Uzma Khan is the founder of Four Seasons CIC, a community walking, hiking and social group based in the north west of the UK. A mother of three from a traditional Pakistani family, she recognised the benefits of the outdoors for her own physical and mental health and wanted to find a way to share her passion with others in her community, breaking down the barriers that still exist. Four Seasons now run regular bi-weekly walks and hikes for individuals and families as well as residential and charity events.
In this episode, Uzma shares her motivations for establishing Four Seasons, the barriers and challenges she has faced on the way and the unexpected benefits that have stemmed from her desire to provide an accessible and welcoming way of connecting her community with the outdoors.
Find out more about Four Seasons on:
Booking site: https://meetu.ps/c/4Y3V2/R55yz/d
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NICKI: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Everyday Adventure Podcast. My name is Nicki Bass and I will be bringing you thoughts, ideas, and stories from some incredible guests to hopefully inspire you to live more adventurously in your everyday lives.
00:24 So today I am absolutely delighted to welcome Uzma Khan to the show. Uzma is the founder of Four Seasons Outdoors, which is a club promoting personal wellbeing and diversity in the outdoors. And she runs, walks and hikes in the northwest based in Blackburn, but also covering wider region as well. And very much the aim of these walks is to be social as well as the hiking and the outdoors aspect too. And Uzma was connected to me via my lovely editor Fran, who you'll heard me talk about before if you're regular listener to this show. And she sent me through an email that Uzma sent and I just read it and I was just like, oh my goodness. And it would just be absolutely perfect for the Everyday Adventure podcast. So I started stalking her by email saying, please come on the show. I'd love to have you. And we had a lovely conversation. I was just like, yeah, this is a conversation I really want to share with you. So it's such a pleasure to have her here today. And Uzma, thank you so much for joining me today and welcome to the show.
UZMA: 01:24 Oh, well thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm quite excited to be here.
NICKI: 01:29 So just before we came on, I said I was deliberately going to keep that intro pretty short because I really wanted to hear from you in your own words, what motivated you to start Four Seasons and really where did the idea come from?
UZMA: 01:41 Well, Four Seasons, I mean, just to put it in a nutshell, we started doing Covid in 2020, although the idea was there from a very long time before, but I just hadn't put it into practise. So originally I'm from Oxford. I grew up in a town, I mean I would call it a village because it's very small, but I grew up in a town where there's no hills or mountains, it's just flatland canals, farms. And we grew up at a time where there was not cars, so we literally just walked everywhere. So the walking has always been installed in me from my parents I suppose. But it's when I moved into Blackburn. And I remember for people who actually live in Blackburn, if you know where the big Tescos is, there's a enterprise centre there. So I used to work there and there used to be a hill that I could see from my window.
02:42 So whenever you know daydream sometimes when you are at work. Yeah, absolutely. You I'm looking out the window, I see this hill and I was just intrigued, what is this hill? And it turned out to be a hill in Burnley, Pendle Hill, which is quite popular. And I've done that is my training ground now. So that was my first motivation just to go out and check out the hills around where I am living. So then that's where it started from, I suppose, is just I start going out with a few friends and we were all quite outdoorsy. But then when just
NICKI: 03:20 Before
UZMA: 03:20 Covid hit in 20 2019, we did a charity walk to Scar Pike and the Yorkshire three Peaks. And then it was just talking to people who were first time hikers just because it was a charity hike. And a lot of people in my community, in our Asian background, they'd start hiking because it's usually because of a charity walks. But I know the fantasy of going out is there because I had it. But we just got off so many restrictions. So I wanted to, during Covid when we were all cooped up inside and people wanted to get out and I was out in the hills and people just messaging me, where are you? Can you take us? So it started off with just a few friends and family and then it just, as they say, word of mouth and it just grew and grew.
