August 18, 2023 11 min read
Whilst we all love adventuring, I think most of us fall victim to a sparse backpack of Evian, cereal bars and if you’re lucky, a slightly squashed and re-moulded ham sandwich. Adventuring can easily end up accompanied by sub-par provisions that leave us longing for the hot meal we’ll find at home later on. Someone who has figured out how to adventure better is Harrison Ward, dubbed fellfoodie on social media, Harrison merges the comfort of warm, well-cooked meals with the freedom of being able to meander as he does so. By sharing these meals on the move,fellfoodie has amounted to 22 thousand followers who are keen to get inspired by Harrison’s journey, voice and good food…
What do you feel Fellfoodie does and what is it about?
Yeah, of course. So I guess I’m well known for being an outdoors cook. Taking my campstove out to what you’d call ‘remote regions’, usually the mountains and the Lake District out where I’m based, but also all-over the country and further afield, and try to recreate dishes you’d make at home in the kitchen or eat when out at a restaurant, but on minimal camping equipment. I’m just trying to showcase really that food doesn’t have to be scaled down for adventure all of the time and to show that, as a lover of food and a lover of the outdoors, combining those two passions is possible with a bit of forward thinking.
It was kind of a bit of a challenge at first, someone challenged me to go and take a stove up there and prepare something from scratch in the hills. It's gone from there I suppose. I’d already dubbed myself as ‘fellfoodie’ so it was just a matter of merging those two passions that are ‘the fells’, which is what we call the hills here, and ‘food’, and just began seeing what I could do. It was all very challenge-based and experimental at first really and has just sort of grown from there.
Why do you think that camping food has such a bad reputation? Are most people just doing it wrong?
I think a lot of people don’t want to carry the extra weight which is half the problem, and one I can contend with. I just feel that for people like myself who love good food, I don’t like the belief that you should have to sacrifice that in order to go and do these adventures. Of course, if I were doing a long adventure or a multi-day trip, something quite cruel and demanding, those dehydrated options do play a part and are very instrumental in that kind of thing. But for shorter adventures; days to the beach, sunsets up a hill, day trips through the woods- there’s no reason why you can’t cook.
I suppose it adds to the special element of the trip too, making it more memorable?
It does. I also think it can feel very primal being out there and cooking. I mean, I tend to use camp stoves or tiny little wood burners. I’m not having open fires in national parks or wild spaces, I’m always trying to really elevate those and making sure I leave no trace behind me whenever possible. But, for me, there’s still that primal aspect stemming from the way we used to cook over fires, and recreating that caveman or cavewoman camp fire set up. Cooking whilst being around the sounds and sights of nature is just glorious and always makes the memories feel special I feel.
That's a very raw feeling I’d imagine?
Well hopefully the food’s not!
Why do you think Fellfoodie has had such good media response and engagement?
It’s a difficult one to answer from my perspective but I guess it really picked up when I started sharing my personal story on there, what I’d gone through, the struggles I’d had to get to the point I’m at now. I think by using the outdoors and showing how it was a catalyst to that progression, people realised that they had a synergy with that. A lot of people go to the outdoors for similar reasons; finding it an escape and an opportunity to reconnect with human roots, turning back to the basics, maybe leaving behind busier city lives- I think people related with all of that quite a bit. I guess that the more cosmopolitan element of cooking proper food out and about creates a bit of intrigue too, you don't often see a meal set up like that with the incredible views behind it. I think that desire for new experience comes into play and it just worked well from a social media perspective, being able to get those ‘Instagrammable’ shots up in the hills. Ultimately, I do think it was whyI’d gone to the hills; the alcoholism, the depression, getting out there to lose weight and get back in touch with my own psyche. I was able to talk openly about all these things and, I guess, be a bit of a voice for the voiceless. Being able to talk so freely on local news platforms and national media has ended up taking me on a really unexpected journey. I never really aimed for it to become anything other than me sharing, it was all anonymous at first, but has ended in a very random journey that I’ve just trusted from day one.
Your journey into the food world is a bit of a personal one. Can you tell us a little about how you got started?
It was about two years into me going out into the outdoors that I actually started going out there to cook, so I think at first, it was very much a means of making personal recovery. I’d just quit alcohol in 2016, I was really overweight and 22 stone, I was a smoker. My life came crumbling down on one particular day after the end of a relationship which was my own doing as I’d been unfaithful under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol was getting me through day to day but I wasn’t really living, I was just ‘coasting’. Having everything come crashing down off the back of my own actions made me really face the music and take accountability for my own behaviour. I threw my hands up with friends and family and just said ‘Look, this is what I’ve been suffering from and going through…’ The support I got back from that was just really helped me take my next steps. I suppose I needed to fill the alcohol void so I just started getting out, going to the gym, doing the local cycling routes by my home, and eventually, one friend just took me up into the mountains.
I’d been so close to the lake district all of my life but I’d never really taken in what was on the doorstep. Him taking me on that first walk was a real baptism of fire. I wasn’t used to that kind of activity, it was a really cloudy day, I was suffering from a lot of things at the time like heartbreak and navigating coming off the alcohol. The second time I went up and reached the summit with those breathtaking views, that sense of achievement and that positive endorphin flow really hit something in me and carved a new path. It was a bit like my 80s movie montage if you will, that pinnacle moment that a character realises they need to make a change.
When I started going into the hills more and more, I started taking food with me, then little packed lunches that I’d made the night before. But this was before I even started posting on social media and was just a part of my personal development, I was trying to right my wrongs in a way.
Do you feel as though giving back and being a voice for the people has helped you to move on from mistakes you feel you have made in the past?
There’s two sides to that sometimes I suppose.
