#70People70Years - Bev England
Bev England - mountain leader, Moors for the Future volunteer
As a teenager, Bev England would seek adventure, climbing in the Derbyshire and Peak District hills with her best friend, Alison Hargreaves.
Alison would ultimately achieve fame as a mountaineer before her tragic death in 1995, aged 33, as she descended K2, the world's second highest mountain.
Meanwhile, Bev’s love of the outdoors endured alongside a corporate career with pharmacy, health and beauty group Alliance Boots until redundancy brought new opportunities.
"My passion is to share the outdoors and to get more like-minded women out in the hills, sharing skills and giving them confidence to navigate and enjoy the benefits that nature can bring," says Bev. "Having spent years in the corporate sector - I took the opportunity to be true to myself and train to become one of the few women mountain leaders in the UK."
In addition to her mountain leadership skills, Bev is also a ski instructor and wilderness first aider, DofE Gold Assessor, National Navigation Award Scheme practitioner, a member of Chamois Mountaineering club and a member British Mountaineering Council’s hill walking group.
In January 2020, she co-founded Path2Peaks, leading and encouraging women on wellbeing walks and retreats in a safe environment.
This January (2022), she has launched her own business, Bev England Walks and Adventures, focussing on wellbeing walks, adventures and navigation courses for women.
It is the culmination of many adventures and a long-held love of the outdoors, stretching back to her school days.
Bev recalls: "Despite hailing from Belper, at the foot of the Peak District, it was crossing the famous Crib Goch Ridge to Snowdon, aged 13, that really set me on my adventuring journey.
"In December 1975, I was introduced to the Welsh mountains during an outdoor pursuit week with Belper High school. My inspiring outdoor pursuits teachers paved the way for a lifetime spent in the hills and mountains.
"Every chance I got from then, I headed to the hills. I was fortunate to be selected for an expedition to Arctic Norway, aged just 15, studying how the glaciers had receded and the human geography of the area. After challenging overnight hikes, staying in remote mountain huts and finally summiting Mt Rajo on the border with Sweden, I was hooked. I knew I needed challenge and adventure to feel fulfilled.
"Through my teens, climbing became my passion and Sundays were spent on Stanage, Froggatt and Curbar edges with my best friend, Alison Hargreaves.
"We spent every hour at school planning climbing trips and adventures, even Youth Hostelling around Derbyshire when we were 14! Ali became one of the best female mountaineers in history, summiting Mount Everest solo and without oxygen in May 1995, before tragically going missing having just achieved the same on K2, three months later.
"Hearing the news that Ali was missing on K2 - the world’s second highest peak - rocked my world. I spent the day at her parents’ house, waiting for news. When the worst came in, I was completely devastated. I could not believe that this bright shining star and my closest friend was not coming back, that we would never talk on the phone or share adventures again."
Bev has always relished a challenge. She explains: "I love to push myself and have a range of long distance ‘challenge’ walks under my belt. Starting with day hikes of up to 25 miles, I then progressed to multi-day adventures, including the Coast to Coast, Dales Way, Lyke Wake and Tour du Mont Blanc walk, to name a few.
"Over the years, my summer holidays have been spent walking in the Alps with my husband and boys. During the winters, I became a passionate skier, graduating from piste skiing, to off-piste and ski touring. I've taken on some fantastic challenges, completing ski tours in the Alps, Dolomites, Pyrenees and more recently up to North Iceland in the Arctic Circle and Lyngen Alps, Norway. I have been fortunate enough to tick off items on my bucket list along the way, heliskiing and even spotting the Northern Lights on one trip.
"I am never long out of the mountains. After years of summer holidays in the Alps, I walked the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2019, trekking between remote mountain huts and camping in chocolate box villages. It was a fantastic adventure that saw me circumvent the Mont Blanc Massif over 10 days, walking through France, Italy and Switzerland."
She adds: "After taking redundancy from Alliance Boots and corporate life, I set out to achieve my goal of becoming a mountain leader.
"I swapped the heels for walking boots and spent hours alone wild camping, climbing mountains and perfecting my navigating technique. The learning curve was huge, with wilderness first aid, rope work, flora and fauna, geology, weather systems and group leadership all on the syllabus. But after a career in the office, the hard work was worth the reward.
"I took my assessment in November 2019. With snow on the ground and my son in hospital with appendicitis, I was apprehensive. But my family encouraged me to carry on. It was the most fantastic feeling to be told I had passed. I was fortunate to do my assessment alongside two other women of a similar age. We rallied each other on and created an incredibly supportive environment.
"I have worked to replicate this sense of comradery and like-mindedness in my work helping more women to discover the outdoors. I jointly created Path2Peaks Women’s Wellbeing Walks with a friend to allow women to reconnect with nature in a stress-free, friendly way.
"Monthly walks and wellbeing retreats all add to the adventure. I have a passion for getting people out into the hills and knew there were so many like-minded women who wanted to explore the great outdoors but didn’t know how to get back into walking after having children, separating from partners, or not having friends or family that shared their interests. We run monthly walks and several adventures throughout the year - bringing together women from all backgrounds and walks of life. The feedback has been so rewarding, and some great friendships have been formed.
"I’m passionate about protecting the environment and giving back where you can - always picking up litter when I‘m out in the hills and learning as much as I can about the wonderful flora and fauna of the Peak District.
"I’m a volunteer for Moors for the Future - which works to protect the fragile heather moorland that makes the Peak District so distinctive. I regularly join the team on water table monitoring, peat coring and general restoration. It’s an incredible experience and a great way to get involved in caring for our landscape.”
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