Friend of FINDRA: Rosemary & Malcolm

Friend of FINDRA: Rosemary & Malcolm

Tell everyone where are you based, and what you do!

We are Malcolm and Rosemary, and we live in the small and beautiful town of Topsham in south Devon.

The wonderful Route 2 cycle way is on our doorstep and runs around the Exe Estuary, giving us easy access to Exeter, and stunning views around the coast and estuary. We spend as much time as possible walking and cycling around our local patch, and also into Dartmoor, the coast and the Devon countryside, which are all in easy reach.

How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?

Rosemary: “Forever”. Malcolm's tales of school geology field trips did not put me off, and later I ‘helped’ by spotting interesting rocks while he did the fieldwork for his degree on Ardnamurchan on the west coast of Scotland. Pouring rain, soaking feet and wet maps did not put me off.
Malcolm: Also, “For Ever”: My Dad loved the outdoors and made sure that my brother and I learnt not to be afraid of exploring it, and all the wonders it has to offer. He even used to take us out in thunderstorms when we were small to make us unafraid of the noise of the thunder.

What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?

There are so many! Having sold the car a few years ago we have embraced the freedom of linear walks and cycle rides using local buses and trains. Joining up the rural timetables can be challenging but has opened our eyes to routes and places we would never have been able to visit if we just looped back to a car park.

We did a great back-packing journey last year on the Heart of Wales railway line from Swansea to Shropshire where we carried on along Wenlock Edge. Some days we took the train and some days we walked the trail through the hills alongside. This one's definitely not a flat railway walk!
And we had a wonderful time just last month, doing our first-ever multi-day cycle tour around the Scottish Borders. Having lived there years ago and walked all over the hills and the Southern Upland Way it was good to see so many new trails and events which provide a sustainable approach for more people to visit this often over-looked area of Scotland. We will never forget watching a gathering of over a dozen mountain hares in their white coats one winter, or the eye-saturating yellow gorse on the Eildons near Melrose. Of course, a highlight of our latest trip was a visit to the FINDRA shop, leaving with merino-filled bike panniers! (Malcolm: Alex told me she was ending the production of the men’s range – so I had to buy a lifetime of FINDRA!)
A regular local favourite is to turn up at the bus station in Exeter and take the first bus we fancy into the countryside. Any direction will do - our network of the top tea shops is wide and the landscape here is endlessly varied and interesting.

How do you manage to find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?

There is never enough time for everything, but we try to get out for two days every week, walking or cycling, even if it’s just a circuit of the ‘Goat Walk’ around Topsham. Getting rid of the car, means that even a journey into Exeter (our nearest city) is an enjoyable journey.

And there are cows to meet everywhere in Devon! We are learning all the time to recognise the breeds and understand the way they live. The network of Valley Parks all over Exeter are grazed by herds of friendly cattle and the small fold of Highlands who do conservation grazing on Lympstone Common are our special friends.

Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?

Malcolm: It has to be my Dad – he made sure we spent all the time outside, did not mind getting cold or wet, and experienced the wonderful taste of food after a long day outside.

Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?

Most definitely! When life got really tough for both of us a few years ago - health, family, work and more besides for years on end - it was getting back to cycling and long walks that slowly pulled us back to a better place.

What is it about cycling and walking specifically that you love?

We love the independence that comes with cycling and walking. The feeling of achievement and freedom when you have made it up and down all those hills and been in the weather and the landscape all day. The wonderful feeling of being able to use your body to move in the landscape. Slow travel allows you to get an understanding of our place in the landscape and how the geology and geography has shaped the farms, villages, and towns.

We always are amazed at the new things we see and find, even on the most familiar routes.

When did you discover FINDRA?

Rosemary: I first heard about the launch in 2014 and remembered it years later when I needed a new cycling jacket that would be comfortable and would look good and perform well. Then we both started multi-day trips, and so decided that merino was the only option, unless we did frequent laundry stops. We invested in a few FINDRA merino layers and discovered the comfort, warmth, and practicality of them. Malcolm sold all of his synthetic tops and now owns a heavily FINDRA-based wardrobe.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Malcolm: my physical and mental health was suffering from work-related stress, a friend and colleague came to see me while I was on sick leave, and said “Get yourself well, and then get yourself out of here…” - I took her advice.

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?

Break-away from the car, get an OS-Map, learn to read it, and use it to discover footpaths and back roads. Adventure – find places in your local area that you have never been to. Notice what’s going on around you – feel part of the landscape and the weather and make your own adventure wherever you are.

A few of Rosemary and Malcolm's Favourite Things


A favourite song


“Empathise” – by the Primitives – we were playing the album (Galore) in the car, on our first long journeys out to the west coast of Scotland – it always reminds us of that time.

A favourite book

“Findings” by Kathleen Jamie – this is a wonderful book of essays on her own experience of landscape, nature and her own history. When I first read the book, I was stunned! – it was as if someone else had seen the world as I see it and written the experience down. She has since followed it with two more books “Sightlines” and “Surfacing”, which grow the stories from the first book. We have reread them all several times.

A favourite place

This is an impossible question – there are so many amazing and wonderful places, landscapes, cafés and tea shops that we have visited – it is impossible to choose! Though our recent return to the Borders was exceptionally beautiful.

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