreshing Circular Nordic Walk for Adults and a Teen (Y6/ Y7) Taster.
In our circular walk we will be leading a Nordic Walk exploring the skylark meadows of Ashton Court and winding glades of Abbots Pool, West Tanpit Wood and surrounding open countryside. In our Teen Taster we will be introducing Y6 and Y7 pupils to Nordic Walking whilst exploring the Downs. It’s an opportunity to make new friends, enjoy learning the technique of Nordic Walking and just being outside in the fresh air walking and talking.