Bel Dixon
  • OS Champion

Bel Dixon

OS Champion

Meet Bel Dixon – Sea swimmer, river paddler, happy hiker, Dartmoor bivvyier, really-rather-rubbish climber.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Running, cycling, sea-swimming, kayaking, gig rowing – what I lack in skill (which is a lot), I make up for in sheer enthusiasm. Being active outdoors is how I switch off from work and switch on to the world – to our environment, to nature and being with friends.

And I’m not joking about being unskilled. I started gig rowing this year and it sums up why I love getting outside: thanks to some very patient Devon rowers, I’ve gone from being totally hopeless to being slightly better than totally hopeless.

But being out on the water, in gorgeous surrounding, learning, trying, failing and laughing is fabulous. Which is what the outdoors brings – joy to my day.

Why do you love the outdoors?

I’ve loved being active outdoors ever since I was little kid. One of my earliest memories is Dad waking me and my brother up one summer morning hours before dawn. We must have been about six and eight. We walked to the nearest orchard (which felt ages away) and stood shivering in the silence in our wellington boots.

A few birds started tweeting, then a few sang, then – suddenly this extraordinary wave of birdsong swept round us. It was sensational and magical. I’ll never forget it – I can still hear that wave of sound.

And that’s why I love getting outside. Being active outdoors helps make us healthier and happier and more connected with ourselves, our world and with loved ones and friends. It helps us make memories with the people we care about. And you can’t get much better than that.

How do you get outside?

Any way I can! My favourite way is to be active with friends. I’m a member of the local running club and – year round, whatever the weather, with head torches on in winter – we head out for a run each Wednesday night and Sunday morning.

Setting a fixed time aside each week to get outside really helps make it happen, and creates a strong sense of camaraderie too.

And the great thing is there are similar clubs in pretty much any sport or activity you can mention all over the country – people to meet with, laugh with, chat with, be active outside with. You never regret getting out.

What’s your favourite route?

A stretch of coastline that extends from Bolt Head in the east to Bolt Tail in the west is one of the most scenic in Devon.

Bel Dixon. Credit: British Exploring and Rohan Parekh

Have you got any adventures planned?

I’m currently trying to raise my kayaking skills, so this winter I want to try to learn to roll over and – importantly – pop back up. Honing my kayaking skills will open up all kinds of sea kayaking adventures, so that’s the big motivation there.

I’m also heading off to the Isles of Scilly for the World Gig Rowing Championship next spring – definitely just as a spectator, rather than a rower. But I’ll also take the opportunity to go island hopping, sea swimming and camping there.

What’s the most essential thing on your kit list?

Swim suit & towel – you never know when you can squeeze in a dip. Snacks – I get twitchy if I don’t have a stack of snacks to eat. Running trainers. Waterproofs (of course!), a cheap down jacket I can just stuff in the bottom of a bag. A compass if I’m off out onto Dartmoor, a paper map for planning and if I’m heading out somewhere new to me. And – always – my OS Maps app.

Who inspires you to get outside?

Everyone who does it. The kids loving just running around. The friends who sea swim early each morning, year-round. The kayakers and rowers who are so generous in sharing their skills. The hikers, runners & climbers who kindly share their expertise. And anyone who makes the effort. Those who find it hard – rather than easy – are the most impressive of all.

What do you prefer: Paper or digital map? (Controversial we know!)

Both – Seeing routes & planning I prefer paper & getting a sense of the bigger picture on the ground.

For working out distance for runs & cycles, then OS Maps, and also for checking I can where I think I am!