Bruce Ford: three minute interview

​Bruce Ford is an OS field surveyor in the West Yorkshire team. As well as working outside, he spends most of his free time outdoors doing physical activities.

Bruce Ford is an OS field surveyor in the West Yorkshire team. As well as working outside, he spends most of his free time outdoors doing physical activities. He has adopted a coaching role within his friendship groups, encouraging people to work harder and achieve more. He pledges, among other things, to swim until he has goggle marks on his face, cycle on roads and trails until he falls off, and run off-the-ball to create space during a five-a-side match.

How does it feel to have been chosen as a #GetOutside Champion?

I’m absolutely delighted. As a home-based field surveyor living at the northern edge of Leeds, I spend most of my free time at weekends travelling throughout the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, as well as playing football and tennis in the city. It will be a privilege to share my passion for the outdoors and sports with my colleagues and the wider community through social media and organised activities throughout 2016.

What does being a #GetOutside champion mean to you?

Wearing the distinctive brilliant orange jersey to run and cycle, I hope I can share my experiences with fellow travellers along my routes, as well as encouraging and motivating others to share the challenges and excitement of adventurous activities. It will be a pleasure to record my efforts this year using a Suunto GPS watch to catalogue my statistics and share the data/routes through our website. I will make every effort to attend festivals and events, acting as an ambassador for OS, promoting OS products.

What are the benefits to you of being outside?

It’s all about fitness for me – instilling determination and building stamina. Whatever your chosen discipline, build up your cardio strength and endurance and keep going – be more resilient to life, more resistant and healthier.

What do you most enjoy about being outside?

“Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing.”

If you really enjoy something, keep doing it! I have a particular interest in mountain biking at the moment, so when I can I head out on my new Boardman Team Hard-Tail bike and go that bit further, that bit faster, or down an even more technical descent. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tennis and sessions in the gym and pool, but nothing can beat that feeling of adrenaline and exhaustion after a hard day up on the hills, and the camaraderie of exercising with friends/colleagues.

Having worked in an office environment, a huge pull factor of the field surveyor role is its outdoor element – I spend two thirds of my working life outside. I would much rather be ‘under the weather’ so to speak, then below an air-conditioning duct.

What’s your favourite terrain to get out in? (Mountain / coast / woodland etc)

High alpine mountains are both magnificent and majestic. Whether I’m skiing in Europe or trudging through the snows of the Cairngorms, it has to be the mountains for me! I’m a geographer at heart, so glacial landforms and pyramidal peaks are just the best!

What’s the most unusual thing to have happened to you outside?

Last year I was invited to attend a six-day winter mountaineering package based near Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. With ice-axes and crampons I scaled the 700ft high ‘Central Gully’ (Grid Ref: NH 99341,02974), a narrow frozen corridor on the ‘Alladins Couloir’ to summit Cairn Lochan near Cairn Gorm. Absolutely terrifying – perched on the edge of nowhere by several pointy-bits of steel sunk a few millimetres into a frozen waterfall, with a -10oC wind, brrrrrr!

What do you like about Great Britain?

There are still plenty of wild upland places to explore; loads of diverse habitats to discover; loads of migratory bird species to observe; lots of colours throughout the seasons to capture on film or canvas; lots of new people to meet and activities to try.

Where is your favourite place in Great Britain to be outside?

Get on the M6 northbound and head to the Lakes. You’ve got mountains to climb, you’ve got rivers and lakes to paddle on, there’s (apparently) 3,000km of paths and trails to explore, and some of the best mountain-biking in England. I’ll be sure to attend the Keswick Mountain Festival again this year! I’m hoping to enter its long-distance triathlon, but there will be all sorts of activities and music over the event.

What are your favourite outdoor pursuits?

  • Cycling, out on the roads or through forests on single tracks.
  • Walking/trekking, here at home in the UK and on holidays abroad.
  • Climbing - indoors using top-rope or infrequently up frozen corries with ice-axes and crampons.
  • Kayaking/canoeing, on lakes during the summer

In one line, how would you describe the feeling being outside gives you?

A feeling of well-being and freedom, a chance to recharge my batteries.

When you’re outside how do you change as a person?

