Reflecting on 6 years of blogging after being shortlisted for Go Outdoors Walking Blog Awards 2014
I started this blog (originally as countryside-walks.org.uk, then a few months later moving to mycountryside.org.uk) back in March 2008 (has it really been that long?). I had just started walking again (for the first time since a child) and, inspired by a few other walking blogs I had discovered (but long forgotten), I wanted a place to record my walks and share my experience.
The first post was a circular walk from Lavendon to Bozeat via Wollaston and Easton Maudit in Bedfordshire – I won’t link to the post as all the images are broken and the map I uploaded to OS Explore (remember that?) has long since stopped working (you can still find it in the archives!). A few months later, after watching a segment on Countryfile, I tried barefoot walking and wrote a blog post about it – a post that ended up being linked to from around the world and was, until quite recently, by far the most popular post on the site! (the video by the way is still viewable online).
Walking Offa’s Dyke in aid of MS Society, back in 2010, gave me a lot of focus for my blogging – there were posts on the training walks, the equipment we planned to use, the planning and an idea I had for sharing our adventure live (the prototype of what became Social Hiking – shareyouradventure.com!). Afterwards there were some more challenges, a few rare trips and experiences outdoors and some gear reviews*, but over the last few years my blogging has reduced (as my time outdoors reduced).
* Gear reviews are a bit of a controversial issue in outdoor blogging – for me it is an opportunity to get kit I would not normally be able to justify buying and having to write a review is a good incentive to get outdoors. I always try and declare any bias I could have and review products I have a use for, I also try and review kit within my experience and knowledge, and I always try and detail the environment and conditions kit was used in (and more importantly not used in).
A few years ago I merged my outdoor blog with my web-related blog to create philsorrell.com – there was a lot of potential overlaps with topics, and I hoped it would give me a bit more focus. Focus has proved to be surprisingly important in my blogging – it is easy to forget, or lose sight of who you are writing for – something I have done several times. I actually have no idea who (if anyone) reads this blog beyond those stumbling upon it from a Google search (it ranks surprisingly well) or by clicking on a link shared on social media, and I am not sure I want to know. I am most happy (and find it much easier to put pen to paper – digitally speaking) when I am writing for me – documenting my experiences and thoughts.
When I first heard I had been shortlisted for Go Outdoors Walking Blog Awards 2014 (as far as I am aware I did not enter like Go Outdoors suggest), I was quite cynical – this blog clearly does not deserve to be in the list and I am certainly not particularly knowledgeable or experienced about the outdoors (I still wince whenever I call myself an outdoor blogger!), so it must just be an attempt to get some search engine ranking benefit or some exposure. Maybe that is true, but do you know what – having spent the last few hours flicking through this blog, I am actually quite proud of my little part of the internet. Perhaps I was only on Go Outdoor’s radar thanks to Social Hiking and my recent nomination as outdoor personality in TGO Awards rather than blogging but, whilst I am essentially a hiking and outdoor amateur, perhaps in my own way I am playing a small part in helping make the outdoors accessible and achievable.
So on reflection, although there are many excellent outdoor blogs out there who deserve being shortlisted more, it is an honour to be included in the list and I am chuffed to bits that someone looked at my blog and decided I deserved it (and if someone nominated me, thank you so much!). You can vote for the award at http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/blog-awards-2014 – if you have not come across any of the blogs before, I would really recommend checking them out. I will leave it up to you to decide who you would like to vote for – any of those shortlisted would be a worthy winner.