Kate Hawley
  • OS Champion

Kate Hawley

Meet Kate Hawley – Forestry/woodland professional, extrovert, lover of coffee, babywearer, adventurer!

What drives you to spend time outside?

I am very lucky to have an amazing job where spending time outdoors is mandatory… I am a manager for the Forestry Commission covering beautiful Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, the Tees Valley and County Durham. It is such a treat to spend my weekdays wandering around the wilds of blustery Northumberland, or planning exciting new woodland creation to combat the climate change emergency!

Where are your favourite places to go?

I may be biased but I think that the Northumberland coastline is the most magical stretch of land in the country! Holy Island (Lindisfarne) is a beautiful, peaceful place to retreat and relax, and the hardworking seaside towns along the coast offer the friendliest welcome and a healthy portion of Lobster and chips. Coming inland, I absolutely love spending time in our woodlands (Shinrin Yoku, ‘forest bathing’), nothing beats the dappled shade, majestic soundtrack and pinefresh smell – my favourites are Kielder Forest (Northumberland), Dalby Forest (North Yorkshire) and Hamsterley (County Durham).

What is your favourite thing to do outdoors?

I love taking my baby daughter out into the countryside. It’s true when they say, if your baby cries then take them outside or put them in water! My daughter is never happier or more content then when she has the fresh northern wind blowing in her face. I am a particular advocate of outdoor babywearing and feeding, as a breastfeeding peer supporter for the Newcastle area I see firsthand the benefits of getting new, first time parents of tiny babies (<1yr) outdoors. It is never too early to introduce babies to the wonder of the countryside, and an added benefit – they always sleep better after a day in the fresh air!

Who inspires you and how?

I feel like I should reference some kind of celebrity here (David Attenborough, you absolute legend!) but actually, the people that inspire me the most are the families I see visiting our woodlands with their children. The kids all have a great time, but I look at the parents – organising the day, bags full of snacks and bottles and nappies, outdoor prams, often a newborn desperately strapped onto their chest as they chase after a pre-schooler desperate to try out the Gruffalo trails… they are the legends here! It’s so great to see the outdoors being enjoyed by people of all ages!

What are your focuses this year to help people get outside more often?

Postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety is affecting more and more women. The first 6 months of a baby’s life can be the most intense, and confining, period of time that any woman has to face – often characterised by hours spent on the sofa, struggling to leave the house and make it to the shops with a screaming infant desperate to feed every 30mins! I am passionate about making the outdoors more accessible to this forgotten subsect of parent – although the countryside is increasingly catered for kids and young children, infants and babes-in-arms are difficult to take out on a hike. How can we make somewhere as breast/bottle-feeding friendly as possible? What about methods to change a nappy in the middle of nowhere? Trails and paths suitable for a pram with a tiny, sleeping baby? I want to challenge the notion that in the first 6 months of becoming a parent you have to stay inside. Fresh air and exercise (birth recovery dependant!) is the greatest defence we have against postnatal mental health issues. Let’s strap those newborns to your (or your partner!)’s chest and enjoy an hour out in the sunlight!

What are your 3 biggest life achievements?

Being picked by the BBC as one of their 50 ‘Expert Women’, forestry and environmental management is my specialty – I have been trained in presenting and have secret dreams of presenting nature documentaries for a living…! I appeared on The Weakest Link back in 2010, I think I must be on YouTube somewhere… not sure this is a life achievement, more of a fun fact…I was the youngest female professional member of the Institute of Chartered Foresters after passing the entrance exams at 24. I am still the cover girl too, check out charteredforesters.org for my face…!

3 words you live by…

You’ve gotta be IN IT to WIN IT! (More than 3, sorry!)

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I absolutely love young adult dystopian and fantasy novels, you name it, I have read it…(multiple times)! Divergent, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight, Noughts & Crosses, The Maze Runner… my husband has to tell me to stop reading at 2am and go to sleep!