Heather Gray

Freshwalking with... Heather Gray (and Fox!)

Heather is the Business Development Manager for Bruntwood, a family-owned company that offers workspaces for businesses. She’s also the Founder of Business Sorority UK, a networking and personal development group for young women in business, where she connects, supports and champions these exceptional women.

You can usually spot Heather on one of our walks chatting amongst others, whilst her adorable Freshwalks companion – Fox – is whizzing around beside her. Be sure to say hello to Heather on one of our walks, or you can connect with her on LinkedIn.


Freshwalking with... Heather Gray (and Fox!)

Freshwalking with... Heather Gray (and Fox!)

Tell us about your first Freshwalks.

I’ve been a Freshwalks fan for over 3 years now, but like any great love, I’ll always remember my first time! One of our clients was taking part in the 3 Peaks Challenge and had booked onto a Freshwalks in Glossop (where I lived at the time) as part of his training. I’d never heard of Freshwalks before, but a day on the hills meeting new people and a few drinks in my local afterward sounded brilliant so I decided to tag along. After persuading my boss to let me out of the office for the day, I bought a new pair of hiking boots, a backpack and the brightest windcheater I could find (in case I got lost) and met the group to tackle Kinder Downfall. It was probably a more challenging route than I was used to, but the sun was shining, the scenery beautiful, and my face literally hurt from smiling all day – I’d met so many brilliant people and it was a great introduction to ‘networking’.

How many have you attended up until now, April 2019?

Probably around 20. I try and get on one every few months, but after being very ambitious with earlier routes, I tend to now pick the Easy-Medium walks (dodgy knees).

Why do you come back?

The people. Freshwalks feels like a community and I love that you have a chance to have a proper chat with everyone on the day, see old walking companions and meet new ones. I’ve noticed it’s a certain ‘type’ of person who tends to come along, people who are friendly and talkative and actively want to help other people in business or in life. That’s probably why I’ve never met someone on a Freshwalks I didn’t like. When you’re tromping across a field or up a hill with someone, you get away from the banal “what do you do?” type of questions really quickly, and start learning about who someone really is, what they get excited about, why they do what they do. I’ve never come across another way to form such strong bonds, in such a short amount of time, with a bunch of strangers – and I love it.

What’s your favourite route?

Anything around Kinder, in Glossop. Especially in late summer when the heather turns the hills purple.

The something you always bring?

A spare pair of socks, every time. Also, baby wipes are really handy if you’ve been scrabbling about on a challenging walk. No one wants to tuck into their pork pie with dirty mitts.

Favourite Freshwalks memory?

Marsden at sunset. I’d not been on a walk in a while and had been absolutely snowed under with work. My friend Annabel Hannam (from Intro NW) demanded I come along for some headspace and honestly it was the best thing. It was a leisurely stroll along the canal at sunset, I saw horses and canal boats and wildflowers, and the walk ended with a lovely glass of wine at the pub. I remember the feeling of relief of just having a change of scenery and came back with loads of great ideas and suggestions to business problems, it was really emotionally and physically rewarding.

How has Freshwalks helped your business?

I’d say I’m fairly well networked, but Freshwalks was my first experience of engaging with the business community. In those first few years, every good contact I made could in some way be traced back to Freshwalks, whether that be someone I met on a walk or a great introduction they made. It also instilled in me the values of a good networker: to always help others first and good things will follow – which has served me well as both a business and a life lesson.

Recommend three people you have met on Freshwalks.

Don’t make me choose!

Mike Pye is one of my favourite people in Manchester and we met on Freshwalks. We had surprisingly similar work backgrounds, having been in similar roles for competitors, and so we got on well and have since done loads of work and sent each other referrals over the years. He’s basically the male version of me so it’s probably narcissistic that I think he’s great.

John Shinnick always has a gem of life and career advice and it’s hard not to feel upbeat and like anything is possible when you’re around him. He also has brilliant stories of his adventures that make an uphill slog more enjoyable (and he’s fitter than I am so he can talk through the ascent whilst I struggle)!

Richard Gahagan has become a go-to mentor and brilliant friend over the years, started from a shared love of red wine after a good walk! He’s an absolute inspiration for creating an ethical and thriving business in Manchester and I’d trust his advice with my life.

Suggest one new place for us to go.

I’m a Lancashire girl, so any walks around the Trough of Bowland are in home county for me. Perhaps Beacon Fell or Brock Bottoms, with an obligatory Lancashire hotpot to finish.

I’d also love to see a Freshwalks orienteering day. I’ve met some pretty competitive people and it’d be fun to see them go head to head in groups.

Sum up Freshwalks in three words.

Fun, friendly networking.

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