I’ve been involved in the Ordnance Survey GetOutside project for a little over 18 months now, and I have to say it is really quite awesome to be involved in a campaign that encourages people to spend more time outdoors. I’ve spoken before about how being a GetOutside Champion is a great opportunity for me to use a larger platform to talk about the benefits of spending time outdoors, and how it also is a very humbling, inspiring and motivating thing for me as an individual too.
Recently, though, I’ve noticed a couple of things that I want to address a bit less subtly than I might normally do. The first is the assumption that the Champions are a group of full time adventurers that have all the money and time in the world to spend time outdoors. And the second is that it’s actually all fake news, and we just pose for pretty photographs and share them with the Ordnance Survey hashtag to generate sales for their maps. Some of us have started posting random “day in the life” style posts on instagram stories in an attempt to demonstrate the normality of everyday life, and I’m not alone when I say that fitting in (and paying for) outdoors adventure is hard work – but I prioritise it because I love it. And while life really is not like the snaps you see on instagram, I think we all know the effort that goes into those sometimes, I am a genuine life-long user of OS Maps and feel very proud to be associated with the GetOutside hashtag.
Views. My primary reason for spending time outdoors. This one is from the top of Cheddar Gorge.
So… cue a series of interviews with my fellow Champions – the GetOutside Interviews. In this series I hope to demonstrate that we are a normal bunch of people who believe that a little bit of time outside every day is super good for us, that we can spend time outside in all kinds of places and ways, and that the outdoors is for everyone and all-sorts. Sadly, being active and being outside have both been designed out of our lives – we drive to the shops, park as close to work as as we can, and spend our Saturdays indoors watching other people play sport. But for this bunch of amazing people I call my friends, we are here to show you that spending time outside every day should be the norm.
First up I’m introducing Helen, who live in Wenslydale, and runs a business centered on getting people cycling.
The GetOutside Interviews | Helen Pollard
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Where are you based? What do you do (the day job)? What’s for dinner tonight?
I’m Helen Pollard, mum to Daisy, lives in Askrigg in Wensleydale with Mike and our two ridiculously badly behaved rescue dogs, Barney and Harry. I was previously based in teaching/education working with children in care and disaffected young people, but now run a family cycling business, Stage 1 Cycles, based in the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre in Hawes. Today is swimming club night so we grabbed something reduced off the supermarket shelf for tea and put it in the oven quickly (not very glamorous).
Where and how did you spend time outdoors today?
Today I was covering for a member of staff’s day off, so was based in the shop and kitchen (not my favourite role), rather than my normal job of teaching cycling outside. However, we have two dogs so I get up early every morning to run or walk for an hour (depending on knee joints!). It was straight to swimming club at the end of the day, but as it was a lovely evening and we had the bikes in the van, we went for a ride down the disused railway track after that to decompress after a busy day.
Tell us about your favourite outdoor activities.
I have always loved outdoor activities since spending many holidays in the Lake District with my parents. I always made sure in my working life that I encouraged the children I worked with to engage with the outdoors. I re-discovered running when Daisy was 18 months old (she’s nearly nine now), and that really helped me recover from the shock of of having a child! However, in the last six months I’ve found the running is taking a toll on my joints so I have cut back a lot sadly. The day job teaching cycling in all different ways keeps me very busy and outside. Time to cycle for pleasure is limited, but we try and make time on Sundays for a ladies’ mountain biking group.
With all the pressures of normal life, how do you make sure you find the time for outdoors adventure?
I get up no later than 5.30am, which is fine in the summer but is head-torch-horrible some days in the winter! The pressures of running your own business are enormous; we do not have set holidays or weekends, or even hours off in the busy season, so making time to do things outside as a family is a challenge but also very precious. Generally we go away together in January. One of the reasons we started our family business was to allow me to work nearer to home.
Perhaps differently than other GetOutside Champions, I have no plans to go on huge adventures without my family (normally!!!), we really focus on doing little family adventures everyday. We paddle in streams, stay up late on a Sunday night to go for a bike ride up a big hill, go on a train somewhere and come back – these things are achievable by most people.
As you are a GetOutside Champion it goes without saying that you want to encourage others to spend time in the great outdoors. Why do you feel this is important?
It is incredibly important to get children outside doing something active for many reasons. Modern day life places significant pressures upon children’s mental health, and being active outdoors can re-address the balance, tackle obesity levels, help develop positive social interaction skills, and encourage a healthy relationship with technology. Cycling, like swimming, is a key life skill; if you learn you have a skill forever that can be accessed at any time – even if you only cycle once a year at Center Parcs.
Our business is focussed on supporting cycling. We use our professional business to run the community based Wensleydale Bike Club for children as volunteer instructors. This has been successfully running since 2014, supporting children of all ages to access cycling from balance bike to advanced mountain biking. We have a fleet of bikes that are available to loan for free to the children, and we apply for funding to ensure sessions are accessible to all.
We are very excited to be taking the bike club away on its first residential this summer, providing a break for working families and an adventure for children. The Scouts have very kindly allowed us to use their facilities at Keilder forest, and we have been supported by a local charity to ensure it is as accessible as possible to families.
I am not able to take part in massive splendid dramatic adventures due to work and family, but I believe strongly in encouraging everyone by trying to create opportunities for everyday adventures.
The GetOutside Champions at the launch event in January 2018. What a bunch we are!
Thanks Helen for being the first to take part in my interview series. What a great GetOutside Champion you are! I love that you are using your skills and business to give back to the community and encourage people outdoors in a very practical way.
And for more information about the Ordnance Survey GetOutside campaign, you need to be here.
Come back next Thursday for the next installment…