This week my GetOutside Interview series travels down to one of my favourite places in the world – Dartmoor in Devon – where I remember many happy childhood walks and explorations. It must be the place I learnt to read a map properly, doing my best to navigate my family around bogs rather than through them in order to find the postboxes at each of the tors in the National Park. Please meet Lucy, one of the Two Blondes Walking…
The GetOutside Interviews | Lucy Atkins
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?
My name is Lucy Atkins and I love Dartmoor (sounds like an AA meeting introduction doesn’t it?!). I’ve lived in Devon all my life and was brought up on the edge of Dartmoor. I have early memories of being taken up onto the moors with my grandparents to have a picnic, splash in the rivers and generally enjoy being outdoors. My first ever Saturday job was on Dartmoor in one of the many cafes that sell delicious cream teas (jam or cream first?). As you can see Dartmoor has always featured strongly in my life.
I currently am Head of English at Trinity School in Teignmouth and have the pleasure of being their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Manager, assistant manager for their Ten Tors teams and World Challenge School Leader. The many facets to my role keep me busy, but it’s a labour of love as I enjoy spending time with teenagers in and out of the classroom. It is particularly rewarding to see them achieve great things when they are outdoors.
A great example is a student who I took through his Gold DofE Award while he was finishing his A levels suggesting that being outdoors on expedition helped him to keep his focus on his revision. He ended up with three A grades in Maths, Biology and Chemistry! I have one daughter and I’m pleased to say that she has inherited my outdoors passion. She’s just back from travelling Africa (from the south up) and last year spent time travelling Asia. She is keen to get back to Dartmoor for some walking and camping.
Where and how did you spend time outdoors today?
A typical working day will usually include a lunchtime wander around the school grounds. We have an amazing sea view so I make sure that I go and check that it’s still there! After work there’s sometimes time for a walk/jog around Stover Country Park where the lake is always beautiful and helps to clear my head from a busy day.
A weekend will usually involve a trip up to the moors with my walking partner. Together we are Two Blondes Walking and we enjoy helping others to Get Outside too. We run navigation courses, and particularly specialise in courses for women only. Ladies often tell us that ‘my husband always has the map’. Over the six years that we’ve been walking together we’ve written a blog post every day to share our experiences of the outdoors and help to enable others to follow in our footsteps.
Two Blondes Walking – Lucy and Fiona.
Tell us about your favourite outdoor activities.
Apart from the DofE and Ten Tors walking with students, I also run World Challenge expeditions. These involve a trek and some community engagement. This summer I spent two weeks in Morocco with a team where we trekked through the High Atlas Mountains. We summited Oukaimeden mountain which stands at 3258 metres and was the first mountain that any of the team had ever done. Several of them are determined that they will come back to the area to bag some more hills! I am already excited about my next World Challenge trip; Swaziland in 2020.
I spend most February half term weeks in the Scottish mountains practicing my ice axe and crampon skills. I love the challenge of those steep mountains and the fact that I am out of my comfort zone experiencing the exhilaration of the bleak and threatening conditions.
I love to spend time in Wales and look forward to exploring this country more. Summer holidays usually include a trip to the gorgeous Isles of Scilly where you are surrounded by turquoise clear sea water and white sandy beaches. Being outside is impossible to resist here.
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?
I have seen first hand the benefits of being outside. Teenagers are faced with so many pressures in their lives that a trip outdoors, however short, will help them to realise that life can be simple and they can find their own way to cope with the pressures of things like exams and social media. Watching teenagers relax and totally immerse themselves in an outdoor expedition reminds me that it is absolutely crucial that we encourage them and give them every possible opportunity to develop the skills that will enable them to enjoy being outside into adulthood and throughout their lives.
What amazing work Lucy – you are the epitome of an outdoors champion, spending both your working and leisure time encouraging teenagers to spend more time outside. You are definitely my inspiration.
For daily posts about the outdoors from Lucy and Fiona, check out Two Blondes Walking.
And for more information about the Ordnance Survey GetOutside campaign, you need to be here.
If you are feeling inspired by my friends, please drop us a line to let us know – sharing the love is always good.