NICKI: 04:15 I love it. I love that it started with you just sort of looking at a hill and going, oh, I wonder what it'd be like to go that thing of, I think so. So many people can relate to that as well. I've certainly done it particularly like you said, when you are maybe stuck at work and there's other things you should be thinking about, but you
UZMA: 04:35 Think I'm completely different. Yeah,
NICKI: 04:36 Yeah, exactly. You just have those moments where you are, yeah, you're needing some inspiration. But I think it's also that thing of just that seeing something as sort of reachable in a way. It's not just part of the scenery, but you're like, actually I want to get out and want to get into it. And then how it then grows from something that you started. I mean it must be really interesting looking back now and going, I remember looking at that hill and now like you said, it's just part of your regular routine. That's where you go all of the time.
UZMA: 05:07 Yeah, it is. Because whenever I do go back to that office, I see, look out that window. It's like I always reminisce going back that that was my first hill, that it was Pendo Hill. But every, it's every time I feel down or I feel low or I need a me time, the hill I go to. So there's a lot of connection with Pendle. Yeah.
NICKI: 05:34 Isn't it interesting. It just becomes, yeah, like you said, you form that sort of connection with a particular place and it reminds you of probably what you've achieved as well, I guess. Definitely. In terms of I was looking at it and now it's just this huge part of my life. And I was just wondering as your organisation has grown from, like you said, you wanting to get out and that sort of, I guess, I mean I think we can all remember that time in Covid where you're just desperate to get out and finding ways to do things. But now having grown and evolved and becoming something regular and other people depending on it too, have there been any challenges that you've faced in terms of either growing the community or in terms of, I think as you mentioned, people's perception of accessing the outdoors or whether that feels challenging or difficult?
UZMA: 06:29 Definitely. We've been going forward, this is a third year now, but there have been definitely, I mean there's personal challenges as well as professional challenges. I mean, I'm a mother of three and I dunno if you have children, gosh. But yeah, people who
NICKI: 06:46 I just like just that in alone. Yes, getting out their hills a challenge. Yeah,
UZMA: 06:50 Exactly. That's a full, full-time job. So for anyone who's got children, they can relate that just to find that time to your own. It's very difficult cause you are running your household and your children's life and I've got three kids and sometimes my hu husband feels like a child. So yeah. Is that your, yeah, so you're trying to run or kind of juggle everything together. So when you're trying to organise other events that are beneficial for others, but just finding that time or sometimes my own, because mental health, I mean everyone's aware of mental health now thankfully, but everyone's mental health goes up and down. It fluctuates from highs and lows. So then for me to put my own feelings and both sides and just go out and plan, just that can be challenging itself sometimes.
07:51 But we do it and then it's just again, the culture in Blackburn where we live in, it's quite diverse. So the communities, they are quite, I dunno if the restricting is the correct word or not, but the accessibility is not there. There's always barriers. When I first started again, I started my first charity hike, which was Snowden and I had two children at the time and my main objections were, well you're married now, you've got kids, you don't need to do this no more. So why do you need to do this? You know, don't need to go out single girls do it. So even that barrier, and I'm sure if I got that, others would get something like that if not the same. So it's had conversations with other ladies, sometimes men as well actually, but they have found it difficult. Transport can be a big obstruction as well.
08:51 So we try to organise different ways that outdoors can be accessible because I know from personal experience how much uplifting the outdoors can be and I just want to share it with everybody. And I know the people that who have been with us for over a year, the progress that they've made and where they've came with me, they joined Four Seasons where they had him walked a hill, let alone mountain. They're joining other organisations and other big hikes and rebuilding themselves or being, bringing that confidence within themselves. And that for me is a massive highlight because that's what I was set out to do is to bring something out to people who like underdogs like me, who have a lot of inspiration and they inspire to do a lot, but there's lots of obstacles. So I wanted four season to be a home for those kind of people as well. And I'm glad that we have, we are getting there.
