Thinking of joining us? Meet our member Ali

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Since Cranfield University’s Walks formed in April 2011 many students participated in its activities, which enabled them to discover the UK’s extensive network of footpaths and enjoy and appreciate beauty of the UK’s countryside. If you are a new student coming to Cranfield University and thinking of joining, hear from our existing and past members about their experiences  of being part of the society:
                      Ali in action.

Today I am talking to one of our most inspiring membersHello there, tell us something about yourself. Hi, my name is Ali and I’m from Saudi Arabia. I studied my Master of Science in Advanced Mechanical Engineering at Cranfield University, academic year 2016/2017.

What was your role in the walking society? I was the Photo Editor. As a committee member, my role included helping the committee in planning the walks but it was mainly to document every walk we had and share it through our social media pages.

Congratulations! You have won an award from the walking society. Thank you! I received the Chief Photographer award during our last year’s Christmas pub walk to North Crawley .

What were your 3 favourite walks and why? 

Snowdonia National Park: A hiking trip for three days with a group of energetic and lovely members of the walking society.  That experience showed how a team can work in a tough environment like climbing Snowdon Mountain.

Olney Christmas Market Walk: A walk that included passing by and seeing several attractive locations along the  River Great Ouse and Olney River Meadows  that are nature, the old market town and the Christmas market with a flavour of Victorian England.

Stevington Windmill Walk: A special walk to view an impressive postmill (a type of windmill that could be turned to face into the wind) built in the 18th century and the only complete windmill left in the county of Bedfordshire.  A historic windmill which is sort of  hidden, a stunning place to visit in Bedford.

What did being a member of Cranfield University’s Walks mean to you?

Being a member of this society gave me the opportunity to enjoy two things. Firstly, wondering around the beautiful countryside, villages and towns and knowing about their fascinating history. Secondly, I was honoured to work with and learn from the committee and our friends, Kristina and Alan, who all were driven by passion toward making this society lively and successful.

Why would you recommend anyone at Cranfield University to join the walking society? I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that the Walking Society does complete the studying experience at Cranfield University, especially for international students like me so I strongly recommend it.

Thank you, Ali ! It was a pleasure talking to you. Keep on walking and all the best in your future endeavours!

Ali and fellow members of the walking society at Chicheley Hall.

Read further interviews with our members on our testimonials’ page.
Would you like to be part of the walking society?  Learn on how to join the Cranfield University’s Walks here

post by @CUwalker

Season’s Greetings from Cranfield University’s Walks

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To our members and all students and staff at Cranfield University

May the peace and beauty of the season remain with you throughout the coming year.

♥Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!♥

photos from our past walks taken by our student members: ©Cranfield University's walks

Thinking of joining us? Meet our member Chen

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Since Cranfield University’s Walks formed in April 2011 many students participated in its activities, which enabled them to discover the UK’s extensive network of footpaths and enjoy and appreciate beauty of the UK’s countryside. If you are a new student coming to Cranfield University and thinking of joining, hear from our existing and past members about their experiences  of being part of the society:

Today I am talking to one of our most active members of past academic year. Hello there, tell us something about yourself. Hello I am Chen, a student in MSc Welding Engineering at SATM School, Cranfield University. Academic year 2016/2017.

Say hi to Chen, one of the walking society’s dedicated committee members. 

What was your role in the walking society? I was the Membership officer, responsible for collecting, processing membership sign up forms and maintaining the mailing list for upcoming events announcement. Occasionally I helped with the event planning and photo taking.

Congratulations! You have won an award from the walking society. Thank you! I received an award during our Christmas pub walk to North Crawley last year as the member who attended most walks between September and December 2016.

What were your 3 favourite walks and why? The first would be Snowdonia National Park, 3 days, 2 nights. It was the first ever big trip organised by the new committee and our first hand experience on the planning, paperwork and preparation that had to be done. With the event taking place 3 months from announcement in early summer for advance accommodation booking, the participation rate was relatively low as some students were uncertain about their schedule, concerned they would be writing up their theses back in their home countries during that period. Fortunately we managed to get both accommodation and participation ready with special arrangement even a month before departure. With none of the participants having visited the national park before nor being  professional hikers we all took precaution and hoped for the best. It turned out great! The path, the weather, the stunning view and a birthday celebration for the president, which fell on the same day. From this event, the committee gained major experience for the next.

