Six months ago, Fiona Lines decided to to set up a business giving people the chance to experience the Dales and, to coin a cliche, get away from it all.

She started Cowdance, which offers a range of weekend breaks and workshops.

From crafting to caving, walking to walling (dry stone!) they run events to get people outdoors and back in touch with the land,

Through professional experience as an archaeologist and environmental consultant and some serious thought about what makes her happiest Fiona, founder and Director of Cowdance, says she has found a formula for feeding the soul.

So why Cowdance?

Well, Fiona explains that here...

If you live in the countryside (or watch Countryfile!) you might know that cows do a bit of a dance when they’re let out to grass after a spell indoors.

They jump about and kick their legs enjoying the freedom of stretching their legs in the fresh air.

Around six months ago I set up a company to provide opportunities for people to get outside and reconnect with the wild outdoors and I called it Cowdance, so that humans can ‘cowdance’ too!

The Dales is an ideal location for Cowdance to hold events and our weekends away here include walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks over three days, relaxation and caving, dry stone walling and knitting (with climbing, wild swimming and fell running coming soon).

We also run corporate away days where Yorkshire’s rolling green hills, bleak moorland, craggy outcrops and underground labyrinths form the perfect natural backdrop to many an adventure.

For me, the Dales is an ideal location to reconnect with the wild outdoors. Practically, it provides a good balance between accessibility and solitude.

Despite good rail and road links you can find places that do not attract crowds even in busy summer months. Also handy are the old stone holiday cottages.

I want people to experience eating and staying together, which brings about a lovely sense of warmth and camaraderie, so all of our weekends away make use of these old farmhouses and converted barns that look so perfect in the Dales environment.

I used to work as an archaeologist so it is perhaps no surprise that I am drawn to the area’s rich history with so many tangible links to our past, from ancient stone walls and barns to the independent small farms still employing traditional husbandry practices when elsewhere the dominance of huge agri-businesses is making itself felt.

Farming is the lifeblood of the Dales and provides a sense of working with the environment, understanding its rhythms and the natural cycles of life.

Tapping into that sense of connectivity with the natural world is a powerful way to de-stress and find a sense of perspective.

Without farming we wouldn’t have sheep roaming the hillsides providing us with wool. Knitting and the process of turning a raw fleece into workable yarn is a useful traditional skill that provides a natural link to the land and meditative benefits.

Last but certainly not least, I love the Dales because it is an outdoor playground. Smell the fresh air and feel sun on your face (and perhaps rain too) as you wash worries away on a windswept hillside.

Challenge yourself by walking the three peaks, enjoy fell running through fields of sheep and over rough moorland, wild swim in Malham Tarn, explore wondrous cave systems and climb on textured gritstone.

So back to Cowdance.

Through personal experiences, a bit of research and some serious thought about what feeds my soul I think I have found a formula for feeling good; spend time outdoors, do something meaningful that gives satisfaction at the end of the day, explore connections with the land, push physical boundaries, enjoy a sense of camaraderie and eat good food.

Add to this a bit of yoga to keep the body supple and get rid of mental clutter and you have the basis of a Cowdance experience.

We all know that, in general, we should be more active, spend less time looking at screens and more time looking after ourselves, but sometimes obstacles present themselves; work pressures, social media and cracking TV lures us into a routine that doesn’t make us happy.

We did not evolve as a species living our modern sedentary lives and benefit from occasionally indulging our innate desires by reconnecting with the wild outdoors.

In the words of naturalist John Muir “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out ‘til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in’’.

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