NICKI: 09:54 Yeah, it's so interesting, isn't it, because I think that's something that I hear from a lot of people in that there, I think you make the point so well about the psychological barriers, the cultural barriers, and then the physical barriers as well. Yeah, just logistical challenges of getting out, whether it's children, whether it's transport, whether all of those things that you have to juggle to get out there, but then knowing what a difference that can make when you do manage to get out
UZMA: 10:23 Outside. Sorry. Oh, definitely. Because as women, I mean I don't want to just highlight women because it's everybody we all go through or we all have so many things going on in our lives, whether that's work, family or anything else. We do juggle a lot, but if we don't give ourselves that time, our life is not going to be as peaceful as we want it to be. Because just to gather your own thoughts, to go through emotions, just to evaluate everything, I suppose. Sometimes you can push everything under the rug, but it's going to overload someday. So you do need that release.
NICKI: 11:03 Yes. Yeah, so interesting. So a colleague was talking the other day to me about this idea of a filled bucket and that you need, you know, can't keep filling up the bucket with everything. You need a release, you need some, what's what turns the tap on. And I just think that's
UZMA: 11:20 Possibly, yeah, different. I didn't mind a mental health course recently, and that was a demonstration that they did is that if you've got a bucket and you've put all sorts of trauma, all sorts of experiences, positives and negatives, sometimes the negative, most of the times negatives are more highlighted than the positives. And then that if we haven't got a fossil or tap that we are releasing all that stress from, we'll overfill and not just ourselves, we are going to be down, but the people around us will feel the impact as well.
NICKI: 12:00 No, that's so true. And I was just wondering and clearly what you've created is bringing so many benefits to others and as you said, the reason that you set out wanting to climb that hill in the first place and what you've wanted to create. I was just wondering, what are some of the benefits that have come out of the work that you are doing, the groups that you organised, the walks or the connections that you sort of didn't anticipate when you were first sat looking at that hill and thinking, I want to get up there. You know what, what's come out of it that you think, I had no idea that was coming, but that feels very precious. That feels like a real gift.
UZMA: 12:43 Well, so I think it's just, first of all, it's meeting new people again because I'm not originally from Blackburn. The people that I know is probably through work. So all my friends, they're all over the place in Oxford or Bolton. So call someone in Blackburn, a friend was a big thing for me. So now I can call people friends and have talked just as just a personal change that I felt positive from it. But there's so many benefits I I didn't expect us because I went out as, it wasn't even a Four Seasons, it was just walk with Usma and then it slowly went with something else. Opening up a C I C, registering as a C I C was a big thing. We just recently got awarded some funding, which I never expected to. Actually, I was nominated a Woman of the year 2023.
13:46 Oh congratulations. One boys Woman of the Year. Congratulations. Thank you very much. That was very unexpected. And that was a big boost because the job, the line of work that we do, sometimes it's a unthankful job in a way as well. People don't realise how much it got, how much work we put into it. And to get a recognition like this, it just is, it's kind of a booster. It keeps you going. It's like it pumps your fuel up a little bit more that you are getting recognition of the work and the difference that you're making. So yeah, there's so many benefits I could go through, I could list,
NICKI: 14:28 Oh no, I love that. I love it. It's that sort of evolution of something as well that you start off with one sort of approach or objective or aim with it and then it as that grows and like you said, then things come from it that you just hadn't anticipated but really feed that motivation and remind you. And I think sometimes it's also when, because like you said, I think you've been going for three years now. Sometimes I think whatever you start, no matter how passionate you are, there will be times when it's really hard and there, like you said, there'll be times where you are not, you've got a lot else going on and you are having to organise things or that there are other things happening in our lives. And I think we all need that reminder. We all need that. Of course. I think it's really important because I think there's this idea out there that when you have a passion and when you turn that passion into reality that it'll be this sort of linear ascent to personal fulfilment.
