I reckon three posts on the same theme makes this a proper series now, don’t you think?! I’m really enjoying this opportunity to get to know my fellow GetOutside Champions a little better, and I hope you are too. As someone who is neither an athlete or an adventurer, chosen by Ordnance Survey for being decidedly normal, it is comforting to know that the other Champions are actually all a little bit like me. Back in January when we had our launch event, I spoke to the crowd gathered about how important it was that we demonstrate that the outdoors is for everyone, and I trust that The GetOutside Interviews are helping to do that.
Last week my One Hour Outside was pretty easy… I went on a road trip up to Scotland, which involved riding my motorbike and camping. Apart from the odd lunchtime stop in a cafe and dinner time in a pub, I was outside the rest of the time – and it was wonderful. Have you done the NC500? If not, I highly recommend it – it really is a beautiful road trip route taking in some quite stunning scenery right in the very north of mainland Scotland.
For my third instalment in The GetOutside Interviews, allow me to introduce Eli.
The GetOutside Interviews | Eli Greenacre
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?
Three years ago I was working in a high profile, academic position within a University. I was a Course Leader for Fashion & Textile Degrees which gave me access to glamour and travel. After a successful career in Fashion & Textiles as a designer I was, at least I thought, in my dream job. I loved it. However I was very, very unwell. My mental health was being compromised day to day and I had a mental breakdown; in Paris of course! Less than a couple of weeks after this I was climbing up Skiddaw in the Lake District and I realised two things; 1) I could literally walk up hills every day of my life, quite happily and 2) I needed an outlet for my mind. And so, To Outdoors & Beyond born. It was a huge changing point in my life; I realised that being outside, every day was hugely beneficial to my mental health. I started to research it and came to see that the outdoors is a perfect remedy to the stresses and strains of everyday life. I now work as on Outdoor Instructor teaching and guiding children, young people, and adults in a wide range of outdoor activities. I walk, paddle, climb, cycle and more every day and I love it. Poor but happy!
I am based in the Wye Valley where I can walk down to the River Wye to swim and canoe, I have access to amazing crags for climbing, and in 30 minutes I am in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons. Its bliss. However. I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a colleague. My life is normal. I get up every day at 07:07am, drive to work at Malvern Outdoor Elements, do a days’ work, get home, sort the kids out, take them to Scouts, Explorers (where I am also a Leader), I see friends, I go to community meetings, I help run the Ross Walking Festival, I do the food shopping, I clean, I tidy, I have two cats. I hug my kids, I shout at them, I endlessly tidy their flipping stuff up. It is a normal life, it is madness, I can’t remember a time when there were no kids and having all that ‘free’ time people who don’t have them have. But within that normality I make sure I find time to be outside.
Where and how did you spend time outdoors today?
I am lucky in that my job is outside, every single day, come rain, snow, hail, sun. I am outdoors instructing people on an Outdoor Activity Centre, walking up on the Malvern Hills or paddling on the River Avon. However, that is my job. When I get home, if my mental health is bad, and I do have dips, then just getting out the front door is a real struggle. When doing all my research I found a body of evidence that states that just 15 minutes quality time outside every day can significantly aid mental well being. Well, 15 minutes is manageable. Just. For those of us who sometimes find it impossible to open the front door, 15 minutes is achievable and making things achievable with mental health is so important. So, 15 minutes outside every day for me is a walk from my house, usually down to the river. Just me, no phone, no music; just me. And you know what, sometimes I can just about manage the 15 minutes, but more often then not that 15 minutes becomes 20, then 30, then an hour. I start to realise that this time is benefiting my mental health and it becomes One Hour Outside. But I always know, that if I am mentally low, just 15 minutes is all I need. And I can DO that. #15Outside
Tell us about your favourite outdoor activities.
I am happiest either walking up mountains, or paddling on rivers. I have been canoeing since I was nine years old and walking since I was 12 months old, so they are my two favourite things. I have recently taken up outdoor swimming and surfing which are both magical. Mind you I say ‘swimming’ – what I actually mean is plunging! Upcoming adventures for me include paddling from Ross on Wye to London, a challenge that is called Home to Home. I was born in London, raised in Bristol and now live in Ross on Wye so this paddle will connect these three places. In 2019 there are also plans afoot for me to mountain bike, run and kayak 454km from the mouth of the River Wye to the source, over to the source of the River Severn and all the way back to the mouth. Cannot wait! Longer term plans are to paddle across England, Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland and eventually to paddle across Europe – that’s a long, long way into the future!
With all the pressures of normal life, how do you make sure you find the time for outdoors adventure?
Every weekend we focus on doing something outdoors, be it walking, paddling, swimming or surfing. We very much do things as a family but there are precious times when I get away to the Lake District where my best friend lives. The Lakes is my second home! I am most definitely not an early riser but quite often we are a late Friday night dasher driving up to the Lakes or North Wales. However we do allow ourselves time off, days and weekends where I just mooch at home, take my daughter shopping and such. It is really not all adventure and outdoors, it is a balanced life – there is nothing than snuggling down on the sofa with a film, the kids and a cider!
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?
This is something I feel SO incredibly passionate about. Having been in love with the outdoors since I was a young child I have come to realise that it gives me peace of mind. I heard a Welsh phrase recently which is ‘Lle i enaid gael llonydd’ which translated means ‘A place for my soul to find peace’ and this is so true. The mental well being of the outdoors is medically documented and the very reason I do what I do. I want to get people outside, I want to get them talking about mental health and I want to get them to make being outside, every single day, part of their lives.
Thanks Eli for taking part in the GetOutside Interviews. Your story is hugely inspirational – a life turned around thanks to the great outdoors.
And for more information about the Ordnance Survey GetOutside campaign, you need to be here.
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