Friend of FINDRA: Heidi Stoner

Friend of FINDRA: Heidi Stoner

Hey, can you tell everybody where are you based and what you do?

Hello, I’m Heidi and I am an archaeologist. I’ve lived in the UK for the last 12 years, I studied in York for my PhD and then was based in the North East for a while, but I now have a job lecturing in Canterbury. As an archaeologist, I’ve done a few years where I move around quite a bit for jobs (sometimes very short term away work) and a lot of travel for field work visits. My specialism is early medieval church buildings and sculpture, and the landscapes they inhabit which has taken me around nearly every part of the UK from Shetland to Cornwall. I’m very lucky.

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

I grew up in California and Oregon and rambling and swimming have always been part of my life. My favourite trips as a kid where to national parks, particularly the Redwoods as they were closest to where I grew up. But it is really my job that keeps me outside these days, enjoying churchyards and remote archaeological sites. I am an avid wild swimmer having learned to swim in the Sacramento River with my grandparents, and I love that it is something that can be done anywhere you go.

What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?

I went on a research trip to Orkney and Shetland taking in most of Northern Scotland along the way in 2021, I stayed mostly in my converted car and took in as many sites as I could, while swimming in as many places as I could, which was really pretty special. Working on historic landscapes means that I often get to hike to remote or wild places and call it work.

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

Luckily, work allows me to incorporate a love of the outdoors! It is more difficult during term time when I have teaching commitments, but I try and build in a few field trips with the students as well which they seem to love. Plus, every summer I get to go with the students on excavation field schools, which is always a fun few weeks of camping. A benefit of being a single woman in her 30s is that my time is my own, so I am able to prioritise the activities that mean the most to me and for me that is swimming.

Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?

It is hard to single out a specific person who inspired me as it was just part of my life, from my grandparents who had a houseboat on the river where I would spend summer vacations to my mother who was an keen skier (both water and snow). My dad took me fishing and camping, which my sister hated so it always felt special. My mother has always praised me for finding a way to take my extreme bookishness outside and make a living out of things I love. I think I am very lucky to have been raised in a place that allowed me to be passionate about the outdoors and landscape in particular.

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

Like many people, I have suffered from bouts of anxiety and difficult mental health. Particularly when I was finishing my PhD and entering the precarious job market just after. I was filled with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, and I really did find it was so immensely helpful to get outside. The thing I love about diving into vast cold water or entering ethereal landscapes is that if forces a prospective change: my problems have to be smaller than the sea and the sky. It might be silly to put it in to those terms and it certainly isn’t a cure-all as some problems certainly require more dedicated attention than just going outside. But for me I found that regularly changing my prospective and getting out of my workspace changed the way I approached my own challenges.

What is it about swimming specifically that you love?

Swimming has always been my favourite outdoor activity. I love that it is accessible and doesn’t feel competitive. While I love the solitude of swimming at times, as I’ve grown older and moved a few more times, I love that I have been able to meet other swimmers through online swim groups, finding secret swim spots. If I’m in a new location, I can search out a local group and they are always so welcoming, and I get to discover a location through the eyes of those who love it.

When did you discover FINDRA?

I have always had an interest in wool as a textile (I do knit in my spare time) and I loved merino as a fabric. But about two years ago, Findra was mentioned in a YouTube video I was watching in lockdown about hiking by Athena Mellor. Like many people, I took to the internet in lockdown while I was planning a research trip that was postponed several times, and a summer trip to the Isle of Lewis turned into a November trip, and I figured I needed some warm layers.

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

The things that are worthwhile take time and effort, and that includes you.

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?

Every landscape is different, it is constantly changing. We are so immensely lucky to stand where people have stood before and see not only what it was, but that it is something new.

Favourite Walk?

My favourite walk is Yeavering Bell in Northumberland as it is a beautiful, and ancient landscape that contains within it hints of the past but only if you know where to look.

Favourite Quote?

I love Old English poetry (I’ve provided here in translation), particularly the Maxims which are gnomic poems or wisdom poems: these words, which are over a thousand years old, state what was known to be true about parts of the universe in brief statements collected together. I love the insight into the past they give. Particularly when they talk about nature, as it is as if, standing at the edge of the ocean, you can feel the statement wending its way through time, and feeling just as true today as it was when it was written down.

Favourite Song?

Joni Mitchell - California

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