Polly Clark is a mountain bike guide and yoga teacher in the Cambrian Mountains. As a child she rode ponies and kayaked in the Brecon Beacons. “It was a time of pure freedom and joy and that is still what I get from being out there in nature.” Here’s how Polly now combines this passion for the outdoors with her work.
Hey Polly, tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
Hey, so I’m based in the Cambrian Mountains of mid-Wales. I work as a yoga teacher and a mountain bike guide as well as running a new group accommodation venue here that’s aimed at people wanting to access the great outdoors on bike, foot or water.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I grew up in the Brecon Beacons riding ponies, messing around on bikes, playing in streams and kayaking on the nearby lake. I spent most of my time out on the hills on horseback, sometimes alone but more often than not with my best friend. It was a time of pure freedom and joy and that is still what I get from being out there in nature.
As I grew up I still relished getting out in the mountains and swimming in rivers and lakes. Discovering mountain biking was such a treat for me. To be able to access places more quickly and have fun on the way down too was brilliant. I still love the slow pace of hiking, being able to take in more of the sounds, sights and smells but I love the buzz of a bike ride too.
What has been your favourite trip or adventure?
There’s a ride I’ve done a couple of times now in the French Alps that is pretty hard to beat. I tend to love rides that are gruelling but with massive rewards and this route is definitely one of those.
It starts in Chateau Queyras with an extremely long climb to the Col Fromage at 2,300m (fuelled by strong coffee in the little shack next to the river first!). The climb then continues along narrow singletrack up to the Col Du Estronques at 2,651m. From there it’s full on sinuous singletrack towards Saint-Veran – the highest village in France. There’s a quick fill up on mountain water and ice cream before heading up the valley, watched by Marmots all the way, towards the Refuge de la Blanche.
After a night of amazing food and a few beers, the next morning sees two more big cols to climb and two epic descents, one of which works its way down past a number of glacial lakes on lovely rocky switchback strewn singletrack that goes on for hours and hours. It leaves you with the biggest smile on your face and just eager for more adventure.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
That is a really good question and one that I am constantly trying to figure out. I do consider myself extremely lucky to be self-employed with two things that involve being both active and outdoors so I’m often not having to squeeze in activity around my job. My children are all grown up now and they like being outdoors with me.
My grandchildren absolutely love joining me on mini adventures. We have a dog called Suki who needs lots of walks so even if I don’t have time to have big adventures I always have to get outside twice a day whatever else is going on. I also have a fairly relaxed attitude to housework!
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My Dad used to take us snorkelling out into the deep sea when we were quite small in Ibiza during summers out there visiting him. I remember the fear of being out so deep but also the exhilaration and sense of wonder I felt. There was a feeling of being strong and capable even though I was so small. Those experiences have stayed with me all my life.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Absolutely 100% yes. For me being outside in whatever context makes me feel better about life. Just my daily walks with Suki in the woods, listening to the birds, breathing fresh air and feeling my legs working is enough to give me a boost for the day. Problems or worries for me tend to work their way out during a walk or a ride. I personally love to notice the small things around me, tiny flowers or lichen on rocks offer a sense of connection to the amazing planet that we inhabit. And when I need a serious recharge I try to get a day out in the mountains after which I feel like the mountain is in me and I am in the mountain. That is a good feeling.
When did you discover FINDRA?
I discovered FINDRA when I was looking around for female specific mountain bike clothing that didn’t just look like small men’s clothing with added pink. I liked the ethos of the brand and I thought the colours of the merino tops were beautiful. A friend of mine Emily Chappell was wearing FINDRA quite a bit too – it was a “where did you get that top from?” moment.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I sadly lost my mum 12 years ago. Shortly before she passed away she told me “Make sure you do what you want in life” – simple advice but it’s totally stuck with me and it’s something I say to my children. If you want to do something, make it happen. Don’t use obstacles as an excuse not to – find your way around them, be bold.
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?
Getting outdoors doesn’t have to be big or impressive. You don’t have to quit your job or go on grand adventures to feel the benefits of being outside. Start small, stay curious and most of all, whatever you do and wherever you go enjoy this amazing place that we are all a part of.
Thanks Polly, and nice to meet you!
For more information about Mountain Yoga Breaks, visit the website here:
Dom Ferris from Trash Free Trails. This guy is just a huge bundle of intelligent positive energy and I absolutely love what he is doing with TFT. It totally echoes how I feel about looking after the countryside that we like to play in and I love the fact that he works on the idea of not using anger to create change.
The Trash Mob Academy fills me with joy, They are small people doing great things and a great example to us all.
Alex Boyd Jones
I’ve been greatly enjoying the artwork of Alex Boyd Jones in the last few months. Her tree drawings are influenced by the idea of how our access to various places is restricted or limited by ownership. She explores the idea of boundaries and borders, how they have come to be and why.
See more of Alex’s work on: instagram.com/larkandline
Don’t Fence Me In by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters
This song just makes me smile. It totally encapsulates how I feel when I’m out on the bike. It’s also great to sing along to in a dramatic fashion when nobody else is around.