Hey, can you tell everybody where you are based and what you do?
I’m Emily, I’m based in Peebles in the Scottish Borders and I’m an artist and designer. I moved here a year and a half ago to start work on ‘Connecting Threads’, a project to engage local people and visitors with the River Tweed through cultural activities including music, performance, poetry, dance, drawing, cooking, canoeing and more! The project is part of Destination Tweed, an initiative to create a new long-distance trail down the entire length of the river, from the source to the sea.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
As young children, my brother and I were always encouraged to spend time outside in the garden. I remember the garden being a really exciting place, with little paths to explore, spots to hide in and lots of interesting colours and shapes. It was my favourite place to be, and those early memories continue to have a big impact on my life and work today.
I grew up in Sheffield, on the edge of the Peak District, and the ease of access we had to the outdoors is something that I have always really valued. It is a privilege to be able to walk or run from your front door into a National Park and it is an experience that I wish more people had access to.
When I was 10 I started rock climbing, first indoors and then outside on the gritstone crags of the Peak District. I loved the feeling of moving on the rock and having to work very closely with another person to get to the top. I have since climbed on mountains, sea cliffs and crags all over the UK and the Alps, forming very special friendships in the process. Whilst climbing is not a big part of my life at the moment, it is the activity which opened my mind to many other adventures.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
One of my favourite trips was hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc with a friend in summer 2019. It wasn’t the hardest, scariest or most committing adventure I have been on, but it was one of the most enjoyable. Long distance hiking has a special appeal for me, the routine of walking every day, carrying everything you need, with no other agenda or place to be. I think it must be one of the most relaxing ways to spend a holiday. The Tour du Mont Blanc’s 170km route passes through stunning alpine landscapes and we saw some beautiful sunsets along the way. Traversing through Switzerland, Italy and France, it is fun to keep switching the language of your greeting to fellow hikers, too.
Closer to home, last year I enjoyed a memorable one-day adventure running the Lairig Ghru, a mountain pass that takes you across the Cairngorms from Braemar to Aviemore. I ran with a friend and as our first marathon it was quite uneventful, but I found it exciting to be following such a historic, well-trodden route. The Corrour Bothy, which sits near the half-way point, would be a great stop-over for anyone through-hiking too.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
For me it is important to take some time every day to be outdoors. I’m usually out every morning before breakfast, trail running or walking, in any weather. I am lucky to have a choice of trails from my door and since moving to the Tweed Valley have been steadily improving my hill running fitness! I find that when life is too busy to fit in longer trips or whole days out, maintaining that daily activity is even more vital.
Moving my body and being outdoors is an important part of my work, too. Whilst I can still have long days on the computer or in meetings, spending time outdoors helps me to process my thoughts and resolve my ideas. I try to make being active a part of the other elements of my life, rather than being separate from them.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My Dad has played a big role in inspiring my love of the outdoors. He has enjoyed a lifetime of walking and now, aged 82, continues to visit the Lake District fells. He can’t climb such big or technical hills anymore, but his long legs can still carry him 14 miles on a good day.
Throughout my childhood I would go out walking with my Dad, mostly for the day but on two occasions for longer 5-day walks across the Yorkshire Dales. As we’ve both got older, our roles have reversed and I am now the one helping him over stiles and streams. It’s a nice feeling, to repay that and to help him to keep getting out.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Being outside and exercising is essential to my wellbeing and mental health. In this way, running and walking is a daily medicine which helps me to keep calm and relaxed. When I am overwhelmed it can feel impossible to step outside, yet I know that if I do, I will very quickly feel a little better. I am often surprised at how strongly running affects my mood; it is the single most effective thing I can do to feel good.
There have been times when, due to injury, I haven’t been able to run, and this has been particularly hard. I taught myself to swim when I was 24, during one of these injured periods, and went on to take part in long-distance sea and river swimming events including the Outdoor Swimming Society’s Dart 10k. I love the sensation of being in the water, especially the sea; jumping through the waves can be truly exhilarating.
What is it about trail running specifically that you love?
Trail running gives me a feeling of freedom that I can’t find anywhere else. There is no heavy or expensive equipment to maintain or carry, there is little planning required and I can do it straight from my house. Moving quickly and delicately over difficult terrain is a real joy and takes a lot of focus, allowing my mind to quiet for a while. Knowing how much and frequently I run, people often ask if I have entered any events or races, but the truth is that I’m not interested in running with other people. Running for me is a very personal activity, where the only relationships I have to think about are the one I have with myself and the one I have with the environment around me.
When did you discover FINDRA?
I discovered FINDRA when a friend brought her stripy Fern long-sleeve top on our bike tour of the Hebridean Way. Anybody who has visited the Outer Hebrides will know that photographs can be deceptive and even in summer when the sun is shining, the white sand beaches are blinding your eyes and the sea is glistening blue, several layers can be required! Since moving to the Tweed Valley I have acquired my own Fern top which recently accompanied me on five days of Mountain Leader training in the Cairngorms followed by three days hiking the Affric-Kintail way… all without needing a wash, lovely.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I was younger someone said to me that the best climber is the one who is having the most fun. Climbing, and other outdoor activities, can sometimes feel heavy with competition and ego. This phrase reminds me that when I am outside, I don’t have to prove anything and that suffering doesn’t make you a hero.
On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more?
I think fear of failure can sometimes stop people from taking part in outdoor activities. When I’m having a bad day, I try to remember the phrase ‘no expectations’ before going out for a run. It reminds me that success can take many forms and sometimes that means just stepping outside.
Baked Bean Curry
I was taught this recipe by a friend whose mum would make it for him when she didn’t have time to cook a curry from scratch. It has become one of my favourite outdoor meals and can be made perfectly on a Trangia
1 tin of baked beans
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
5 spring onions, chopped
½ a medium red chilli, finely chopped
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
Oil for frying
Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Grain or flatbreads or your choice
I have chosen a quote by Yvon Chouinard, environmentalist, founder of the Patagonia brand and author of ‘Let My People go Surfing’. Yvon is an inspiring character and this quote makes me think about how the way in which you approach something is as important as what you are doing:
To Build a Home by the Cinematic Orchestra. I like the simplicity of the lyrics in this song, it is quietly dramatic yet is also very grounding and makes me think about the cycle of life.