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Muddy Meets: Helen Venus, Wild Rambling

Breaking down bias isn't just reserved for the board room - Helen Venus walks Muddy Cornwall through why her guided rambling holidays are empowering women and breaking stereotypes of what outdoor trips should look like.

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women as well as being a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Here at Muddy Cornwall we are marking the day once again with an interview series of inspiring women across the Duchy.

Tell me a bit about your background and what you do – and how you came to do this?

I’m Helen, a Yorkshire lass based here in Cornwall with my partner Steve and our two border collies, Bracken and Briar. I’ve always loved the outdoors – at school, we had the choice of PE or Outdoor Ed in Sixth Form, and as I was rubbish at team sports and loved maps, it was an easy choice!

Wild Rambling started up in 2012 – I’d been guiding for another women only walking company and Steve suggested I set up on my own so I took the plunge. For many years, it was just me taking groups of women on walking trips in the UK in my work holidays (I have a “muggle” job in marketing too) but now I have steadily built up a fabulous network of trusted women guides who work with me on a freelance basis, which allows me to offer even more trips.

One of the most wonderful things about women only walking holidays is that you can arrive as a stranger but you will find yourself amongst a group of wonderful, interesting, inspirational and supportive women. And then you go on another one, and you meet some of the same women and a whole load more wonderful, interesting, inspirational and supportive women.

You might meet these women only once, or once or more a year, but you become part of the Wild Rambling family. True friendships are formed – I always get a lump in my throat when I see Wild Ramblers commenting and supporting each other on Facebook which happens ever so frequently.

Has your day to day working life changed at all during the pandemic and if so, do you think it has highlighted any need for change?

I’ve worked from home for many years and love the flexibility of it. Obviously during lockdown, we had to cancel all the Wild Rambling holidays in 2020 and the first half of 2021 which was really upsetting. Luckily for me this isn’t my main source of income but a lot of my guiding friends were badly affected. I made sure I stayed in regular touch with my clients by email, phone, instant message – particularly those on their own. We even had some really lovely online catchups.

A lot of women I know found it difficult to work from home, especially those with children but once every one was in a routine, I think it took a lot of pressure off them. I think employers need to consider whether a more flexible working environment will benefit their team by creating a better work life balance. 

Have you encountered any examples of bias in your working life?

Ah, the number of times we’ve been out on the fells and we are asked where our leader is! Obviously some people think a man needs to be in charge. 

What are you doing to call out gender bias, discrimination or stereotyping?

I’m not just running a walking company – I’m empowering women to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. My client base tends to be 50+ and a stereotype exists that these women should not be climbing hills or kayaking or camping but I give them the opportunity to break that stereotype themselves. I mean a lot of them are far fitter than me, even those in their seventies!

What’s the general vibe among women in business / business owners in Cornwall?

When I moved to Cornwall, I started gig rowing and was welcomed with open arms by the community; and this has continued to be my experience over the subsequent years. I think this was particularly prevalent during the pandemic; everyone seemed so keen to help each other. I saw all sorts of networks grow up to promote businesses, it was fabulous to see.

Do you have any role models?

My partner Steve has always empowered me to achieve far more than I ever imagined and has championed me from the beginnings of Wild Rambling. Despite the fact we haven’t taken a holiday together in six years!

The woman who gave me the opportunity to guide women only walking holidays, Diana Clarke, changed my life and she continues to be an inspiration to this day. Without her influence my life would be very different and I will be forever grateful that I met her.

What’s your favourite Cornish beach / view?

I’m so lucky – I’ve run walking holidays in different parts of Cornwall over the years and I love discovering new places that I’ve not been to before. The list of my favourites is endless but if I had to choose one would be walking along Whitesand Bay in Sennen (above) on a sunny day in winter with Steve and the dogs.

What do you do in Cornwall to make the most of living here?

Oh the list is endless. Walking of course! We also love kayaking – there’s nothing nicer than boiling a stove for tea on a beach only accessible from the sea. We enjoy climbing and have been known to abseil into random coves to pick litter. I’m a lapsed gig rower but I’m hoping to fit it in again later in the year.

Plus local history, theatre (we are so lucky to live close to the Minack Theatre and the Acorn and Penlee Park theatres in Penzance which are all fabulous), live music particularly shanty singing, wonderful food, talented artists. And we have a kitchen garden with views over St Michael’s Mount which keeps us busy!

Favourite cafe/ restaurant / shop / business that isn’t yours!

It’s impossible to choose one cafe or restaurant, there are too many to choose from! My favourite shop is Florescere in Penzance – Jutta makes the most glorious flower arrangements but also has a fabulous range of houseplants and home bits which are just too tempting. I never come away empty handed!

Wild Rambling holidays are guided women only walking holidays across Cornwall and the UK.

Wildrambling.com

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2 comments on “Muddy Meets: Helen Venus, Wild Rambling”

  • wildrambling March 9, 2022

    Thank you Beni; you are the absolute poster women for what I am trying to achieve! Thank you for finding us x

    Reply
  • Bernice Pardy March 8, 2022

    Helen Venus is not only a great walking guide, but she puts inspired holidays together. I first went on a Wild Rambling holiday in 2015 and have been every year apart from 2020, going twice some years. So I can highly recommend Helen’s Wild Rambing walking holidays for women only.

    Reply

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