Three of the best cycling routes in the South Downs
Whether you're looking for family friendly rides or challenging endurance rides, there's something for everyone in the stunning South Downs National Park.
Runner, orienteer, cyclist, walker and Scout leader Robert Finch inspires young and old alike to #GetOutside through events, activities and camps
Runner, orienteer, cyclist, walker and Scout leader Robert Finch inspires young and old alike to #GetOutside through events, activities and camps. In 2016 he’s pledged 100 days cycling to work, 250 days running and at least a weekend away per month exploring and hiking in our National Parks. He says that being active and outdoors has helped him cope with difficult periods of his life, and has introduced him to some of his closest friends.
How does it feel to have been chosen as a #GetOutside Champion?
Great! It’s really good to be recognised for all the stuff I do and being inspired and encouraged to do more.
What does being a #GetOutside champion mean to you?
It means continuing to do what I do, trying to do even more and encouraging people to come along and join me.
What are the benefits to you of being outside?
Getting outside has benefited me massively. It has helped improve my physical and mental health considerably. Being active outdoors isn’t a chore to me and I genuinely love it. At times, I don’t consider it exercising or working out, it’s just living my life. Two years ago, I was suffering from mental health issues and getting outside helped give me focus and a purpose.
I’ve also met a lot of interesting people through sharing the outdoors and adventures. I’m a member of a running club, orienteering club, Scout group and walking group and all of them have opened up opportunities and new experiences to me. Basically I’ve met all of my closest friends by doing outdoor activities of some kind.
What do you most enjoy about being outside?
The feeling of being alive. Whether that’s my legs aching up a big hill, the feeling of the wind, rain or sun, or the sense of achievement when I’ve finished.
What’s your favourite terrain to get out in? (Mountain / coast / woodland etc)
The mountains are my favourite. As someone who lives on the flat south coast, I dream of trips to the mountains. The views are stunning.
What’s your best memory of being outside?
So many new memories are added all the time. My favourite memories are getting out in remote and beautiful places with friends. A big highlight was taking part in the Dell Management Challenge 2015 in the Brecon Beacons. Two OS teams took part and attempted to defend our title won in 2014. My team came third and the other OS team won! The weekend was so positive, with great teamwork and friendly competition. It honestly couldn’t have gone better.
What’s your worst?
I was taking part in the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon in 2014. The LAMM is a two-day fell running and orienteering race in the Scottish Highlands. My racing partner and I had entered a tougher course than the one we ran in 2012. I was recovering from glandular fever and was nowhere near fit enough. Halfway through the first day, we had raced about 10km and were at Munro height when my mind and body just stopped and I could barely stagger off the hills. There is a very remote overnight campsite which I had to walk back from on the second day. Great mountains and location but not the best race result or memory!
What’s the most unusual thing to have happened to you outside?
I was running along a track in the New Forest last week, and stopped suddenly as a buzzard had caught a squirrel barely five metres in front of me. Unfortunately for the buzzard but fortunately for the squirrel, I startled them and the squirrel ran free. I’m not sure who was more surprised!
What do you like about Great Britain?
I like the fact that we have such variety of landscapes in a relatively small area. The outdoors is accessible to us: None of our hills are too big or the distances too far.
Where is your favourite place in Great Britain to be outside?
At the moment, I love the New Forest National Park. Its close proximity and accessibility to me living in Southampton is great. I’m able to get out after work or at weekends to the Forest and it’s where I spend a lot of my time outdoors. It provides opportunities for all of my outdoor pursuits and interests (even if it isn’t the biggest, grandest or wildest).
What are your favourite outdoor pursuits?
Running and orienteering. I love the feeling of moving quickly through the scenery. Orienteering is great as it combines my two loves of running and maps. They have taken me to areas of the country and world I would never have got the opportunity to visit or explore. I like to push and challenge myself outdoors. The outdoors is the closest I get to a gym and so I use it to get fitter. I also go walking and cycling at a more leisurely pace. Walking is great for taking in the views and for sharing the outdoors with other people.
When you’re outside – how do you change as a person?
I feel happier, less stressed, more content and more aware of the world around me.
What would you say to someone who never goes outside to get them outside?
There’s so much out there to see and do with something for everyone. Just try it and you won’t look back.
Why as a nation are we not getting outsideas much as we could?
People are lazy and also scared of the outdoors - more interested in watching the world from behind a screen. I love the Scandinavian culture which seems to have a greater connection and closeness to the outdoors.
What are the most important things a person should do or take when they #GetOutside?
As a Scout Leader, our motto of ‘Be Prepared’ applies. Be prepared for the weather conditions and what you are doing. If it’s remote or if the weather could turn bad, make sure you have warmth, waterproofs and other safety gear.
What tips or pieces of advice would you give to someone who wants to get more out of being outside?
Visit new places. Get tips and ideas off other people of great places to visit. Or get a map out and plan a route. I love exploring the new paths and trails around where I live and am still finding new places.
Before you became a #GetOutside Champion, describe your relationship with Ordnance Survey.
I have used and loved OS maps since I was a kid. First on family holidays, then as a Scout and during my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions. This helped develop a love of maps, the outdoors and OS which led to me studying a Geography degree. I was fortunate enough to do an internship with the OS in 2012 before securing a job in the Remote Sensing department in January 2014. I have had a great two years working for OS and now love maps and the outdoors more than ever.
What are your backpack essentials?
Map, compass, phone, a spare layer and some food. Everything else comes and goes depending on the season and what I’m doing.
What’s your favourite food when you are outside?
I love marzipan as an ‘emergency ration’ or for some quick energy. I used to be able to eat whole blocks of it after my Duke of Edinburgh’s expeditions.