The second would be Peak District National Park, 2 days 1 night. It was interesting. We lost our direction at the top because it was a vast landscape full of tall vegetation with hardly any visible sign or a path. Getting lost was fun and I enjoyed it, having a chance to explore the unknown and making important judgement along the way. Eventually we were back on track and rewarded with a nice view!

The third would be Willington Dovecote, now managed by National Trust. It was the first walk organised by the walking society for new students that I joined.  The walk from Great Barford along the Great River Ouse was led by Alan and Kristina. We began to know each other and ended the walk by shopping at the Go Outdoors shop. It is the first walk where it all started for me – and I caught the walking bug!

What walking boots and other walking gear do you have that you found indispensable during the walks? I didn’t place an importance into the walking gear initially. I had my first serious hiking of a 4000m altitude with industrial boots, partly because that was the pair I had and partly as I was curious  to find out what were the advantages of wearing such boots (steel toe cap and sole against rocks, mud proof , water proof, windproof and good traction against oily surface). It works but with low bending flexibility and stamina consuming. From there I learnt about the importance of getting a pair of suitable walking boots. As a fan of waterproof shoes (avoiding all chance of getting wet feet), I had a pair of Timberland boots for walking. It works well, even for daily use to classes. Wind proof jacket and pants are absolutely necessary too.

What did being a member of Cranfield University’s Walks mean to you?

Phew, it was full of surprises and passion! Coming from a hot city full of cars, highways and buildings (I am from Kuala Lumpur), walking in a shopping mall is the norm during weekend. One of my objective during my time spent in the UK is to have some nice outdoor walks and hiking. When I saw Walking Society booth during the club & society event, I joined as a member without much thought. As time passed, I was surprised to know that the society had closed for a year, was revived and ran with great passion by Kristina, the founder, for almost half a year before a full committee was formed. Rather than running away from being a committee, I have accepted Kristina’s offer to be the Membership officer in hope that I can contribute to some extent. Not long after, the president expressed his wish to resign came in as the next jaw dropping surprise, followed by the Snowdon trip at the brink of being scrapped due to low participation and high advance payment. Even so, the team remained resilient. Out of expectation, a quiet member stabilised the society by volunteering himself as the new president, flooding the society with his raging passion. The team sailed through all the hurdles one by one and things eventually back on track.

Finally, the last surprise arrived: the society was given the Best Event award 2016-2017 by Cranfield Student Association, returning to its past glory! I was genuinely stunned during the event as it was the least expected outcome right from revival. The best of all, it was a treat to know a group of very supportive members whom practise the same interest, having a nice chat and encounter during each walk. Not to forget, Kristina’s passion in the society is an eye opener for me. With the memorable year ended, I think the walk continues for all of us, both physically and mentally, exploring new paths and wonders. Hopefully someday we will cross each other’s path again.

Why would you recommend anyone at Cranfield University to join the walking society? Definitely join I would say to those who enjoy walking and photography! It is a wonderful chance to meet people with the same interest from different schools within the university and from different countries across the world.

Thank you, Chen, really enjoyed talking to you. Keep on walking and all the best in your future endeavours!

Read further interviews with our members on our testimonials’ page.
Would you like to be part of the walking society?  Learn on how to join the Cranfield University’s Walks here

post by @CUwalker

Sunday 26 November: Exclusive walk & tour of Chicheley Hall awaits

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A stunning  countryside walk from Cranfield University via the quintessentially English village of North Crawley to the beautifully restored Chicheley Hall awaits us this coming Sunday. All thanks to a special invitation extended to the Cranfield University’s walking society and its members. 

Chicheley Hall is home to The Royal Society and its Kavli Royal Society International Centre that offers residential working retreat for scientists worldwide. It is a stunning Grade I listed mansion surrounded by 80 acres of beautifully kept grounds. Now a wedding venue and a conference centre with accommodation available to book.

