#THISISMYADVENTURE: Joanna Shimwell
I've lived in the Peak District all of my life, a farmer's daughter, I grew up on a farm just a few miles from Bakewell and experienced an idyllic upbringing surrounded by fields, quiet country lanes and lots of animals. This upbringing opened up many opportunities for me to make the most of my surroundings; as a child and into my teenage years I became a keen horse-rider, immersing myself in a wide range of activities, from hacking out on country bridleways to galloping over stone-walls with the local hunt and one-day-eventing. I was fearless! Unfortunately as school and University became more demanding, indulging my passion became more difficult and my interest in it dwindled. My horse was sold and I no longer had a 'hobby' to call my own.
I spent 3 years away at University in Nottingham, where I tried to embrace city life, but it wasn't for me. After graduating I returned to Derbyshire and the farm, where I started to make the most of country life by starting a small business rearing Gloucester Old Spot pigs to produce traditional English sausages and bacon. In my spare time I would go out for lots of walks in the area and began exploring routes further afield than ones based around the farm. I realised how much I loved exploring the countryside and photographing landscapes, in particular the ones close to home. One chilly winters morning I hiked up Mam Tor to capture the sunrise - it was a defining moment for me, standing alone at the Trig Point, my lungs filled with freezing air, the beautiful vista of the sun rising over the Hope Valley: I had never felt more alive. My Instagram page @Joannashimwell became the place where I collated the highlights of the views I had experienced and found inspiration from photos of other people out capturing our amazing hills, mountains and lakes.
Inspired by my surroundings, I was keen to find a way of getting stronger, fitter and healthier that involved being outdoors and taking photos of the beautiful, constantly changing landscape around me. Last year I was lucky to be given a Hardtail mountain bike by my best friend (a keen cyclist). She wanted to encourage me to get out and give cycling a go, so I could build up my fitness and start feeling the benefits. It didn't take long for me to get really keen; after spending several months training on easy trails to improve my stamina, a crisp January morning became my first proper mountain biking experience. I met with a group of riders and we took the classic 'This is Ladybower' route: I was the only female rider in a group of 17 and by far the biggest novice. It was very challenging! After several tumbles, a fair amount of 'dabbing' and lots of pushing, I had survived and was grinning from ear to ear...despite being able to feel the bruises all over by body developing by the minute! It was the start of something new: I had found myself a new hobby, a new passion.
A month later and I'd splashed out on a full-suspension mountain bike and started riding out around the Peak District with groups most weekends. I've ridden the Peaks in the snow, ice, lashing rain, gale force winds and blistering heat. My stamina, skill and strength improving with every ride, I began to enjoy the experience more and more. Riding challenges me and makes me feel alive; it has given me the feeling of freedom and the taste for adventure which I so love. Now when I see a track, a hill or a mountain, I want to ride it and to feel the sun, the wind, the rain and above all the amazing sense of achievement mountain biking gives me. When I'm not out riding my bike, I'm thinking about the next ride and planning the next challenge: I'm SO passionate about my newly found sport. Discovering mountain biking has given me a renewed purpose in life and now I don't know what I'd do or where I'd be without it. I live, eat and breathe being outdoors and I have never felt happier and healthier. THIS IS MY ADVENTURE.