GetOutside Champion: Sian Lewis
Sian is an award-winning travel and outdoors journalist who writes for titles including The Independent, Evening Standard, BBC Countryfile Magazine and Coast.
OS employee and #GetOutside Champion Nassrin Chamanian has pledged this year to complete her longest ever bike ride, starting at sunrise and ending at sunset. Find out more about why she loves to #GetOutside
OS employee and #GetOutside Champion Nassrin Chamanian has pledged this year to complete her longest ever bike ride, starting at sunrise and ending at sunset. The keen cyclist always inspires people around her to use two wheels more. Not only did she co-found the OS Cycling Club – now with more than 100 members based at HQ – she’s the go-to person for advice on routes, kit or general safety. She’s instigated some successful cycling events and has helped a few female colleagues to choose their first ‘proper’ adult bike.
How does it feel to have been chosen as a #GetOutside Champion?
Proud to be involved in such a big campaign with the support of the OS whose mapping is so vital in any #GetOutside adventures.
What does being a #GetOutside champion mean to you?
I’m really excited about sharing my passion for exploring by bicycle and want to use the campaign as a platform to encourage more women to consider cycling as it’s sadly a very male-dominated activity.
What are the benefits to you of being outside?
I spend a lot of time outside, especially as I don’t drive, and I attribute my good health and positive attitude to this. If I’m indoors for too long I feel lethargic and stress about unimportant things but being outside I feel more energetic and connected to the present.
What do you most enjoy about being outside?
I love experiencing the seasons and all the crazy weather our great country has to offer. In a car it’s too easy to quickly move from a to b and miss all the wonderful things in between. Exploring outdoors I notice the changes in the plants and the birdsong throughout the year and appreciate the bracing cold as much as the sunshine. Being outside and in the moment and the place is when I know I’m alive.
What’s your best memory of being outside?
Maybe white water rafting for my sister’s hen party because it was a filthy grey day in Scotland -exactly the weather when Scotland looks at its most brooding beautiful. I remember a cousin crying on the minibus because she was convinced she would die but we all surprised ourselves and stayed alive and had so much fun that we even ended up having a nice winter swim in the river at the end
What’s your worst?
It was a sunny day in May and my partner and I had only just taken up cycling. We had just bought our first mountain bikes and were eager for adventure so we decided to take on the Tennyson Trail on the Isle of Wight. The day started off well but it soon became apparent that, with our only experience being in the relatively flat New Forest, we had made a bit of a mistake, and the hills started to take their toll. Exhausted and underprepared, our food and drink supplies quickly ran out and we were lost in the middle of nowhere. Tears and tantrums ensued but we eventually found a corner shop and stuffed ourselves with samosas and sweets. We ended up racing the sunset back to the ferry terminal (we hadn’t thought to bring lights) but had just missed the last regular crossing. It wasn’t all bad; we ended up watching the hypnotic ballet of the articulated lorries being loaded on for the late goods crossing. We slept well that night.
Where is your favourite place in Great Britain to be outside?
The breathtaking hills and valleys of Yorkshire.
What are your favourite outdoor pursuits?
Cycling and walking.
How would you describe the feeling being outside gives you?
Alive, present and clear-minded.
When you’re outside how do you change as a person?
I’m more at ease. I say hi to strangers and smile at everyone, totally unlike when I’m in the city!
Why should people #GetOutside more often?
It’s where the fun stuff happens!
What would you say to someone who never goes outside to get them outside?
What’s stopping you?
Why as a nation are we not getting outsideas much as we could?
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about this and I think the main themes are fear and convenience. Fear of not being fit enough to walk. Fear of pollution. Fear of accidents or violence. Fear of illness. The convenience of car travel is like having a big metal handbag to carry stuff and it provides shelter from the elements. Then there’s the convenience of exploring the world from a sofa via the television. It’s all easy excuses.
What are the most important things a person should do or take when they #GetOutside?
Food, drink, suitable clothing, maps or a navigation device, a phone with a full charge, money, appropriate eyewear. Check the weather forecast the night before and in the morning for good measure. It can and normally will change so be prepared! If I’m going alone, I plot my route in advance and give my partner a copy of the .gpx file. I also always wear an ID bracelet with my ICE (In Case of Emergency)number, blood type and the web address of a site where the emergency services can find my medical details should the worst happen.
What tips or pieces of advice would you give to someone who wants to get more out of being #Outside?
Don’t do it just to get fit or lose weight. These are admirable goals but, like the New Year diet and gym plans, going outside will lose its appeal if it’s a chore towards some other goal. Find something you enjoy doing for the sake of it. If you enjoy a physical challenge, running or cycling are great. If you’re a bit of a collector, try bagging trig points or geocaching. A bit of a foodie? Foraging is getting pretty popular. Try something and start small. Everyone starts somewhere and it can be disheartening to start something and not finish. It’s best to finish with enough enthusiasm to want to get back out there the next day rather than get exhausted. Most importantly, take your time, look around and be present. You’ll always notice something new – that’s just because the world around you is always changing.
Before you became a #GetOutside Champion, describe your relationship with Ordnance Survey.
My parents aren’t ‘outdoorsy’ people and I never studied geography or participated in DofE so I didn’t really know what an OS map was before I moved to Southampton nine years ago (sorry)! Eight years ago I started cycling off-road and bought my first OS map to get around the New Forest (with a lot of help from my Geography graduate partner) and seven years ago I started working for OS. I am now a self-confessed map-hoarder but I still manage to get lost if left to my own devices.
What are your backpack essentials?
Apart from the essentials (phone, plasters, money, map) my creature-comforts include lip balm, a notebook and a camera. If I’m cycling I take as little as possible in jersey pockets and a saddle-bag.
What’s your favourite food when you are outside?
Cold home-made burritos. And sun-warmed brambles straight from the bushes if it’s the right time of year!