“Where do I even begin with Blackdog Outdoors?!   I first signed up to one of their walking events in the Lake District, but fear and panic took over on the day and I didn’t complete it. However what I did gain were so many friendships that have encouraged me, supported me, hugged me and cried with me.  It is because of these friendships that I have since completed a number of Blackdog events, resulting in increased confidence, more friendships and more self belief. The team at Blackdog Outdoors mean everything to me, they’re funny, kind, supportive and above all they make me feel safe.” – Rachel Johnson, Event Attendee

“Mountaineering has, in the past, provided me with many challenges and adventures.  More latterly, I’ve found that walking provides me with peace, solace and maintains my emotional balance.  I still head out to the hills as often as possible to enjoy the therapy that being in a more natural surrounding provides.  I think that the voluntary work being done by Blackdog Outdoors is fantastic.  They provide free opportunities for those affected by poor mental health to enjoy outdoor recreation, rediscover their connection with nature, and all of this in a safe and supportive environment.  What an excellent organisation!” – Sir Chris Bonington, British Mountaineer

“As a professional climber and mental training coach who has not managed to get bored of climbing in 25 years of dedication to the sport I am a firm believer that climbing has had a hugely positive impact on my mental health, wellbeing and strength of character. As a coach I’ve witnessed others learn a lot from climbing and use it to build self confidence in other areas of their lives. There were things I didn’t think I could do, and climbing has helped me realise that I can do them such as public speaking and setting up a business on my own. Climbing and other adventure sports are psychologically uncomfortable, they throw us outside our comfort zones and in that space there is much to learn that we wouldn’t otherwise. I can’t imagine my own life without climbing and for that reason I love to inspire others to pick up a sport like climbing. If you need help making the first step contact Blackdog Outdoors.” – Hazel Findlay, Professional Climber

“I am a frontline police officer, responding to emergencies every day at work. I have seen some truly horrific things in my job, and they have taken their toll. One particular incident, coupled with a sudden family bereavement a few weeks later, sent my mental health into freefall and I ended up being diagnosed with anxiety and severe depression. I had withdrawn from everyone and everything that I loved and I couldn’t see a way forward.  In 2019, a friend suggested that I join Black Dog Outdoors on a hike up Skiddaw in the Lake District. I was anxious about going as I am not great with crowds of people I don’t know, but I drove up there and met the group. They were fantastic and so welcoming and understanding. I set off on the hike with them but not far up the mountain I was struggling physically and mentally and my anxiety got the better of me. I quit and one of the group leaders helped me back down the mountain. I was gutted I hadn’t summitted, but Blackdog Outdoors had been fantastic and I was determined to join them again. Later in the year, I joined them on a couple more hikes, and managed to complete them with the help of the group leaders and other attendees.  I’ve taken away a huge sense of achievement from the walks I’ve done with Blackdog Outdoors, and I have nothing but praise for the Blackdog Outdoors team. They have helped me overcome so much and I have found friends for life. They are patient and understanding, and always checked everyone was OK. They never left anyone behind and made sure that we all felt part of the team. I would definitely recommend them to anyone wanting to get into the outdoors to help improve their mental health.” – Megan Dawson, Event Attendee

“The team at Blackdog Outdoors aren’t just great at what they do, they’re also an incredible bunch of people. To dedicate so much of their free time to helping others is such an amazing quality, and their passion and dedication to improving people’s mental health by organising and running so many wonderful outdoor events is incredible to see. As soon as Trail magazine launched the Mountains for the Mind campaign last year it quickly become clear that Blackdog were the perfect partners to help us deliver organised outdoor events to our community, and it’s grown into a fantastic partnership. We couldn’t be more proud to work alongside such a great group of people. Long may it continue!” – Oli Reed, Trail magazine editor

Holding both the Mountain Leader award and a MHFA award, I absolutely concur with the aims of BDO – being technically qualified is not enough when leading people on the hill. Being able to quietly empathise, listen and demonstrate understanding is a very powerful skillset and imperative when supporting individuals. The combination of skills offered by leaders means that walkers/ climbers and paddlers know they’re in safe hands, when embarking on BDO activities. Empowering people to enjoy their surroundings and to experience adventures, knowing they’re not alone, is a huge privilege. Andy and his team are driven by a genuine passion which makes BDO a perfect choice for many wishing to boost their confidence. Working alongside Andy as Chair of BMC’s Equity Steering Group is always fun and exciting. Andy has his eye on the future and works tirelessly to ensure BDO is growing at a sustainable pace to effectively support as many as possible. What’s not to like? Sign up, take a small step and venture forth. Your time will not be wasted – Cress Allwood, Chair BMC Specialist Committee: Equity Steering Group

“Blackdog outdoors a fantastic charity led by supportive, inspirational people who want to help others to improve their mental health, by getting more active and reconnecting with the great outdoors. The volunteers are able to actually empathise through often shared experiences around mental health. Every walk, boulder or paddle I’ve been on I’ve met likeminded people in a safe, inclusive and fun environment. Being inspired and supported on these events has reminded me about how important being outdoors and with other people is to my overall wellbeing and its given me the confidence to do more.” – Tess Vandenberg, Event Attendee

“Blackdog Outdoors really helps to highlight to people the positive effect getting outdoors can have on wellbeing and mental health. The events they run, which involve guided walks with qualified mountain leaders and mental health first aiders, have proven to be a huge success and as equity officer for the BMC I’m keen to support BDO in offering more great events in every way possible.” – James McHaffie, BMC Equity Officer

“Before I’d ever met any of the Blackdog team I had never been on an organised group walk before. The reason for this was because I was scared of meeting new people. But at the same time I really wanted to meet new people who shared the same passion as me. I wanted to make new friends.  I didn’t want to let my anxiety control me anymore, So I put a post on the mountains for the mind group about organising a group walk. A couple of the guys from Blackdog Outdoors heard about this and wanted to help me organise this walk. They wanted to help me step out of my comfort zone and kick my anxiety’s backside.  So in July 2019 I drove anxiously to Skiddaw in the lake district to meet up with everyone. Part of me was hoping it would get cancelled. When I arrived I was the first one there. It gave me time to calm myself down. Then everyone turned up. Andrew Higson came over to me first to introduce himself. Then I met Ian Holden. And from just talking to both of them for them few minutes I knew I had nothing to worry about. When we got walking I started talking to them more. It felt like i had known the both of them all my life. They both made me feel so welcome. I completely forgot about the worrying I was doing before getting there. The walk went really well and I stayed in touch with Andrew and Ian and also a few of the other members. I have since been on a few of their organised walks and met more of the team who are all amazing.  And I’ll be joining them a lot more in the future!” – Mark Ellison, Event Attendee