Hey Nick, great to chat with you! Tell us where you're based and what you do.
I am based in West Yorkshire, between Leeds and York where I manage a country estate called Bramham Park. Bramham is a traditional farming estate and I manage all aspects of the estate, including the cottage and other property repairs, the farms, the forestry, finance and the events we host, which include the Leeds Festival and Bramham Horse Trials.
No two days are ever the same and it is a complete privilege living and working somewhere as beautiful as Bramham. Although with this privilege comes the duty to preserve and enhance for future generations of the Lane Fox family who own Bramham Park. Every management decision is a balance between the short-term commercial requirement to maintain the historic assets and the long-term benefit to the environment and community. I have been at Bramham for just over 12 years now, where I live with my wife Beth who is a vet in a local village, our boys Rufus (3) and Jasper (2), dogs Tilly and Lotte, cat Oreo, four ponies and two guinea pigs, Porridge and Crumpet.
What an incredible place to work. Has the outdoors always been a part of your life?
I think for as long as I can remember, having grown up in the countryside and made dens in the garden with my younger brothers. I was also in the Combined Cadet Force at school, and with them I did ‘adventurous training’ trips to the Black Mountains in Wales; this is I think where I really fell in love with the outdoors, even to the extent that my university choice was partially dictated by its proximity to the beautiful Cairngorms.
I joined the mountaineering club at Aberdeen University called the Lairig Club and over the five years I spent at Uni we went on many amazing trips across Scotland, walking, climbing, having fun and enjoying the great outdoors.
So what's been your favourite trip or adventure?
This is a hard one to call. I was lucky enough to spend a chunk of my year out working on a marine conservation project in Tanzania with an organisation called Frontier. Whilst at university I led a small project in the Philippines, where we helped build a health clinic for a very remote village. Both were pretty special trips for me.
Since meeting Beth, 14 or so years ago, we have been on many adventures to the French Alps, often camping near Chamonix and hiking and mountain biking. We have done downhill mountain biking in the Alps, cross country mountain biking in Bulgaria (randomly), skied most years, and I even proposed to Beth whilst climbing Mont Blanc.
More recently, since the boys came along, ‘adventure’ as we used to know it has been tamed down somewhat but we still do as much as we can. We had an amazing ski trip this January with Esprit to La Rosiere, and as part of this Roo had ski lessons every afternoon. It was utterly heart melting watching him do his little snow plough with his arms out like a penguin, his gloves were rather massive! This last ski trip has probably been one of my favourite of all trips, but everything changed when we had the boys and I’m now so biased towards the boys…
How do you make sure being active and having family time work side by side?
Both Beth and I love the outdoors, we love adventure, the thrill of zooming down steep single track on the bikes and the sense of achievement of getting to the top of a hill. I guess we love endorphins! We knew we wanted to involve the boys with as many of our outdoor adventures as we could from the start, rather than trying to have separate ‘active time’ and ‘family time’. We, possibly idealistically, wanted it all to be family time, but with young children it is harder to get out as much or to do as much.
We tend do lots of research and lots of shopping on eBay. Getting the boys good kit that is going to keep them warm and dry is just essential, if they’re comfortable we’re all much more likely to have fun, without so many tantrums.
When the boys were smaller, we did much more walking, with them in carriers or off-road buggies. We’re now in that funny stage where they’re a little too big for the carriers, so we’re doing more mountain biking with them. We have these wonderful little seats (called Mac Ride) that clip onto the frame between the saddle and the handlebar so the child is effectively between your arms where they are not only engaged with you as you can converse, but they are learning balance and how the bike feels. Admittedly we can’t go tearing down black runs with them, but we can still have lots fun on blues.
We’re both really hoping that the boys will grow up loving the outdoors as much as we do now, and hope that by doing as much as they do now having adventures and enjoying the outdoors will feel like ‘normal life’ for them. The boys come along to support when Beth’s doing a triathlon or I’m doing a cycle ‘race’, again hoping that they’ll view that sort of thing as normal.
Luckily, they are never happier than when outdoors, be that riding their bikes in the yard, taking the dogs for walks, collecting sticks in the woods and making a campfire in the garden to toast marshmallows on, or riding their ponies. They don’t watch TV, (except for maybe an hour on Sunday before bed when Beth and I are tired and need a glass of wine!), don’t have screens, love books and brio train tracks. I just hope this lasts, we want the boys to enjoy being in nature rather than inside on a computer game!
That's a great way of being. For your love of the outdoors - was there someone who inspired you?
I’ve thought about this quite a lot, and the name that keeps coming back to me is Sir David Attenborough. I’m of an age where I grew up watching Wildlife on One, and the beauty of nature and consequently the outdoors I guess just stuck.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Absolutely, endorphins are wonderful! The boys have just had chicken pox which has stopped play and confined us to the house for longer than we’d like so I’ve found myself on the ‘dreadmill’ in the shed, for that release, that feeling of calm returning. Sure, running on the treadmill with Faithless blasting our of the stereo is nothing like being outdoors on a proper adventure, but that feeling of wellbeing then lasts for hours, even after just 30 mins of running.
I love the outdoors, I love trees, so it is pretty fortunate that part of my job involves looking after 1,000acres of beautiful woodland. I love the changing light in the hills, especially in Scotland. I love the mountains, they’re like a ‘fix,’ get to the mountains and suddenly all is well! Appreciating nature whilst maintaining some fitness by getting out on the bikes or putting the walking boots on, is for us what it’s all about. Work is tough, it’s hard, looking after two young boys is hard, life can be hard, but getting out there and enjoying what’s around and what’s out there is, in our opinion, the best medicine.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
I guess it’s that idea that prior planning prevents poor performance and improvise, adapt and overcome, as much of a cliché as both phrases are, for me they work. Although more recently someone said to ensure you’ve got good warm kit for the children, whatever they’re doing, if they’re warm and dry they’ll enjoy it more.
That's great advice - always be well prepped. When did you discover FINDRA and what's your favourite piece?
I only discovered FINDRA a few months ago on a mountain biking trip to Glentress. My favourite piece is a Leithen merino striped base layer; I just love it, although I do have my eye on a Lewis merino zip neck as my next FINDRA purchase.
Thank you so much to Nick for taking the time to chat to us! You can see more from Nick over on his Instagram.