Hi! Can you tell everyone where you are based and what you do?
We live in the centre of Dundee, with an amazing view over the River Tay and the city. I spend my days working for the council, usually sitting behind a desk either in the office or at home.
Have you always enjoyed getting outdoors?
Yes - from a childhood spent roaming the streets of the neighbourhood and building dens till now, the outdoors have always played a special part in my life. These days its hiking, botanising, bird-watching, outdoor swimming, biking or picnicking that draws us out.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
Oh that’s a difficult one. There is one place in Scotland that we return to again and again - and indeed it was the first place we went when lockdown ended and we were allowed to go more than 5 miles from Dundee - Braemar, on Deeside. It is the perfect mix of glorious landscapes, walks from the village to mountain tops, Morrone Birkwood, swimming at the Linn of Dee, or hiring mountain bikes and pedalling off into nature.
It’s a special place to us, the location of many adventures and finally last year a proposal, with a ring made from a devil’s bit scabious. And another favourite was to the village of St Gervais les Bains near Chamonix in the French Alps where we spent time hiking on Mont Blanc, visiting glaciers and being in awe of the wildflower meadows and the alpine views.
How do you balance your day-to-day responsibilities with being active and getting outdoors?
It’s often a struggle during the week but I try to make the most of being outdoors at the weekend (weather permitting of course) - walking in the countryside, botanising, volunteering as a Conservation Volunteer with National Trust for Scotland. But my partner and I love to use the hashtag (a friend suggested for us) #livingthe5to9 which means during the spring/summer we try to get outdoors as much as possible in the evenings, after work - short walks in the nearby countryside, swimming in the sea or even just a trip to the allotment, although to be honest my allotment buddy does most of the growing, I just enjoy the weeding.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My parents definitely inspired an appreciation of the natural world. My dad was a geography teacher and all our holidays led to amazing landscapes and nature, from Malham Cove, to the Swiss Alps, from the island of Arran to the Fife Coast. Family holidays always involved waiting whilst my dad took photos of the landscape, which we occasionally featured in. My dad often used those family holiday snaps in his classes and I often heard about it in the school corridors.
My mum was a primary school teacher and in those days it was normal for their to be a nature table in the classroom, which we were often encouraged to find objects for. A favourite past-time was rock-pooling and beach combing - hunting for the often elusive cowrie shells. Something I love to this day.
We had a family competition when we were children, where spotting one of Scotland’s 5 rare birds/animals meant we won a book token to buy nature books with. I don’t remember what all 5 of the animals were, I know it included the golden eagle and the capercaillie - and the only one we ever spotted was the eagle.
What is it about hiking specifically that you love?
When we can, we go hiking in the Scottish countryside, with our eyes usually trained on the ground looking for wildflowers and fungi or on the sky looking for birds. We love to find flowers that we haven’t seen before, that are regionally rare or just beautiful. We have a number of places we visit every year on botanical adventures - from Corrie Fee in Glen Doll for the early flowering purple saxifrage, to the Loch of Kinnordy for bird’s nest orchids and the water lily pond, the dune slacks at Tenstmuir for northern marsh orchids to the alpine flowers of Ben Lawers and the Glenshee plateaus.
It always makes me smile when I see a pop of colour that signifies a find, surrounded by the amazing and diverse landscapes of Scotland and getting some exercise in the process. Last year we added two new trips, to species rich meadows in Tayside with an array of orchids and other wildflowers.
Do you find that getting outdoors positively impacts your overall physical and mental well-being?
Always. My partner has said in the past, when we’ve had to push ourselves to go out for a swim when it’s maybe colder or windier than we would like, that he’s never regretted a swim after we’ve done it. It’s the same for any activity outdoors, it always boosts my mood.
When did you first discover FINDRA?
A friend introduced me to FINDRA in 2021 and we now have quite a collection - our favourites being the Fern and Linton base layers. I have even take advantage of your mending service when I got a hole in my base layer. I love the ethos of designed in Scotland, made in Scotland and even repaired in Scotland. We just wish you made the French blue and grey marl top for women!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
An old boss who once told me “I think you are confusing work with real life”.
If you could share any key motivational or inspirational message about the benefits of getting outdoors with our readers, what would it be?
What lockdown in a city centre flat, in one of the smallest local authority areas in Scotland taught us was that no matter what, nature can be found almost anywhere, from wildflowers (that some might call weeds) growing from cracks in the pavement to beautiful urban parks and woodlands. Get outdoors, keep your eyes open to the possibilities that you might find and say hello to those you pass.
Diane's Favourite Things
There are so many….from years ago , a song that I continue to love is In a Big Country by Big Country and for now its Auld Wives by Bear’s Den.
A recent acquisition that I love, is Lara Maiklem’s A Field Guide to Larking which is an engaging, interactive book about beach combing, mudlarking, field walking and more. It encourages you to take notice of the countryside around you.
From the publisher’s website:
“LARK (verb): to get out and about, to explore the world around us and to discover the little treasures hiding in plain sight.”
Or perhaps a book I’ve just started to read (and heard the author speak about on Monday night) which is called Sea Bean, by Dr Sally Huband, which is the story of the author moving to Shetland and the changes in her life that were supported by her engagement with nature and the hunt for an (almost) elusive sea bean.