This walk to Chicheley Hall is one of the longest circular countryside walks you can undertake in proximity of Cranfield University; about 15km and 2 hours each way. Expect to spot lively livestock along the way!

If you are romantically inclined, a true Jane Austin moment awaits you as approach the beautiful Chicheley  Hall.

The walk on 26th November is  fully booked. If you are interested in joining a countryside walk from Cranfield University to Chicheley Hall sometimes in the future, please get in touch.  


photos: @cranfielduniversity’swalks


Exceptional People under a Single Banner

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Why are some people so nice to others? Would you go out of the way to help someone? Have you carried a stranger’s bag up a mountain just because the other person was weak? Do you remember the last time, you kept rubbing the frozen hands of another person, trying to warm them up, because he was freezing? Or would you invite strangers to your home, on Christmas and share your meal with them?

Not many of us are such exceptional people. But I was lucky enough to meet some such exceptional folks, all packed near a tiny village in Bedfordshire and this small tribute is for those few who made a lasting impact on my life.

Hi, I am Vikas and this is my story. I was fortunate enough to be in the receiving end of all this and I would like to share some of my best experiences in Cranfield with you.

Story 1:

I come from a city in South India and, like some of you, this was my first time out of home. My first time I had left India and straight in to Cranfield. During the orientation, we were introduced to various clubs and societies and for some reason, I decided to join the Walking Society at Cranfield University. (Which later in hind sight was the best decision I ever made.)

The rumours that the best quality products of any go to the USA and Europe and India gets the second or third grade products (because it is sold at a cheaper price affordable to many), is true. On my first walk from University to Cranfield village along with 89 other students, my almost brand new pair of sneakers split. The lower half was ripped away from the upper half as I stepped in to the muddy fields that took us to the nearby village. I then removed my shoe lace, used it as a string to tie the 2 halves together and continue to drag my feet slowly, over the 3 kilometer walk, through the mud and slush, till we reached the university. (Trust me that wasn’t a pleasant start.)

One of my first walks with the walking society and the first acts of kindness I experienced.

But that is where I met Kristina. She was  the society’s founder and the walking leader back in my day and she had planned the walk to the village that very day this incident took place. Now, believe it or now. She walked by me, the entire duration, as I walked sloppily in my torn shoes, making small talk and gently encouraging me to carry on walking. Once the walk was done and we reached the Mitchell hall, I expected her to say good bye and leave just like everyone else who enjoyed their first walk with the club. But she did something I will never forget. She drove me in her car, all the way to a shop called GoOutdoors (in Bedford which was around 15 miles away from University) and helped me select some good hiking gear (as I was totally clueless about even the basic asks of hiking in a terrain like UK) and also used her own discount card to get me the best deal out there and dropped me back at my accommodation.

I was taken aback by the love/friendship/ camaraderie (call it what you may) that she was able to show a complete stranger. This was the first time she met me and she went out of her way to do this for me. Why would someone do that? I do not have an answer. But all I know. She was an exceptional person and just to spend time with her. I did all the subsequent walks whilst at Cranfield University.

Story 2:

Snowdon summit. We made it!

My 1st weekend walk was to an exceptional place in Wales called Snowdonia National Park. It was a snow capped mountain peak of 1,085 m. Being among the least fit trekkers and completely unaccustomed to the weather and altitude, it was definitely a struggle to walk 10 steps up the mountain, without having to gasp for air. My hands and feet were freezing, my nose had turned pink, my spectacles broke and my snow cap which was drenched in sweat, started to freeze. The logical judgement call at this point would have been to request me to abandon my trek. But along with Kristina, there were 2 others who saved me that day and helped me reach the top. Sarah Bergin – an exceptionally strong Irish lass, stood by me all the way, fed me chocolates and water at every other break I took and once we were at the top and I was shivering in the cold, she sat behind me and hugged me to share body warmth. That hug of life really did save me that day.

Snowdonia National Park. Sun had come out!

The other person I am thankful for was our walk leader for the trek, Professor Toby Breckon. He was another exceptional mountaineer too. He sat beside me, my rubbing my freezing hands, feeding me hot tea to keep me warm.

