Dom Ferris is a mountain biker, surfer, and founder and MD of Trash Free Trails. This community-focussed, non-profit organisation aims to protect our trails and the wild places they take us, reduce plastic pollution, and reconnect people with nature through purposeful adventure. Dom currently resides on Anglesey with his spaniel, Lion.
Hey Dom – Tell everybody where you are based and what you do!
I’m Dom Ferris, currently living on Anglesey and I’m Founder and MD of Trash Free Trails, a community-focussed, non-profit organisation that exists to protect our trails and the wild places they take us. Our mission is to reduce plastic pollution on our trails and wild places by 75% by 2025 and (re)connect people with nature through purposeful adventure.
Trash Free Trails started as an IG account in 2017 and went from there. It was an idea I’d had for a while because I was seeing more and more pollution whilst mountain biking and thought someone should do something about it. The name was carefully chosen – it refers to mental ‘trash’ as well as litter.
How long has the outdoors been part of your life?
I was born in Birmingham but moved to mid-Wales as a child because my parents wanted to pursue ‘The Good Life’. It was an amazing introduction to the outdoors. I then went on to study surf science in Cornwall and from there got a job with Surfers Against Sewage, a grassroots movement tackling plastic pollution and protecting the UK’s coastlines, where I worked for ten years.
During that time my father, who was still in Wales, became ill and I made frequent trips to see him. I started mountain biking in order to decompress and became hyper alert to the emotional benefits of my surroundings.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
In 2018 I took a sabbatical – a five month mountain bike trip to Oregon and then Tibet and Nepal – it was a ‘purposeful adventure’ during which I wanted to raise money for a men’s mental health charity and also test myself as an adventurer: I wanted to see how I responded to challenges.
One day I had a crash while riding alone in the back country in Oregon and broke a rib – the fact that I still wanted to carry on confirmed that my heart was definitely in it!
I define wilderness as the place where you can’t find a trace of human carelessness. The difference between Oregon, where the environment is protected by legislation, and Nepal, where there is no infrastructure or funds to remove waste and which is subsequently full of discarded litter, was striking and greatly influenced my thinking.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities such as work and family?
I’m depressingly single – because I’m so passionate about my work I don’t find it easy to strike a balance!
I’m not on my own though as I have my dog, who is named Lion. When I left Surfers Against Sewarge and Cornwall in 2019 to focus on Trash Free Trails, I stayed with a friend near Welshpool. During lockdown I used to take his dog for a walk in the amazing forest there and being in nature was a revelation that led to the Trash Free Trails Selfless Isolation Project – and made me realise that I wanted a dog of my own.
So now I have Lion to share my adventures with.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My mum, for moving our family to Wales and changing our lives forever. Now she enjoys beach combing and self-exploring beliefs such as Buddhism. She’s quiet, meditative and has an amazing connection with the outdoors.
Do you find that spending time in the outdoors has a positive impact on your well being and mental health?
Yes – so what a wonderful thing it is to then protect it.
What is it about mountain biking that you specifically enjoy?
The counter-culture, the swoopy feeling, the community, the purpose, the mud – and remembering that the higher the heart rate, the calmer the mind.
When did you discover FINDRA?
At the Kendal Mountain Festival in 2019 – I’m a great fan of merino!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Rupert, who works with us at Trash Free Trails, always signs his emails with ‘Take it steady mate’ which always feels like a written hug and a handshake!
What is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to inspire our followers to get outdoors more?
K.I.S.S – Keep it simple stupid! Start basic and don’t overcomplicate things. It’s the same when it comes to protecting our trails – pick up some litter, and your journey has begun.
Northern Lights by Philip Pulman
It’s about the importance of doing the right thing – Lyra is the perfect embodiment of that. It’s a perfect book that changed the way I think.
Bob Mortimer – especially in his Gone Fishing show – his ability to show vulnerability but have fun at the same time is really inspiring.
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” – Edward Abbey
Under The Bridge by The Red Hot Chilli Peppers