The Nature of PositivityFrom The Field
Valuing That Which Surrounds Us
Written by Abbie Merritt // Photography by Pete Scullion
With an affinity for the outdoors, Rosie has always been drawn to protecting the wildlife around her. Whether that’s at work, on her bike, or on foot around her local fells, she is most herself in the natural world, especially while surrounded by those she’s closest to. She has been involved with Trash Free Trails for a number of years and values the community that comes with the network. When she’s not working for the National Trust, she is cycling, running, or swimming.
‘Somewhere along the way, we have managed to lose sight of our path and now we’re in a huge biodiversity crisis. The issues can feel so overwhelming, but organisations like Trash Free Trails (TFT) are brimming with passionate people actually doing something about it. It’s that positive, solution-focused approach that singles them out – and that’s what has kept Rosie Holdsworth hooked.
Whether running through thigh-deep bogs, managing wildlife during the changing of seasons, slogging into headwinds on her bike, or popping out for a dip during her lunch break, you’re likely to find Rosie outside. As a manager for three National Trust countryside properties in West Yorkshire, she works in the area that she grew up in and knows well. She has casually competed both on the bike and in fell running across the UK, but over the years her focus has shifted from riding the most extreme trails she can find to observing the journey and experience she can have along the way. With this shift has come her involvement in TFT as a member of the A Team.
Rosie has been inspired by the natural world for as long as she can remember. Her parents were keen early adopters of mountain biking. ‘My mum and dad started riding in the early ‘90s and would drag me and my brother along these endless gravel roads through Welsh forestry plots.’ Despite memories of headwinds and gravel, she gave riding another go during uni and found a fresh love for it. Although for a while she felt competitive and enjoyed racing, she admits that the real drive for her has always been the connection that riding and being outside offer. There’s something special about the random conversations that happen on a trail, especially among like-minded people cleaning a much-loved route.
‘I think people often see mountain bikers and assume we’re all just adrenaline-junkie daredevils, as if we’re out to set a King of the Mountain on Strava then head home.’ As Rosie explains, she’s aware that the perception of mountain bikers hasn’t always been positive, but she finds it funny that people could doubt her passion for nature.
‘Getting outside and experiencing nature first hand, then giving back to it, is really a core part of who I am and my identity. I guess it was when I began the TFT daily litter picks during the first lockdown that I got on their radar too.’ In 2019, Rosie came across a shoutout asking people to create maps of their trails, including some of the trash they encountered. With a combination of time on her hands and a love for doodling, Rosie created a colourful map illustrating all the animals and single-use pollution that she saw during her daily exercise.
‘As a network, TFT refuse to be browbeaten by the enormous scale of the issues, and don’t point a finger of blame. They invest in understanding why people do things in the first place, which ultimately comes down to the fact that we’ve lost our connection with nature. They remain optimistic and absolutely, resolutely positive’.
Rosie thrives in the company of others but has also enjoyed solo bikepacking adventures across the UK. During these trips alone, she is reminded that, for her, adventure is about the connection she gains to other people. ‘I’m a real wimp, I get spooked quite easily, and am genuinely quite scared of the dark.’ With her nights away spent dreaming of monsters, Rosie explains how her purposeful solo trips feel like huge achievements for different reasons.
Purposeful adventure is about connecting with the places that we visit. Rather than leaving no trace, Rosie talks about leaving a positive trace because, while leaving no trace is great, we could aim to go beyond that. ‘Every time we go out and encounter even the tiniest amount of single-use pollution, to leave no trace would be to do nothing and carry on. By truly thinking about the places we go to and making simple changes to our trips, we are able to have awesome adventures that are about more than just our own experiences. Through planning in advance, you might inadvertently find out about some cool wildlife you could spot too, whether internationally rare breeding birds or deer in the area. Everyone knows that amazing warm, fuzzy feeling of getting back home after an awesome weekend of adventure, but that feeling is magnified by a hundred when you’ve left a positive trace. Whether you have taken a bag with you to clear up single-use pollution, or consciously kept your dog on a lead and been lucky enough to see a baby curlew, it’s just next-level warm fuzzies.’
Over the last couple of years, we’ve all been given an opportunity to explore closer to home. During this time, Rosie has been reminded of how fond she is of her local spots; unlike many, she is extremely fortunate to be able to roll out of her door on her bike and head on a real adventure. She’s a big advocate for the South Pennines: ‘I think people underestimate how much they’ve got going for them. They’re not the most glamorous, but sandwiched between the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District we’re like the slightly lost, awkward sibling. People often make it as far as the Peak District or carry on through to the Lakes, but the South Pennine valleys and the moors around here host some amazing adventures.’
An adventure doesn’t have to involve a distant location – it can begin the moment you step outside. In true Rosie style, observe those that are also venturing, and reflect on the space that you have access to. We all have a responsibility to the areas we love, and by starting those conversations with passers-by, not only will the connection improve within our communities, but some trash might get picked up too.