I’m always an advocate for people talking. I think no one should suffer in silence and you should never feel like you're alone, and one of the main reasons I post what I do is for that exact purpose. Having been so low when I was growing up and being drastically hit with a sense of self-loathing, I’d felt like I’d had noone to turn to, and you didn’t have social media or public role models speaking up about that kind of thing then. I didn’t know what I was going through so I did feel very alone. So that’s why I share and have definitely found a purpose in doing so.
But again, there’s two sides to it because I’d never push anyone to speak about it so publicly because that comes with other stuff to deal with. I think you should always reach out to your friends, family, medical professionals for that kind of help. So, ‘giving back’ will always play an important part for me in terms of the fact icangive back but at the same time, I have my own vulnerabilities as well, I’m no guru or expert in these matters and am as close to slipping as perhaps somebody else could be. Just sharing those things for people to relate to or understand, especially when they maybe have a similar path of relation, is so important. Now, I’m going into schools and going into universities to talk about my experiences. It is just fantastic to do. It’s empowering to get to speak to people when I can still visualise myself being in their stage of life. They may not always listen but you might catch one or two in the crowd who are going through something similar so even just getting to reach out to that one individual is really important.
Did you have anyone that was an idol or inspiration to push your own motivation?
I think it was closer to home really, I had an amazing support network which I was very lucky to have and I certainly see that as a privilege. Especially with things like substance abuse and alcoholism, often people get to a point where they push those important people away so I was very fortunate to be in a position where those people hadn’t given up on me. Not ‘given up’ in the sense that they would ever just leave me behind, but conditional love does run out when it comes to this sort of thing and you end up really pushing your luck with relationships. It’s something that I appreciate not everybody will have but there’s always someone to speak to, whether that’s peers or one of the fantastic mental health lines that are available or the medical professionals themselves.
So in terms of looking up to other people, I’ve never really been one to put people on pedestals. I don’t look at someone and think ‘Oh, that could be me’, I can appreciate how phenomenal people's achievements are but I’ve never endorsed the ‘that could be me’ mentality. I just think we’re all on different paths and we all do the same basic day-to-day things. I don’t think that there’s anyone that's above each other. And likewise, off the back of sharing my own personal story, there are people that look to you in a sobriety aspect but I don't really buy into some of the ‘guruism’ you see. I think you can share your paths, and encourage others on theirs with support and blessings, but I don’t believe that anyone is on a superior path.
From cooking, there’s a few individuals I look up to and take things from but from the hills aspect, there isn’t really anyone I’d bow down to. I think I like to retain an inspired yet retrospective stance on what people have done and achieved.
How do you find it, engaging with an audience about such a vulnerable subject?
I’ve just always tried to be raw and honest with my followers. I’ve not tried to tailor it or make it ‘cleansed’, I think the reason people really identified at the start was because I was sharing my real darkest struggles and retained an openness. I think for blokes particularly as well, you don’t come across this kind of thing very often and we tend to be more guarded and hidden with what they’re going through so I just went on and was like ‘well, this has happened today… I've not achieved this today… this hasn’t happened how I wanted today…’ and again, the honesty just sung to a few people. When I post to my account, it's not that cleansed social media focused around how everythings good and great all of the time, ‘look at me and how brilliant I am’, ‘look at these flash things I’ve got’, it’s not about that, it’s more about the basics and not forgetting where you’ve come from.
I find that my audience on my social channels is pretty evenly split. But I do think you mainly find that from the female aspect, they can tend to be a bit more vocal on these things and tend to comment more and have a willingness to become attached to those sorts of conversations. Comparatively, I think the blokes side are more likely to message you privately maybe or not at all at times, with a preference to read and absorb. It’s clear they aren’t as keen to share things which pinpoints one of the biggest issues with male mental health; that fear of judgement or not living up to the ‘male stereotype’ at times.
It’s certainly fantastic to hear from people and always very humbling to receive those kinds of messages. Again, I think it makes those struggles seem more worthwhile and put the level of self-criticism I used to have into perspective. I think you also sometimes get messages from people being like ‘Look, I read this and it's thanks to you that I’ve had two years of sobriety’ and I just think ‘well, no, it’s not thanks to me at all. I’ve not done that, you’ve done that’. People may use my story as a bit of a motivational tool on their path but that will be alongside other things. I will not be the sole reason behind that, just like how there was no sole person in my life who was the sole reason for my changes. I think sometimes you need to put in the work yourself and the imposter syndrome kicks in, making it hard to appreciate how much the individual has done themselves, what they’ve had to go through, what changes they’ve had to make. I’m only there as a case study really and if I can help someone else on their path, brilliant, but like we said, no one is on the same path and none are comparable.
What kind of importance do you think the outdoors has on our wellbeing?
Ultimately, I think it’s where we’re designed to be. We’re not designed to be in these huge built-up cities or penned in areas, and as much as I enjoy the cosmopolitan aspect of luxury from time to time, there’s a fine balance of the two. I think heading back to basics, the outdoors, escaping the noise of real life is incredibly beneficial and can put into perspective how insignificant you are compared to these vast wide open spaces. Sometimes that can be an ego knock but I think just being out there at all is so beneficial, but you forget about the small things; that person who cut you off in the street, you’re not worried about waiting for a long time in a queue. Especially for those who don’t necessarily like the gym or going for a work out, to get the body and mind just moving. I think it’s no wonder we get ourselves into these ruts at times. Although sometimes it's very chemical or impossible to prevent, I think being out there inevitably eases those strains.
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Fellfoodie is releasing their debut cookbook this October where he’ll guide readers through the countryside cooking process step by step. Available for Preorderhere.
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