After discovering a passion for hiking in 2016 following a drastic life change, it wasn’t long before Harrison Ward’s love for cooking was merged with his new life exploring the great outdoors, thus ‘The Fell Foodie’ was born.
Since then, Harrison has carved himself a niche, creating delicious, restaurant-style meals on minimal camping equipment in the hills, whilst campaigning for better awareness around mental health issues.
We’re delighted to welcome ‘The Fell Foodie‘ to Blue Earth Summit this year, where he will be joining us on Day 3 for a gourmet cooking workshop amongst an action packed schedule of activities in the great outdoors.
We caught up with Harrison pre-event to find out how his personal mental health battles became the catalyst to cooking in the great outdoors, and what he’s most looking forward to at this year’s summit.
I’ve always been passionate about food but often neglected the outdoors, despite living a stones throw from the Lake District. Battling suicidal contemplation throughout adolescence led me towards utilising alcohol as a medicinal tool to silence my mind. Life spiralled into a dark cycle of crippling depression and addiction as I moved away to York for University.
In 2016, I hit rock bottom. I came to terms with the fact I had become an alcoholic and sought to make a change following the breakdown of a relationship. I chose fairly instantly to return to Cumbria, and in doing so came clean to friends and family about my illness. The support I received was key to making positive steps towards a different life. It was here I was introduced to hiking in the fells so close to my home and ignited a new vice.
Food followed, as I prepared slightly extravagant lunches to take on my hikes and often had peers passing comment. One in particular said I should get a stove and prepare my lunch from scratch as a joke. The challenge was accepted and I merged my passions for food and the outdoors under the moniker ‘Fell Foodie’ online. I am now often found preparing restaurant-style meals in remote locations on camping equipment.
It is not my place to say what conclusions people will draw, but they will certainly experience my personal passion of getting outside for wellbeing, as well as perhaps opening their mind to the role of sustenance when outdoors. I share my lived experiences honestly and in their rawest form, with the hope that those that are still battling mental afflictions know that they are not alone.
The mountains and outdoor activity has been instrumental to building a new, fulfilling life away from negative vices and as a means to better my personal health. I will also provide insight into why food elevates these experiences for me and can be a catalyst for further connection with others, whilst sharing natural environments. I will share hints and tips for outdoor cooking that others can put into practice when they are in green space….. or at least get them to start thinking about leaving their dehydrated noodle pot at home every now and again!
Those initial early hikes will always hold a strong connection for me. In the first fortnight, coming to terms with my illness and battling withdrawal, I was driven to the base of Blencathra. A bit of a baptism of fire for an overweight, lethargic, broken man, but slowly but surely I made it to that summit circle. A week later it was Helvellyn, up the stoney staircase-like route from Swirls car park. The view I experienced at the top alongside the dopamine hit of being active in nature, catapulted me into a new chapter in my life. I have returned many times and created new memories, but those initial struggles and achievements will always remain.
It has had a monumental impact on my mental and physical health. It is somewhere I feel myself, free, yet not alone in my head. Getting fresh air and exercise in the great outdoors feels so simple and natural, but has also become essential as a means of managing my depression and keeping alcohol temptations at bay.
I regularly share the benefits I have personally discovered to schools, businesses and publications, but also work to help others experience time outside, especially those who may not have the privilege of being so close to a national park.
Having so many brands and individuals come together for this summit with a similar ethos is fantastic, and I hope the impact of time outdoors can be felt by many, without barriers such as accessibility. I have always found cooking at home quite a mindful practice too, so combining the two and allowing yourself to slow down and reconnect with nature through an elongated activity has further cemented its integral role.