Hey, can you tell everybody where are you based and what you do?
I’m currently based in central Scotland working for a charity. I spend my work day encouraging school students to consider different careers in rural Scotland, showing the routes into them and helping find work placements. For me, I get to work with lots of different people doing interesting things and be outside in fantastic environments.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
Growing up on a farm means that the outdoors has always been part of my daily life. Renowned for being accident prone, I would be the one to return home soaked from falling in the burn or covered in mud from a bog – things that still happen today.
I realized how just important spending time outside was when I started teaching full time after university. Days spent in the classrooms were not for me, so I switched roles to deliver education and activities in outdoor centres instead. Over 10 years and several roles later, I'm still working with schools and encouraging young people out into the environment.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
So many things about outside spaces interest me, from the wildlife to the history and the folklore associated with places. I love studying maps for different features, old ruins, interesting placenames, then reading books to find out more about what’s happened in the landscape in the past. Luckily, I have both friends and family who are happy to go on what they call “Tors Tours'' while we seek out some of these things.
Covid gave me time to study the area close to home and do doorstep journeys with my friends when restrictions allowed. These weekly Friday night adventures to different things we’d found became some of the best walks I’ve done. Some things were easy to find, others we gave up on, but really it was everything else we found along the way that made the trips so special. Memories that particularly stick out are of 6 short-eared owls hunting, the farmer who thought we were really lost because no one ever walked along that path, wild wind through a fantastic wildflower meadow, and some beautiful swim spots.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
You can’t always balance being active and everything else that is going on in life. It’s hard and complicated. But if something is important, you end up squeezing wee bits of time to do it. I’m lucky that my work has often involved me being very active outdoors but at other points, it can be a quick walk up a hill in the gloaming, a sneaky swim just before work, or a bivvy on a nice night close to home. It’s taking the opportunity and seeing the value in it because I feel so much better and more like myself afterwards.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My love of the outdoors was established by my family, from my grannie who had me picking blackberries and rosehips on evening walks, to my papa who I explored opencast mines with. Unusual but true. My dad always had a hill he wanted to climb or something that he wanted to go and have a nosey at. I’ve probably picked that up from him.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Being outside is my opportunity to both relax and think. My family has been known to send me off for a swim or a hill day because I need it. It doesn’t matter about the weather, conditions or who’s with me, I always return from my adventures happier and more settled.
What is it about swimming specifically that you love?
The water has always fascinated me. Even as a child, I had to be dragged away from the sea, rivers, puddles – anything that was wet. Swimming is a way for me to explore the water and I can’t think of a time that I didn’t swim.
I like the freedom of travelling to different places through the water, exploring coastlines and under the water. I love that it can be so many different things from a dip and natter with friends to a lung bursting sprint across a bay. I’ve had some magical moments in the water; an otter popping up beside me in Windermere, sunrise on the English Channel, being swept by crazy currents at Hellespont, and epic winds and waves on Buttermere. For me, there’s always another challenge from swimming the length of a loch to crossing channels to different countries or even continents.
When did you discover FINDRA?
The Kendal Mountain Film Festival is where I first came across FINDRA at their stand and hosting some fantastic sessions. They were lovely and welcoming to chat to and the sessions were really encouraging just to get outside and enjoy doing things.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My grannie always said “Whits fur ye’ll no go by ye”, something I’ve referred to multiple times throughout my life. It’s a great qualifier for thinking things happen for a reason.
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?
Anything can be an adventure, from your back door to remote areas. It's about what you discover along the way and who you take with you – mentally and physically.
Sandwood Bay is a very special place in Scotland. Something about that long remote sandy beach and crashing waves just calls to me. I love spotting wildlife on the way out and spending hours in the sand dunes before enjoying the waves.
Eels - Beautiful Freak
I’ve loved this band since their first album and they have music for all my moods. This one just fills me with hope, I can’t explain why but I always feel better singing along.