UZMA: 15:32 And
NICKI: 15:33 It's a bit corrosive because actually no matter what we do, no matter how much we love it, there'll be times when it's up, times when it's down, we all a reminder and a motivation to keep going. So I just love that you go actually sometimes things can feel thankless even when we love them and we all need that reminder. So thank Yes, I love that. Thank you. And so like you said, you've been going for three years at this point and I'm sure you've got some wonderful ideas and plans going forward. I mean, what's next for you? Where would you like to take this group? What sort of other things have you got coming up?
UZMA: 16:12 Right, we, well, I do need more help. That's one thing that I need is because I've been doing this just as me, myself, and I. Yeah, yeah. And I'm organising, I'm planning, I'm promoting, I'm delivering, I'm doing everything editing, which is a big, oh it takes, oh any editors out there, hats off to you. Cause I dunno how you do it. It takes me a week to go through something. Yeah. So that's the first thing I do. We do need more volunteers, more help coming in, more people who are same, share the same kind of ambition as I do and same kind of dedication is finding the right people as well and to do what we do. And also we want to be able to uplift a lot more. We want to get into resides. Resides I've been looking into for over a year that I want to do is just because my capacity is not able to get out there as yet. So it's organising Reside Centrals, we want to do abroad exhibitions as well. So taking out not just adults but children as well because families A is a big, big aspect to Four Seasons. Keeping all families together from all ages. So yeah, a lot that I want to do is just doing the forgetting, making sure we are doing the right time.
NICKI: 17:45 And that point back capacity is such an important run. Again, something that gets, I think it's like you can have all these ideas and want to get started, but yes, the support and I think also having people to bounce ideas off with and be able to get different perspectives or definitely just pick up or all the, and like you said, when you're running your own sort of organisation then it does require you take on lot of different hats. Yes,
UZMA: 18:12 Definitely. And when you say that you need someone where you can bounce ideas off this, it is because you have an idea. For example, we do now a residential with Y H A, but they've got a few locations. So I was in two minds, which location should I go for? So it's just having, if I have a team or a support team to bounce ideas off and then be like, yeah, okay, thankfully I've drawn my husband into it now, so he's brilliant. He's supporting me a bit. So he's handling all the legal side now so that the support needs to be there.
NICKI: 18:53 Brilliant. So if anyone's listening in the northwest and Fancy's getting in touch, please
UZMA: 18:59 Contact
NICKI: 18:59 Listener. Yes.
UZMA: 19:01 Not that I'm obviously
NICKI: 19:02 Not want to take over, not wanting to just step in and take over the recruitment over. But
UZMA: 19:08 No, definitely if you do want to get your hands dirty the outdoors and organise, uplift yourself as well as others, then give me a shout. Brilliant.
NICKI: 19:20 So I'm just wondering sort of casting your mind back, obviously like you said you come from a your own personal experience of being outdoorsy and spending time outdoors and bringing that in, sort of expanding that world for others as well. But from the people who've sort of started off from maybe like you said that first that charity check was the first instance of doing something. Or if anyone's listening and thinks what I would love to be able to spend more time outdoors or to start hiking or walking and I'm just not quite sure where to start. I mean, what's the one piece of advice you'd give them?
UZMA: 20:00 One piece of advice, I think I'll just go off my own experience. I mean I was a person who always had the ambition of doing something bigger and better but just didn't know how to access it. I come from a background where I didn't even own a pair of trainers, all heels. And I remember a time when I got dragged into going horse riding or some kind of outdoor adventure it was, but I came in a four inch boots heel, I had to borrow off the table. I love it. But you can go out, make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes, you will have loads of objections, there will be always objections, people put objections, life puts obstacles in front of you. But once you've got that desire that you want a change within you, that's the first step forward anyway. The next step is just taking that action. So I know I promote the outdoors a lot because it's helped me personally, but wherever you find peace in do it. I went through all sorts of different, I don't like D R Y, I used to do makeup for a little while, I did the sweet cones and I went through all sorts of different professions before I found my calling. So it's just try and error, take the first step, do what finds you find comforting and a sense of relief and just go for it.
