Hey Zoe, thank you for taking the time to chat to us today. For anyone out there who hasn’t come across you before, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey! I’m Zoe, I blog over at SplodzBlogz.co.uk, am co-founder of the Outdoor Bloggers network here in the UK, and am one of Ordnance Survey’s GetOutside Champions. I work full time in a very corporate office job, but do my best to fit in outdoors adventures at the weekends and in my holidays, and even in my lunch breaks. In fact, especially in my lunch breaks – I believe that spending a little bit of time outside every single day can make all the difference to our lives, and do my best to live by that.
Have you always been outdoorsy? Can you tell us a little bit about your introduction to the outdoors and adventure activities?
I reckon I have always been outdoorsy – always much happier when I have dirt under my fingernails. I was very fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to spend as much time outdoors as possible; our family holidays were under canvas, we would spend Sunday afternoons walking up hills “to see what was on the other side”, and would be at the beach as often as possible.
I learnt to navigate courtesy of walks up tors and around bogs on Dartmoor, enjoyed cooking and camping with Guides and later Scouts, and basically had every opportunity I could ever need to spend time outside rather than in. I’m sure I wasn’t always the happiest child when I was being dragged up hills rather than playing on my Sega Master System, but I will be forever grateful for that introduction to spending time outside, especially learning the skills I need to enjoy it now. Thanks mum and dad!
What is it that you love about being outdoors the most?
It is very simply the feeling of the fresh air and space – being in the world and not just looking at it through a window. We spend so much time underneath a ceiling that closes out the sky, with walls around us where you can’t smell what’s outside, where the breeze can’t touch our skin. I mean, sometimes we don’t even know if it’s day or night. It’s good to have shelter, it’s good to have a roof, but we are missing out – we should be outside, beyond the walls, where we can smell, feel, hear, and touch the real world.
I don’t have lots of money to spend, I don’t have lots of spare time or work in an industry that means I can travel or go on outdoors adventures for work, but my time outdoors gives me opportunity to think, breathe, make decisions, relax, reset, and just be.
You recently moved from Lincoln to the Cotswolds, what are you favourite places to spend time outdoors near your new home?
The hills! I mean, there are some hills in Lincolnshire, the Wolds is a beautiful place to walk and I’d highly recommend the ridge line south of Lincoln, but I think I won’t surprise you if I tell you the hills in the Cotswolds are a little more impressive. I have particularly been enjoying Cleeve Hill, the highest point in the Cotswolds, Leckhampton Hill, Robinswood Hill, Crickley Hill and Stinchcombe Hill. There are some beautiful valleys, too, and I’m now really close to the Malverns and Brecons, and I can’t wait to find time to explore those areas, too.
What were your favourite places near where you used to live?
I worked in Lincoln city centre and would do my best to find time to walk up Steep Hill and around the Cathedral and/or Castle every day. Lincoln really is a beautiful city and well worth the effort to visit for a decent wander. Out of town, I pretty much lived on the Viking Way and would find myself mooching along there very regularly. Further afield, a wander along the beach at Anderby Creek, or a visit to see the seals at Donna Nook always made me smile. I’m actually disappointed not to be able to see the seals at Donna Nook this year, a sight worth the effort.
What is your favourite natural place to visit in the UK?
There are so many wonderful natural places to explore here in the UK. Honestly, thousands of beaches, hills, trails, woodlands, meadows and other places. But this is actually a super easy question for me; Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands is by far my favourite place to visit, possibly even in the world. It has everything; it is striking, gnarly, wild, rugged, strong, magnificent, beautiful, awe inspiring. Oh, when can I go back?
Where in the UK would you like to explore, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?
I love exploring the UK and there aren’t many areas I haven’t been to – or through – on road trips or on holiday. I’m yet to visit Skye and the Hebridean islands, which I realise is a huge oversight. Soon, I’ll go soon.
What is your favourite activity to do on your own?
I’m afraid I’m pretty boring when it comes to outdoors activities. I love to try lots of cool things, and have a bucket list that demonstrates my desire to try pretty much anything once. But, generally speaking, when I find myself with an hour or two to spare, either on my own or with friends, all I want to do is go walking. In town, in the countryside, up hills, up mountains, it doesn’t really matter where. I find walking alone gives me the time and space to wander and be myself.
Have you ever done any formal training to help you learn any outdoors skills you have or are you completely self-taught?
I haven’t done any formal training and don’t have any qualifications, but I’m not completely self-taught. My parents taught me how to read a map, one of my teachers set in that knowledge, and I was in a very outdoorsy Brownie Group and Guide Company where I had lots of opportunities to put that into practice alongside other survival and woodlore techniques. I then became a toggled Scout Leader and did my best to pass on those skills to my Troop for a few years. These days, if I ever have a navigation or other outdoorsy question, I have a whole group of amazing friends who will point me in the right direction. And I am booked on a navigation course next year, you know, just to reset that knowledge once again.
What is your favourite memory from spending time outdoors?
