Eloise suffered from a horrific domestic assault. Realising she needed to do something to change her future, she found solace in walking and building a community of fellow walkers. This is her story.
I’ve never been one to share the details of my journey but I felt like this was a good opportunity to share part of it with the world as it’s something very few know about and how walking has helped me.
Back on the 27th of April 2020 I became a victim to a horrific domestic assault by my ex-partner. What followed were months and months of pain, isolation, redundancy and Covid-19.
In the earlier days, the overwhelm of shock consumed my mind and body making it very difficult to function day to day. My mental health began to decline and I experienced things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I felt very alone.
I was living in a house that was mid-renovation meaning I had no access to running water downstairs and I had no kitchen to cook in. It was a mess. To add to this, I had a panic alarm fitted by the police which was a large machine that was hidden behind the sofa that would link directly to them should I need it. It was a small token of somebody trying to say “we’ve got your back” but nonetheless - it was incredibly intrusive on my life.
About two months after the assault, I was on a long walk with my Black Labrador Wilbur when my body was screaming at me to just keep walking… I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I started walking at 8am and the only time I could get myself to a halt was when it was pitch black that evening some twelve hours later. At the time, I couldn’t explain what was happening but looking back now I realise that this was the turn of the page where I realised how good walking was for my state of mind and wellbeing.
One morning I woke up and I realised it was time to decide. I was to either let this traumatic experience ruin my future forever or I was to create something positive out of it and that’s just what I did. I was keen to build new connections, support my recovery, inspire others and I wanted to find the best version of myself. Where I live near Cheltenham, we are immensely lucky to be surrounded by some of the best landscapes in the country. However, I had nobody to share it with. I was 23, a female and experiencing this alone. That’s when ‘Gloucestershire Circular Walking Group’ was created on Facebook.
I’m incredibly lucky that my closest friends were supportive of my new passion and were able to support me in spreading the word. The group went from 100 to 600 members after the first week and I had members of the public messaging me asking if they could join as they lived in Gloucester or the Forest of Dean. I couldn’t believe it! I swiftly decided to expand, and it soon became “Cheltenham Circular Walking Group”. To date, there are over 1,700 of sharing these walks together.
Ironically, I would consider myself introverted but somehow, I found myself having to be quite the extrovert as before I knew it, I was communicating with complete strangers. I naturally started sharing small sections of my story to which I then started hearing other peoples. I would like to share some of those with you:
“Been in your big walking group a while and not brave enough to put a post up! We would love to join for a walk.” (Female, 20’s)
“Hi Eloise, I am keen to get out and about with my dog but not very confident.” (Female 20’s)
“Hi Eloise. Hope you’re well. I’m part of the GCWG and wondered if I can tag along on a walk next week? I don’t mind where we go, I just need something to get me out of the house and see something else.” (Female, 30’s)
As the months went by, I began to write my own walking routes within the Cotswolds. I wrote these into PDF’s and shared them to the group and members started to give them a go. I was soon overwhelmed by the response I was getting, and it gave me the urge to keep sharing these routes and inspire others to lace on their walking shoes and get outside.
In May 2021 I turned over a new leaf, I wanted to challenge myself even more. I decided to pack my bags and go on an 8-week solo trip around the UK with Wilbur, my faithful four-legged companion.
Camping and hiking in places I had never visited before, I wanted to see how much I could push myself and I soon realised I had found my ‘happy place’. The feeling of being that content was a feeling I had never felt before. Wanting to share my story further, I started to document the trip on Instagram.
Once I returned home, I decided to refocus back into the walking group and so went on to organise group walks which have always been free to join. I wanted to ensure that regardless of individual financial circumstances or situations, everyone should have equal opportunities for discovering the outdoors and It was important for me to facilitate this in my hometown with the latest walk involving a group of over 20 plus 6 dogs.
Whilst on my travels, a friend suggested that I should paint everywhere I go. I did laugh at the thought, but then with everything else I’ve achieved, I thought “why not?”. This is when I discovered watercolour painting.
From building my walking group to watercolour painting, I have formed some wonderful friendships and I hope that others get to experience the same in their communities all over the country. I will continue to share my love for the outdoors for as long as I can in the hope that it continues to bring society together, even through some of the more recent challenges such as the COVID-19 lockdowns.
If I could share one message it would be the following:
“Even through something as horrific as domestic violence, there is hope and the opportunity to create a positive future, not just for yourself but for others too. You just have to believe it”.
Thank you Eloise for sharing your story. IF you’d like to join here group on Facebook or follow her journey on Instagram you can do so on the links below.
Facebook: Gloucestershire Circular Walking Group