NICKI: 21:31 I love it. I love your point about we're all going to make mistakes whenever we try something new. I think that's such an unspoken barrier as well for people. But it is a huge one that I've not got the right kit or I dunno quite what I should be wearing or doing. And this is it like you said, that hopefully you'll be met by people who either go, oh, here, look here, have a pair of boots or it doesn't matter this time you'll know for next time. Oh yeah. In that way definitely.
UZMA: 22:03 So when I did snow then, yeah, yeah, 13 years ago my first trek, I did it in trainers, night trainers.
NICKI: 22:10 It's fairly hardcore by the way. Can
UZMA: 22:12 Impressed. Oh yeah, I was 18 stones, I did. So the ambition was there. Oh, that's brilliant. Outdoors is people, again, another thing when they are overweight or that can be another obstacle because that was for me, you feel, oh, I don't look good in outdoor gear. Maybe some out outdoor gear doesn't even fit you. I had that it nothing fitted me. I didn't want to have a backpack. I borrowed my brother-in-law's school backpack. But again, it's the ambition, isn't it? Having the desire to do something and you'll find your way. You learn now I've got about four pair of tracking boots. I don't climb a walking heels no more. Yeah,
NICKI: 23:00 Fantastic. Yeah, I know it. Whenever I run outdoor activities, whether it's for corporates or whoever, I'll always take a whole selection of shoes with me now and about because it's that. I think there's also this assumption that people should know or that if you don't know somehow there's a stigma attached to that. And I sort of think, well if you've not done done that activity before, then we, we've all got our own perceptions in our minds of what, like you said, what's appropriate for what's appropriate clothing. And it's about, okay, well I want to help you have as brilliant and experience as possible. So yeah, hopefully it'll fit size sixes.
UZMA: 23:42 Yeah, well she's one of those that it is a trial and error. Yeah, you've got to have your safety gear there, but do what you feel comfortable. The kit should be what you feel comfortable in. I've hiked with people who hiked barefoot, who wore sandals and they've still accomplished it. Yeah, maybe the after effects afterwards may the pains and aches and scrapes, but they're like war victory mark. So
NICKI: 24:08 Exactly they, they've still made it. They've still got out there and yeah, like you said it, it's all that part of that learning curve too. Exactly. Usmma been so amazing to have you and I could have kept talking to you for ages conscious that you probably have somewhere to go in a minute, but people are listening to this and either they want to come and volunteer and help you or they want to follow the work that you are doing and you've inspired them to think about getting outdoors to where can they find you, where can they go?
UZMA: 24:36 Well, we are on Facebook as Four Seasons Outdoors, c i c as well as Instagram. Those are the first social media platforms that we are on. And then obviously we've got our WhatsApp number as well, or email address. So if you want to get in contact or start any outdoor adventures, just drop us a email, dm, WhatsApp message call, whatever you feel comfortable in and start your new adventure with us. And for the volunteers. Sorry. Yeah. Yes, I am definitely. I mean, this is a call out to everyone that yes, I, we are in need of volunteers to help and support growing and grow yourself personally as well. So yeah, definitely get in touch.
NICKI: 25:24 Fantastic. And we'll pop all of those links into the show notes as well so people can find you easily. And yeah, hopefully you'll have a few volunteers coming your way too.
UZMA: 25:32 Yes, thank you.
NICKI: 25:35 It's been such a pleasure to speak to you today. Thank you so much for your time and I wish you all the very best with Four Seasons and your continued growth and your hunt for volunteers and everything. I look forward to seeing where it goes. Thanks so
UZMA: 25:47 Much. Oh, thank you so much for having me. It's been great.
NICKI: 25:50 Oh, it's a pleasure. Take care. Bye.