If not for Sarah and Toby. I would not have made it up the mountain and had my swig of whiskey at the summit. Now, when common logic dictated that I be sent back to the cabin, on the grounds of being unfit, why did they pull me along and go out of their way to support me? I do not know why. But thanks to them, I successfully completed my first ever mountain trek and came back in one piece.

Story 3:

Peak District: Snow everywhere!

Excited from my 1st mountain hike, I decided to tempt fate again on my 2nd mountain hike to Mam Torr in Peak District  National Park. While my previous hike was snow clad only at the summit, this was a winter trek where we had to walk waist deep in snow. And being a person born and brought up in South India, temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius is something I’ve been accustomed to. So, a snow trek in winter in Peak District was definitely not in my comfort zone. Of course I had to go prepared. While my fellow trekkers carried 2 layers in their bags and wore 2 layers on themselves to protect themselves from the cold, I was 4 layers of clothing and 3 additional layers in my back pack.  Half way up the mountain, I was drained of energy and my back pack weighed a ton.  Well, it seemed like a ton to me.

One of my saviours! 

That’s where I met Michal.  He was carrying, what seemed like an equally heavy bag but then he offered to carry my bag up the mountain. Shamelessly I gave it to him because I could not go on further. Then, he slung my bag on his chest and started climbing effortlessly up the mountain as if he were a machine.

His wife Gosia was equally kind-hearted. She had 2 trekking poles, which she had got for herself. Without a second thought, she offered me one of hers so that I can support myself during the climb. You must also consider, they only met me a few hours earlier, when the trek began. Yet they carried my back pack and shared their hiking gear with me.

Now, why would someone go out of the way to help others, when they barely even know them by name? I have no answer, but thanks to them, I was able to walk over frozen glaciers and waist deep in snow and make back down alive, without a scratch on me.

Story 4:

The Peak District Walk, was the last mountain trek for the year and Christmas was nearing. Most of Cranfield University students and staff packed their bags and left for home. The only ones left behind were the locals, the overseas students from India and China, and sheep! The whole place was eerie and silent. There was nothing much to do but sit in. Imagine being among the 20 students, being left behind in an empty university, during Christmas break, having to remain cooped up indoors for nearly a month because it was either raining or snowing outside, while most of your friends were in their homes enjoying some family time with their nears and dears. I can tell you from personal experience, it was depressing.

Rambler with a warm heart. Thank you, Paul!

But that is when we met Paul. An elderly gentleman who lived in Cranfield village. On seeing us being marooned in the University, he planned and arranged for a walk around the Cranfield village, on Christmas day.

We trod along with him as he told us folk tales of events that had come to pass. He then invited us to his home where we enjoyed a cozy meal by a crackling warm fire place listening to soothing music from his old gramophone. We remained in his home for the next few hours as heard stories, played board games and heard some country music while some of us dozed off drowsily in his living room.

My English Christmas.

That evening, he baked us a fruit cake which he flambéed in front of our eyes. I remember as if it were yesterday, the image of him serving me a plate for flaming goodness, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in is eyes. It was priceless! Till this day, I am still trying to understand, why he invited us to spend one of the most important holidays with him, while for all the logical reasons, he could have spent it with his family and friends, just like everyone else. But I can only thank the heavens and call ourselves blessed to be able to spend a special occasion such as Christmas with him and it was, still is, and always will be my most memorable Christmas in England.

Now, if you are wondering why I am blabbering on and on about my personal experiences, it is because they are all connected. Kristina, Paul, Sarah, Michal, Toby and many others were all the core members of Cranfield University’s Walks  Society. They were walk leaders, trekking guides, event organizers etc. who played valuable roles in shaping up the club and its legacy  to be what it is today. Unbelievably, all these wonderful and exceptional people fall under a single banner “Cranfield Walking Society”. It is an open society which believes in more the merrier. And I was fortunate enough to join the Society. These are just some of my most treasured memories from being the society’s member and if you would like to meet them and their successors, walk with them and make your own memories. I invite you be a part of it too.

Vikas,  Coimbatore, India

Former Cranfield University’s student and a  walking society’s committee member