Cal Major is speaking as part of The Wilderness Tracks, discussing the music that connects her most closely with the world around her and most particularly the ocean, at the (virtual) Kendal Mountain Festival- we caught up with her to find out more.

Cal Major by James Appleton

Cal Major by James Appleton

Please tell us about the Kendal Mountain Festival for those who have never been and how it has been adapted for lockdown this year.

Kendal Mountain Festival is arguably the best event in the UK outdoor calendar! Normally, it takes over the town of Kendal in the Lake District for a week of incredible adventure films, inspiring talks and important conversations about how we best protect the places we love. There’s something for everyone and it’s such a fun and inclusive week.

This year it’s all going to be online, which opens it up to people all over the world! It also means you can enjoy all the action on catch-up without having to worry about clashes in the schedule. We won’t be able to have our normal knees-up together but there’ll still be plenty opportunity and space to have important discussions, interactive sessions, and incredible adventure films and talks to inspire your next trip.

Why is it so close to your own heart?

I love the ethos of KMF - everybody is welcome, whether you’ve been up Everest twice or are just beginning your love affair with the Great Outdoors. I also love that at the heart of the festival is protecting the places we play. There are some important conversations and connections that come out of Kendal every year, and we are a community that help to keep each others’ fires stoked. It’s a really supportive space and group of people, an inspiring place to be and just a lot of fun.

Why is it important for women to be adventurous in nature?

Why is it important for anybody to be adventurous in nature? There’s an amazing sense of freedom and empowerment that comes with taking on an adventure, however big or small. Nudging the edges of your comfort zone, connecting with the nature around you - it’s how we have evolved to behave as humans and in a society so disconnected from that, returning to wild places, even those on our doorsteps, can feel like going home. That connection to a place is what drives us to protect it, which is more important than ever in a world faced with climate change and a biodiversity crisis. As for women in particular, I think for a long time we’ve been told, or told ourselves, what we can and cannot do, and we’re finding out more and more that those constraints are only theoretical. Fortunately the disparity between men and women in the outdoor world is rapidly decreasing.

Please tell us about your wildest adventure to date.

I would say my wildest adventure was in 2017 when I stand up paddle boarded around the Isle of Skye, in Scotland, solo. I was completely alone, had no phone signal, and for 2 weeks was completely immersed in wild Scotland. I loved it, and for the first time ever really understood the power of being in the wild for my sense of freedom and wellbeing. The noise and busyness of our crazy lives quietened down and I became so in tune with what was happening around me - the waves, the wind, how all the factors around me would translate to my ability to paddle. I had nobody to bounce options off, or help me make decisions; it was incredibly empowering to know I had all the strength I needed myself. That’s what adventure can do for us, teach us our real strength, not that which we tell ourselves, which is inevitably more meagre than the truth.

Has your career as a veterinary surgeon spurred on your passion for protecting the ocean?

Absolutely! I consider the animals in the oceans my patients now. I’ve learned so much as a vet that has informed my campaigning, and I feel very proud of that part of who I am. The veterinary community is really wonderful too and are making waves in creating a more sustainable profession which I find really exciting.

Why is it important to focus our energy on protecting the ocean now?

The ocean is our life force. Whether or not we live anywhere near it, each and every one of us is inextricably linked to it. The oxygen in every second breath we breathe is produced by ocean plankton and plants, the ocean ecosystems play an enormously important role in carbon sequestration and in mitigating climate change, and it’s a crucial source of food and medicine for millions of people around the world. We don’t just have to personally spend time there for protecting the ocean to be vital to every person on this planet’s health. Right now, it’s facing unprecedented threats from overfishing, plastic pollution, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, rising temperatures, coral bleaching… We absolutely need to prioritise protecting the animals and plants living there. A healthy, thriving, protected ocean is so vital in our race to create an inhabitable planet. It’s also a really important place for many who rely on it for their mental health - those who connect to our seas, rivers and waterways to dilute the difficulties of our urbanised lifestyles.

What can we all do to protect the oceans more?

I think the first step is that we need to really understand why the ocean matters to us, personally. Whether that’s a personal connection we create through spending time in, on or by our seas, rivers and waterways, or through educating ourselves on the incredible wildlife and ecosystems there. People protect what they love, but they can only love what they know. We all need to deepen our love for the ocean, and wanting to protect it will follow naturally. Becoming aware of how our own lifestyles impact the ocean, positively and negatively, is the next step. I’ve written several blogs on reducing your plastic footprint at, and there are many ways we can limit our carbon footprint to benefit the ocean.

However an often overlooked way we can all benefit our natural world is to use our voice as citizens of this country, of this planet. Vote for the politicians that promise ocean protection, write to your MP or MSP and demand better protection of these ecosystems. Vote with your wallet by supporting companies that inherently protect our natural world rather than those that benefit from the continual destruction of it through their extractive or polluting practices.

To help protect Scottish inshore seas, check out and sign the petition at - an important campaign calling for the protection of incredibly important inshore areas around the Scottish coastline.

Will you be able to get out a lot during lockdown to do the things you love?

I’m fortunate that I live by the water, so I can still safely get there, however I’ve massively scaled down my more extreme activities. I’m actually finding enormous solace from just going for a walk each morning as soon as I get up to the water’s edge with a cup of tea, being really mindful of the birds I see on the way there, watching the water, being really present. It’s honestly the best start to my day - I return home with a massive grin on my face and really miss it the days I don’t go! I can highly recommend it - try not to overthink it, just throw on some warm clothes (I recommend a dryrobe for this in the winter!) and just walk. Put your phone on do not disturb and see what you see. I love just watching the little chubby robins in the hedgerows on the way there, and the way all the worries and anxieties for the day ahead just slot themselves into place as I walk or watch the water.

Please tell us about your most memorable expedition so far and why.

It would have to be paddling the length of the UK in 2018. I set off to investigate all the amazing positive things happening the length of the country to tackle plastic pollution, but came away with a whole new appreciation of just how important connection to the ocean is in developing stewardship, and how powerful it is for our mental health. I had some pretty epic experiences along the way, was treated to some phenomenal scenery and met some truly wonderful people. The film of the expedition, ‘Vitamin Sea’ is available here:

What is next for you?

We’re in the final stages of setting up a charity to help more people find their own personal connection to the water, so that they too can benefit from the mental health improvements being there brings, and so they’ll want to protect it as a result. I’m also planning another big SUP adventure next year - watch this space! The best place for updates is Instagram - @cal_major

Thanks for reading, I really hope you get chance to enjoy some time by the water soon.

Catch Cal Major speaking as part of The Wilderness Tracks, discussing the music that connects her most closely with the world around her and most particularly the ocean, at the (virtual) Kendal Mountain Festival ( on Saturday 28 November at 5pm (Free to attend)

RELATED: My experiences with mental health and the benefits of being on the water by Cal Major

I never truly appreciated this until I fell ill with depression myself a couple of years ago. It was after I had just completed the biggest expedition of my life so far: stand-up paddle boarding 1,000 miles from one end of Great Britain to the other - Land’s End to John O’Groats. I had spent two months on the water every day and had just achieved something that nobody had ever accomplished before, and yet afterwards, instead of that feeling of elation and self-confidence, I plunged into darkness and self-loathing. Prior to my expedition, I had also recently lost one of my best friends to suicide and hadn’t been able to get my head around how she could have done it. But this was a point where for the first time in my life I understood, and I forgave her... to read more click HERE