Commitments with work involve computers, deadlines, tasks and routines. At the weekend you can leave all that behind. I like to be organised for sure with routes planned and rucksacks packed, but once you’re out there anything can happen, and it’s lovely to just roll with it, deal with it, and enjoy it! Getting outside is joyful, especially if you get into your flow/ the zone. These are terms to describe absolute enjoyment and a balanced physical output, where the parietal part of our brain takes over from the frontal & limbic lobes (Steve Peters – The Chimp Parody).

Why should people #GetOutside more often?

Physical challenges, however small, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. Challenge yourself, see how far you can go, build self-confidence and capability. Even something as simple as hugging a tree means we have to actually stop, just for a moment. Listen to the breeze in the trees, the animals, and escape if only for a moment.

It is also part of human instinct to ask “how did I do?” “Can I do better?” With this in mind I’m using the data from my GPS watch to tell me of progress, to reflect on my efforts and to relive the day. Apps such as Strava can become addictive so it’s important to use the data to inform not dictate.

What would you say to someone who never goes outside to get them outside?

I would suggest they’re invited to join an existing group, perhaps a small step at first, to introduce a new element to their lives – leave the daytime TV and computer games at home! Get a gang of competent people together in an environment where the enthusiasm is contageous, and encourage those with less experience to join in and follow on. Giving new people some responsibility might be a good idea, expose them to new skills and experiences. Support and compliment their efforts, regardless of scale. Voluntary work is another portal to encourage people to try something new, for example a family friend of ours pulls the ponies along at a riding school for the disabled in Nottinghamshire.

Why as a nation are we not getting outside as much as we could?

In my opinion, I believe that children and young people as part of the national curriculum should be regularly exposed to challenging physical and mental situations throughout their academic career. Some children are raised in families or social groups that do not promote sporting endeavours (as well as other outdoor pursuits, hobbies and interests). A shift in schooling could encourage (over a generation) a greater appreciation of our countryside and the benefits it holds.

Social media, computer games and over-indulgence have contributed to a largely unfit, borderline-obese society, which needs educating in healthy living, eating and playing. It’s my belief that Smart City schemes will soon realise that social idleness will be a huge contributing factor in urban development and sustainability. Kids these days are wrapped up in cotton wool, while they hide behind risk assessments and safety constraints. A dramatic and immediate shake-up is needed nationwide to build resilience, independence, resourcefulness, self-discipline and timeliness. Projects such as National Citizens Service (NCS) are taking an active role with 15-17 year olds by running three-week programmes of adventurous training and social projects.

I hope as Britain’s mapping agency we can be at the forefront of digital data consumption in support of a healthier more energetic population.

What are the most important things a person should do or take when they #GetOutside?

A willingness to improvise, adapt and overcome.

What tips or pieces of advice would you give to someone who wants to get more out of being #Outside?

Trust that you are much more capable than you realise. Trust yourself and give something a go. I’d never walked in crampons let alone climbed a frozen gully before my trip to Scotland – follow Nike’s tagline and “just do it”.

Before you became a #GetOutside Champion, describe your relationship with Ordnance Survey?

Ordnance Survey as a brand has been a facilitator of mine since I was little. It provided a 2D visual portrayal of a landscape, from which I could extrapolate routes, terrain, timings, points of interest and activities. I hope we can show people to use OS maps as an enabler to leave the house, raise the heartrate and have fun!

What music do you listen to when you get outside?

You can’t beat some 80s power ballads in the car on the way to an adventure.

What are your backpack essentials?

Waterproofs: Gore-Tex or equivalent hard-shell coat and trousers, plus gaiters

Navigation: Map & Compass /GPS (optional)

Insulation: jacket, gloves, hat

Illumination:head torch and extra batteries

First-aid supplies

Nutrition: a day supply of food, energy gels

Hydration: water bottles or hydration reservoirs such as Platypus/Camelbak;water filter or other treatment system such as iodine tablets)

Emergency shelter: bivvy-bag or reflective blanket

What’s your favourite food when you’re outside?

You can’t beat a big lump of flapjack to top up your energy supplies. And the occasional ice-cream from the village shop! A toast for the top is always a treat too, like steaming-hot mulled-wine from a thermos flask. CHEERS EVERYONE!

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