From climbing mountains to laugh-out-loud podcasts, land&water founder Pix Ashworth reflects on finding exhilaration and calm, whatever the day may bring.
I have an easy and uncomplicated relationship with the elements. They always seem to leave me feeling positive, energised and calm.
I grew up in the countryside in Sussex, and spent many summer holidays in the far north of Scotland by wild rivers and vast lochs. I have vivid memories of the noise of the river, and the sharp cold of water against my skin. It was exhilarating, emotionally and physically.
One of my lasting memories is a February cliff walk, soon after I’d moved to Watergate Bay. I’d been there lots of times before, but always coming down from London or Paris (where I lived for two years) with lots of friends, so didn’t take it in in the same way. I headed north up the coast path – my favourite direction, as it’s so wild up there. It was the first time I’d been there by myself, and it was a very bright and warm winter’s day that felt like early spring. I had my sweater knotted around my waist and was just wearing a shirt, it was so warm. I remember the wind on my face and in my hair – and just being absolutely blown away by it. I felt like I’d discovered something, and this great sense of elation that goes with that. When you’re a child you don’t think about things in the same way, and I think this might have been the first time I’d really consciously noticed it. It really struck me that this was such a simple happiness, such an easy way to be.
When I’m amongst the elements, that feeling and its effects don’t change. There’s a certainty there but it still catches you by surprise again and again when you experience it –even though you know it’s coming. The change comes in the understanding of how this affects not just me, not just some people but everyone that I come into contact with; guests, friends, my children. This shared sense of joy. I see in others all the feelings that I recognise – straightforward, uncomplicated happiness, energy, calm and positivity.
“I see in others all the feelings that I recognise – straightforward, uncomplicated happiness, energy, calm and positivity.”
I get the same sense of exhilaration and calm wherever that unique combination of land and water exists: by a river, by the sea, by a lake, even a stream. I love skiing, but the absolute winner for me in the mountains is a tough uphill climb in the summer to a plunging waterfall or crossing a raging river; the blast of cold damp air in contrast to the dry heat of the day, together with the physical exertion and views across and down the mountain, is a feast for the senses.
One of my best days recently was in the Lake District, by Ullswater, in early June. I started that morning joining a group stand-up paddleboarding on the lake, but had to come back early for work so paddled back alone. It was an utterly calm day, and really special out on the water. Later that day, after work, I climbed Hallin Fell with my husband, Will, and my cousin, Toby. I’ve climbed lots of hills in my life, particularly in Scotland, so am very used to all that hard work, and knowing that it’s all going to be worth it. When we got to the top, even though it was a still day, the wind up there was quite something. And seeing how big Ullswater is – Hallin Fell is on the dog-leg of the lake, so when you’re at the top you can see a huge expanse of the lake that you can’t see from the other end. We stood at the top taking it all in for 10-15 minutes, then had to come back down to meet some people that evening, but it was a classic case of cramming it in while we could; seizing the moment. It was such a treat to sandwich the day like that; starting the day at water level, looking up at the fells, then ending on the top of Hallin, up in the skies looking back down at the lake.
Not every day can be like that though! With all the busy-ness of daily life, and especially launching land&water, I’m finding other ways of re-calibrating and energising myself. It helps to redirect my mind away from what needs to be achieved, either towards what I call processing (via exercise) or distraction (via podcasts)…
If I’m walking or running, I find it’s a different type of relaxing to diverting your mind, because I’m letting my mind run. When you’re exercising, downloading and going through things in your mind, often without realising it you’re actually problem solving – properly processing. You think about things in a more positive way, and can think more clearly – which is totally different to downloading the day as you’re sitting in a car or lying in bed waiting to fall asleep.
Other times, I actively want to turn my mind off – to distract myself so that I can’t process. That’s when I use podcasts. I listen to a mixture, which I choose depending on the mood I want or need to be in. If I’m in the car at the weekends, I might listen to The High Low with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes, which is great for making me laugh, but also improves my knowledge of politics, books, and subjects in the public domain. It’s pacey and punchy. If I need almost the opposite, I listen to Fortunately with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey, which is just hilarious. It’s like two old friends having a chat; they don’t hold back, they’re so relaxed, a bit cheeky, a bit controversial. They’ll happily take the mick and have a good laugh. And then sometimes, a bit of Best of Today. That’s a bit like making sure I eat my fruit and vegetables – you know you should (and it’s sometimes very interesting).
“I feel impatient because I want to see change happen far faster.”
David Attenborough’s documentary, Climate Change – The Facts, has made a lasting impression on me. This is our wake up call. It’s the one piece of television I’ve watched in the past few years, that for a good few weeks afterwards I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. Now I feel impatient because I want to see change happen far faster. Will and I now eat vegetarian food most of the week, just a bit of meat at the weekends and with the children. We are buying an electric car, and have switched to a sustainable energy supplier, and all those little things in everyday life like reducing plastic, buying from farm shops and so on. But I feel this restless frustration that I can’t do more, or see more happening.
Creating a brand is a collaboration. Pulling in and working with great talent to nurture the creation of land&water is such a treat – talent from our team at Watergate Bay, and partners from both Cornwall and beyond. The brand has evolved alongside the pace of the project and it’s fun to look back and see how land&water has grown into something that we couldn’t have imagined, but still holds true to the original vision; to take the emotion of an experience and bottle it.