Abbie Barnes is an award-winning filmmaker. She’s also the founder and director of Spend More Time in the WILD, an organisation that inspires and empowers people to get outside into nature and discover the boost it can give to mental and physical health.
Abbie started filmmaking when she was 13, capturing her local wildlife for personal interest. Over time her passion flourished into environmental conservation and she began speaking up about global issues through documentaries and other media.
At 15 she received an award from Sir David Attenborough. By the age of 16 she had filmed and presented for the United Nations, UNESCO and spoken at the European Parliament. She now runs one of the country’s leading YouTube channels in the field of mental health and outdoor adventure, with almost 45,000 subscribers and 5.5 million viewers.
On 30th August 2021 Abbie and her partner Anna set out for their biggest adventure yet, ‘Abbie Bikes Britain’: travelling the length of the country from John O’Groats to Lands End – and visiting each of the UK’s 15 National Parks on the way.
Abbie will cycle the 2,000 mile journey with Anna driving the blue support van with its distinctive signage. It is an epic trip that will take them 55 days – 15 of which will involve them climbing to the highest point of each National Park.
Abbie came up with the idea about a year ago when she was brainstorming ways to work with an ongoing back injury that has made her usual sport of long distance backpacking increasingly challenging. Cycling proved to be more comfortable than carrying a heavy pack, so she knew she wanted to do something on a bike. She found her final inspiration in her passion for UK wild spaces and getting outside for mental health benefits and pulled together what is now known as ‘Abbie Bikes Britain’.
Abbie and Anna turned the project around in 3 months. At the time of writing they have just reached halfway and are making great progress.
The purpose of the project is to inspire meaningful conversations across the nation about mental health, access to the outdoors and environmental conservation. They want to build one community empowered to create lasting change within these subjects: to educate on ways we can give back to nature as users of outdoor spaces; how we can show up for one another during difficult and divided times; and encourage people to be active for the benefit of mental and physical health. They will shoot a 3-part documentary film as part of the project to explore these issues. Their motto is ‘For Minds For Planet’ #4minds4planet.
The walks within each National Park are open for anyone to come along and get involved.
Abbie reflects: “The trip has been incredible so far. It has become a hugely personal journey alongside the wider experience that we are sharing publicly. Cycling through landscapes I have only ever walked in or driven through has opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the country and it is amazing to feel my body growing stronger day by day. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely shattered after each day’s ride! I am averaging about 50-60 miles a day at the moment and we have some hilly and long days ahead.
“It would be hard to pick a favourite National Park so far – all of them are so different. Some hold treasured memories of past adventures, others are totally new! We loved our Boat and Boot day in the Broads, climbing Scafell with a clear summit, and our steady walk around the North York Moors. The Dales boasts tranquility, Northumberland huge skies, the Cairngorms rare arctic flora, the Trossachs feels like home. Every single National Park so far has been welcoming and the teams generous with their time and support.
We have also loved staying at Camping and Caravanning Club sites along the way too – they have been a unique way to experience the country and its people. What more can I say – there have been frightening lows and mind-blowing highs. That is the nature of life on the road!”
Anna says: “It has been truly inspiring to experience the diversity of landscapes around the UK. I have loved how I have been able to get to know the country that I have called home for the last few years – I’m originally from Germany. Not many people get to do something like this and it has enabled me to see how I don’t need to travel far to enjoy life-changing adventures.
“Whilst I sometimes would rather be cycling than driving the van, I feel blessed to be able to support Abbie and be a part of the bigger picture we are working towards.”
If you’d like to get involved with Abbie and Anna on their mission, head to their website where you can find out more, book onto a walk, and donate towards their cause.