With flip-flop season firmly in our sights, we thought it high time for a coastal walk with some like-minded folk. We seized the chance to meet with Julie Jørgensen of the Take a Hike Collective for a refreshing wander along Dorset's impressive coastline. Luckily, we were even treated to glorious weather for the occasion!
What better setting for us to catch up with our latest Gumbies ambassador and find out how a gentle walk-and-talk with open-minded people can soothe the soul and broaden horizons.
Hey Julie, tell us about yourself and how you discovered a passion for hiking and the great outdoors?
I'm originally from Denmark, but I have lived most of my adult life in various places around the world. Growing up in the Danish countryside and raised by a keen hunter, nature was always close by, and I spent most of my childhood playing outside. My passion for hiking was sparked on a two-month road trip down the US coast in 2013, and ever since my life has revolved around being outside and close to great natural playgrounds. When I'm not outside I work as a graphic designer and illustrator.
How did the Take a Hike Collective start out?
I started the collective for two reasons. Firstly, and a little selfishly, to make some friends. I had arrived in England a few months prior, after over a year of traveling and at the tail-end of a national lockdown, I was keen to meet some local peeps. Secondly, I've always been very involved in social clubs, and I've personally seen and experienced the hugely positive impact they can have on the individual. You come together around this thing you all love, whether it's chess or windsurfing or medieval throat singing, everyone already has something in common and it forms a foundation for friendships that perhaps wouldn't otherwise have happened. There's a sense of belonging and I think that can be a really beautiful thing.
There's such an amazing and unique sense of community here on the coast, and so many great social clubs to choose from. A few local insta-groups (amongst many) that have inspired me are: @cycle_likeagirl @coldwatercollective @bournemouth_sea_dippers @newforestoffroadclub @wander4wellbeing @where.terri.wanders
How has it evolved?
The collective has grown quite organically. On the very first walk, one person braved the moody weather and came on a loop walk to Old Harry Rocks. Then the next walk three people came along, then five, eight, ten, until I decided to cap the groups at around 15 people to keep them small enough that you would have a good chance of talking to everyone during the walk, and so that we would comfortably sit in a circle on our lunch break, and everyone could be heard.
Much can be said about Instagram, but the platform (and its controversial algorithms) has played a huge part in being able to reach people, especially seeing I didn't have much of a network here to begin with.
As a designer, does hiking play a role in your work?
Oh definitely! Spending lots of time outside on a regular basis means I'm able to sit in front of a screen without going mad (although this is still a work in progress). Nature itself inspires me more than anything else and my illustrative work is filled with flowers, animals, and organic shapes. Turning it around, I was also surprised and happy to see that people really connected with the graphic language of the Instagram page and that it perhaps played a little role in people coming along on walks.
Last question, have you any advice for anyone wanting to join a hiking group?
Arrive with an open mind and don't worry about flying solo. Most of the people who have joined a TAH walk came along on their own, to begin with. You'll make friends in no time, and even the seasoned walkers were new once, and they will go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
Gumbies love to hear from community members like Julie, whose grassroots movement is making a big difference in bringing individuals into the great outdoors. We’re proud to partner with those with a drive to connect humans with nature through their everyday actions. The world we share is something everyone has in common, and a little adventure goes a long way in bringing us together.
You can see Julie’s work on her Instagram page here. Keep an eye out for an exciting Gumbies collab coming this winter!