In her new book, Weathering, outdoor psychotherapist and geologist Ruth Allen takes us on a journey through ancient landscapes. Geology informs her unique approach to therapy, through which she encourages a deeper understanding of the earth’s natural forms. Rocks and mountains shapeshift over time, always weathering and eroding, just as humans are transformed by the events and experiences that shape us.

Weathering offers a new perspective on well-being. An exploration of the connection between our inner and outer landscapes, Ruth guides us through navigating change by observing the hills, valleys and caves of Britain.


It’s a damp but close day on the Pennine Way, and all is caramel. From the dying grasses that blanket the hills that are gradually enveloping us, to the heather tips that have passed from mauve-pink to pumpkin-orange. Even the path itself is an ombre hue of fine golden sand, to the grey-brown of sandstone slabs. Small puddles are starting to pool on the bridleway where they will take hold and expand as autumn gives way to winter, and they too are toffee-coloured and milky. And not forgetting the streams and rivers that flow down every spur from the Kinder Scout plateau into the valley bottom where we begin our walk, which bubble the colour of golden ale and leave a foam scum in the shallows where the water rests before its next plunge over each short waterfall’s edge. I too feel syrupy but agile. Now that the weather is cooler, I feel free to move at a pace that suits me best, and I enjoy skipping and hopping lightly between puddle, path and boulder, letting my body arrive into this familiar landscape. Hello, Edale.

This morning, I’m taking a small group up the valley to The Woolpacks – a vast and impressive field of gritstone tors on the edge of the plateau overlooking the valley below and hills on the other side, which act as a natural border with Hope Valley beyond. While these tors (and others like them, such as the granite tors of Dartmoor) look like boulders, they are in fact not separate from the underlying bedrock but are instead the weathered remains of the uppermost gritstone bed that have been washed with water for hundreds of thousands of years, gradually revealing the forms that are explorable today.

I have brought the group here to spend some time with the rocks, to investigate the connection between our inner and outer landscape, and learn to listen a little more deeply to the natural world with our whole bodies. I would like the group to encounter and engage with the landscape through their bodies first, rather than their minds, and make new associations and discoveries that might be useful for them in their day-to-day lives. Today is a creative day, and while much of my one-to-one work is detailed and nuanced, this group session is about asking new questions, making interesting explorations and trying to connect with our bodies and the rest of nature in surprising ways.

Together we set off at a leisurely pace, paying attention to how we’re feeling this morning, and allowing our feet to respond to the textures of the routeway and the surrounding environment in whatever way they feel drawn. I am taking the group – Lucy, Mya, Andi and me – along the Pennine Way because it’s broad enough for us to talk and move side by side, but also because, as a longer route, it gives us a chance to move gradually, mindfully into the landscape, the valley sides drawing us inwards, and gradually up.

Where time and place meet is a body in the present, standing at the intersection of the vertical and horizontal axes. At the meeting point of time and space, surface and depth. This is one way of saying you are at the centre of your own experience and world-view – a position that’s hard to get out of, except for in moments of deep relating, empathy and our conscious intellectual perspective shifts. Your journey here – evolutionarily, but also developmentally – started in the horizontal plane, on the ground as a child, before you moved upwards and became a vertical adult, and also a fully realised Homo sapien rather than a ground-dwelling ape. You have travelled some distance, seen a lot along the way, gathered in the fruit, taken part in the challenges, and perhaps you are now arriving with a desire for depth over distance. You are getting older. You are being pulled on the vertical axis once again, until you – one day – arrive back at the ground. Ready to merge, compost, blur the axis once again. This is your three-dimensional life, lived through your three-dimensional body made possible by the existence and internal architecture of your bones, and echoed in the tripartite direction of your thoughts that move effortlessly between past, present and future. You move, you think, you feel.

Weathering by Ruth Allen is available here.

Photography by Ruth Allen.

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