There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more …

Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage evokes purity and joy about the great outdoors, but what is it like to work outside every day? People from the countryside and the city talk about what working outdoors does for them.

Fabio D’Oca, arborist, London

Live Better: Outdoor Worker's - Fabio D'Oca
Fabio D’Oca at the lockup and nursery at Treecare in Acton, west London. Photograph: Nick Hook

A guy I know who
works as a tree surgeon in Australia likens it to surfers and how their
lifestyle is on the beach, surfing the waves, quite laid-back and
meeting interesting characters. Obviously I work in a different
environment but I think there are some similarities to that and my job.
It’s quite hard to explain, but it is a lifestyle and it’s massively
appealing. You feel cleaner, you feel healthier, and you don’t feel
like you’ve wasted energy.

I get to work on street trees all over
London so you get an aerial view of all these various weird and
wonderful areas which is completely unique. I often think: “Nobody’s
going to get to see this view other than me, ” and there’s quite a
thrill in that. Getting to see the city at different times of the day
and different times of the year, and realising how much green there is
in this massive metropolis, they’re things that never fail to amaze me.

Sheena Patterson, garden designer, Oxfordshire

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Sheena Patterson pictured at her home and show garden near Witney, Oxfordshire. Photograph: Nick Hook

used to garden with my mother and I just loved it. It’s something
that’s in my blood, I think. The first thing I remember is planting some
nasturtium seeds all the way down the side of the lawn and my mother
said they would soon turn into pretty flowers. I found it hard to
believe, but I remember looking at them coming out and the pleasure of
seeing those seeds turn into flowers in a matter of weeks. That was
the spark.

One of the best things is that
you have to go at nature’s pace, you have to slow up. Nature won’t be
forced into a shape, it will always win, you can’t hurry it. I like that
we have to just slow down and go with it. And if it rains, we just wrap
up and carry on.

David Dansky, cycling instructor, London

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David Dansky in Finsbury Park, London. Photograph: Nick Hook

Everyone always
comments on my tan and asks if I’ve been abroad but I say: “No, I’ve
just been at work.” You really get to appreciate London, its
architecture and its variety when you cycle around. I’m from Liverpool
but my job means I really know the town now, and it really enhances
living here. I wouldn’t like to go underground on the tube – it’s too
claustrophobic for me.

Sometimes you come across drivers who
don’t like sharing the road so occasionally you have negative
interactions with them, and on a really cold day, early in the morning
in winter when it’s still dark, it’s hard knowing that you’re about to
take a group of schoolkids out on the roads, who probably won’t want to
be out on a bike. But
working outdoors is the joy and the main reason why I do it.

Cally Smart, outdoor learning teacher, Bradford-on-Avon

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Cally Smart in the walled garden at The Courts Garden, Wiltshire, where she teaches some classes. Photograph: Nick Hook

of what I do is hands-on history workshops, like viking days. We do
things like fire-lighting, den-building, and scouring the woods for
somewhere to build a shelter – all while pretending to be vikings.
Primary school children love dressing up and they really get into it.

I think it’s about time children
moved outside. Classrooms can be such stale environments and if you
think back to your school days, most of your strong memories are ones
from when you were outside. It’s especially good for primary school
children because it appeals to all the senses, it’s all part and parcel
of education. Once they’re outside, it really calms them and you can
feel them become a bit more centered. I’m quite an excitable
person, quite gregarious, and being outside keeps me calm too.

Steve Cook, bushcraft practitioner, Lancashire

Live Better: Outdoor Workers - Steve Cook
Steve Cook in the bushcraft training woods at the Stephen Park outdoor activity centre in Lancashire. Photograph: Nick Hook

Part of bushcraft is feeling happy and feeling good about yourself. I like to embrace the outside whether rain, hail or shine. We get groups that are used to being indoors. They like the idea of the outdoors and they may go walking and things like that, but when they actually come out into the forest and it starts raining, they hate it. But it only takes 15 to 20 minutes before you look around and they there are, engrossed in what they’re doing. I must be doing OK if they’re happy after a few minutes even if they’re out of their comfort zone.

My favourite bit is seeing the faces of people, young or old, light up when they see that they can actually do something like create a fire from different things, or they start using the bow drill and they see the smoke coming from it and they’re going: “Oh, we’re almost there!” They might not remember the day but in later life they can reflect back to it and think “Oh, I know how that’s done. I can’t remember how I know but I do know that.” I like to be a part of peoples’ experiences.

Denise Leech, wildlife gardener, Barry, Wales

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Denise Leech in a wildlife garden she created at Hendrewennol Fruit Garden. Photograph: Nick Hook

I encourage people to think about their garden designs in the way of providing habitats for wildlife. I’m passionate about conservation and the outdoors so I find that very important. It’s my raison d’etre really, to get anybody and everybody engaging with nature.

It does give you a fantastic sense of wellbeing – that feeling of being within the bigger picture of the outdoors, nature, planting and that whole growth circle – that never-ending circle that just goes on and on. It’s a very satisfying, enriching and spiritually uplifting thing to do.

Eli Green, dog walker, Cardiff

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Dog walker Eli Green on a walk with Toby the lurcher in Caerau, Cardiff. Photograph: Nick Hook

I’m out walking for six
hours a day, about 25 miles. I could never go back to doing an
indoors job – you get much more satisfaction and much more
freedom working outside, and you can enjoy the weather when it happens rather than
being sat indoors looking out the window.

The winters are quite hard when it’s raining all the time but you just batten down the hatches, head
down. One of the highlights of my job is that whatever house
you go to, the dog is always so happy to see you. They
hear the door go, they get all excited, their tail starts going, and that’s it.

Sue Westwood-Ruttledge, horse photographer, Cheshire

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Sue Westwood-Ruttledge at her stables on the outskirts of Manchester. Photograph: Nick Hook

great when the weather’s nice – when it’s cold it’s not as pleasurable – but each season has its own merits. I can capture the snow in winter, the beautiful colours in the
autumn, and you have the gorgeous light in the summer afternoons.

I was on a shoot in Shropshire the other day. We
were in the middle of a field of buttercups, the sun was beating down, there were fluffy clouds in the sky and I thought: “This is how it
should be.” It’s just so nice to be outside in the fresh air, with
nature and with the horses. You just can’t beat it.

Thomas Jones, farmer, Herefordshire

Live Better: Outdoor Workers - Tom Jones
Thomas Jones on his farm in Kinnersley, Herefordshire. Photograph: Nick Hook

The thing I love about the outdoors the most is working with my hands, because I feel that it’s a dying art. Whether it’s felling wood or making fences or doing something with the animals, in the outdoors you’re always making something. It’s very creative.

I find it’s very good for my mental health and I find it very calming.
When I go to London to deliver meat people often say: “Oh, you’re
looking well!” because you’ve got a suntan, you’ve got a fresh feeling
about you and a bit of colour in your cheeks. I like urban life but I would never not be without the countryside and the outdoors. I like the difference you get – the changing of the seasons – it’s very romantic.

All photography by Nick Hook.

Do you work outdoors for a living? What do you do? Do you like it, or do you loathe it?

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