Inspired by nature: Rachel Wheeley

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Rachel Wheeley

Rachel Wheeley started her daily podcast, Walk The Pod, in November 2020 as an accountability ploy to ensure she committed to taking a 10-minute stroll every day. It’s evolved into an international community of walkers who, like Rachel, are discovering the surprising benefits of spending even the shortest time in nature.

“I always start my episodes by saying ‘I take my podcast for a walk because I don’t have a dog’ after recognising early on that I needed an unbreakable commitment to getting outside,” says Rachel.

She concluded this after wondering why, despite intending to take a walk in her lunch break from her job at the Physiological Society: “It just wasn’t happening. I was covering lots of great research about how important it was to stay active, but after two weeks solidly looking out of the window, thinking it would be great to go for a walk, I also knew I hadn’t actually done it yet.”

Realising that accountability was key, she launched a daily podcast. Not wanting to let listeners down has been: “The one thing that’s got me out of the door.”

Walk the Pod consists of Rachel chatting about her theme; currently gratitude, as she walks, interspersed with enthusiastic comments on what she can see or hear: ‘Look, frogspawn!’ or describing the blossom on a tree.

Unlike many podcasting walkers, she tends to take the same route every day near her South London home.

“This is partly for practical reasons but also because, as someone who originally came from a rural area to the city, I’d quickly realised you can find joy in an urban environment; a tiny park, little patches of green you might otherwise not have noticed,” she explains.

This fits with her ‘Bloom where you’re planted’ philosophy; that our wellbeing improves when we take time to appreciate what we have around us today.

“I’d made a decision a while ago that I would stay in an urban environment and so began to look for the positives,” she says. “I think we often plot our escape from situations in life, but I decided to look at it in a different way and find the joy in the situation I was in.”

She has since come to realise that paying closer attention to the natural world: “Opens your eyes to the abundance of beauty that exists, even in places where it could be overlooked.”

It’s a habit that probably started unconsciously, as a child. Growing up in the grounds of Eton College, where her father was a teacher, she was surrounded by nature and beauty. “My grandparents were walkers and enjoyed taking us out with them and telling us the names of trees and plants. I was also lucky to have a headmistress who used to take us outdoors to fields near the school to draw things from nature,” she says.

“Having an expanse of sky above your head is in itself very good, and on a sunny day you get a natural boost and Vitamin D from the sunlight, which makes you feel better, even if you’ve been feeling a bit rubbish,” she says.

The daily walks have also sparked an interest in the changing seasons and weather. “I started getting really interested in the pagan wheel of the year and noticed that the weather is a really bonding thing; when you’re out and it’s raining, people smile or comment,” she says. “Walking has also made me realise that we actually have far less bad weather than I thought here in the UK.”

As her podcast continued, Rachel started to notice the changes in individual trees, shrubs and even local rivers. “It’s grounding because it reassures you that, actually, these trees and landscapes have been here for hundreds of years before anything that may be troubling us today.”

The mindfulness aspect of her commentary has chimed with her audience, she says. “Listeners have messaged me to say they appreciate the regular reminders to pay attention to what’s directly in front of them. I am as moved by a clump of frogspawn as a more conventionally awesome sight, like a super tall tree, or a famous landmark.

Her enthusiasm for these tiny pieces of nature infuses the podcast and inspires her listeners, who hail from as far away as the USA, Egypt and Japan.

“I have one friend and listener in Galicia, northern Spain, who describes on his voice notes what he can see directly in front of him; gorse and scrubland and the ocean,” she says. She adores receiving voice messages and includes them in her episodes, which are published at lunchtime or in the early afternoon. “If I haven’t posted by 2pm, listeners will message me to ask where the episode is.”

Although she describes her walks as ten minutes long, they usually last around 12 to 15 minutes. With new research from Cambridge University showing that 11 minutes’ brisk walking each day prevents one in ten early deaths, she believes we should reclaim our lunchbreaks to eat a meal away from our desks and walk in nature, even for a short time.

“Most work contracts pay us for seven hours a day, which, if we work from 9am – 5pm means we have the opportunity to take an hour away from our desk at lunchtime, but few of us achieve this,” she says. “If we did, our bosses would find it helps us to be more productive and we’d return to our desks refreshed.”

As Walk the Pod prepares to turn three later this year, Rachel intends to keep publishing episodes with support from her Patreon community. Her ‘Poddies’—members of the Walk the Pod lunchtime walk club— help her to come up with themes for each series, the next one being ‘Nature.’

Rachel also hopes to interact more with her audience and to receive more voice messages from around the world. “I’d love to hear from someone walking in Egypt or Japan,” she says. “I know I have listeners in those countries and it would be fascinating to know what they can see when they step out.”

Find Walk The Pod on Instagram and on Spotify and other places you get your podcasts.

Listen to Walk the Pod


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