What drives you to spend time outside?
The seasons – that they roll on. That Spring always follows Winter and that things die and grow. For someone with anxiety and depression that constant it reassuring and life affirming. More practically usually the chickens demanding food, an eight year old demanding digging, a 9 year old demanding running, two adult daughters demanding outdoor gin, a husband demanding he build me a greenhouse (ok that one not quite the right way round) and an allotment demanding to be weeded.
Where are your favourite places to go?
So many. Garden with chickens, plants and kids (not in that order or priority obviously). Allotment. Anywhere near or in water. Flat places. Dark sky sites (we are in the gutter but some of us are looking at stars….) I travel to YHA sites in my day job and each one of them has access an amazing outdoor space. Reaching the outside spaces less travelled is an obsession – as is finding arts, culture and heritage in the outdoors. If I had to choose named places The Sill in Northumberland National Park for those skies. Dungeness for arts and the outdoors in the shadow of a nuclear power station. And Hindleap Warren for where my love of the outside began.
What is your favourite thing to do outdoors?
Sitting. Look I love the exercise bit. I still swim miles and I am fitter than fat looks. But for all of us the outdoors provides a chance just to be. To reflect. To listen. In a world that is constantly about the next challenge or to do list I want to reclaim the outdoors for stillness.
Who inspires you and how?
My parents – my late father used to take me to the beach fishing overnight. My earliest memories are of him pointing out the stars. And my mother holding back her fears when I climbed another mountain or canoed another river. Now she just smiles when I have to bite my tongue rather than say ‘you want to do what???’ to one of my children’s latest mad adventures. And anyone who fights for access to the outdoors for all.
What are your focuses this year to help people get outside more often?
A continuing focus on access. Outdoor recreation is fabulous. Endurance events. Running up hills. All good. But this dominates our thinking on the outdoors. Across all my work I’m committed to telling different stories and using wider imagery to show more uses of outdoors and a wider range of outdoors users. Because if we can’t see it, we can’t be it. We know that it will be a challenging time ahead – the impacts of Coronavirus will be felt for years. As part of that we know that some people will remain nervous about going outdoors and being with others. And we know that community tensions run high as some outdoor areas push back against visitors. As we move forward looking to run small gatherings, in line with guidance, that support connections back to each other and back to the outdoors. Starting with allotment visits and chicken lessons. And in Sussex focusing on events to connect families to existing great small outdoor charities and social enterprises – like the fabulous Moulsecoomb Forest Garden.
What are your 3 biggest life achievements?
Being a serial social entrepreneur – bit of a pretentious phrase (which my husband tends to replace with serial interfering do-gooder). I founded The Communication Trust and Whole School SEND that support children with disabilities. Now with Every Child Should working to make sure the 500 000 kids with least access to enrichment, like the outdoors, are better included. 4 tree climbing, star gazing, beach loving kids. Well 3 actually. Working on the other one. Still being alive.
3 words you live by…
Feminist / Mother / Wife
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Ah see I don’t subscribe to the view than any pleasures should be guilty! But disaster movies, gin and a collection of china thimbles from every place I have visited rank high on the pleasure scale.
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