1. HOW / WHY DID YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH MOUNTAIN BIKING?
I have been riding since I was a nipper. Growing up and living in the middle of nowhere meant my bike helped me get to the shops, see my mates, get to work and explore. I’ve always loved riding my bike and using it as a way to explore, seek adventure and have fun. I discovered mountain biking when I went to college and uni, studying Adventure Sports.
I participated in a variety of coaching and leadership programs and discovered the love for the mud and technical terrain. In my early 20’s, I completed my degree and moved to North Wales to work for The Outward Bound Trust. Here I found the love for the Welsh mountain and the riding it's fascinating landscape. I’d moved away from chalky slick downlands of Hampshire and West Sussex, to rocky and rooty escapism of Wales. The feeling of freedom, adventure and the unknown has always driven my love for exploring the mountains. Doing this on a bike just made it even better!
2. WHAT INSPIRES YOU? (COULD BE RIDING WISE, IN LIFE IN GENERAL OR ANYONE IN PARTICULAR)
I love to learn, whether it is a skill, experience or awareness. I also have a big imagination and creative mind. As a kid I would look at pictures, watch the world go by, listen or play music and always wonder the endless possibilities. This has pushed me in many directions. It drives my desire for discovery and adventure and enables me to escape to places of comfort, away from day to day life and society. With riding (and other activities), it’s a map. I look at a map and count the opportunities for adventure and exploration.
I read/see the adventures of others and feel a surge to give it a go myself. This also translates to life in general, I see an opportunity and look at how I could achieve that, sometimes I discover it’s not for me, but for the other times it feeds my curiosity. As my riding experience and technique developed over the years I spent my hard earn pennies on the best bike I could afford, and decent kit to help me make the most of those adventures and explorations. I’m looking forward to taking the HB-130 with me and testing it's capabilities.
3. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU SPEND MOST OF YOUR TIME OUTDOORS, WHAT DOES YOUR JOB FOR FORESTRY UK ENTAIL?
I’ve been working for Forestry England as the Cycling and Events Manager for the West District for 18 months now. My role covers our landscape from Shropshire down to Cornwall.
My days are hugely varied with none the same. While I will spend time outside, out and about I also have my fair share of desk time. I manage the Cannop Cycle Centre site in the Forest of Dean, supporting the local cycle ranger in developing the site and it’s facilities. Between Forestry England and The Dean Trail Volunteers (DTV) we are already making some exciting progress with trail refurbishments and redesigns. Our work doesn’t stop at the trails, we work closely with our tenants, Pedalabikeaway and Fly-up Downhill in delivering a varied offer across the site. Away from the centre, I support the rest of the district with its cycling offer and development. I make a point of visiting these sites, speaking to the local staff and riding the trails to help support the teams in their site and forest plans, direction and development.
I also sit on the national cycling forum for Forestry England where I work alongside key stakeholders (British Cycling, Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, Natural Resource Wales and Forestry Land in Scotland) in cycling development and engagement.
Away from bikes I support the districts permissions team in processing/auditing 3rd party applications across the district. We will host a vast spectrum, from environmental/habitat surveys, volunteer programmes, active forest programmes, educational visits to local/regional/national sporting events and demo days. It is a very busy and challenging role and can be quite reactive at times.
We've certainly found this during the Pandemic. We have seen a massive boom with cycling in recent months, and now have the challenge with educating, facilitating and managing these new visitors to our forests. There are certainly some stories to tell from the past 4 months. We are a close and supportive team. I am loving the change we are making, it’s a long and slow process, but we are already seeing some great changes and developments. The organisation is brilliant to work for. We have some exciting plans ahead in our district, even during these more challenging times.