Hannah Shields Off the Beaten Track


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Hannah Shields

Darryl Grimason explores some of the most stunning walks around the mountains and coastline of Northern Ireland.


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Binevenagh Mountain towers above gentle farmland on the north coast.

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A great slab of ancient basalt, and a great place for a walk.

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It's also the favourite training ground for my guide,

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a Kilrea woman who is one of Ireland's best known adventurers.

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Hannah Shields made it to the top of Mount Everest in 2007.

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An epic achievement in itself - but she's also survived frostbite and polar bear attack,

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pushing herself beyond endurance to the North Pole.

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For so many years, I was an armchair adventurer.

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I read every single book about

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North Pole, South pole, Everest, the mountains.

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And to me that was always, superhuman people did that.

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And I sometimes have to keep pinching myself and go, "It's me. You're out there doing these things."

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We're walking a route Hannah usually runs.

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From the church car park off the Limavady, off to Castlerock Road.

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The forest track is a sharp climb up to the foot of the mountain.

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And on to the distinctive rocky pinnacles under the cliffs.

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Then it's back down, along the trail below the crag.

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Up through another forest, and on to the summit ridge and the amazing lookout beside Binevenagh lake.

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There we go.

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Hannah, I'm a rambler and you're a runner.

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I'll go up here a footstep at a time, taking it all in, but that's not your approach, sure it's not?

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Sometimes, whenever my training sessions... I call it "eyeballs out,"

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running up here as fast as I possibly can.

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But today is going to be an absolute pleasure, just to be out walking

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and seeing things that I don't normally see.

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I know. The eyeballs out thing, that's a great expression.

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Is that how you live life?

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No, not all the time, I have to admit, not all the time.

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But I think if you're going to do it,

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some of the training, you have to do it as hard and fast as you possibly can,

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-and that's what's required of some of the things I need to do.

-Yeah.

-Unfortunately.

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A lovely place to come and train.

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It's gorgeous.

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From deep inside the forest,

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there's no clue to the surprise that's waiting up ahead.

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That is just awesome.

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Don't let anybody ever say

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that we don't have spectacular and exotic scenery.

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Hannah, that is gorgeous.

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It's one of my favourite places.

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it really is, and I never, ever tire of it.

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I'm up here every single week and it's never the same, every single time.

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It's stunning, it's just stunning.

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And you've got the intimacy of the walk through the forest,

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then you reach something like this.

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This timeless landscape.

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The sun's hanging there, it looks like the moon through the cloud.

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Actually, we're very lucky, because normally you don't see that!

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We've been blessed today.

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Normally there is a fantastic mist that hangs on that

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and I just find it a stunning place, absolutely stunning.

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And it sounds cliched, but it is.

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As the early morning mist fades, there's an awakening sense of that ephemeral beauty.

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Binevenagh is a place apart.

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To actually be outside in the middle of all of this, it's an awe-inspiring place.

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It's my outside gym. It's where I come to do all my hard work before I go away on a lot of my expeditions.

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It's because I'm outside, getting the fresh air, it means so much to me.

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I am asthmatic, and it is something that I have to be conscious of.

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But it's not something that's going to define me,

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it's something that I'll work with.

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That singleminded determination took her to the summit of Everest in 2007,

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having almost done it four years earlier.

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I was back to finish what I hadn't done in 2003.

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That's purely what I was there for.

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100 vertical metres,

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it was a lot to do for 100 vertical metres.

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But I was just relieved, because, to be honest, my right contact lens

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had frozen to my eye for an hour and a half beforehand,

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so I was just, kind of, practicalities.

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"I'm here, I've done it, great. Get back down safely again."

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She is unstoppable.

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Hannah makes her living as a dentist,

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but she lives for life on the edge and that enthusiasm is infectious.

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So too is the rush you'll feel up here.

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There's never a dull moment high on Binevenagh, or higher still in the Arctic.

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Every time I've been there, I've always had polar bear encounters.

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We now think it's due to my perfume. So I've been banned on the next couple of expeditions,

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where there's polar bears, no more perfume.

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And there's more adventure ahead.

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Along a sheep track running parallel with the base of the cliffs,

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a gentle walk before another climb through a pine forest, on to the cliff.

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Back into the Autumn sunshine.

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'Hannah is also an international cross-country runner.'

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'But thankfully, you don't have to be an athlete to appreciate a scenic stroll through the woods.'

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This is why I come up here.

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Oh, isn't that beautiful?

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Isn't that just the loveliest, gentlest countryside sweeping below us?

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It's away from everything, away from your worries,

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you can lose yourself in it.

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You've got that sense of euphoria for coming out and doing something physically,

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by yourself on your own two feet.

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And then, you have to admit, I get a wee endorphine kick after working hard.

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It's very satisfying.

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There's an enormous feel-good factor. That's why you really should try this, it's great!

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MOOING

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Definitely to be recommended. Even the cows agree.

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There is a road all the way up here.

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Travel by car and you may see the view, but miss the point.

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It's the journey that really matters in the end.

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It's been an idyllic day, spent in exceptional company and in unrivalled surroundings.

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We're way off the beaten track.

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I love whenever I come up here,

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that there's nobody around.

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And it is that splendid isolation, that you really do feel you're getting away from it all.

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But then at the same time, I think that I shouldn't be selfish

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and it should be opened up to other people to appreciate.

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I know that it's there and that it is accessible.

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If you've been inspired to put on the walking boots and see it for yourself,

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check out the website:

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You'll find route maps, safety advice

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and links to walking clubs in your area.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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