25:54 So a huge thank you again to Usma for being such a wonderful guest and for all the really interesting points she raised throughout our conversation. So usually I have a bit of a break before I record the summary. I'll listen back to the podcast and I'll see what sparks my interest and pick up on the point that way. But this week I am doing it straight off the bat. So literally we finished recording about an hour ago and the reason I decided to do this is one, obviously I had the time to do it today, so that always helps, but also because part of the conversation that Usma and I had following the recording sparked a few thoughts in me and I really wanted to pick up on those because I think they're relevant for everybody. But one of the things we were discussing was this point about positivity and how when you are in a position where your role is to inspire people or even just in everyday life, that when a friend says to you, oh, I find you really inspiring because you do this or that, or thank you so much for doing this.
27:05 Sometimes it can feel as if that's our role is to be that person to always show up being positive, but not just being positive, but feeling positive and showing the shiny lovely things. And it gets a little bit tied to the side sense of being grateful and showing appreciation and focusing on the good things in our lives also, all of which are really important for helping with our reframing and helping us with our resilience as well. Absolutely not knocking it and it's something that I regularly use, but there can be a bit of a challenge with the idea of relentless positivity because the reality is that for 99.9% of us, we don't feel positive all of the time. And when we feel that expectation to maintain a positive outlook or to always go, oh no, it'll be fine, it's great. That can feel sometimes like a denial of our own feelings and our own experience.
28:07 And certainly from my work as a psychologist, I know how important it is that all emotions are valid. I don't know if you've seen the movie Inside Out, my daughter still loves it, but this idea that actually we need to feel that things aren't okay because otherwise how do we know when things really are going well or when we are feeling in a good place. We also need to know that it's okay to have days when we are really not feeling it, when we really are struggling to show up with that face or where everything just seems to pile in on us and the kids won't do what we ask or the adventure we planned someone pulls out. Or actually it is just not as much fun as we expected. All of those things are real and valid and it's okay to sort of go, you know what, that was a bit rubbish actually.
28:55 I don't want to put positive spin on it, I just want to know to know that it was okay to feel like that. Because sometimes in sharing the challenges that we face and not turning them into something necessarily positive, just going that this is something that is really difficult. What it does is also allow other people to feel seen. And I think it enables, that's the bit we relate to, then we feel less alone. Life isn't always sunny, that sort of things that aren't so great do happen, or we have days when we don't feel so wonderful and that's not our fault. And it's not just because we can't be bothered to reframe things or that we're, we are not being positive. It's that actually that's a genuine feeling and it needs acknowledgement. Yeah. So I think it sort relates to the reason I always ask my guests, what challenge have you faced?
29:45 What are the biggest challenges? Because I think it's in the answers to those questions that often when people are taking on enormous challenges or have done something that we consider to be a huge achievement, but we can also relate in terms of the humanity. Oh yeah, no, that was tough. Well, yes, this is the bit that I still am finding challenging and that I have to get up and pick myself up and get on, and I do that and it's fine, but we can also acknowledge the times when things are tough and that that's part of being part of the human experience too. So yes, I wanted to share that with you today. Like I said, based on the conversation that Asmar and I had following the recording, I'd love to know your thoughts on this. How do you strike that balance? How do you find it?
30:28 How easy or difficult do you find it to reframe when you are in that place? And yes, so as always, please do get in touch. I would love it. If you've enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a review. It is on Apple Podcasts. It's particularly obviously if you're listening on Apple or on Google, wherever you're listening because it really does help share the message and share the adventures further. Otherwise, please get in touch. I'm on Instagram and Resilience at work or Everyday Adventure Pod. You can find me on LinkedIn, Nikki Buss, and otherwise you can visit me via my website, www.resiliencework.co uk. We're swiftly heading towards the end of season six, but don't worry, there's still a few wonderful guests and stories to share with you before we get there. So in the meantime, I hope you have a fantastic week and I look forward to catching up with you again soon. Take care. Bye.