Oh, now this one is hard. I have so many! I think most of my happiest outdoor memories, the ones that come back to mind when I’m asked questions like this, are of the quiet and serene moments where I’m sat admiring a stunning or remarkable view. Often these moments come after huge exertion or personal challenge to get there; hiking for hours to reach the top of a hill, swimming in rough water to get through Durdle Door, hiking in the heat and at altitude to find a waterfall, getting caught in a sandstorm in Death Valley. But sometimes they are very simple moments that require no effort on my part, such as watching the sunset over Loch Lomond, eating doughnuts at the top of Pike’s Peak after riding up, or sitting on a silent boat watching whales feed. Being silent, taking a moment and allowing the view to imprint on my mind is very special, the stuff of dreams and memories.
Can you tell us about your Get Outside Day challenge?
Ah yes my silly challenge! Ordnance Survey designated one day back in September as National GetOutside Day 2018, and tasked each GetOutside Champion to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the ways we like to spend time outdoors, in order to encourage and motivate others to follow suit. A great idea, and it worked a treat.
There were walks and other activities organised up and down the country, family days out, trig bagging hikes, runs, cycle rides, scrambles, climbs, bush craft skills workshops, and all kinds of other things. My problem was that the reason I am involved in the GetOutside campaign is because I love to be outside doing all the activities – or none.
My personal view is that we should each try to spend one hour outside every day, doing whatever kind of activity takes our fancy at the time – walking, cycling, running, swimming, visiting a castle, reading a book, drinking a coffee – anything really. So I thought I’d use GetOutside Day 2018 as an excuse to set myself a bit of ridiculous challenge that had been brewing for a while, to see just how many different outdoors activities I could do in one weekend.
I spent 48 hours between work finishing on Friday and having to go home on Sunday evening taking part in 55 different outdoors activities. It was SO much fun – and really rather exhausting. My aim was very simple; to demonstrate that the outdoors can be all kinds of things to all kinds of people, and there are so many things to choose from. I think I managed it, although now I’m looking ahead to next year wondering how I can beat it!
Do you have any challenges in mind for the future?
I do love a challenge, and I have lots of ideas, but nothing set in stone just yet. I’m not a full-time outdoors adventurer, or even close, so I can’t keep doing challenge after challenge, but I do enjoy setting myself outdoorsy goals and working towards them. In the next year I would very much like to complete a second long-distance trail – I did the West Highland Way last year and it was one of the best experiences of my life. And, of course, I do need to try and beat my GetOutside Activity Challenge total, don’t I?!
What are you three favourite items of kit?
I’m afraid I’m going to be a bit of a cop out here and be very general. For me, the outdoors can seem very inaccessible to those who feel you need a huge amount of equipment to enjoy it. And there are some things you should make sure you have to keep you safe, but really that list is very small. If you are wanting to head out walking like me, then a decent pair of boots or trail shoes, a coat that will keep the rain off, and a map and the ability to use it is your basic kit list. But if I was to answer the question more seriously, I would say my Bridgedale hiking socks, my Buff neck tube, and my insulated mug are my three favourite bits of outdoors gear I do my best not to leave the house without.
What do you think is your biggest barrier to getting outside regularly and how do you overcome it?
Time. And money sometimes, but mostly time. It’s tough, really tough. Like most people I have a full-time job, based in an office, sat in a chair, and at this time of year I arrive at work in the dark and leave in the dark. I do my utmost to get outside at lunchtime – I get a 40-minute lunch break and I do my best to spend all of that outside, even if it’s raining. I truly believe that although it might seem like we don’t have any time to get outside, we can find it if we look – and once we make finding that time a daily habit, it comes much easier. If I had more time I would spend almost all of it outside, going on more walks and trying even more weird and wonderful activities. When can I retire?!
Are there any prominent outdoor or adventure sport figures who inspire you?
I have been very fortunate to find myself in the middle of the outdoors adventure community thanks to GetOutside and Outdoor Bloggers. This means I have the pleasure of calling some of my inspirations friends, which is really quite awesome I have to say. Mel Nicholls, Sian Anna Lewis, Jason Rawles, Bel Dixon, Lizzie Carr to name just a few. But I have to be honest, the people I find most inspiring are those who are a little bit more like me – they work full time and fit normal everyday adventures into their day to day lives. Jenni, Kate, Sarah, Katy, I’m looking at you. Thank you for being you.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into an outdoor pursuit?
It’s so cliché, but honestly, the best advice I or anyone else can give you, is to bite the bullet and go. Know that the outdoors is there for everyone, and there is something out there for you personally to enjoy. If your chosen activity is a bit technical, or you are unsure, then book a lesson or a guide or whatever you need to take part in it safely. But if it’s just a case of wanting to be outside more, then put on your shoes, zip up your coat, and go; getting ready and leaving the house is often the hardest bit. Need a bit more encouragement? Ask a friend, join a group, borrow a dog… but please, just go, even if it’s just for one hour.
Best pub in the Cotswolds for warming up post city adventure?
I don’t think I’ve done enough exploring to comment on this one just yet. I’ve mainly been heading out for the day and then back home again. Maybe you have some suggestions for me?
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