My walk out of depression

Having been advised by his doctor to take up walking, Jonathan Wragg is now a fully fledged Rambler. We chatted to him to find out why…

Jonathan Wragg reading Walk magazine

It sounds so simple, going for a walk. Pop on your boots, wrap up warm and head out of the front door, one foot in front of the other all the way. For anyone who really knows walking, though, anyone who has really fallen in love with it, it means so much more than that.

A simple suggestion

Everyone has their own favourite place to walk, and their own private reasons for enjoying it. Maybe it’s thinking space; a little time away from the buzz of modern life; a preferred form of exercise; or valued time alone or with loved ones. It might even be a way to make new friends. For Jonathan Wragg, however, it has been a path to coping with depression. 

Speaking to Jonathan is like the proverbial breath of fresh air. He has an unbridled sense of awe and enthusiasm for something, which for him - and no doubt many others - has become an antidote for a crippling condition. “I have suffered from depression for more than 20 years,” he says. “And have been on and off medication in that time. I was on sick leave last year and I didn’t want to go back onto medication when my GP suggested I try going for a walk.”

Walking on the Pennine Way

Finding the motivation

Easy as it sounds, Jonathan’s doctor was no doubt aware that for anyone struggling with depression, summoning the energy and enthusiasm to actually go out for a walk is actually quite a big ask, and it took more than a week for Jonathan to gather himself and head out of the house

“Some days I can’t get out of bed or face doing anything,” he notes. “But I got on the bus from my home near Huddersfield and headed six miles to Marsden. When I got there it started to rain and all I had with me was a hoodie, but I carried on along the canal where I used to walk with my dad as a kid, and the effect was almost immediate.”

An immediate impact

Even in Jonathan’s speech the impact walking had on his sense of wellbeing in that moment is palpable. He talks about how uplifting it was simply to be around nature, listening to the trees, seeing the rain falling on the water, and getting fresh air. As an avid photographer he smiles to himself as he acknowledges that walks take him twice the amount of time that they would take anyone else, because he is forever snapping away at the world around him. 

Asked where his favourite place to walk is, Jonathan enthuses about the world he has discovered around Huddersfield and Manchester. “It changes every time I go walking! Two weeks ago I went along the Pennine Way to Black Hill and loved it up there, but I found a better spot yesterday. I was in the middle of nowhere but could see all the way over West Yorkshire to the power stations at Ferrybridge on one side and the hustle and bustle of Manchester on the other.”

Walking in the Pennines

One foot in front of the other

Of course, as anyone with any experience with depression will know, solutions are not a case of one size fits all and it isn’t a case of a permanent cure. It is about finding a way to manage a very difficult and frequently misunderstood condition. With this in mind, Jonathan notes that he still gets worse in the winter and still has days when he can’t face the world, but it’s tempered by the knowledge that if he can get outside and go for a walk, it will have a positive impact. 

“It isn’t necessarily for everyone, but for me walking works and my advice to anyone with depression is to try to get up and just do it. I know that’s not much by way of advice and it’s easier said than done, but when I am down now I just put on my boots and go out. Sometimes it takes time, but when I reach somewhere beautiful and look around, I can’t help but think it would make anyone smile.”

Take a look at Jonathan's photography from walks along the Pennine Way!

Read Nicola Radcliff's story about how walking helped her recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.